SteamOS vs. Ubuntu 13.10 - Intel HD Graphics Performance

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 15 December 2013. Page 1 of 2. 25 Comments

When Valve announced the public release of the beta for SteamOS 1.0 "Alchemist" on Friday they listed NVIDIA graphics as a hardware requirement, but I showed that AMD Radeon graphics with Catalyst would work and it's possible to get Intel graphics working (or the open-source graphics drivers in general) through a minor change to the Linux-based SteamOS kernel parameters. After that I ran some benchmarks and here are a few performance results comparing SteamOS 1.0 Beta to Ubuntu 13.10 with Intel HD Graphics.

When enabling support for kernel mode-setting with the SteamOS kernel, Valve's Debian-based Linux distribution worked just fine. For the Intel HD Graphics support there is the Linux 3.10 kernel and Mesa 9.2.2 as the key graphics driver components worth mentioning. If you're planning to use SteamOS or Linux in general for playing any Steam games, you will really want an Ivy Bridge processor or ideally a Haswell graphics processor. Broadwell will also be really great for Linux gaming when the next-generation CPUs premiere. As of my most recent testing in November, the Intel Linux graphics performance is close to Windows 8.1 generally for OpenGL games. I wouldn't recommend any Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs though since the performance has improved a lot since then with IVB/HSW CPUs but also that the Intel Linux driver for SNB doesn't support OpenGL geometry shaders and Intel's Linux developers are focusing less upon upstream improvements to Sandy Bridge specific code. Ivy Bridge hardware and newer is what you will need with Mesa 10.0+ to have open-source OpenGL 3.3 support.

SteamOS vs. Ubuntu Linux - Intel Ivy Bridge

Due to limited time before I'm out of my US office for a few weeks, this weekend I ran some tests of Intel "Ivy Bridge" HD Graphics 4000 under SteamOS 1.0 Beta and compared the results to Ubuntu 13.10. Ubuntu 13.10 was tested in its stock configuration of the Linux 3.11 kernel and Mesa 9.2.1 (similar to SteamOS), but then also when enabling the Oibaf graphics packages for easily pulling down Mesa 10.1-devel. All of these benchmarks were facilitated via the Phoronix Test Suite.

For those interested in additional SteamOS benchmarking, in the early hours of Sunday morning I did publish a 7-way NVIDIA SteamOS graphics card comparison and in the next few hours will be a comparison against Windows and some other results.

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