AMD Linux 2008 Year in Review
Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 15 December 2008. Page 3 of 11. 27 Comments

The October driver release was a bit interesting but not for technical reasons. AMD had been slow at implementing X.Org 7.4 support since they had underestimated the number of changes required in enabling X Server 1.5 support. But with Ubuntu 8.10 shipping in October and many of AMD's customers using Ubuntu, Advanced Micro Devices had permitted Canonical to publish a beta driver that added the X Server 1.5 support. The official Catalyst 8.10 driver didn't support X Server 1.5. This driver though did add support for the AMD CAL (Compute Abstraction Layer) run-time and libraries. A few fixes were also present in this update.

Catalyst 8.10 also contained Unified Video Decoder 2 Linux support for XvMC, but that's still not widely used yet. There were also libraries for X-Video Bitstream Acceleration, which is another feature we exclusively shared, but that video API still isn't usable by the Linux desktop user.

Catalyst 8.11 was introduced in mid-November and it had contained official X Server 1.5 support. Aside from that, however, this was another release comprised mostly of fixes.

Ending out the year was the Catalyst 8.12 driver that came out just last week. Catalyst 8.12 added Stream Computing Support and SurroundView support. There was also the usual variety of bug fixes in this release along with some new information being added to the AMD Catalyst Control Center on Linux.

Now that we have recapped the features for all the AMD Catalyst Linux driver releases this year, let's see how the performance pans out. We used our usual graphics testing setup, which consists of an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 running at 4.00GHz, an ASUS P5E64 WS Professional motherboard, 2GB of OCZ DDR3-1333MHz memory, Western Digital WD1600JS-00MHB0 SATA HDD, and an OCZ EliteXStream 800W power supply. The graphics card we were using for testing was an ATI Radeon HD 3870 512MB. To maintain compatibility with the driver releases going back to January we had used Ubuntu 7.10 for testing. Ubuntu 7.10 uses the Linux 2.6.22 kernel, GNOME 2.20, X Server 1.3.0, and GCC 4.1.3.

Unlike previous years where we had to do all of our testing by hand, with now having the Phoronix Test Suite, it was very easy to benchmark all twelve AMD Linux driver releases from this year. Phoronix Test Suite 1.6.0 "Tydal" Alpha 3 is what we were using to run our Linux benchmarks. The tests we used included GtkPerf, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Planet Penguin Racer, Tremulous, OpenArena, World of Padman, Unreal Tournament 2004, GLMark, Norsetto Shadow, QGears2, and a selection of WINE graphics tests. On the following pages are our results.

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