AMD Catalyst 2011 Driver Year In Review
Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 14 December 2010. Page 2 of 5. 3 Comments

Catalyst 11.7 delivered on support for the Linux 2.6.39 and 3.0 kernels. There was also improved PowerXpress support for switching between integrated and discrete Radeon graphics processors, but that support is still just limited to when both graphics processors are being poked by the Catalyst driver and not any other graphics driver configuration. There was also the usual assortment of bug-fixes.

Catalyst 11.8 finished rebranding many parts of the driver from being the "ATI" Linux driver to now being the "AMD" driver. There were also bug fixes in the August driver update, including to address 2D corruption. OpenGL 4.2 support was also made available.

Catalyst 11.9 brought long-awaited GNOME 3.0 fixes, but many GNOME Shell users still experienced random bugs with the Catalyst driver, even though this latest GNOME desktop had been available for months.

Catalyst 11.10 brought early support for Ubuntu 11.10, production support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.7, and 2D performance improvements for Brazos. Bug fixes too? Yes. Several users also reported an overall better experience with this latest release.

Catalyst 11.11 for Linux platforms finally delivered on X.Org Server 1.11 support, openSUSE 12.1 support, and integrated the OpenCL run-time into the Catalyst Linux package. The OpenCL run-time integration now makes OpenCL support more widespread and easy-to-use since you no longer need to worry about downloading a separate package (the AMD Stream SDK) that many desktop users likely didn't even know about its existence.

Catalyst 11.12 was relatively boring with just bug-fixes, although this release Google has now whitelisted for hardware acceleration in the Chrome/Chromium web-browser. Phoronix users still report some GNOME3 desktop artifacts and other bugs.

The Catalyst Linux driver releases were not as exciting as some drivers put out in previous years were, but that's due in part to now being at a near feature parity with the Windows Catalyst driver. In previous years we saw major features like OverDrive, CrossFire, and other features introduced, but that all came while playing catch-up with the Windows driver.

In 2011, the drivers are now effectively at the same level, so it is mostly about bug fixing, other maintenance, and new hardware enablement. When new features are introduced with new hardware, the Catalyst Linux driver around the same time as the Windows driver generally exposes them. Coming up soon will be the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series graphics card launch, which does already have Catalyst Linux driver support in place. The user complaints at this point about this Catalyst Linux driver really come down to just bugs, but no real major features are lacking.

Using a Radeon HD 6950 "Cayman" graphics card, which has had Linux support going back to the end of 2010, here's benchmarks of all twelve official Catalyst driver releases this year. Each driver was tested in its stock configuration with a variety of OpenGL games/benchmarks native to Linux.

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