The Rough Story Of Intel Sandy Bridge Graphics For Mac OS X
Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 25 July 2011. Page 2 of 5. 46 Comments

The base model of the new Mac Mini is still priced at $599 USD and it offers a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, 2GB of DDR3 system memory, a 500GB 5400RPM hard drive, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, Mac OS X 10.7.0, and Thunderbolt. There is also the $799 Mac Mini, which packs a 2.5GHz Core i5 SNB CPU and 4GB of RAM, but it uses an AMD Radeon HD 6630M GPU instead of the integrated Intel graphics. As a result, the $599 USD Mac Mini was ordered; the part number was MC815LL/A.

When booting up to Mac OS X 10.7 on this Sandy Bridge system, the graphics worked as would be expected for Apple's operating system. There were not any output problems or other issues.

With everything seeming to be in working shape, one of the first checks done after that was to see the level of OpenGL support in Mac OS X 10.7 for the Intel SNB (HD 3000) graphics. Interestingly, according to glxinfo, it is still at OpenGL 2.1. The Intel HD Graphics 3000 are OpenGL 3.x compatible, as is now implemented in the Intel HD Windows driver, but the Mac OS X driver is still in the OpenGL 2.1 world. This is similar to the Intel Linux driver that is still only reporting OpenGL 2.1 with limited OpenGL 3.0 support, since the open-source (Mesa) Linux graphics driver stack lags behind a great deal in supporting more modern versions of the Khronos OpenGL specification.

OpenGL vendor string: Intel Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: Intel HD Graphics 3000 OpenGL Engine
OpenGL version string: 2.1 APPLE-7.4.6
OpenGL shading language version string: 1.20

For those interested in the full glxinfo output for this system on Mac OS X 10.7.0, see the log page. As a side note, the X.Org Server version available in v10.7.0 (build 11A2061) is version 1.10.2.

As the Phoronix Test Suite (3.2-Grimstad and thus also the 3.4-Lillesand development snapshots) is already compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, it was just a matter of installing it and then executing the compatible OpenGL graphics tests. It went well, but with one exception: Nexuiz would lock-up Mac OS X with the Intel graphics. Within six or seven seconds of running phoronix-test-suite benchmark nexuiz (with any resolution / settings) on this Mac Mini the system would be locked. There was no way to workaround this issue, but Xonotic, the successor to this open-source first person shooter, had ran fine but at a very slow pace.

After that, it was on to running some comparison Windows tests. Microsoft Windows Professional 7 x64 with Service Pack 1 using Boot Camp just worked fine when installing Apple's Windows software updates for the device. The latest Intel Windows HD graphics driver was installed. The compatible Windows test profiles from the Phoronix Test Suite executed successfully.

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