SteamOS vs. Ubuntu 13.10 - Intel HD Graphics Performance
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 15 December 2013. Page 2 of 2. 25 Comments

The results for sharing in this article are of Unigine Sanctuary and Unigine Tropics, two of the most demanding OpenGL workloads that will work properly on the open-source Intel Linux graphics driver. Counter-Strike: Source and Team Fortress 2 also work on the open-source Intel driver, but for non-Haswell hardware the experience can often be unplayable. In terms of why results for some of the other games were not shared, read Running Benchmarks On Other New Linux Games and Finally, Team Fortress 2 Benchmarks On Phoronix for the back story, other general Linux benchmarking information, and to prevent the same questions/requests that are frequently brought up about the choice of games/profiles being tested.

The performance of Unigine Sanctuary between SteamOS 1.0 Beta and Ubuntu 13.10 wasn't much of a surprise given that there's only a small kernel version difference (3.10 vs. 3.11) and both Debian-based operating systems are running Mesa 9.2. With Mesa 10.1-devel from the Oibaf PPA, there is certainly a performance improvement thanks to this newer code. Mesa 10.0 and newer also provides OpenGL 3.2 and 3.3 support for the Intel Ivy Bridge and Haswell graphics hardware.

This quick testing reveals there's no major performance breakthroughs with SteamOS, at least not yet, compared to other Linux desktop distributions that would affect the Intel graphics support on Linux.

Tropics is more demanding than Sanctuary and here the SteamOS 1.0 Beta performance remained right in line with Ubuntu 13.10 numbers. If upgrading to Mesa 10.1-devel Git, there's performance improvements just not for Unigine but most OpenGL workloads. The open-source Radeon and Nouveau drivers are also generally much faster with Mesa 10.0+ than Mesa 9.2: see the many Phoronix GPU driver articles for additional details and Linux GPU reviews. At least now you know from this quick testing there doesn't appear to be anything too different at this time about the SteamOS graphics performance -- at least for Intel hardware -- compared to other modern Linux distributions with similar packages like Ubuntu 13.10.

Next up on Monday will be back in Valve's recommended area of using NVIDIA graphics with the supplied binary driver and comparing the performance against Microsoft Windows 8. If you didn't already, be sure to check out the 7-way NVIDIA SteamOS benchmark results.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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