Intel X.Org, Mesa Performance In Ubuntu
Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 13 November 2008. Page 6 of 6. 7 Comments

Intel's open-source graphics stack had matured quite a bit over the past eighteen months. While their integrated graphics processors haven't been that powerful, in tests like Nexuiz and Tremulous the performance was best off with Ubuntu 8.10. In Urban Terror and World of Padman, however, the OpenGL performance had regressed with the Intrepid Ibex release.

With the 2D GtkPerf tests, Ubuntu 7.04 was quite fast as it was using XAA, but that relies upon the CPU more heavily than EXA. When EXA was available in Ubuntu 7.10, the performance was quite bad, but this 2D acceleration architecture has certainly improved in recent Intel driver and X Server releases. EXA is now the default choice for the Intel DDX driver. While there was a performance regression with the GtkDrawingArea Circles test in Ubuntu 8.10, the rest of the time it had performed quite well compared against the earlier releases. The x11perf numbers were scattered with no clear results.

Intel Linux graphics have also improved in other areas than just performance. With Ubuntu 7.04 in the 3D tests included in this article plus others available through the Phoronix Test Suite we had experienced black textures and other rendering glitches, but those were since cleared up in Mesa. For the Ubuntu 7.10 release we had also experienced a monitor issue when changing modes, but that too has been corrected along with other bugs.

While these results are representative of what you can experience up through Ubuntu 8.10 by default, invasive Intel changes -- along with other changes throughout the X.Org stack -- have been underway for the past few months. With Intel switching from TTM to their GEM kernel memory manager (Graphics Execution Manager), switching to kernel mode-setting, and the Gallium3D architecture hopefully not being too far out, look for these numbers to change quite a bit -- and hopefully for the better. Once the dust settles we will hopefully see more Intel driver optimizations take place, especially with Intel's discrete Larrabee GPU being just around the corner.

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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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