For months now Linux users have been battered with driver releases that have really equated to be nothing more than maintenance releases. These releases have just fixed a small number of bugs and in some cases, the driver did more harm than good if you were plagued by the watermark issue, broken X-Video playback support, or one of the other problems. Throughout this time the driver continued with its performance imbalance and no AIGLX support for Beryl and Compiz, which had even led us to dubbing the 8.40.4 driver the "One Bug A Day Keeps AIGLX Away" release. At the same time we've been telling you that AMD has been working steadfast to deliver a brand new Linux driver later in the year.
While many thought this day would never come or that it was some form of propaganda, it's coming and it's coming this month. The AMD fglrx 8.41 driver features a brand new underlying code-base that has been under development for well over a year. At Phoronix we have literally spent hundreds of hours using and testing this new driver, and to say the least it is truly a new experience on the ATI Linux front. The new driver delivers massive performance improvements, Radeon HD 2000 (R600) support, and a whole lot more. This article is the first of five articles that will be published today at Phoronix as we examine the new AMD Linux driver extensively on all fronts from seeing how it can handle the flagship ATI Radeon HD 2900XT graphics card to going back to past graphics card families to show the dramatic performance improvements.
Four of our articles today are looking at the new fglrx driver while the fifth one is looking at what's possibly coming down the pipeline soon. In this article, we will just be sharing the facts about this new driver and what exactly you can expect to see. In the other articles today we will be looking at the performance in the Radeon X800 "R400", Radeon X1000 "R500", and Radeon HD 2000 "R600" series. While we recommend you read all of our articles, the reason for all of these articles today is that there are clear performance improvements all across the board Whether you are using a Radeon X300 purchased a few years ago or the Radeon X1950PRO, the 8.41 driver is noticeably faster. .How much faster? In many cases it is about 50% faster while in some configurations it may go as high as 90% or more. In fact, in some benchmarks the Mobility Radeon X300 was over 10x faster! But you will need to read all of the articles to find out all of the details. This news is especially gratifying seeing as over the past sixteen months there really have been no major performance improvements, as is highlighted in The ATI R500 On Linux: Then & Now.
Accompanying this new proprietary driver announcement, AMD will be making another very special announcement in the near future. Stay tuned for the Phoronix article on that event.
Where's AIGLX? Well, unfortunately due to delays later in their development cycle for the 8.41 driver, AIGLX was pushed out of this month's development and release cycle. The AIGLX support will, however, arrive next month with the fglrx 8.42 driver.
The fglrx 8.41 driver is focused primarily for the R600 series and the 8.42 driver will contain additional fixes and optimizations for the older generation of ATI graphics processors. While the 8.41 release is designed for the R600 series, in our tests with the R300 through R500 series the driver has worked out quite well. There have been some corruption issues and other minor problems but nothing severe.
A number of packaging scripts had to be updated for this release including Fedora. The basis of the Fedora 8 support is now in the fglrx 8.41 driver; however, no Linux 2.6.23 patch has been included with the scripts. Therefore, in order to use Fedora 8 with fglrx 8.41 you must either compile an older kernel or use one of the patches available elsewhere. Proper support for Fedora 8 should arrive next month with Linux 2.6.23 support.
With the past few maintenance releases there has been readers in the Phoronix Forums coming up with various names and phrases to vent their frustration with the old fglrx driver. So what are we calling the fglrx 8.41 driver? This release has been codenamed "Oktoberfest" for the festival taking place later this month in Munich, Germany. Oktoberfest is known for its celebrations and parties (it is the world's largest fair) and with all of the good things introduced in this driver and what AMD's next announcement is all about, the name was well deserved. The 8.41 driver is also the "Holy Crap!" edition if you so desire.
This driver has been in development since last year, but with AMD simultaneously having to maintain the existing fglrx driver and continuing with monthly releases, this new driver took quite a bit of time to develop. The fglrx 8.41 driver finally outperforms the NVIDIA binary driver when it comes to the frame-rate and the Radeon HD 2000 support is long overdue. However, the latest work by the ATI Graphics Products Group shows AMD's serious dedication to the long-term support of its customers and the Linux platform. We were even blown away by the performance gains during testing! These improvements dramatically increase the vitality of the ATI Linux experience.
The fglrx 8.41 driver is not available to the public today, but it should be made available at AMD's website within the next week. AMD was gracious enough to let Phoronix publish these results today. Also keep in mind that the fglrx 8.41 driver is designed for the R600 series and that there may be a few bugs initially for older ATI hardware. In the near future will also be a workstation driver release based upon this new driver, but in the mean time FireGL owners will want to stick to the fglrx 8.40 driver.
All of this is very exciting news and goes to show the expedited rate at which AMD is listening to the Linux community and is taking serious effort into enhancing the state of ATI Linux, and the Linux desktop experience in general. You can expect many more articles in the coming days and weeks. Be sure to share your thoughts in the Phoronix Forums.
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Arch64, Testing repo