One of the oddest things I found about the crowd-funded Librem 15 laptop when writing about it last month was that it wanted to be open-source down to the component firmware/microcode yet they opted to ship with a NVIDIA GPU. In an updated earlier this month, at least they came to their senses and dropped the discrete NVIDIA GPU. While I have no problems recommending NVIDIA graphics for Linux gamers and those wanting the best performance, that's only when using the proprietary drivers, and certainly wouldn't recommend it for a fully open-source system -- NVIDIA on the desktop side doesn't do much for the open-source drivers, let alone down to the firmware/microcode level. Instead the Librem folks have opted to upgrade the design to using an Intel Core i7 4770HQ processor that features more powerful Intel Iris Pro 5200 Graphics, which isn't as powerful as a discrete NVIDIA GPU but at least is more open-source friendly.
With the year quickly coming to an end, it's time to do our year-end driver recap benchmarks from the year for the proprietary AMD and NVIDIA graphics drivers as well as the open-source drivers. To get things started, here's benchmarks done of the official AMD Catalyst Linux releases of 2014 and testing these drivers on three different graphics cards.
For this article today, the major driver releases of the year for their mainline driver were benchmarked while ignoring some of the later drivers in each series that just shipped bug-fixes or new kernel / xorg-server support after a new driver series was already in beta or stable. The tested NVIDIA drivers for this article include the 331.38, 334.16, 337.12, 337.19, 340.17, 343.13, 343.22, 346.16, and 346.22 Linux x86_64 drivers. The 331 series was the last driver series from late 2013 for reference. The graphics card used for today's testing was a GeForce GTX 780 Ti (Kepler) graphics card as being a high performance GPU that's compatible with all of the driver releases tested throughout the year.
The performance of Civilization: Beyond Earth on Linux is quite demanding. The OpenBenchmarking.org test profile of Civilization Beyond Earth uses roughly the high image quality settings and for this article the tests were done at 1920 x 1080. As the results are about to show, even with modern graphics cards, it's quite a chore putting out a decent frame-rate at 1080p for this strategy game.
Eric Anholt, the lead developer developer behind the Broadcom VC4 Mesa/Gallium3D driver stack for supporting the Raspberry Pi, has announced a new performance achievement.
Eric implemented a user-space buffer object cache for the Gallium3D driver. This buffer object cache is designed after the user-space cache he designed for Intel's driver while being employed by them. This cache reuses buffer objects that haven't been shared to other processes and frees buffer objects that have been in the cache unused for over one second.
Mesa 10.4.0 has been released! Mesa 10.4.0 is a feature release that
includes many updates and enhancements. The full list is available in
the release notes file in docs/relnotes/10.4.html.
The tag in the GIT repository for Mesa 10.4.0 is 'mesa-10.4.0'. I have
verified that the tag is in the correct place in the tree.
This week with the release of Phoronix Test Suite 5.4 we also announced LinuxBenchmarking.com, a collection of 32 systems running various upstream benchmarks on a daily basis in a fully automated manner. The daily upstream benchmarking ranges from the Linux kernel Git to Mesa to Arch/Antergos Linux to LLVM/Clang. Here's a walkthrough of the new lab housing this test farm where hundreds of benchmarks are run daily in looking for performance regressions and other changes with the upstream open-source code.