More Performance Comes Out Of Intel Linux SNB
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 22 March 2011 at 11:04 AM EDT. 5 Comments
Near the beginning of this month I talked about an important Sandy Bridge performance fix landing in Mesa that with 13 lines of changed code resulted in a huge performance improvement for those using the new integrated graphics found on the Sandy Bridge CPUs. This performance boost was quite dramatic and made the open-source Intel Linux driver comparable to Intel's closed-source Windows driver, but the performance tuning is not done yet. There's DRM patches arriving this morning that squeeze more performance out of Intel Sandy Bridge graphics under Linux.

Chris Wilson has published a new patch series for using LLC cache on Sandy Bridge / "Gen 6" graphics. The LLC work was started by Eric Anholt, but Chris Wilson has continued on with various Intel SNB improvements.

As far as what the LLC caching on Sandy Bridge CPUs means for graphics performance, the Sandy Bridge graphics performance goes up by an additional 10% with the OpenArena game, for example.
This provided a 10.4% +/- 1.5% (n=3) performance improvement on openarena on my laptop. We have more room to improve with doing LLC caching for display using GFDT, and in doing LLC+MLC caching, but this was an easy performance win and incremental improvement toward those two.

The patch-set is currently sitting on the Intel-gfx mailing list. Though unless this is pushed into the DRM tree in the next few days, it's unlikely it will land prior to the Linux 2.6.40 kernel. The Linux 2.6.39 kernel is already looking to be quite interesting without this work, in particular due to major Nouveau performance wins, but this set of 15 patches to the Intel DRM driver will probably not land there. Hitting 2.6.39 wouldn't mean much for most Linux desktop users anyways since Ubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15 are already set to ship with the Linux 2.6.38 kernel.

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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 10,000 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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