// we are

R6xx/r7xx Open Source Driver Evolves Fast!

Back in the January 2009, AMD started releasing code and documentation for r6xx/r7xx ATI Radeon series. This has been made to allow further development on the open source drivers xf86-video-ati and xf86-video-radeonhd.

The first release was only able to draw opengl triangles. One month ago, AMD’s Alex Deucher announced on new milestone had been completed, glxgears on r6xx/r7xx, and, finally, fifteen days later, he also announced compiz started working with xf86-video-ati.

Since I bought a new computer last month, I decided it was time to test this new driver !

The test

The video

Let’s look at the video first and then discuss it right after.

You can download the video if you want to see it in its native resolution.


So, what do we have here ?

First, we have a working composited environment. In this case, this is KWin 4.3 but it would work the same way with the well known compiz-fusion. As a reminder, a composite environment allows to use the GPU to draw your windows on screen. Thus, your CPU does less work and is thus available for your applications. Also, the GPU allows you to have fancy effects like wobbly windows and nice animations. Also, as GPU are made for image processing, your system gets snappier using composite :)

GLXgears works as intended and shows 2800fps on my HD4770. In a non-composited environment, I get about 500fps. EDIT: Today’s version shows 1700fps in composited KWin.

We can also see 2D acceleration method (EXA) works in a composited environment as GTKperf is completed in 15seconds. This takes twice as long as in a non-composited environment but this is still accelerated. We should bear in mind that this is a development version, it should improve with time and ultimately reach 4 seconds as the stable xf86-video-ati currently performs.

On the down-side, we see a lot of screen corruption on 2D parts of the screen like icons and texts. This may be a problem with EXA as videos and 3D applications like GLXgears appear as intended (but still causing artefacts on the rest of the screen).


Almost nine months after the first public release of some r6xx/r7xx code, It seems like we may see a working open source driver in a near future but too late for autumn’s Linux distributions like Ubuntu 9.10. Of course, this driver is far from being stable and mainstream as it hasn’t entered Linux’s mainline yet. Also, this driver is not ready for gaming purpose.

I hope this video made you consider building and testing this new driver. If it’s the case and you are an Arch Linux user, stay tuned as packages for the whole graphic stack should be added soon in our repositories.