Intel Graphic cards, Linux, Xorg and UXA performance boost

For people having Intel graphic chipset under Gnu/Linux, performance using 3D applications or Compiz-* window manager effects has always been a problem. Intel drivers for Xorg never gave problems but have also never been brilliant. I always looked around searching for xorg.conf tuning configuration entries.
Today I was simply browsing Ubuntu Wiki and discovered the UxaTesting page. I wanted to know something about UXA and Intel drivers, so I found a Wikipedia definition:

In computing, UXA is the reimplementation of the EXA graphics acceleration architecture of the X.Org Server developed by Intel. Its major difference with EXA is the use of GEM, replacing Translation Table Maps.

Yeah cool, the official Xorg Wiki Intel Graphics Driver page Gives also some more information, so if you’ve got one of these chipsets (you can verify using lspci | grep VGA ):

  • i810 and variants thereof
  • i815
  • i830M
  • 845G
  • i852GM
  • 855GM
  • 865G
  • 915G and variants (GMA 900)
  • E7221
  • 945G and variants (GMA 950)
  • 946GME
  • G33
  • Q33
  • Q35
  • 965G/Q
  • G35
  • G41
  • G43
  • G/GM/Q45

You may want to try out the new acceleration method by adding this line:

To your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, in section “Device”.

Please note that:

  1. UXA is not yet stable as EXA. Try it out, signal your experience on the Ubuntu wiki page and fill out a bug if necessary
  2. You will need at least Xorg server 1.6.0
  3. You will need at least xf86-video-intel-2.6.2 drivers
  4. I don’t think this is mandatory, but please tell me if you encounter differences when updating to 2.6.30.x kernel. I already have 2.6.30.0 on Sid so I don’t know if with a previous version this is working

On Debian Sid I just had to add the Option line to my xorg.conf file.
The performance differences are noticeable and incredible. Everything runs faster and smoother.
My glxgears output went from 60 FPS (using EXA) to 425 FPS (using UXA).
This is a 700% performance improvement!

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