A new driver for the R300 has been released, which includes a long-awaited bug fix. The ATI Radeon R300, R400, and R500 graphics cards are getting a new open-source graphics driver under Linux, according to Phoronix, which will give these nearly 20-year-old GPUs a new lease on life. Developer Emma Anholt created the new open-source driver, which allows these GPUs to request NIR shaders from the Mesa 3D graphics library’s state tracker and use the NIR to TGSI path.
NIR is a compiler optimization stack that is at the heart of Mesa’s driver shader compilers. It’s essentially an optimization layer that tries to minimize the amount of work a GPU has to do when running 3D applications.
This means that the gaming performance of these older graphics cards will be improved, as well as game loading times. However, due to the hardware constraints of these near-20-year-old cards, don’t expect them to run today’s latest titles at any playable frame rates. However, for those who play older games, this new driver should deliver a significant gain in overall GPU performance.
The R500 graphics cards, commonly known as the X1000 series, were released in 2007 and were constructed using a massive 90nm technology, demonstrating how old these GPUs are. The ATI Radeon X1800 XT, the flagship card at the time, could only achieve 83 Gflops of performance (with a G). It’s a long way from today, when the most powerful graphics cards, such as the RTX 3090, can achieve over 35 TFlops.
NIR could also be limited to the R500 series of ATI graphics cards, according to Phoronix, because the R300 and R400 cards are more hardware limited. This isn’t confirmed, and it’s just a theory being discussed right now.
Anholt hopes to have this driver out by the time Mesa 22.0 is released, but more community testing is needed to ensure that it is stable.