Boost Xorg by removing Intel drivers

I recently discovered a subreddit thread discussing this seemingly counter-intuitive move to improve performance. Seems the 2D Intel drivers usually installed alongside Mesa have become buggy and outdated, and the default modesetting driver included with Xorg as of version 1.18 have many advantages. By removing the Intel drivers, and defaulting to modesetting, this allows Direct Rendering Infrastructure (DRI) 3 support, and the usage of Glamor Acceleration, which performs 2D rendering using OpenGL through Mesa. Users on the thread claim that this change improves responsiveness of their desktop environments (notably Gnome 3), and for many, eliminates screen tearing.

Reaping the benefits of this potential performance gain require a few simple steps:

1. Check the Xorg version

Run the following command as root to check that Xorg is running on version 1.18 or newer:

Xorg -version

2. Remove Intel drivers

The Intel 2D driver package is: x86-video-intel and can be removed using the system’s package manager. For example:

pacman -Rns x86-video-intel

3. Remove conflicting configuration files

Some systems may have an xorg configuration file for the Intel drivers found in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf. If this file exists, remove it, else it will conflict when loading the modesetting driver.

4. Reboot and test

If all went well, the modesetting drivers provided by Xorg will be used by default, and no configuration should be required. Apart from any immediate differences one may notice, the following command can be executed to verify DRI3 is being used:

LIBGL_DEBUG=verbose glxinfo | grep libgl

This should contain output similar to:

libGL: Using DRI3 for screen 0

A few things to note

  • Naturally, this method is only applicable to setups where Xorg is running on an Intel graphics chip
  • This should have no impact on any 3D application, as that is handled by Mesa or other driver setups
  • There should be no impact on the usage of hybrid graphics, such as using Bumblebee for Nvidia Optimus
  • There is no DRI3 logging when the modesetting driver is used, meaning it will not be listed in any Xorg.#.log file
  • This has no influence on Wayland usage, as all the drivers discussed are specifically for Xorg
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