The team behind Asahi Linux have announced an early alpha version of native graphics support for Apple silicon-based Macs. That means that people can install the drive and enjoy GPU acceleration when running Asahi Linux for the first time.
As a result, gamers can enjoy titles like Quake 3 at 60fps while playing at 4K resolution, according to the team. And all from a driver that is still considered to be an alpha.
There will be bugs
An announcement blog post confirming the driver's availability was quick to note that it is yet to pass OpenGL (ES) testing which means that "there will be bugs" for users to contend with. But assuming they don't mind that, there's plenty of performance to make up for it.
"This release features work-in-progress OpenGL 2.1 and OpenGL ES 2.0 support for all current Apple M-series systems," the blog post says. "That’s enough for hardware acceleration with desktop environments, like GNOME and KDE. It’s also enough for older 3D games, like Quake3 and Neverball." Of course, playing them is one thing, but doing it at a high refresh rate and resolution is another. And while it's agreed that "there is always room for improvement," we're told that "the driver is fast enough to run all of the above at 60 frames per second at 4K."
That's an impressive feat, with the team also confirming that it's working on Vulkan support — but right now, the focus is ensuring that Open GL support is top-notch. The team also says that much of the work that is going into getting things off the ground can also be reused for additional Vulkan support later, too.
That blog post includes instructions on how to install the new alpha GPU driver for those who want to give it a try — but remember to expect bugs while doing so.
Being able to tap into the GPU power of Apple silicon, including the Mac Studio's M1 Ultra, is a big deal for Linux. It opens the door to the kind of GPU performance that simply wasn't available. At least, not until now.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.