Linux for Apple silicon Macs hits a major gaming milestone

Mac Studio M2 on a wooden desk in an office
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

Planning on installing Linux on your Apple silicon Mac? You can, and if you do it now you'll get better GPU performance than ever before.

That's after people working on the Asahi Linux project announced that they now have conformant OpenGL ES 3.1 drivers available for download. The news means that these are the very first conformant GPU drivers for Apple's M1- and M2-series Macs running Linux.

Those who already have Asahi Linux installed can download the newly updated drivers right now.

So much testing

The news was announced via a blog post that explained that the "driver passed tens of thousands of tests to demonstrate correctness and is now recognized by the industry."

That testing included a 30-day process to make sure that the new driver is as stable as can be before it could be considered to be conformant.

"To become conformant, an 'implementation' must pass the official conformance test suite, designed to verify every feature in the specification," the explanation beings. 

"The test results are submitted to Khronos, the standards body. After a 30-day review period, if no issues are found, the implementation becomes conformant. The Khronos website lists all conformant implementations, including our drivers for the M1, M1 Pro/Max/Ultra, M2, and M2 Pro/Max."

The result is a new driver that should ensure faster gaming performance than previous iterations, and the fact that the driver is conformant is particularly interesting considering that Apple's isn't.

"Unlike ours, the manufacturer’s M1 drivers are unfortunately not conformant for any standard graphics API, whether Vulkan or OpenGL or OpenGL ES," the blog post notes. "That means that there is no guarantee that applications using the standards will work on your M1/M2 (if you’re not running Linux)."

That's awkward.

If you're using a modern Mac and running Asahi Linux, and especially if you're gaming, now might be the time to get this driver installed.

Oliver Haslam

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.