Intel GMA 500

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The Intel GMA 500 series, also known by its codename Poulsbo or Intel System Controller Hub US15W, is a family of integrated video adapters based on the PowerVR SGX 535 graphics core. It is typically found on boards for the Atom Z processor series. Features include hardware decoding capability of up to 720p/1080i video content in various state-of-the-art codecs, e.g. H.264.

As the PowerVR SGX 535 graphics core was developed by Imagination Technologies and then licensed by Intel, the standard opensource Intel drivers do not work with this hardware.

Kernel's gma500_gfx module

The Linux kernel includes the gma500_gfx module which should work out of the box.

To check if the driver is loaded, run and verify that gma500_gfx is listed in the output:

$ lsmod | grep gma


  • Native resolution (1366x768) with early KMS (tested on Asus Eee 1101HA)
  • Up to date kernel and Xorg
  • 2D acceleration
  • Works out of the box


  • Some are unable to get native resolution (e.g 1366x768)
  • No 3D acceleration possible
  • Poor multimedia performance (use mplayer with x11 or sdl so fullscreen video will be quite slow)

Modesetting driver and dual monitor Setup

To setup different resolution for external monitor using xrandr, xf86-video-modesetting provided by package xorg-server from official repo is needed. After installing, an Xorg file is needed to setup the driver. Use this for device section:

 Section "Device"
    Identifier "gma500_gfx"
    Driver     "modesetting"
    Option     "SWCursor"       "ON" 
Note: The above configuration file will replace the xf86-video-fbdev driver. If you want to revert back, just replace modesetting with fbdev.


Poor video performance

If you have problems playing 720p and 1080i videos, yes, that's normal while there are not accelerated XV drivers. But you can improve it up to the point of going well and smoothly for most videos (even HD ones) with these tricks:

  1. always use MPlayer or any variant/gui. VLC and others are usually much more slower.
  2. When possible, Use multithreaded decoding with mplayer (Many Atom CPUs can) & framedropping mplayer -lavdopts threads=4 -framedrop yourvideofile.avi
  3. use linux-lqxAUR as it is a very good performance kernel. Edit PKGBUILD so you can do menuconfig and make sure you select your processor and remove generic optimizations for other processors. (About kernels)

Fix suspend

Old fbdev driver (default)

If suspend does not work, there are various quirk options you can try. First, make sure that you have pm-utilsAUR and pm-quirksAUR installed. See the manpage for pm-suspend for a list of them all. One that has been reported to help is quirk-vbemode-restore, which saves and restores the current VESA mode.

To test it, open a terminal and use the following command

# pm-suspend --quirk-vbemode-restore 

That should suspend your system. If you are able to resume, you'll want to use this option every time you suspend.

# echo "ADD_PARAMETERS='--quirk-vbemode-restore'" > /etc/pm/config.d/gma500 

If you are not able to resume and you get a black screen instead, try the above quirk command with only one dash

# pm-suspend -quirk-vbemode-restore 

If this also fails, you might try removing pm-utils's video resume script, so that it's not run when you resume the machine.

# cd /usr/lib/pm-utils/sleep.d
# mv 99video ~
Tip: If you stuck with a black screen after resume, be aware that besides the black screen, your system works fine. Instead of hard rebooting, you could try to blindly reboot your system, since the last thing you used before suspend was the terminal. Alternatively, if you have ssh enabled on your machine you could do it remotely.

modesetting xorg driver

On some machines, when using modesetting driver the screen gets messed up with random data. Although the computer still works, you must go to a console and kill X or reboot "blindly". This is not optimal, so here is a solution:

First, see your available screens and modes running xrandr:

 # xrandr
 Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1280 x 720, maximum 2048 x 2048
 LVDS-0 connected 1280x720+0+0 222mm x 125mm
   1280x720       60.0*+
 HDMI-0 connected 1280x720+0+0 531mm x 298mm
   1920x1080      60.0 +
   1680x1050      59.9  
   1680x945       60.0  
   1400x1050      74.9     59.9  
   1600x900       60.0  
   1280x1024      75.0     60.0  
   1440x900       75.0     59.9  
   1280x960       60.0  
   1366x768       60.0  
   1360x768       60.0  
   1280x800       74.9     59.9  
   1152x864       75.0  
   1280x768       74.9     60.0  
   1280x720       60.0* 
   1024x768       75.1     70.1     60.0  
   1024x576       60.0  
   832x624        74.6  
   800x600        72.2     75.0     60.3     56.2  
   848x480        60.0  
   640x480        72.8     75.0     60.0  
   720x400        70.1

Edit or create (giving executive permissions) /etc/pm/sleep.d/99xrandr, writing the correct names and modes for your solution:

 # turn off and on the screens so we force to clean video data
 case "$1" in
 xrandr --output LVDS-0 --off
 xrandr --output HDMI-0 --off
 xrandr --output LVDS-0 --off
 xrandr --output HDMI-0 --off
 xrandr --output LVDS-0 --mode 1280x720
 *) exit $NA

In my case, I turn off both screens, and turn on only the main screen upon awakening. Feel free to customize to your needs. On some machines, the screen turns on by default even when the system was put to sleep with the screen turned off, so you need to turn it off twice.

Note: This only works if you call pm-suspend or pm-hibernate inside X. If it is called from a daemon or a tty, it won't work.

Set backlight brightness

All that is needed to set the brightness is sending a number (0-100) to /sys/class/backlight/psblvds/brightness. This obviously requires sysfs to be enabled in the kernel, as it is in the Arch Linux kernel. To set display to minimal brightness, issue this command as root:

# echo 0 > /sys/class/backlight/psb-bl/brightness

Or, for full luminosity:

# echo 100 > /sys/class/backlight/psb-bl/brightness

A very short script is available to do this with less typing written by mulenmar.

#! /bin/sh
sudo sh -c "echo $1 > /sys/class/backlight/psb-bl/brightness"

Simply save it as, and give it executable permissions. Then you can use it like so:

Set brightness to minimum:

./ 0

Set brightness to half:

./ 50

Sudo may obviously ask for your password, so you have to be in the sudoers file. A variation of this script can be found here.

Note: If changing /sys/class/backlight/psblvds/brightness does not work, you may need to add acpi_osi=Linux acpi_backlight=vendor to your kernel parameters. After rebooting, a new folder will appear under /sys/class/backlight/; making changes to the brightness file in that folder should work. For example, in some Asus netbooks the backlight can be controlled by writing a value (0-10) to /sys/class/backlight/eeepc-wmi/brightness.

Memory allocation optimization

You can often improve performance by limiting the amount of RAM used by the system so that there will be more available for the videocard. If you have 1GB RAM use mem=896mb or if you have 2GB RAM use mem=1920mb. Add them to your kernel parameters.

SDL fullscreen viewport is too large/small

If X segfaults before you even have a SDL app running, see FS#35187.

The Shuttle XS36VL computer has a VGA, HDMI and DVI-D port. For some reason, xrandr sees some non-existing ports:

$ xrandr -q
Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1024 x 768, maximum 2048 x 2048
VGA-0 connected 1024x768+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 337mm x 270mm
   1280x1024      60.0 +   75.0  
   1024x768       75.1     70.1     60.0* 
   832x624        74.6  
   800x600        72.2     75.0     60.3     56.2  
   640x480        72.8     75.0     66.7     60.0  
   720x400        70.1  
LVDS-0 connected 1024x768+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 0mm x 0mm
   1024x768       60.0*+
   960x720        60.0  
   928x696        60.1  
   896x672        60.0  
   800x600        60.0     60.3     56.2  
   700x525        60.0  
   640x512        60.0  
   640x480        60.0     59.9  
   512x384        60.0  
   400x300        60.3     56.3  
   320x240        60.1  
DVI-0 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
DisplayPort-0 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
DVI-1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
DisplayPort-1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)

In the xrandr output, + means Preferred mode, * means the current mode. In this case, only VGA-0 is really connected physically. LVDS-0 seems rubbish as xrandr --output LVDS-0 --mode 640x480 has no effect on the physical output. However, this configuration does affect the ability of SDL (and other?) programs to display full-screen. To allow SDL programs to display with a correct viewport, one has to disable the LVDS-0 output:

$ xrandr --output LVDS-0 --off
LVDS-0 connected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)


After doing so, qemu -full-screen works for me.

See also