Intel graphics

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Since Intel provides and supports open source drivers, Intel graphics are now essentially plug-and-play.


It is a popular mistake to think of "Intel 945G" and "Intel GMA 945" as being the same graphics chip with different names. As a matter of fact, the latter does not exist. Intel uses "GMA" to indicate the graphics core, or the GPU. Anything other than that is actually the model of the motherboard chipset, like "915G", "945GM", "G965" or "G45".

The more common GPUs and their corresponding motherboard chipsets are:

GPU                Chipset/Northbridge
Intel GMA 900         910, 915
Intel GMA 950         945

The "i810" chipset (again, motherboard; not GPU) is actually really old and was manufactured long before the 9xx product line with which the GMA onboard-graphics branding began. Similarly, alternative names for the 910, 915 and 945 chips may include the i prefix.

See this for a list.


Prerequisite: Xorg

Install the xf86-video-intel package which is available in the official repositories. It allows to preset your desired acceleration method. SNA is the recommended method from now on. Check benchmarks done by Phoronix [1]. These can be found here for Sandy Bridge and here for Ivy Bridge. UXA is still a solid option, if experiencing trouble with SNA. Add this to /etc/X11/xorg.conf or create /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf :

Section "Device"
   Identifier  "Intel Graphics"
   Driver      "intel"
   Option      "AccelMethod"  "sna"
   #Option      "AccelMethod"  "uxa"
   #Option      "AccelMethod"  "xaa"

You may need to install lib32-intel-dri in 64-bit systems to use acceleration in 32-bit programs.

Note: lib32-intel-dri is found in the [multilib] repository.


There is no need for any kind of configuration to get the Xorg running (an xorg.conf is unneeded, but needs to be configured correctly if present).

One thing that you should have already done from the start (not a configuration step per se) is to add your user to the relevant group:

# gpasswd -a username video

KMS (Kernel Mode Setting)

KMS is required in order to run X and a desktop environment such as GNOME, KDE, Xfce, LXDE, etc. KMS is supported by Intel chipsets that use the i915 DRM driver and is enabled by default as of kernel v2.6.32. Versions 2.10 and newer of the xf86-video-intel driver no longer support UMS, making the use of KMS mandatory[2]. KMS is typically initialized after the kernel is bootstrapped. It is possible, however, to enable KMS during bootstrap itself, allowing the entire boot process to run at the native resolution.

Note: When using KMS, you must remove any deprecated references to vga or nomodeset from your boot configuration.

To proceed, add the i915 module to the MODULES line in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf:

Note: If you have a first generation Core i{3,5,7} series processor with an integrated GPU, failure to add i915 to the MODULES array in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf will likely cause the error kernel: intel ips [...]: failed to get i915 symbols, graphics turbo disabled.
Note: You may need to add the intel_agp module too if the system complains at boot time.

Now, regenerate the initramfs:

# mkinitcpio -p linux

and reboot the system. Everything should work now.

Tips and tricks

Setting scaling mode

This can be useful for some full screen applications:

xrandr --output LVDS1 --set PANEL_FITTING param

where param can be:

  • center: resolution will be kept exactly as defined, no scaling will be made,
  • full: scale the resolution so it uses the entire screen or
  • full_aspect: scale the resolution to the maximum possible but keep the aspect ratio.

If it does not work, you can try:

xrandr --output LVDS1 --set "scaling mode" param

where param is one of "Full", "Center" or "Full aspect".

KMS Issue: console is limited to small area

One of the low-resolution video ports may be enabled on boot which is causing the terminal to utilize a small area of the screen. To fix, explicitly disable the port with an i915 module setting with video=SVIDEO-1:d as you kernel command line parameter in your bootloader. See Kernel parameters for more info.

If that does not work, you may also try disabling TV1 or VGA1 instead of SVIDEO-1.

Hardware video acceleration

If you want to enable hardware accelerated video decode/encode in multimedia applications (such as VLC or MPlayer) for Intel HD graphics controllers (Ivybridge, Sandybridge), install the libva-driver-intel package, available in the Official Repositories.

Support for G45 (X4500MHD) has already merged into the libva-driver-intel package, vlc and mplayer-vaapi works very well. But it seems (gstreamer-vaapiAUR) with G45 is currently broken.

To take advantage of VA-API, use a VAAPI supported video player. If you use mplayer, install mplayer-vaapi, and use -vo vaapi parameter. To enable hardware video decoding in flash, add EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1 to /etc/adobe/mms.cfg. If hardware video decoding is still not working, you can also try adding OverrideGPUValidation = 1.

Setting gamma and brightness

Intel offers no way to adjust these at the driver level. Luckily these can be set with xgamma and xrandr.

Gamma can be set with:

xgamma -gamma 1.0


xrandr --output VGA1 --gamma 1.0:1.0:1.0

Brightness can be set with:

xrandr --output VGA1 --brightness 1.0


Glxgears shows low performance results

Note: glxgears is not a benchmark tool for performance comparison between multiple systems.

If you run glxgears in order to check your system's graphics performance, you may notice it showing results around 60 FPS. For example:

311 frames in 5.0 seconds = 61.973 FPS
311 frames in 5.0 seconds = 62.064 FPS
311 frames in 5.0 seconds = 62.026 FPS

That is not caused by performance regression, but because the system graphics are using vertical synchronization, which is your display's native frames per second.

Disable VSYNC

To disable VSYNC just add in your /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf in Section "Device" the string Option "SwapbuffersWait" "false".

Alternatively, set vblank_mode to 0 in ~/.drirc and make sure that driver is set to dri2:

<device screen="0" driver="dri2">
    <application name="Default">
    <option name="vblank_mode" value="0"/>

Blank screen during boot, when "Loading modules"

If you are using "late start" KMS and the screen goes blank when "Loading modules", it may help to add i915 and intel_agp to the initramfs. See KMS above.

Alternatively, appending the following to the kernel command line seems to work as well:


Video tearing

You can likely fix video tearing by enabling hardware video acceleration. Alternatively, you can try

Option "TearFree" "true" 

to /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf

X freeze/crash with intel driver

There is a know problem with the i845G chipset, which causes that the GPU hangs after a while.

If you have issue with X crashing, or GPU hang, or problem with frozen X, then the fix may be to disable the GPU usage with the "NoAccel" option:

 Section "Device"
    Identifier "old intel stuff"
    Driver "intel"
    Option "AccelMethod"  "sna"
    Option "NoAccel" "True"

Adding undetected resolutions

This issue is covered on the Xrandr page.

See also