Intel GMA 500

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The Intel Poulsbo Chipset, also known by its official names "GMA 500" and "Intel System Controller Hub US15W", is typically found on boards for the Atom Z processor series. It embeds a PowerVR SGX 535 graphics core developed by Imagination Technologies and then licensed by Intel. Its major advantages include the hardware decoding capability of up to 720p/1080i video content in various state-of-the-art codecs, e.g. H.264.

As the graphics hardware was not developed by Intel themselves, the standard opensource Intel drivers do not work with this hardware.

On this page you find comprehensive information about how to get the best out of your Poulsbo hardware using Arch Linux.

Kernel's gma500_gfx module

With kernel 2.6.39, a new psb_gfx module appeared in the kernel developed by Alan Cox to support Poulsbo hardware. As of kernel 3.3.rc1 the driver has left staging and been renamed gma500_gfx. ([1])


  • 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)

To check if the driver is loaded, the output of lsmod | grep gma should look like this:

gma500_gfx            131893  2 
i2c_algo_bit            4615  1 gma500_gfx
drm_kms_helper         29203  1 gma500_gfx
drm                   170883  2 drm_kms_helper,gma500_gfx
i2c_core               16653  5 drm,drm_kms_helper,i2c_algo_bit,gma500_gfx,videodev

Modesetting driver and dual monitor Setup

To setup different resolution for external monitor using xrandr, xf86-video-modesetting from official repo is needed. If you choose to use the git package (xf86-video-modesetting-gitAUR), remember to recompile it after a new version of Xorg. 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 theese tricks:

  1. add pm-powersave false to /etc/rc.local. man pm-powersave for more info.
  2. use xf86-video-modesetting-gitAUR as indicated above.
  3. always use mplayer or any variant/gui. VLC and others are usually much more slower.
  4. substitute the normal mplayer with mplayer-minimal-svnAUR, and compile with aggressive optimizations: -march=native -fomit-frame-pointer -O3 -ffast-math'. (About makepkg)
  5. 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-utils and pm-quirks 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 
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 avaiable 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 permisions) /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.

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.

A variation of this script can be found here.

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 the following parameters to your bootloader's configuration file.

Edit /boot/grub/menu.lst

kernel /vmlinuz-linux root=/dev/sda2 ro mem=896mb 

Edit /etc/default/grub


Edit /boot/syslinux/syslinux.cfg

APPEND root=/dev/sda2 ro mem=896mb 

See also