The DistRogue

Sunday, May 27, 2007

How to get the most out of your Intel graphics chip

It's well known that Intel's i8xx/i9xx/GMA9xx graphics chips, which are used in several types of laptops, don't bring their own on-chip RAM, preferring to pillage it from the system's memory. But how much, exactly, is set aside for graphics acceleration in a default X server?
The answer: 4 megabytes.
For most users, 4 megabytes of VRAM is fine, but gamers will clearly want more than that! X lets you tweak the amount of RAM it uses, down to the nearest kilobyte. (And who's going to give their graphics chip exactly 1023 bytes, anyways?) Here's how to do it:
-Fire up your text editor of choice in root mode, and edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf. (Be sure to make a backup!)
-Find the line that starts "VideoRAM".
-If there's a # before it, remove it. A # comments the line out.
-Change the number that follows it (which should be 4096) to the right value. Raising it to 40960 (10x the original) added about 8FPS in SuperTux on my i815. Gamers with RAM to spare will want it higher, at least 64-128MB, more if you have more RAM.
-To get a good idea of how high you can set it, type "free" into a prompt. It will tell you how much RAM and swap (virtual RAM) you have free. To raise those numbers, see my article on small distributions- there are tips you can use without switching distributions at all.
-Save the file and restart X. If it doesn't launch, restore the backup you made... You did make a backup, right?
Happy hacking!
From Xubuntu 7.04,
The DistRogue.

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Anonymous Colin said...

Nice tip, never knew about that. With 768 in my laptop, I should be able to bump it to 64 or so.

3:45 AM  
Blogger mmoalem said...

hi and thanks for the advice - would love to try it but cant find 'video ram' nor 'vram' in my xorg.conf on ubuntu feisty. any idea why and how do add it exactly?

8:26 PM  
Blogger DJ Gentoo said...

Add it in the "Device" section for your graphics chip, at the end of the section, which will be somewhere in the middle of your file. This will only work on Intel chips, as NVidia/ATI cards pack their own VRAM. Remember, it's "VideoRam"- one word- in the file.

8:31 PM  

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