Firefox’s graphics performance on X11

It’s been long known that a vocal minority (or perhaps even majority) of Firefox users have had issues with rendering performance on X11, but nobody has quite pinpointed what the issue is.

Recently Nicolas Silva landed a change in mozilla-central to add a preference to allow for disabling the use of the RENDER extension when drawing using Cairo on X11. I’d like to call on any Firefox/Linux users who have been experiencing speed issues to download the latest nightly and go to about:config and set “gfx.xrender.enabled” to “false”. If you could also let me know what hardware and drivers you’re running that’d also be great.

36 thoughts on “Firefox’s graphics performance on X11

      • OpenGL vendor string: X.Org R300 Project
        OpenGL renderer string: Gallium 0.4 on ATI RS480
        OpenGL version string: 2.1 Mesa 8.0.2
        OpenGL shading language version string: 1.20

        Psychedelic @ 1280×1023

        gfx.xrender.enabled true:

        +layers.acceleration.force-enabled true:

        gfx.xrender.enabled false:

        +layers.acceleration.force-enabled true:

        Fishtank has larger variance inside the test, depending of the fish size, than between tests.

        Any better tests out there? Is the extension to test canvas rendering errors applicable?

      • That’s funny. I got the results reversed. Fishtank is much faster with gfx.xrender.enabled set to false. (nvidia drivers 280.13)

      • With xrender enabled PsychedelicBrowsing does 3182 revolutions per minute, disabled it’s down to only 3 (7 with azure canvas enabled).

        FishIETank (20 fish): 45fps with xrender enabled, 12fps with xrender disabled (15 with azure canvas enabled).

  1. Same here, running with xrender disabled and layers force-enabled; no glitches at all (woohoo!), WebGL super fast, but general browser performance took a severe hit — I basically lost smooth scrolling.

    Can do profiles for you if you want.

    NVIDIA 295.40 driver.

  2. ATI with fglrx

    I agree that webgl is faster, although my experience (on psychedelic and fishIEtank) is that browsing without xrender is nearly twice as fast.

    • Although if I force-enable layers I get *lots* and *lots* of glitches, everything is essentially broken.

      • Can you try adding a boolean pref in about:config that is “gfx.textures.poweroftwo.force-enabled” and set it to true? Let me know if that makes GL layers work fine. If that doesn’t work, try adding “” and set that to true.

  3. Well that should settle it:
    Driver Mesa DRI Intel Sandbridge mobile, Mesa 3.0 8.0.2
    Couldn’t see the difference in text rendering between the two modes. Maybe it’s me 😉

    However MASSIVE performance difference on the 2 said test sites:

    XRENDER on:
    Psychadelic 4293-4400 rev/m
    CPU usage low
    FishIE: 60 FPS (max) 20 fishs
    CPU usage medium

    XRENDER off:
    Psychadelic 75 rev/m
    CPU usage high
    FishIE: 34 FPS 20 fishs
    CPU usage medium

  4. FWIW I have plenty of glitches when using layers.force-enabled=true on Intel/Mesa-git.
    With xrender disabled, I can’t seem to notice any glitch AND I cannot sense a perf regression either in scrolling or otherwise.

    This is pretty awesome!!

  5. AMD Radeon HD 6310 Graphics — 4.2.11627 Compatibility Profile Context
    I switched to the proprietary driver and the results are quite different.

    First I can’t use layers force-enabled with xrender disabled it’s full of glitches, in the past a mozilla developer said glitches were caused by bad interaction with xrender but now that it’s disabled there must be an alternative cause.

    There is however a somewhat positive point, canvas performance was so bad with xrender that its actually better now (but still bad):
    With xrender enabled PsychedelicBrowsing does 2 revolutions per minute, disabled it’s up to 3 (6 with azure canvas enabled).
    FishIETank (20 fish): 13fps with xrender enabled, 14fps with xrender disabled (16 with azure canvas enabled).

  6. These results are interesting. I’m running a mobile i7 Sandy Bridge with:

    Adapter Description: Tungsten Graphics, Inc — Mesa DRI Intel(R) Sandybridge Mobile Vendor ID: Tungsten Graphics, Inc
    Device ID: Mesa DRI Intel(R) Sandybridge Mobile
    Driver Version: 2.1 Mesa 7.11.2
    WebGL Renderer: Tungsten Graphics, Inc — Mesa DRI Intel(R) Sandybridge Mobile — 2.1 Mesa 7.11.2
    GPU Accelerated Windows: 1/1 OpenGL

    With xrender disabled and layers force enabled I’m getting relatively good performance on psychadelic (~850 w/GL layers, ~750 without, both with image surfaces @ 1366×768). FishIE tank takes a small hit but it’s not too bad (pegged at 60 down to a range of 45-60). Scrolling seems fine.

    Benoit – I may come over to your desk later and have a look at what’s going on on your machine.

  7. The NVIDIA 295.40-ubuntu1 driver is crashing my every hour or so, so I resorted to nouveau — Gallium 0.4 on NV92 — 2.1 Mesa 8.0.2.

    With the 15.0a1 (2012-05-09) nightly:
    1. { layers.acceleration.force-enabled: true } is basically ruining graphics; browser graphics are not drawn properly or do not refresh or hang and so on.
    2. Furthermore, { gfx.xrender.enabled: true } actually slows down the Psychedelic, FishTank and WebGL Aquarium FPS rates.

    I hope this helps. Thanks!

  8. Psychedelic is
    with gfx off 44 revolutions
    with gfx on 4660 revolutions
    with gfx off 60 -63
    with gfx on 230+

    Adapter DescriptionX.Org — Gallium 0.4 on AMD CAICOSVendor IDX.OrgDevice IDGallium 0.4 on AMD CAICOSDriver Version2.1 Mesa 7.11.2WebGL RendererX.Org — Gallium 0.4 on AMD CAICOS — 2.1 Mesa 7.11.2GPU Accelerated Windows0

  9. For those that are experiencing decent rendering (ie – no corruption) but slower canvas performance please concentrate on testing content rendering? I’m primarily concerned with things like scrolling performance and general day-to-day use.

    Whilst these synthetic benchmarks are useful for optimising specific parts of the graphics stack, they don’t translate too well into real world scenarios.

  10. On an older Athlon amd64 2GB machine with 64-bit Firefox
    Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:15.0) Gecko/15.0 Firefox/15.0a1
    Adapter Description: X.Org R300 Project — Gallium 0.4 on ATI RV350
    Vendor ID: X.Org R300 Project
    Device ID: Gallium 0.4 on ATI RV350
    Driver Version: 2.1 Mesa 8.0.2
    WebGL Renderer: X.Org R300 Project — Gallium 0.4 on ATI RV350 — 2.1 Mesa 8.0.2
    GPU Accelerated Windows: 0
    AzureBackend: skia

    Rendering was fine before, it’s fine now, scrolling large web pages is equally smooth. I think all my other graphics settings are at their default, so layers.acceleration.force-enabled is false.

    Before, in a fullscreen 1280×844 window, Psychedelic browsing ranged from 222 to 502 and the FishIETank with default 20 fish was 9-10 fps (). With gfx.xrender.enabled false, Psychedelic browsing dropped to 5-8. FishIEtank claims 20 fps, but its rendering is extremely choppy or the fish don’t display, and firefox is at 95% of CPU (before with gfx.xrender.enabled true, Xorg took about 65% of CPU and Firefox 6%). If I reduce the window size to half-screen it jumps to 40fps and looks smoother, maybe the fullsize window is hitting some texture limit.

  11. My results varied a lot…

    Window Size 1238×1026
    Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU T7700 @ 2.40GHz
    NVIDIA Corporation G84M [Quadro FX 570M] (rev a1)
    Ubuntu Precise with nvidia 295.40-0ubuntu1
    Unity desktop with Compiz

    gfx.xrender.enabled = true
    layers.acceleration.force-enabled = false
    – Psychedelic: 24rpm
    – Fish: 28 to 34fps
    – Smashcat Canvas test – 25-31fps (slowly climbed)

    gfx.xrender.enabled = true
    layers.acceleration.force-enabled = true
    – Psychedelic: 1131rpm
    – Fish: 1fps
    – Smashcat Canvas test – 2fps consistent

    gfx.xrender.enabled = false
    – Psychedelic 1rpm
    – Fish: 9 to 12fps
    – Smashcat Canvas test – 42fps consistent

  12. Using 2012-05-11 nightly
    Linux 3.3.2
    NVIDIA 295.33 driver
    Hardware: old AMD Athlon 2800XP

    scrolling on (for example)

    with XRENDER on, firefox uses about 45% CPU (!)
    with XRENDER off, firefox uses about 60% CPU (!!)

    can’t see much of a difference in webgl performance (6ish fps for fish tank with 1 fish!)

    There’s long standing performance issues with firefox and the NVIDIA driver, i just wish i knew where to look; launchpad is using CSS sprites, and more and more sites seem to be moving that way, and for some reason firefox and NVIDIA drivers don’t like them.

    • Disabling xrender resulting in an increase of CPU usage is expected; it’s because the Firefox process is now doing the work instead of the X process. You should see a decrease in the CPU usage of X.

  13. Using Mesa trunk on 790GX…

    PsychedelicBrowsing test:
    Forced Layer Acceleration on + Xrender off: 11 point
    Forced Layer Acceleration on + Xrender on: 353 point
    Forced Layer Acceleration off + Xrender off: 8 point
    Forced Layer Acceleration off + Xrender on: 1573 point (But super jerky!)

  14. With xrender disabled, Psychedelic is over 100 times slower (12rpm vs. 3418 rpm) and FishIETank is also dramatically slower.

    OpenGL vendor string: Tungsten Graphics, Inc
    OpenGL renderer string: Mesa DRI Intel(R) Sandybridge Mobile x86/MMX/SSE2
    OpenGL version string: 3.0 Mesa 8.0.2
    OpenGL shading language version string: 1.30


  15. Hi. Are you still collecting information about this? I’m on a 7970 on fglrx on some recent version of Nightly.

    layers.acceleration.force-enabled = false
    layers.acceleration.force-enabled = true

    Seems to be the fastest for day to day browsing. Also, I’m not getting any corruption in rendering like some people seem to have had. The only problem is canvases are black before content is rendered in them.

  16. While developing a javascript-based astronomical image display application using Kinetic.js, we ran into a problem with FF seemingly not firing mousemove events on a number of machines using various operating systems (Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Mac). An initial bug report was made on the Kinetic.js site (to rule out Kinetic and get some advice):

    See Issue #221: Mousemove event problems using Firefox (on some systems)

    Thanks to your page, we found that all of the Linux problems were resolved by setting “gfx.xrender.enabled” to “false”. (The Mac problems were resolved by upgrading to FF18.) You might want to glance at the discussion on the Kinetic site, as well as the test page at:

    It might shed some light on the general topic. (Sorry, too many machines and graphics cards were involved to list them all.)

  17. Running on:

    03:00.0 3D controller: NVIDIA Corporation G98 [Quadro NVS 450] (rev a1)
    04:00.0 VGA compatible controller: NVIDIA Corporation G98 [Quadro NVS 450] (rev a1)

    00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Xeon E3-1200 v2/3rd Gen Core processor Graphics Controller (rev 09)

    with the nvidia (not nv or nouveau, they dont work) driver for the nvidia card (its one card with two gpus) and fbdev for the intel (there are compatibility issues between nvidia and intel drivers). two monitors on each nvidia gpu, three on the intel, thats together 7 monitors. need to use xinerama (twinview doesnt work here), which means no compositing, which I think is the main problem here. disabling the gfx stuff makes scrolling in FF21 now usable again (mostly the issue occurs in about:addons).

  18. Man, Thank You for this tip! I was using my old Firefox 10esr because at some point (v13->v14, smooth scrolling disabled), Firefox started to be so slow on scrolling pages on my old machine (AMD Athlon 2500+ and Nvidia Geforce4MX 440 AGPx8 with Nouveau kernel 3.2 driver in Debian Stable 7.0 Wheezy, Mesa DRI nv18 x86/MMX+/3DNow!+/SSE, 1.2 Mesa 8.0.5), that I couldn’t use it anymore. With only this one switch (gfx.xrender.enabled->false) I am getting exactly the same speed on scrolling as with 10esr (which is desired for me behavior, I mean FAST). Now I’m on Firefox -> Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:23.0) Gecko/20130531 Firefox/23.0, so it’s newest nightly build, and I’m happy as I only can be 🙂 I knew that there must be some option to get back old behavior on scrolling, and was looking for it for some time (from 10esr Firefox version EOL).

    FishIE gives me 27fps, it doesn’t matter what setting I have with layers, webgl, and xrender, nothing changes, only pages scrolling is faster….

    Ahh, maybe I should say that, I’m using Full Page Zoom at 150% all the time, on all pages, so it slows down things a little, I mean clean profile gives me nice scrolling speeds even with xrender enabled.

  19. Pingback: Problems with nvidia driver 173 and kernel 3.2.0-52. Two monitors and card Quadro NVS 160M | Karussell

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