Programming for fun and profit

A blog about software engineering, programming languages and technical tinkering

Mon 26 December 2022

Fix 3D graphics in Arch Linux on Dell XPS 15 9520

Posted by Simon Larsén in Blog   

I recently got myself a Dell XPS 15 9520 to replace my aging laptop. It's highly Linux-compatible and just following the official installation guide got me 90% of the way of having a well-behaved Arch Linux laptop. One big thing wasn't working, though: 3D graphics!

Symptoms: glitchy 2D graphics and unusable 3D graphics

2D graphics worked mostly fine after installing xf86-video-intel, nvidia and nvidia-prime. Websites, most desktop applications as well as 2D games like Terraria worked without issue. Anything with the slightest hint of 3D would however glitch out terribly with Intel graphics and just be completely black with 3D graphics.

Some applications, such as Steam, wouldn't render properly unless in fullscreen. 3D benchmark software like fire (from mesa-demo) and glmark2 wouldn't update properly with Intel and would again be black with NVIDIA.

Solution: Using DRI2 for the Intel driver

The solution I found to this problem was to use DRI2 for the Intel driver. I have no idea of why this works, but it does. You can configure the Intel driver to use DRI2 by creating a configuration file for X.

# /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf
Section "Device"
  Identifier "Intel Graphics"
  Driver "intel"
  Option "DRI" "2"

Note: The modesetting driver also works, but it interferes with PRIME offloading s.t. the NVIDIA GPU is always active. This butchers battery life and so wasn't acceptable to me.

Need more tweaks?

This wasn't the only tweak I put in to get my XPS 15 in tip-top shape, although it was the most crucial one. I've got a bunch of other tweaks listed over on my Wiki page for the XPS 15.