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Linux Kernel 5.11 Released With Support for Wi-Fi 6E, RTX 'Ampere' GPUs, Intel Iris Xe and More

The development of Linux Kernel 5.11 has been going on in full swing for a while now. Finally, Linus Torvalds announced the release after endless testing and adding support for new software and hardware.

Linus also mentioned:

In fact, it’s a smaller-than-average set of commits from rc7 to final, which makes me happy. And I already have several pull requests lined up for tomorrow, so we’re all set for the merge window to start.

But in the meantime – and yes, I know it’s Valentine’s Day here in the US – maybe give this release a good testing before you go back and play with development kernels. All right? Because I’m sure your SO will understand.

Not just limited to mentioning your significant other, Linus seems to tag this release as the “Valentine’s Day Edition” as you can see in a commit as pointed out by this user on Twitter:

Linux Kernel 5.11 is a non-LTS release and is the first major kernel release for 2021. There are many changes including support for Wi-Fi 6, enhanced AMD CPU performance, Intel Iris Xe graphics support, AMD Van Gogh APU support and more.

Linux Kernel 5.11 Features

Let’s take a look at some features and improvements that you can expect with Linux Kernel 5.11.

Wi-Fi 6E Support Added

Wi-Fi 6E is the biggest update to the Wi-Fi standard in the last 20 years. The new standard aims to provide a new wireless band to the public, the 6 GHz band. This will help reduce signal drops on connected devices over a distance and can transfer more data faster across longer distances.

With Linux Kernel 5.11, support has been added for 6GHz band / Ultra High Band (UHB). Support for Wi-Fi 6E chips from manufacturers such as Intel, MediaTek and Qualcomm has also been added.

Other notable additions include, Fast Initial Link Setup (FILS) for the Qualcomm ath11k driver, Dual-Band Concurrent (DBDC) support for the MediaTek Mt7915 driver and various other performance improvements.

RISC-V Improvements

RISC-V is an open standard Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), it is basically an open-source architecture for CPUs. Unlike ARM and Intel’s x86, RISC-V CPUs are completely open-source. Anyone can manufacture, modify and redistribute them without any licensing requirements.

Linux Kernel 5.11 has brought about significant improvements and support for the RISC-V CPU architecture including OpenRISC support for the LiteX SoC controller driver and general support around the SoC. LiteX is a small footprint SoC based on Migen.

Intel Iris Xe GPU Support Added

With the release of Linux Kernel 5.11, Intel’s line of discrete GPUs, the “Iris Xe” will be supported.

Intel reportedly worked on it and merged quite a few updates before the final release of the kernel.

Intel Itanium Support Dropped

Linux Kernel 5.11 is dropping support for Intel’s Itanium (IA-64) series of processors as there are too many issues with the architecture and fixing those are not possible unless Intel does something.

As it stands, Intel has stopped maintaining the IA-64 architecture and by July 29, 2021, the chips will reach EOL.

Intel SGX Support Added

After numerous rounds of extensive review over the past few years, Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (SGX) has finally been added to the Linux Kernel with 5.11.

Intel SGX is a hardware-based isolation and memory encryption standard which increases the security of application code and data by protecting them from potential disclosure and modification.

It achieves this by providing developers with the ability to create partitions of sensitive information into enclaves, these are areas of execution in the memory that are more secure.

Intel Platform Monitoring Technology Support Added

Intel’s Platform Monitoring Technology (PMT) is supported with Linux Kernel 5.11.

It is a hardware telemetry reporting tool meant for use internally within organizations and data centers for monitoring performance and collecting data on their hardware. This will make life easier for system administrators as they will get all of their data in a user-readable format via XML.

AMD Zen 2/Zen3 CPU Performance Enhanced

Earlier, in December 2020 there were reports that the performance of Zen 2/Zen 3 CPUs were affected terribly due to the introduction of CPU frequency invariance support and the implementation of the Schedutil CPU frequency scaling governor.

As major Linux distros moved towards using CPUFreq Schedutil by default, there were major performance penalties across the board affecting Zen 2/Zen 3 processors and a solution to these problems was very important.

Linux Kernel 5.11 seems to resolve the problems caused by it and AMD Zen 2/Zen 3 CPUs are running fine without any major performance penalties.

AMD Van Gogh APU Support Added

AMD’s Van Gogh APUs are rumored to be the next-gen APUs with Zen 2 CPU cores and the RDNA2 graphics engine paired with either LPDDR5 or LPDDR4x memory.

With their recent addition of about 275,000 lines of code, it is becoming more clear that it is going to release very soon and will support Linux Kernel 5.11 out of the box.

Nvidia RTX 30 “Ampere” GPU Support Added

Nvidia’s latest range of RTX 30 “Ampere” GPUs are now supported by the Linux Kernel. The initial open-source code was added via the Nouveau driver and users can expect the GPUs to show a display output.

But, the GPUs are just limited to the kernel mode-setting and miss out on hardware acceleration, right now we can just hope for more support down the line.

File-System Needs Repair Flagging By XFS

A new “needs repair” flag has been added to the XFS driver code, file-systems that require repairs will not mount until xfs_repair is executed. With this they can also enforce mandatory update of XFS to newer versions when the older ones are depreciated.

Modtronix LCD2S Support Added

Linux Kernel 5.11 is bringing in support for the Modtronix LCD2S character display. It is a budget-friendly, single-color, 20×4 serial LCD that can interface with the system via SPI/I2C.

Dynamic Thermal Power Management (DTPM) Framework Added

Dynamic Thermal Power Management (DTPM) is getting introduced as part of the Linux PowerCap framework with Linux Kernel 5.11.

The main function of DTPM is to ensure that users don’t hurt themselves by operating hot devices (Laptops, Smartphones), it is a legal requirement in quite a few countries. The regulations state that a device’s case temperature never exceed 45 °C (113 °F).

Closing Thoughts

Linux Kernel 5.11 has some very important fixes, new hardware support and performance improvements that will be very useful for both consumers and developers.

What do you think about it? Even though I wouldn’t recommend upgrading to it considering it as a non-LTS release, do you have plans to test it out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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