Running The AMD Radeon R9 Fury With AMD's New Open-Source Linux Driver
The Radeon R9 Fury managed to perform much better than the R9 285 TONGA graphics card that also uses this new AMDGPU DRM kernel driver, but aside from that, all of the older AMD graphics cards on the more mature "Radeon" DRM driver did much better. It's a pity that with Linux 4.3 there won't be re-clocking / power management support to see the performance potential of AMD's new open-source Linux driver they've been working on for months.
In the forums it was mentioned by John Bridgman of AMD that there is no legal/IP issues blocking the open-source power management support for these newer graphics processors. The issue is not enough developer resources... "The issue is writing the code and getting it working." The few AMD developers employed to work on the open-source code have their handsful with other tasks for the time being.
Besides re-clocking, the other sad part learned from conducting this testing is that for now there is only OpenGL 3.0 support via the latest Gallium3D+LLVM code rather than OpenGL 4.1 as supported by the other hardware on this driver (including the R9 285 TONGA) while the Fiji GPU itself is capable of supporting OpenGL 4.5. It will still likely be a number of months though before Mesa/Gallium3D is close to handling OpenGL 4.4~4.5.
Obviously until the power management is worked out first and foremost, it would be silly to run the Radeon R9 Fury graphics cards with this current open-source driver... The Radeon R9 Fury sells for $550+ and the R9 Fury X for $650+ (along with the R9 Nano) while until the PM support is there the performance is much slower than cards like the Radeon R7 370 that sells for ~$150.
Switching over to the Catalyst Linux driver for use with the R9 Fury isn't much of a short-term solution either with the R9 Fury with the proprietary driver being a wreck on Linux and AMD still hasn't put out any better Catalyst driver since that article last month. Simply put, AMD Linux users shouldn't buy a R9 Fury/Fiji graphics card this year at all -- unless there's some surprise Catalyst driver update that magically overhauls the Catalyst OpenGL driver.
Unfortunately it's not known when the AMDGPU power management for Fiji will be done, but in terms of being usable by Linux gamers / desktop users, probably not until the very end of this year or early 2016. Linux 4.2 is only being released today, the Linux 4.3 kernel will be officially released in about two months, and Linux 4.4 would be the next opportunity for that feature support to land, which will be released at the very end of the year or in January. Then if you're not comfortable spinning your own kernel, it won't appear in non-rolling-release distributions until the time of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and Fedora 24 well into 2016. At least by then, hopefully the Fiji GPU prices will have dropped and ideally will see more of these graphics cards with HBM memory.
If I were to want to buy a high-end graphics card right now -- or in the next few months -- to use the open-source Linux driver, I would definitely go with one of the Radeon R9 290 (or R9 390) graphics cards. You can find the Radeon R9 290 graphics cards for easily around $250 on Amazon and with Mesa 11.0 + LLVM 3.7~SVN + Linux 4.1+ will be in great shape for running many Linux games. The RadeonSI Gallium3D driver isn't yet capable of running all modern Steam Linux games, but with Mesa 11 is now able to run the Metro Redux titles, BioShock Infinite, and the number of capable games almost increases by the day/week. These days I'm quite happy with the Radeon R9 290 on the open-source Linux driver, albeit it took a lot of time to get where it is today.
I spent $600 on this graphics card, but so far it's been a disappointment and I cannot recommend any Linux user buy an R9 Fury/Nano until either the Catalyst driver is much-improved or until GL4+re-clocking is working and in the mainline code-bases for Fiji. At least by the time that happens, the cards should be cheaper.
Coming up tomorrow will be these open-source AMD GPU driver results compared to the current Catalyst Linux driver to see how the open vs. closed performance is shaking down as we end out the summer. As always, if you appreciate all of the Linux hardware testing done at Phoronix, please consider subscribing to Phoronix Premium or making a PayPal tip.
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