The AMD Radeon R9 Fury Is Currently A Disaster On Linux
As the results show, the Radeon R9 Fury Linux performance is awful when it comes to OpenGL performance with the latest Catalyst driver...It's as simple as that. The R9 Fury hardware is great, but the overall troubled state of AMD's OpenGL Linux driver shines through when putting this high-end graphics card against NVIDIA's offering with their superior Linux graphics driver. AMD has invested a lot in improving the Catalyst Linux driver, but much work is still needed. With OpenGL being the main 3D graphics API on Linux, the R9 Fury is currently a disaster on Linux all thanks to the Catalyst driver being a morbid mess.
In the worst cases, like Metro 2033 Redux, the Radeon R9 Fury was performing at the same frame-rates at 4K as the GeForce GTX 960... A $200 graphics card on the green side with a good Linux OpenGL driver competing with the $550 R9 Fury on Catalyst. In other cases, the R9 Fury was competing with -- slightly lower -- than the GeForce GTX 970, a graphics card that is $200 cheaper than the Fury. The best showing out of the Radeon R9 Fury on Linux for OpenGL was with Unigine Valley where it performed as it should relative to the NVIDIA hardware, which that along with the GPGPU results show the Catalyst Linux driver and R9 Fury do have potential. However, as the power consumption data showed, even under Unigine Valley the higher-end GeForce GTX 900 series graphics cards were still delivering better performance-per-Watt.
Outside of the OpenGL graphics, at least the OpenCL compute performance is great! It's the area where AMD's Catalyst Linux driver does the best on Linux. If only AMD could make their OpenGL stack as good as their OpenCL stack...
Linux users can only hope that AMD's Vulkan Linux driver will be in good shape and that game studios are quick to begin supporting Vulkan within their games. However, there will still be a lot of legacy games/applications relying upon OpenGL for years to come and this spells serious continuing trouble for AMD unless they really manage to fix some serious issues with their OpenGL driver. They can be applauded for the work they've done on trying to make their driver better for gaming ever since the arrival of Steam on Linux and other game studios porting titles to Linux, but the performance numbers in this article show that there's still so much work left to be addressed.
The Radeon R9 Fury series is interesting with being the first HBM GPUs and the hardware is quite powerful as shown by the many Windows reviews out there. While I was fascinated by the hardware and excited to try out Fiji, it ended up being a waste of $600 given its crippling by the Catalyst Linux driver. The good news is that the problems are in software and not hardware, which allows AMD to have the potential to fix this situation, but it's a matter of whether that will happen. The Catalyst Linux driver for years has been controversial by gamers/enthusiasts on Linux while some releases have been better than others and signified hope that change is possible and AMD is committed to Linux. But the results of the Radeon R9 Fury relative to the GeForce GTX 900 series show clearly where we're at today.
Thus, if you're a Linux user, I cannot recommend buying a Radeon R9 Fury graphics card until you hear on Phoronix one of the following: the Catalyst OpenGL driver has been overhauled, there's mature open-source support, or you're strictly using the R9 Fury on Linux as an OpenCL accelerator. As soon as we have any more information on when AMD might deliver open-source Fiji support for the AMDGPU driver stack or have other AMD Linux news, I'll certainly be writing about it on Phoronix and delivering more benchmarks.
Should you be a Windows user and interested in this graphics card, you can find the Sapphire R9 Fury in stock at Amazon.com for $549 USD. By the time there is open-source AMD Fury Linux support or the Catalyst driver has improved, the R9 Fury Nano should be out and the R9 Fury will probably have dropped in price. For Linux gamers not minding proprietary drivers, the GeForce GTX 970 are around $350 USD with superior OpenGL performance on Linux.
I've even thought already whether I should just return this Radeon R9 Fury given how horrible it performed and I do not know if/when AMD will finally deliver on their Catalyst Linux OpenGL changes. However, I decided that while it may take a while, ultimately I do have full confidence in AMD's open-source team that at least they will eventually deliver reliable and performant open-source support for this new graphics card. That could take a while though given they're still implementing suppor for last year's AMD TONGA GPUs. The Catalyst Linux breakthrough might happen when AMD is able to deliver on the long-talked about new Linux driver model whereby they would leverage the open-source AMDGPU DRM kernel driver and leave Catalyst to being a small user-space blob.
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While waiting for a overhauled Catalyst Linux driver or open-source support, if anyone has any other Linux test requests for the R9 Fury feel free to let me know via @MichaelLarabel on Twitter or by commenting in our forums.
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