The Performance Gains Made By AMD's RadeonSI Open-Source Driver In Two Years
Earlier this week we took a look at the AMD Radeon R600 Gallium3D performance over two years by benchmarking every Ubuntu Linux release since early 2013 with a Radeon HD 6000 series graphics card. Today up for your viewing pleasure are the results from a similar test but using a Radeon Rx 200 series graphics card with the newer RadeonSI Gallium3D driver for open-source AMD GCN GPUs.
Today's article is meant to be the RadeonSI equivalent to the R600g tests earlier in the week, but there's a few differences. In the previous article, benchmarks were done going back to Ubuntu 13.04, but for the AMDGPU tests we could only go back to Ubuntu 13.10 due to the state of the RadeonSI driver in 2013. Thus this is a comparison of Ubuntu 13.10, 14.04, 14.10, and 15.04 while using the Xfce version of Ubuntu and testing the out-of-the-box drivers each step of the way.
Additionally, with the R600g article were also benchmarks using the very latest Linux/Mesa/LLVM code atop Ubuntu 15.04 as an additional run to see the very latest state of the open-source driver. Unfortunately, this wasn't possible as with Git there were problems with the graphics card used. With the Radeon R9 270X that was used for this RadeonSI benchmarking, when getting to the Git code there would be AMD DRM driver errors and ultimately we'd lose the display. This was happening with not only the Linux 4.3 Git code but also Linux 4.2 and earlier, post the Ubuntu 15.04 stack. This is also why the R9 270X isn't used in many recent AMD Linux driver articles on Phoronix due to being unable to get the driver into working shape. The R9 270X was used over the R9 290 Hawaii GPU due to the R9 270X being supported going back further by the open-source driver than Hawaii and not having access to many modern AMD GCN GPUs due to having to buy all of the AMD cards for review/testing at Phoronix.
The same system hardware was used throughout the testing of Ubuntu 13.10/14.04/14.10/15.04 and the out-of-the-box open-source AMD Linux driver was used on each release. As noted in the R600g article, on the older Ubuntu releases ACPI CPUFreq is used rather than Intel P-State, which is why on the system table it reports the base vs. turbo frequency, and other slight differences based upon the hardware information reported on the given Ubuntu release even though the same hardware was always used. All of this OpenGL testing was facilitated via the open-source Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking software.