AMD Radeon RX 6800 Series Linux Performance
Today is the big day: Big Navi is shipping! This also means we can talk at length finally about the Linux support and performance for the Radeon RX 6800 series and how well they perform for Linux gaming. Here is a look at the Linux driver state for these initial RDNA 2 graphics cards and their performance capabilities with the multiple different open-source driver stacks available.
The Numerous Linux Driver Options Available
Long story short, this is the best at-launch Linux driver support we have seen from AMD at the premiere of a brand new generation of graphics processors. But even though it's the best at-launch support we have seen out of a new generation of Radeon GPUs, there still is room for improvement -- especially for those Linux users not comfortable compiling their own drivers, etc. There is support available already in the mainline Linux kernel and Mesa repositories that have materialized this year under the Sienna Cichlid codename. Yes, both the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT shipping today fall under the Sienna Cichlid codename.
There is the open-source support available as well as a packaged driver stack for supported (enterprise focused) Linux distributions. There is room for improvement moving forward in providing an even better at-launch experience especially for those not comfortable upgrading their kernel for driver support, but at least all of the bits are available in one form or another for those wanting to run the Radeon RX 6800 series on open-source right now.
The Packaged Driver
For those on the likes of Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, AMD should have out an updated Radeon Software for Linux driver today in the 20.45 series. This updated Radeon Software Linux packaged driver as usual includes both their proprietary OpenGL/Vulkan components "AMDGPU-PRO" as well as the open-source Mesa and AMDVLK options "AMDGPU-Open". If you want no fuss and are running on a supported Linux distribution, this is the easiest way to go for having Big Navi support today under Linux. Just install the new driver like always with your choice of the Open/Pro components and you are ready to roll.
Of course, not everyone is happy with the packaged driver given its limited supported distributions (enterprise focus) or not wanting to muck around with DKMS modules and other bits on Linux that can potentially cause other woes, so for that there is the mainline/open-source support as well.
Let There Be Compute!
One big benefit of using the packaged driver: working ROCm OpenCL compute! OpenCL compute benchmarks on the packaged driver are coming in a separate article today. The OpenCL/compute support for Radeon RX 6800 series is working and better off than the current RDNA 1 support. It's great to see things working in the limited testing thus far. Presumably for the imminent ROCm 4.0 release they will also have the Big Navi support independent of the packaged driver, but in any case great to see it coming.