AMDGPU+RadeonSI Is Much Faster Than The Old Proprietary Fglrx Driver

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 31 October 2017. Page 1 of 5. 20 Comments

With going back to test Ubuntu 14.04 through Ubuntu 17.10's Radeon OpenGL performance as part of marking AMD's open-source strategy turning a decade old, I also took this opportunity while having an old Ubuntu installation running to also re-test the former Catalyst/fglrx driver stack that's since been succeeded by AMDGPU-PRO and AMDGPU+RadeonSI.

With a fresh Ubuntu 14.04 LTS installation around I was able to run some comparison tests using the last fglrx-updates release available for seeing how the former Catalyst/fglrx driver stack compares to today's open-source driver. Due to testing the fglrx/Catalyst driver that hasn't been really maintained in about two years now, I of course had to test with older graphics cards that were supported by that driver. The hardware tested included the Radeon HD 7950, R9 270X, R9 285, and R9 Fury as being supported by fglrx-updates on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

Following those original Catalyst/fglrx tests, on the same system/hardware I proceeded to install Ubuntu 16.04 LTS to run tests of the modern driver stack. Those tests were using the Linux 4.14 kernel and Mesa 17.4-dev built against LLVM 6.0 SVN via the Padoka PPA for showing the latest AMDGPU+RadeonSI open-source potential.

Originally I also planned on testing the AMDGPU-PRO performance too for showing the capabilities of today's hybrid driver, which for Linux OpenGL gaming is slower than RadeonSI. Unfortunately that testing was thwarted due to the new AMDGPU-PRO 17.40 release with the 17.30 binary having been removed from the AMD site. With AMDGPU-PRO 17.40 I have been running into a number of OpenGL stability issues, so the testing today is just focused on Catalyst/fglrx vs. AMDGPU+RadeonSI for showing today's modern open-source Radeon graphics performance.

The system used for testing had an Intel Core i7 7700K, MSI Z270-A PRO motherboard, 16GB DDR4 memory, and 128GB Toshiba SSD. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS as a reminder used the Linux 4.13 kernel, Unity 7.2, X.Org Server 1.15.1, fglrx 15.20.3 / OpenGL 4.3.13399. Ubuntu 16.04 LTS meanwhile has Unity 7.4, X.Org Server 1.19.1, and the manual upgrades to Linux 4.14 / Mesa 17.4-dev for testing. The AMDGPU DRM driver was enabled including for the GCN 1.0 graphics cards tested.

A variety of OpenGL benchmarks and Steam Linux gaming tests were used that could run on both the old fglrx driver and today's modern driver stack. At the time fglrx only supported OpenGL 4.3 with its driver. All of these benchmarks were facilitated in a fully-automated manner using the Phoronix Test Suite.

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