Clear Linux Now Offers Radeon Mesa Graphics Support, Yields Speed Advantage In Some Tests

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 2 June 2018 at 11:30 AM EDT. Page 1 of 4. 26 Comments.

Intel's Clear Linux distribution is quite performant as shown by our many Linux distribution benchmarks for delivering lightning-fast out-of-the-box Linux performance that is generally unmatched by other distributions. While the Clear Linux package (bundle) archive continues getting larger and more desktop packages are being included, one area that sadly had been left out up until recently was support for RadeonSI/RADV. Up until recently their Mesa build was just with the Intel OpenGL/Vulkan driver support as well as the software rasterizers, but now the open-source Radeon drivers are being included as well as Nouveau too for open-source NVIDIA driver support. I took Clear Linux's Radeon stack for a whirl to check out the performance capabilities.

The AMDGPU DRM kernel driver is enabled as well as bundling the necessary binary-only Radeon GPU firmware/microcode images. The missing piece now addressed is having the Mesa support in place for Radeon (and Nouveau). When carrying out a fresh install of Clear Linux as of this week and then installing the desktop (done conveniently via simply swupd bundle-add os-testsuite-phoronix), everything was in place with an accelerated GNOME Shell on X.Org experience with both a Radeon RX 580 and RX Vega 64.

Clear Linux as of this week during testing was shipping the Linux 4.16.12 kernel, GNOME Shell 3.28.2, X.Org Server 1.20.0, Mesa 18.2.0-devel built against LLVM 6.0 SVN for the AMDGPIU back-end, GCC 8.1.1, and the modesetting DDX driver. Overall, it's a bleeding edge stack and worth pointing out in particular is that Clear Linux is already shipping the recently released xorg-server 1.20 while most Linux distributions are still on the 1.19 series.

RadeonSI Testing On Clear Linux vs. Ubuntu

For getting an idea about the Clear Linux Radeon graphics performance, on the same system I compared the performance with an RX 580 and RX Vega 64 on Ubuntu 18.04 out-of-the-box (Linux 4.15 + Mesa 18.0-rc5) and then with upgrades that put it roughly in line kernel/Mesa-wise to what's offered with the Linux 4.16 stable kernel and Mesa 18.2-devel via the Padoka PPA. During both runs on Ubuntu, the P-State CPU frequency scaling driver was set to "performance" to match the behavior of Clear Linux, in order to rule out that common setting causing a performance difference in these benchmarks.

These initial Radeon GPU tests under Clear Linux were carried out using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking software.

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