Pop!_OS 20.04 LTS vs. Pop!_OS 21.04 Performance Benchmarks
With the recent release of System76's Pop!_OS 21.04 if you are thinking about upgrading to this release from Pop!_OS 20.04 LTS or choosing between the two, here are some benchmarks from the AMD Ryzen Threadripper powered System76 Thelio Major.
Pop!_OS 21.04 released at the end of June as built atop Ubuntu 21.04 while continuing to pull in System76's own customizations and now also featuring its GNOME-based COSMIC desktop environment. On the packaging side it's similar to upstream Ubuntu 21.04 in using Linux 5.11, Mesa 21.0, GCC 10.3, and other similar package versions to which the operating system is based.
Curious about the Pop!_OS 21.04 performance relative to the still-supported Pop!_OS 20.04 LTS, I ran some benchmarks using the System76 Thelio Major with its Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, 128GB of RAM, Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics, and Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB NVMe SSD storage. Aside from package differences, one notable impact of Pop!_OS 21.04 is that CPUFreq Schedutil is now used by default on AMD CPUs rather than CPUFreq Ondemand, in matching the latest upstream kernel defaults.
334 different tests were run on both Pop!_OS 21.04 and 20.04 LTS. Overall though the performance was largely flat with the Ryzen Threadripper 3000 series support on Linux being mature along with the Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics. With Pop!_OS 20.04 LTS also pulling in a similar kernel and Mesa already, usage of GCC 10.3 as the default system compiler is one of the main differences along with the mentioned CPUFreq frequency scaling governor default change. There are also other more localized changes like Python 3.9 over Python 3.8.
When pulling up all the results with a measurable difference between these two Pop!_OS releases:
As we've seen previously with upstream Ubuntu 21.04 benchmarking, compiling Rust code is much faster on the latest release compared to the state of the packaged Rust compiler on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. There are also a variety of other performance optimizations seen out of running Pop!_OS 21.04. But there are also performance regressions like notably the Kvazaar video encoder yielding much slower performance when built on the newer toolchain, among other workloads also seeing some sway.
But for the vast majority of the benchmarks carried out the performance was within a few percent of each other. So it largely comes down to what workloads are most important to you, if the "Long Term Support" of Pop!_OS 20.04 is critical to your needs, and if any of the desktop changes with COSMIC on Pop!_OS 21.04 are of interest to you. See all 300+ individual benchmark results from this Pop!_OS comparison via this OpenBenchmarking.org result file.
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