The Performance Benefits To Running AMD's Radeon VII With Linux 5.0 + Mesa 19.0

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 7 February 2019 at 06:00 PM EST.

With today's launch benchmarks of the AMD Radeon VII graphics card on Linux, tests were done using the latest Linux 5.0 Git kernel as well as Mesa 19.0 providing the OpenGL/Gallium3D drivers. Details on the support going back to older releases were covered, but in this article is looking at the performance difference between those recent Linux kernel and Mesa releases.

Should you be upgrading to a Radeon VII and aren't sure if the switch to Linux 5.0 and Mesa 19.0 is worthwhile, it certainly is particularly for the latter. These benchmarks show the performance differences between Linux 4.20 and 5.0 as well as Mesa 18.2/18.3/19.0 for this 7nm Radeon graphics card.

The configurations tested were:

Linux 4.20 + Mesa 18.2 - This configuration is notable since Mesa 18.2 is still widely found by some Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu 18.10. Mesa 18.2 is also what AMD is shipping in their Radeon Software 18.50 for Linux packaged driver as part of the "open" stack. Mesa 18.2 is the open-source 3D driver stack from Q3'2018 and while older, it does support the Vega 20 but with not as many optimizations/improvements as found in Mesa 18.3/19.0 for RADV Vulkan and RadeonSI OpenGL.

Linux 4.20 + Mesa 18.3 - This would be considered the standard, current stable bundle. Linux 4.20. has been out as stable for a while and Mesa 18.3 has been since December. The Mesa packages via Pkppa built against LLVM 7.0 SVN for the current "stable" driver experience.

Linux 4.20 + Mesa 19.0 - The stable Linux 4.20 kernel but upgrading to the Mesa 19.0-devel code in now its release candidate phase. Mesa 19.0 will be released as stable by end of February. The LLVM 8.0 back-end is also in use here, those 3D driver packages via the Padoka PPA.

Linux 5.0 + Mesa 19.0 - The current Git state of the Linux 5.0 kernel and Mesa 19.0. Both Linux 5.0 and Mesa 19.0 will debut as stable around the end of the month. Linux 5.0 and Mesa 19.0 are also what will be found in (or slightly newer) as packaged out-of-the-box for Ubuntu 19.04, Fedora 30, etc.

The same test system was used throughout and using the Radeon VII operating at stock speeds. No other changes were made to the system during testing.

AMD Radeon VII Open-Source Linux+Mesa Comparison

All benchmarks via the Phoronix Test Suite with various OpenGL and Vulkan gaming tests as well as some 2D/desktop use-cases. Additional Radeon VII Linux benchmarks will be published in the coming days, including a look at the AMDVLK Vulkan driver performance, ROCm 2.1 performance, and other interesting tests for this $699 USD graphics card that has wound up being able to successfully compete with the GeForce RTX 2080 even with the open-source drivers.

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