Radeon RX 5600 XT With New vBIOS Offering Better Linux Performance Following Fix

Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 24 January 2020 at 01:20 PM EST. Page 1 of 5. 34 Comments.

Earlier this week AMD launched the Radeon RX 5600 XT and as shown in our Linux launch-day review it offers nice performance up against the GTX 1660 and RTX 2060 graphics cards on Linux with various OpenGL and Vulkan games. Complicating the launch was the last-minute change to the video BIOS to offer better performance, but unfortunately that led to an issue with the Linux driver as well as confusing the public due to the change at launch and some board vendors already shipping the new vBIOS release while others are not yet. Fortunately, a Linux solution is forthcoming and in our tests it is working out and offering better performance.

As outlined in the launch-day review, when moving to the new vBIOS release on the Radeon RX 5600 XT it actually led to much worse performance than the original vBIOS release. It turns out that an updated SMC firmware is needed for compatibility with the changed clocks, which is found in the latest Windows driver but hasn't yet propagated out for Linux users. Without the updated SMC firmware, the higher clocks could be rejected and basically sticking the graphics card in a low-power state. Fortunately, no AMDGPU DRM kernel driver patches are needed or other changes... Just an updated Navi 10 SMC binary to be dropped in /lib/firmware/amdgpu/ and updating initramfs and a reboot to then enjoy the RX 5600 XT with updated vBIOS behaving on Linux.

That updated SMC firmware is still going through their QA testing, but should be released soon and then found in the likes of linux-firmware.git as well as the next Radeon Software for Linux releases. In my testing of the updated SMC firmware, it did indeed allow the updated vBIOS on the Sapphire Radeon RX 5600 XT Pulse graphics card to behave appropriately on the open-source Linux graphics stack. Granted, too bad this wasn't sorted out in time for launch-day so early adopters of this new Navi graphics card on Linux would have extra hoops to jump through.

AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT Linux Performance

Now that the RX 5600 XT with updated vBIOS is working correctly on Linux, here are some benchmarks showing the difference of the vBIOS and comparison against other graphics cards from our launch-day review. Besides loading up the new SMC firmware while using the revised RX 5600 XT video BIOS, no kernel/Mesa/driver changes were made or any other software changes during the before/after tests.

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