AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX + RX 7900 XT Linux Support & Performance

Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 12 December 2022. Page 1 of 9. 131 Comments

Today's the day that the embargo expires on being able to provide reviews on the AMD Radeon RX 7900 series graphics cards... After testing both the Radeon RX 7900 XT and RX 7900 XTX graphics cards the past two weeks, today I have the initial performance numbers to share on these graphics cards and the current state of the open-source Linux graphics driver for these first RDNA3 graphics cards. Here is the first look at AMD's new flagship desktop Radeon graphics cards running under Linux with fully upstream and open-source graphics drivers.

At the start of November was the Radeon RX 7900 series announcement, last week marked the "unboxing" embargo lift, and today is the review embargo lift ahead of the RX 7900 XT and RX 7900 XTX graphics cards going on sale tomorrow via retail channels. Leading up to this launch there has been much speculation and curiosity about the Linux graphics driver support, particularly as this is the first major AMD launch since AMD shifted to the "block by block" IP enablement strategy for their GPUs over their proper approach with the large monolithic patch series that were marked by colorful fishy codenames.

Due to that enablement strategy of individual IP blocks of the GPU over time and each block being versioned differently and not knowing how the RDNA3 graphics cards would correlate to particular block versions, it was much more difficult to ascertain in advance where the Radeon RX 7000 series support was pre-launch. This also worked out in AMD's favor for less risk involved in early open-source driver enablement for revealing definitive product details while also making it easier to clear their internal legal review and other processes by posting of smaller patch series over time as they are ready and cleared.

So what ends up being the upstream open-source Linux driver requirements for the new Radeon RX 7900 series? I'm pleased to say it's Linux 6.0+ and Mesa 22.2+! It was a pleasant surprise when I first heard it from AMD that Linux 6.0 is in good enough shape for these new graphics cards when originally fearing that possibly the brand new Linux 6.1 kernel or even the Linux 6.2 kernel might be needed for getting things squared away. And having driver support as far back as Mesa 22.2 is also a relief for those not on Mesa 22.3 stable or habitually riding Mesa Git. But, of course, the newer kernel and Mesa that you are able to deploy will generally mean more features and performance.

I was pleased with the experience of Linux 6.0 and Mesa 22.3 while particularly if wanting to use the RADV Vulkan driver I would recommend using Mesa 23.0-devel for the best experience. The DRM-Next code for Linux 6.2 also has some more performance optimizations as to be shown in this article.

There is one minor caveat with the support and that is the Radeon RX 7900 series GPU firmware files have yet to land in the linux-firmware.git tree. AMD will likely have those out on retail release day and get them into linux-firmware.git, in which case you just need to drop these firmware files into /lib/firmware/amdgpu/ and rebuild any initramfs, etc, for going along with the open-source driver code of Linux 6.0+ and Mesa 22.2+. It would have been nice if the firmware files were already public so that they could have been picked up already by Linux distribution packages to make for an even easier out-of-the-box experience, but fetching the new firmware files is a rather simple task for end-users and much easier than having to rebuild your kernel or jump through other hoops.

Long story short, there is upstream and open-source RDNA3 support on launch day for Linux gamers and enthusiasts! Compared to past launches when running Linux Git + Mesa Git has been a common requirement, seeing it work out for N-1 releases already is great and should help early adopters. For those running enterprise distributions like Ubuntu 22.04, SUSE Linux Enterprise, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, AMD will also be releasing their usual "Radeon Software for Linux" packaged driver stack. I haven't yet had the time to test this packaged driver stack but will be doing so over the coming days as time allows now that the initial onslaught of Linux testing is over.

And, yes, there should be ROCm/HIP support working for the Radeon RX 7900 series! But I'll be talking about that separately in the coming days once having had more time to test that out and looking at different GPU compute areas and Blender 3D performance, etc.


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