The AMD Radeon RX Vega Launch Performance Compared To 2019 Linux Drivers
With the AMD Radeon VII graphics card shipping in two weeks as the second-generation Vega GPU at 7nm, I figured it would be an interesting time to see how far the original Radeon RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 graphics card performance has evolved since their launch back in August 2017. Here is a fresh look at the current Radeon RX Vega 56/64 GPU performance today using the bleeding-edge Linux graphics drivers compared to the driver state back in 2017 for OpenGL and Vulkan gaming performance.
Back when the Radeon RX Vega graphics cards launched, if you recall there was open-source support available albeit not yet mainlined. AMD had the necessary code branches published but they were yet to be completely merged to the respective repositories. In particular, it wasn't until the Linux 4.15 kernel when there was the Radeon RX Vega support with working display support due to first needing to have the AMDGPU "Display Core" (DC) code merged. On the Mesa side, there was the initial Vega support in Mesa 17.2~17.3 namely for RadeonSI while with time the RADV Vega/GFX9 support has continued to improve. While not fully mainlined in time for launch, this was AMD's best open-source dGPU launch in history for at least having the code being publicly available for users and for those less interested in building the driver from source, there was AMDGPU-PRO. With 7nm Vega, as we've reported for months, they have been squaring this support away in the mainline repositories so this Vega refresh should have smooth open-source support for launch (unless there is another situation like with the RX 590)... But more on that in two weeks.
For seeing how far the RX Vega 56/64 Linux performance has evolved since launch, I benchmarked both graphics cards using Ubuntu 17.10 with the Linux 4.15 kernel and Mesa 17.3 for representing the initial cut open-source support... Again, Linux 4.15 was the first kernel release where there was working Vega support with display capabilities (prior to that there was headless support for compute until DC landed). After re-testing the Vega graphics cards with the initial launch configuration, I loaded up Ubuntu 18.10 on the same system while also moving to the Linux 5.0 Git kernel paired with Mesa 19.0-devel built against LLVM 8.0 SVN for the bleeding-edge AMD Radeon Linux graphics driver support. This offers the very newest mainline driver support as of right now for seeing how far the Vega/GFX9 gaming performance has evolved in the past year and a half.
Besides performance, there's also been new Vega power management features merged in this time among other improvements, most recently with Linux 5.0 is now finally having mainline FreeSync support in the AMDGPU kernel driver.
Not only was I running these benchmarks for the raw Linux gaming performance on Vega 56 and Vega 64 but also looking at the power efficiency from launch until now. A WattsUp Pro was interfacing with the benchmarks conducted by the Phoronix Test Suite for looking at the overall AC system power consumption during testing as well as generating accurate performance-per-Watt metrics. With the Linux games benchmarked, obviously they had to be titles that would work in the 2017 Linux driver state, thus having to leave out several newer Linux game ports as well as those games depending on newer Vulkan extensions that weren't supported by RADV back in 2017. Without further ado, here are those Vega comparison benchmark numbers.