AMD Radeon R9 290 On Ubuntu 14.10: RadeonSI Gallium3D vs. Catalyst

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 28 October 2014. Page 1 of 5. 50 Comments

Our latest performance benchmarks of last week's release of Ubuntu 14.10 is looking at the performance of an AMD Radeon R9 290 "Hawaii" graphics card using the latest open-source (RadeonSI Gallium3D) graphics driver code compared to the Catalyst driver that's packaged for Ubuntu 14.10. The latest open-source tests do include the in-development Linux 3.18 kernel and Mesa 10.4-devel.

When putting the Radeon R9 290 graphics card in the Ubuntu 14.10 system, sadly, there's no open-source graphics support out-of-the-box. With Ubuntu Utopic's Linux 3.16 + Mesa 10.3 combination, Radeon R9 290 support isn't found out of the box as the open-source AMD Hawaii support was only recently stabilized: booting with the R9 290 will just leave you with using Gallium3D's LLVMpipe software fallback driver. While the Radeon R9 290 series is now over one year old, it won't be until Ubuntu 15.04 next April when there's working support out-of-the-box due to the non-rolling-release nature of Ubuntu Linux.

For those wishing to enable open-source driver support for the Radeon R9 290, it's simply a matter of using the Ubuntu Mainline Kernel PPA to fetch the latest kernel and it's also recommended to use the Oibaf PPA or Xorg-Edgers to fetch the very latest Mesa code for best performance.

The software configurations from Ubuntu 14.10 tested in this article for the R9 290 included:

- Ubuntu 14.10 with the Linux 3.16.0-23 kernel when using Mesa 10.4.0-devel plus xf86-video-ati 7.5.99 from the Oibaf PPA on Launchpad. The Mesa 10.4 Git snapshot was from 26 October (git-1a17098) -- this is past the point when HyperZ was recently re-enabled for R600/RadeonSI.

- The above configuration of having Mesa 10.4.0-devel but upgrading to the Linux 3.17.0 kernel from the Ubuntu Mainline Kernel PPA.

- Mesa 10.4.0-devel with then upgrading to the Linux 3.18-rc1 kernel.

- The same Ubuntu 14.10 system with its stock kernel but then installing the fglrx-updates package to receive the latest closed-source Catalyst driver version packaged for the Ubuntu Utopic archive -- currently this is driver version 14.20.7 / OpenGL 4.4.12968.

AMD Radeon R9 290 Hawaii Ubuntu 14.10 Linux

All of the OpenGL benchmarks for this latest open vs. closed-source AMD Linux driver comparison for the XFX Radeon R9 290 was done using the open-source and fully-automated Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking software.

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