25-Way NVIDIA/AMD Linux Graphics Comparison For Vulkan-Powered Thrones Of Britannia
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 10 May 2018. Page 1 of 1. 24 Comments

This week Mac/Linux game porting company released the Linux port of A Total War Saga: THRONES OF BRITANNIA, just two months after this game was released for Windows. With the Linux port of this strategy game the Vulkan API is being used for graphics rendering, which makes it interesting for benchmarking. Here is our extensive look at the performance of this major Linux game port when testing twenty-five different AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards to see how this game is performing on Ubuntu Linux.

With this Vulkan-powered Linux game port, the official system requirements from Feral Interactive come down to the Radeon R9 285 and GeForce GTX 680 as being a minimum while they recommend at least a Radeon RX 480 or GeForce GTX 970. The R9 285 minimum is due to needing Vulkan support which is only supported in combination with the AMDGPU DRM driver which is the default kernel driver for GCN 1.2 graphics cards and newer. I was able to get GCN 1.0 and GCN 1.1 Radeon graphics cards working fine with this game using the RADV Vulkan driver once switching from Radeon DRM to AMDGPU DRM. That switch can be made using the radeon.si_support=0 radeon.cik_support=0 amdgpu.si_support=1 amdgpu.cik_support=1 kernel parameters at boot time albeit not officially supported by Feral Interactive.

My Radeon testing the past few days has been using the Linux 4.17 kernel with Mesa 18.2-devel built against LLVM 7.0 SVN. The NVIDIA tests have been done using the NVIDIA 396.24 display driver. Feral officially says Mesa 18.0 and newer for RADV should be working for this game while the NVIDIA driver support should work going back to the 390 series. Of course, generally speaking, the newer the driver will yield the better Vulkan support and usually more performant, especially in the case of Mesa.

THRONES OF BRITANNIA on Linux has been performing very well. This Vulkan-powered port is working quite well even going back to the older graphics cards like the Radeon HD 7800/7900 series (when using AMDGPU) as well as lower-end Polaris parts like the RX 460/550/560. On the NVIDIA side it's been working fine too going back to Kepler which is as far back as there is Vulkan support.

In my testing of 25 different graphics cards I have not run into any rendering issues/glitches nor any crashes of the game during the extensive benchmarking process. The 25 graphics cards tested for this comparison included:

- GeForce GTX 680
- GeForce GTX 750 Ti
- GeForce GTX 760
- GeForce GTX 780 Ti
- GeForce GTX 950
- GeForce GTX 960
- GeForce GTX 980 Ti
- GeForce GTX 1050
- GeForce GTX 1060
- GeForce GTX 1070
- GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
- GeForce GTX 1080
- GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
- Radeon HD 7850
- Radeon HD 7950
- Radeon R9 270X
- Radeon R9 285
- Radeon R9 290
- Radeon RX 460
- Radeon RX 550
- Radeon RX 560
- Radeon RX 580
- Radeon R9 Fury
- Radeon RX Vega 56
- Radeon RX Vega 64

For a very extensive look at how A Total War Saga: THRONES OF BRITANNIA performs on Linux using the latest NVIDIA/AMD drivers on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and all testing from the same Core i7 8770K system.

All of this benchmarking was facilitated in a fully-automated and standardized manner using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking software. Tests were done at a range of quality settings and at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K as well as looking at the per-frame timings in addition to the FPS data.

First up was the 1080p low quality run, which shows the Vulkan-powered game performing fairly well even on the older hardware. The Radeon HD 7850 (GCN 1.0 / Southern Islands) graphics card when using AMDGPU+RADV had even delivered a 55 FPS average while graphics cards like the GeForce GTX 760 and Radeon HD 7950 / R9 270X were delivering a playable experience in this scenario. The GeForce GTX 960 / R9 285 and above were delivering above 90 FPS averages.

Given the number of graphics cards tested, line graphs weren't used for the frame-time data but rather modified box plots. The average and maximum frame times were comparable between the RADV and NVIDIA Vulkan drivers with no major differences in this very relaxed low quality run.

With medium quality settings at 1080p, many of the older graphics cards were running with around a 60 FPS average while the GeForce GTX 960 and Radeon R9 285 and above would really handle the game well in this scenario. Of the current generation GPUs, the Radeon RX 580 on RADV is competing very well with the GeForce GTX 1060 while the RX Vega GPUs continue coming up short of the GeForce GTX 1070 -- showing more Vega/GFX9 optimizations could be beneficial for the RADV Vulkan driver.

At high quality settings with 1080p, the Radeon R9 290 and GeForce GTX 780 Ti were delivering averages above 60 FPS while the slowest of the graphics cards tested were now pacing around 30 FPS.

For handling ultra quality settings at 1080p, the Radeon R9 Fury / GeForce GTX 980 Ti is around the cut-off point for maintaining a 60 FPS average. In this graphically demanding scenario, the Radeon RX Vega 64 is finally competing with the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti and the RX Vega 56 with the GTX 1070. The RX 580 continues trading blows with the GeForce GTX 1060.

Maxing out the graphical settings is the extreme run at 1080p. The only graphics card running above 60 FPS for this Linux port at 1080p extreme was the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

And a look at the frame time data before moving onto 1440p.

When running at 2560 x 1440 with low quality settings, the GeForce GTX 680 / Radeon R9 285 and above were delivering above a 60 FPS average. The GTX 680 and R9 285 as a reminder are what Feral lists as the minimum supported GPUs for this Vulkan-powered strategy game.

At medium quality settings with 1440p resolution, the GTX 780 Ti and R9 290 were running around the 60 FPS threshold. In this scenario the Radeon RX Vega 64 was running in line with the GTX 1070 and the RX 580 was aligned with the GeForce GTX 1060.

Under high quality settings, the Radeon RX 580 and GeForce GTX 1080 are around the 60 FPS mark while the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti could still deliver an average frame-rate close to 120 FPS.

When increasing to ultra quality settings, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti was the only GPU delivering well above 60 FPS.

While 2560 x 1440 with extreme quality settings is a bit much for all current generation GPUs. (The HD 7850 result can be ignored as under vRAM pressure appeared to drop the quality of the rendering.)

When hitting 4K, the lower-end graphics cards with limited video memory were dropped from the comparison. With low quality settings at 3840 x 2160, the GTX 1060 and RX 580 could still deliver around 60 FPS.

With medium quality settings at 4K, the Radeon RX Vega 64 and GTX 1070 are hitting around the 60 FPS average while the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti and GTX 1080 series delivering much more potential.

Lastly are the results for 4K at high quality settings where the GeForce GTX 1080 could deliver around a 60 FPS average while the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti came in at 76 FPS.

Hopefully you found this 25-way graphics card benchmarking comparison useful, particularly if you are on an older/slower GPU. A Total War Saga: THRONES OF BRITANNIA has been working out fairly well and was surprised at how well it could run with the older GCN 1.0 era GPUs on the low quality settings when using AMDGPU+RADV. It was also pleasant seeing no driver issues at all to speak of for this just-launched Linux game port.

For those with older hardware, on the Radeon HD 7850 and RX 560 I did run some extra benchmarks from 800 x 600 through 1920 x 1080 with the different image quality settings via this OpenBenchmarking.org result file if you don't mind gaming at sub-1080p settings. At the opposite end are also more 4K tests with the RX Vega 64. Yesterday I also published a closer look at the GTX 1060 vs. RX 580 in this game including a comparison of the CPU utilization.

If you enjoy all of our extensive Linux gaming benchmarks, you can show your support by joining Phoronix Premium.

About The Author
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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