How AMD's Open-Source GPU Driver Performance Evolved In 2015: Big Wins
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 25 December 2015. Page 1 of 3. 8 Comments

One of the most requested end-of-year articles by Phoronix Premium readers was to compare the performance of AMD graphics cards at the end of 2014 on the open-source driver compared to how they compete these days with the very latest open-source driver code. Well, as one of our Christmas 2015 articles, here's this comparison with a few different Radeon GPUs.

For the year-end 2014 benchmarks, I simply ran Ubuntu 14.10 for a look at how the open-source AMD performance was in Q4'2014. The Ubuntu 14.10 package set provided the Linux 3.16 kernel and Mesa 10.3.2.

For the year-end 2015 benchmarks, Ubuntu 15.10 was running on the system plus upgrading to the Linux 4.4 kernel and via the Padoka PPA was Mesa 11.2-devel Git with LLVM 3.8 SVN.

This article is strictly looking at the open-source Radeon driver performance evolution over the past year. To see how the open vs. closed driver performance is doing at the end of 2015, see this Radeon driver comparison done recently and the AMDGPU card comparison against the proprietary driver.

The graphics cards used in this comparison were limited to those supported by the Radeon DRM driver at the end of 2014. Back then, the AMDGPU driver was not public so cards like the R9 285 Tonga were unsupported. Even back then, the Radeon R9 290 on Ubuntu 14.10 was just running LLVMpipe. So for this comparison I tested just the Radeon R7 370, Radeon HD 6870, and Radeon HD 6950 for both R600g and RadeonSI Gallium3D coverage.

Besides performance improvements, the open-source Radeon Gallium3D drivers have gone from just supporting OpenGL 3.3 to now handling OpenGL 4.1. With OpenGL 4 support, more Steam games this year are now compatible with the open-source driver. However, with this current OpenGL 4 support when it comes to the R600g driver, only the HD 5800 and HD 6900 series currently support OpenGL 4 while the other R600g hardware is limited to GL 3.3 still. Due to the lack of GL4 support at the end of 2014, the OpenGL Linux tests used for this article were limited in the games that could run on the open-source AMD stack at the end of 2015.

All of these benchmarks were facilitated using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking software.


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