Radeon Gallium3D Moved Closer To Performance Parity With AMD's Catalyst In 2014
Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 29 December 2014. Page 5 of 5. 108 Comments

Similar to Unigine Tropics, the Sanctuary results showed the R600 Gallium3D results for the HD 6000 series GPUs being closer to the Catalyst performance than the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver with GCN GPUs. With the three GCN GPUs tested, Tropics ran 28% to 50% faster on Catalyst.

The latest OpenGL test today comparing the open and closed-source AMD Linux Radeon drivers was the open-source Tesseract game with its unique engine. For the Radeon HD 6000 series GPUs on R600g the performance was very good and was even capable of even beating out Catalyst 14.12 on Ubuntu 14.10. However, for the Radeon HD 7000 series and newer using the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver, the Catalyst binary driver was winning by significant margins.

As shown in the earlier Phoronix article of the significant open-source AMD Linux improvements this year, the OpenGL performance has made significant headway in being more competitive. However, as shown by these results, in many cases the OpenGL performance of Catalyst is still superior. In several tests the latest open-source AMD Linux driver code was now very close to the speed of the Catalyst 14.12 Omega driver, but in other tests there was 50%+ performance differences. For many Linux gamers though, the performance offered by the R600g/RadeonSI drivers is playable enough with higher-end graphics cards that the difference won't matter much. Additionally, the open-source drivers tend to have less stuttering issues and OpenGL compatibility issues with other newer Linux games.

Other factors to think about though besides the OpenGL frame-rate performance include features like OpenCL (where Catalyst is superior at this point), video acceleration (a mixed point but the open-source stack is very good), power management (roughly even between the drivers with the latest open-source Linux code), and other features (Catalyst still has CrossFire, various other AA/AF modes, etc that aren't offered by the open-source driver stack).

At the end of 2014, the open-source AMD Linux driver stack is a heck of a lot more usable and performant than it was at the end of 2013. Magnificent gains have been made this year to the open-source driver where for some GPUs close to the same performance can be delivered as Catalyst Omega. However, if you're in need of compliant OpenCL compute support or other advanced features, the Catalyst Linux driver is the only option for the short term. Next year should be incredibly interesting given the converged AMD Linux driver strategy that's finally close to materializing and other improvements on the horizon.

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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 20,000 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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