Radeon RX Vega On Linux: High-Performance GPUs & Open-Source No Longer An Oxymoron
Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 14 August 2017. Page 14 of 14. 123 Comments

The synopsis from the beginning of this article pretty much clears everything Linux gamers and other GPU consumers should know about the Radeon RX Vega line-up on launch day. It's phenomenal seeing the open-source driver support one day-one and that for Linux OpenGL games the performance even surpasses AMDGPU-PRO. This Vega launch is easily the most successful discrete GPU launch ever where it's backed by fully-open drivers. The results are promising today and much better than we've seen out of the open-source RadeonSI driver stack in the past, but more work is still needed for an optimal experience. Right now the Radeon RX Vega isn't being exploited to its full potential under Linux with generally the RX Vega 64 performing between the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080, but in time should be closer to the Windows performance. In monitoring the AMD Linux driver space extensively and watching the amazing work done by their developers especially this calendar year, I'm fully confident in their ability to further optimize Vega's performance in the near term.

On the Vulkan driver front, the best support right now is with the AMDGPU-PRO closed-source Vulkan driver, which sadly AMD still has yet to open-source. RADV, meanwhile, has initial Vega10 support but it might be some time before all the kinks are worked out as well as seeing geometry and tessellation shader support. On the OpenCL compute front, there is support via AMDGPU-PRO and the open-source ROCm code-base, which should become increasingly exciting as the open-source ROCm changes work their way into the respective mainline trees and we also see the 2MB page support land in the Linux 4.14 kernel.

While the RX Vega performance on Linux may not be as good as some of you would have liked to see on day one, this is even now the fastest discrete GPU available with fully-open driver support. NVIDIA simply has no competition to provide when it comes to open-source driver support with their Maxwell/Pascal GPUs not even allowing re-clocking support, so they are limited to running at their boot clock frequencies, which is very slow. The GeForce GTX 700 Kepler series is their latest hardware that has working re-clocking right now and also happens to not require any signed proprietary firmware images. With Pascal it also took NVIDIA months after launch before providing the signed firmware images needed by the Nouveau driver to provide the limited hardware acceleration support. Granted, if you don't care about the driver's license / open vs. closed-source but just want something that just works, their binary driver is top-notch as shown by the results in this article while finally as of late from RadeonSI they are beginning to see greater competition.

If you want a graphics card that is working today on the open-source driver stack and offers the best performance possible from a free software driver, the Radeon RX Vega series is uniquely positioned to conquer. The Radeon RX Vega 56 at $399 is a strong offering against the GeForce GTX 1070 for Linux gamers while the RX Vega 64 at $499 USD does yield noticeably more frames. Either Vega GPU should be relatively future-proof for upcoming Linux games (and I'll have some Linux Vega VR results in the days ahead) and the situation should only become brighter with the ongoing AMDGPU+RadeonSI open-source advancements. If you are a conservative Linux user though and not comfortable building your own kernel or relying upon third-party kernel builds (Ubuntu PPAs, Arch AUR, Fedora Copr, etc) in order to obtain an AMDGPU DC-patched kernel, you may want to hold off on moving to Vega for a few months until the new display code has been mainlined. By that time as well, the Vega performance should be better optimized anyhow.

Stay tuned for more OpenCL, overclocking, and other ongoing RX Vega Linux benchmarks as the driver matures. If you enjoy all my Linux benchmarking articles, reviews, how-to guides, and driver news, consider showing your support by joining Phoronix Premium.

The Radeon RX Vega cards should be available this morning at the likes of Amazon and NewEgg.

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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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