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 2 of 14. 123 Comments

The Radeon RX Vega Performance At Day One

From the results on the pages ahead, the quick synopsis comes down to:

- In a few select games that are well optimized by RadeonSI, the Radeon RX Vega 64 can outperform the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and in some instances the Radeon RX Vega 56 even ahead of the GeForce GTX 1080.

- In the games that aren't super-tuned for RadeonSI or benefiting from the recent optimization work, the Radeon RX Vega 56 and 64 are generally running between the speeds of the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 on Linux. The RX Vega 56 generally was in line with the GTX 1070 but sometimes slower. Showing more driver tuning is needed is that sometimes the RX Vega series was barely faster than the R9 Fury.

- Again, with the OpenGL results near universally the RadeonSI OpenGL performance was noticeably faster than the AMDGPU-PRO hybrid driver with its proprietary OpenGL driver.

- The performance-per-Watt of Vega puts it generally between NVIDIA's Maxwell and Pascal generations. The Vega chips are power-hungry and the Pascal cards are more power efficient, in some cases by wide margins. Granted, as the driver performance is tuned, this will obviously go up. So right now at launch-day it's basically the worst-case scenario and should only improve.

- With the current Linux OpenGL performance levels on RadeonSI, the performance-per-dollar for the Vega 56 and Vega 64 are right in line with the GeForce GTX 1000 (Pascal) pricing. It will be interesting to see how this evolves in the future once the Linux driver is better optimized but if the Vega pricing ends up being driven higher by miners / limited quantities.

- The AMDGPU-PRO Vulkan driver could still benefit from greater tuning/optimizations.

Where The Radeon Linux Driver Stack Has Room To Improve

While I am ecstatic about the state of the open-source Vega support at launch, it's important to be clarify some things in case you have not been monitoring the Radeon Linux driver progress or the Radeon RX Vega is going to be your first AMD Linux GPU purchase given the open-source driver support or happen to be migrating from Windows to Linux. Outside of the performance spectrum, some items worth noting about the current Linux driver stack include:

- There remains no "Radeon Software Settings" (or formerly Catalyst Control Center Linux Edition) currently for either AMDGPU-PRO or AMDGPU+RadeonSI. When the modern Radeon Software Settings premiered on Windows, I inquired about Linux support for this interface, which is built upon Qt. That's when they initially mentioned they were exploring the possibility of open-sourcing this GUI control panel. So far that has yet to be done. In that time though they have exposed more fan performance data and other tunables via their kernel driver. Hopefully we will see something not too far out for those wanting to manage their driver settings via a pleasant user-interface rather than via the command-line or ad-hoc third-party scripts or half-working programs like DriConf.

- Related to the first point, if you want to engage in any Radeon RX Vega overclocking under Linux, for now it's limited via the command-line interface with writing overclock values via sysfs... This week I will do an RX Vega Linux overclocking article / guide for those interested.

- There still are some features not supported by the Linux driver stack. One of the notable items that routinely gets mentioned is CrossFireX. Though at least in the case of CrossFire, it will eventually become less relevant as games making use of the Vulkan API have the ability to target multiple GPUs directly rather than punting the work off the drivers to try to handle best for multi-GPU contexts.

- AMDGPU-PRO only caters to enterprise Linux distributions. While the AMDGPU+RadeonSI stack is superior to AMDGPU-PRO for Linux gaming, given the current open-source code state, some users may be wanting to use the PRO driver because of the faster Vulkan driver, easier setup process, or bundled ROCm OpenCL. However, AMDGPU-PRO is mainly geared for enterprise distributions like Ubuntu LTS releases, Red Hat Enterprise Linux / CentOS, and SUSE Linux Enterprise. Your mileage outside of these distributions may vary and even in the context of Ubuntu 17.04 doesn't have AMDGPU-PRO support until the next release when it will via the Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS support matching the key components of 17.04.

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