AMD Radeon 300 Series On Linux - Catalyst: 0 vs. Open-Source: 1
Written by Michael Larabel in Radeon on 6 July 2015 at 02:49 PM EDT. 24 Comments
RADEON --
For those that follow me on Twitter know I've started testing the MSI Radeon R7 370 4G graphics card as one of the new models launched by AMD last month. For this new (non-Fiji) graphics card, using the open-source graphics driver is the only choice on Linux right now.


When receiving the MSI Radeon R7 370 for review on Phoronix, I first tried installing the latest publicly available driver from the AMD web-site... The Catalyst 15.5 for Linux that has been available on AMD.com since early June. Since then they haven't put out any stable/beta Catalyst Linux releases, even after the Rx 300 series launch. When trying to install this latest Catalyst Linux driver atop Ubuntu 15.04, it became quickly apparent that it was unsupported:


While the non-Fury Radeon Rx 300 series graphics cards have been available since mid-June, there still is no public Catalyst Linux driver that properly supports these graphics cards, let alone the Radeon R9 Fury X.

However, when rebooting into X on the default Ubuntu 15.04 graphics stack, everything "just works" on the open-source code:

The stock Ubuntu 15.04 software stack with the Linux 3.19 kernel and Mesa 10.5.4 will work just fine with this MSI Radeon R7 370 graphics card. (Of course, you may want to fetch the newer Linux kernel, LLVM, and Mesa for greater performance and features.) After all, the R7 370 is just a modified Pitcairn GPU. It turns out the open-source driver has had the new PCI ID for months while the latest Catalyst Linux driver does not, which again is silly given that it's sort of just a re-branded and tweaked GCN 1.0 GPU.

This should be the same story for the other non-Fury GPUs with the open-source driver, given they're Pitcairn/Oland/Bonaire based. The only exceptions would be the Radeon R9 380, given that it's Tonga-based and that requires the new "AMDGPU" kernel driver. AMDGPU is now merged as part of Linux 4.2, but that code may still require some time to mature before being in tip-top shape. For the Fury graphics cards powered by the "Fiji" GPU with High Bandwidth Memory, there isn't yet any open-source support, but that will come in time atop AMDGPU.

In the days ahead I'll have out my open-source performance figures for the MSI Radeon R7 370 on Linux when using Linux 3.19 + Mesa 10.5 and then the Git driver stack. Catalyst benchmarks will come once there is a public driver version that acknowledges the new Rx 300 series line-up. Hopefully that new Catalyst Linux driver version comes this month given the Radeon R9 Fury air-cooled graphics card is shipping next week, at which point I hope to run some Linux benchmarks on this Fiji HBM GPU. In past years prior to the "Linux gaming boom", AMD did put out same-day Catalyst Linux driver releases for brand new GPU archiectures (like the good ol' HD 4870 days for Linux users; NVIDIA continues to put out same-day Linux driver releases to this day) while now it's a shame that they're weeks behind in releasing a supported driver for their R7/R9 300 series.
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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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