I Had A Tough Time Deciding What GPU To Use On My Main Fedora Linux Workstation
Written by Michael Larabel in Fedora on 16 July 2017 at 11:08 AM EDT. 134 Comments
FEDORA --
This week I've been working on transitioning my main production workstation to Fedora 26, but I had a really tough time this cycle deciding which graphics card to use, even with having dozens at my disposal.

For this most-main system of mine, whenever upgrading Fedora I end up installing it to a new SSD out of habit for data integrity and keeping around the old backup before eventually wiping it and using that old drive in one of the benchmarking systems. This time around I decided to just assemble a new system out of spare parts as part of my upgrade to Fedora 26. I went with the Ryzen 5 processor so I had to decide which graphics card to use... The past few of my main production systems have just been all-Intel with integrated graphics, which work fine for my purposes.

My purposes come down to needing to power at least one 4K display while using the GNOME Shell and engaging in lots of word processing, emails, web browsing, and programming as the main tasks. On my main system I rarely run any 3D benchmarks and as most Phoronix readers know, unfortunately I don't have the time for any gaming myself. But another big caveat is I rely upon HDMI audio for my main system as I already have a mess of cables in the office, don't care too much about audio quality as largely rely upon the system's audio just for IRC and other notifications, and just use Amazon's Alexa for audio anyhow.

Given Fedora's usage of the bleeding-edge Linux kernel and Mesa along with being happy to update the kernel post-release, my immediate desire was on using AMD Radeon graphics... But the DC support has yet to be merged to mainline and Fedora doesn't patch their kernel with the DC (formerly DAL) support in order to have HDMI audio support for my system. I could build my own kernel (or if there's still a Fedora COPR repository providing the patched support), but then that's additional time needed for keeping the system up-to-date against the latest security fixes, etc. This is the system I obviously care about the most, so also would prefer not having any third-party software sources on the system. Just a nuisance as well when I simply want working HDMI audio. And using AMDGPU-PRO isn't an option since AMD doesn't support their hybrid driver / DKMS stack with the newer kernel releases outside of the scope of enterprise distributions.

Or I could have used an older AMD graphics card where DC isn't needed for HDMI audio, but then I am stuck using a less energy efficient GPU and for powering a 4K display can become a bit more shoddy especially if I get another 4K display for my main production system soon...

So, unfortunately, this time around I couldn't pop in a AMD Polaris card or so and keep my Fedora 26 box happy for my main production purposes due to DC not being mainline yet. Hopefully for Fedora 27.

I was hesitant about using a NVIDIA GPU on Fedora 26 due to all of my past NVIDIA + Fedora experiences when using that combination in the long-term on Fedora with having various binary driver problems, Fedora's kernel upgrade happy and has caused problems in the past, and has just been less than a smooth experience at times. Using Nouveau, unfortunately, isn't an option for me either as while I am not 3D gaming, with the Maxwell/Pascal cards stuck to their boot clock frequencies, the performance is slow and at times not all that good for powering a 4K display.

But, to much surprise, the current NVIDIA binary driver is indeed working out happy on Fedora 26. Fedora has been working towards a better NVIDIA driver experience and with F26 it's quite satisfying except for the NVIDIA Wayland experience not being ready yet.

More details on that Fedora 26 NVIDIA experience in my next article, but so far, so good and it all "just works" for my needs.

About The Author
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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 10,000 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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