When it comes to Linux gamers wanting a discrete graphics card backed by open-source drivers, the only solution right now to truly recommend for those serious about performance and making use of the hardware is really AMD Radeon graphics. While Nouveau has been making much progress, until re-clocking and other issues are worked out the performance can be unbearably slow depending upon the particular graphics processor or run into other problems. (Of course, when talking about proprietary graphics drivers on Linux, the story is entirely different, or if considering integrated Intel HD Graphics.) For those pursuing a AMD Radeon GPU for their own Steam Box/Machine build and hope to use the open-source Gallium3D drivers, here's some Steam on Linux gaming benchmarks from almost two dozen different GPUs.
This week I've been running a large open-source graphics card comparison using Mesa 10.3-devel and Linux 3.17 from Git. While the intentions were nice with featuring Intel/NVIDIA/AMD graphics, running several benchmarks of Steam / Source Engine games on Linux, and also measuring the power efficiency and thermal performance, the testing was cut short when it came to the Nouveau driver testing.
As a forewarning to casual Linux users that might be running Nouveau for your GeForce hardware and once in a while update against the Oibaf PPA or Ubuntu Mainline Kernel PPA, it appears there's some bad issues right now affecting at least Ubuntu Unity users... Today in trying out several graphics cards from Kepler GPUs to old GeForce 9 hardware, there's very evident on-screen corruption and rendering problems with all the NVIDIA hardware tested thus far.
Yesterday's comparison was just about looking at the open-source performance (now that it's finally working) of the Radeon R9 290 compared to other AMD Radeon HD/Rx graphics cards on the same open-source driver stack. In today's article we're exclusively looking at the Radeon R9 290 performance when testing both the latest open and closed-source drivers. On the open-source side was the Linux 3.17 Git kernel, Mesa 10.3-devel, xf86-video-ati 7.4.99, and other Git components supplied by the Oibaf PPA atop the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS installation. On the closed-source AMD side was the Catalyst 14.6 Beta that was the latest at the time of testing.
Handling merge requests for the DRM graphics driver updates will be done differently for the Linux 3.18 kernel, which will result in a few less weeks of development time.
David Airlie of Red Hat, the DRM subsystem maintainer, generally has been allowing new Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) code to be introduced to his drm-next tree up to around the time a given kernel release occurs. After that, within days, it could end up landing in the mainline Linux kernel when the merge window opens ahead of the next -rc1 release. David though is deciding to be a more strict about changes late in the cycle in hopes of leading to better tested code and less fallout from driver problems each kernel development cycle.
With the Linux 3.17 kernel, Mesa 10.3, and the newest Radeon microcode files, there's finally working Hawaii GPU support by AMD's open-source Linux graphics driver. The Radeon R9 290 series launched nearly one year ago and finally now the open-source driver is working right, so we've conducted some preliminary tests using the R9 290 compared to AMD's other Radeon GPUs on the open-source Linux driver.
Mesa 10.3 represents about three months of development work and is nearing completion with its OpenGL 4.0 support, but that wasn't completed in time to mark bumping the version number to Mesa 11.0. Of the Mesa 10.3 highlights include:
- Radeon H.264 video encoding support using the VCE engine on the latest AMD GPUs and implemented by the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver and the encode interface is exposed using the new OpenMAX Gallium3D state tracker.
- Good support for AMD Hawaii GPUs for those not wanting to use the high-performance Catalyst driver.
At the request of many Phoronix readers, here's our first tests of Apple's OS X 10.10 "Yosemite" operating system as we see how the OpenGL performance compares between it and Ubuntu Linux with an updated kernel and Mesa.
With OS X Yosemite still being in development stages, our testing of it is limited and will have out many benchmarks upon its official release, but for those that have been really curious, I ran some quick Intel graphics tests.
The Bay Trail HD Graphics tests for this article came down to:
- Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS with all available stable release updates.
- The updated Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS state with then enabling the Oibaf PPA for Mesa 10.3-devel.
- The Oibaf'ed Ubuntu LTS configuration with then installing the Linux 3.16 stable kernel.
- The above configuration but then upgrading to the experimental Linux 3.17 kernel in Git form.
This article serves as a comparison of the stable Linux 3.16 kernel against the latest Linux 3.17 Git kernel when testing a range of graphics cards from the Radeon HD 5770 through the Radeon R9 270X. The system setup was maintained the same through testing and Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS was used as a host but with upgrading to the Mesa 10.3-devel and xf86-video-ati 7.4.99 Git using the Oibaf PPA. With Linux 3.16.0 and Linux 3.17 Git, the following AMD graphics cards were tested on the Intel Core i7 4790K rig:
- Radeon HD 5770
- Radeon HD 6870
- Radeon HD 6950
- Radeon HD 7850
- Radeon HD 7950
- Radeon R9 270X
Coming up next week is a comparison of the Radeon R9 290 graphics card against various other graphics cards on the latest open-source driver. Additionally, there will be a RadeonSI Gallium3D vs. Catalyst driver comparison for the Radeon R9 290 graphics card. Unfortunately there will be no Radeon R9 290X graphics tests for lacking that GPU and having bought the R9 290 myself. For those that are anxious to see how the R9 290 performs on the open-source driver, I uploaded some initial standalone results this weekend for you to facilitate your own comparisons.