Radeon RX 5700 already give war to NVIDIA on Linux with free drivers

AMD has decided this summer to carry out a major renovation of its catalog.

In addition to Ryzen 3000, which has not had a very bright premiere on GNU/Linux, the Radeon RX 5700 graphics have been added, with which the Sunnyvale brand intends to make the NVIDIA RTX 2060 and RTX 2070.

While Windows users can make hardware comparisons as soon as this is released, in GNU/Linux many times this is not possible and it is time to wait until it is supported, although fortunately with the passing of the years the waiting time is It has drastically reduced.

How do the RX 5700 and its XT variant work on our favorite operating system? To answer that question, we will once again take as reference the benchmark tests carried out by Michael Larabel, Phoronix’s chief and main developer of the performance test suite published under the same name.

System configuration and compared graphics

Base System:

  • Motherboard: ASUS PRIME Z390-A
  • CPU: Intel Core i9 9900K
  • 16GB of RAM
  • Samsung 970 EVO 250GB SSD as data storage.
  • Ubuntu 19.04 modified with the Linux 5.3 kernel (still under development) to support Navi 10 silicon
  • AMD Mesa 19.2 (beta) graphics drivers for OpenGL (RadeonSI) and Vulkan (RADV) and AMDGPU from the kernel (yes, free drivers are used)
  • Driver for NVIDIA: Version 430.26, current stable, which supplies the components to operate the graphics and support for the Vulkan and OpenGL APIs

Compared graphics:

  • RX 590
  • RX Vega 56
  • RX Vega 64
  • Radeon VII
  • RX 5700
  • RX 5700 XT
  • GTX 1070
  • GTX 1080
  • GTX 1080 Ti
  • RTX 2060
  • RTX 2070
  • RTX 2080
  • RTX 2080 Ti
  • TITAN RTX

Before exposing the results, it is important to keep in mind that in these comparisons the AMD graphics start at a disadvantage, since in order to make them work, software that is still under development and theoretically unfinished has been used, while NVIDIA GPUs have been used with the last stable driver published by the Santa Clara company, which gives even more merit to what we will see next.

Results with the games

The first game used for the tests was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (GS: GO), a Valve classic oriented to multiplayer games.

Having been executed at 4K and with OpenGL and being a native game for GNU/Linux, the results obtained by the RX 5700 and its XT variant are very good.

The standard model has managed to operate at 45 images per second more than the RTX 2060, while the XT variant has also taken 45 from the RTX 2070.

GS: GO is a field that generally has been given quite well to AMD in GNU/Linux, especially since RadeonSI is a very good driver that has nothing to envy its proprietary equivalent developed by NVIDIA.

The second title is Dirt Rally 2 for Windows running through Steam Play and DXVK.

Having been executed at 1440p and ultra quality, you can see how here the RX 5700 and its XT variant cannot compete in conditions with their NVIDIA equivalents, since both are exceeded by 6 images per second for the RTX 2060 and the RTX 2070 respectively.

While it is not a bulky difference, it can end up being noticeable at stake if you have a good view.

The third title is HITMAN 2 for Windows executed with Steam Play and DXVK. At 1440p and average quality, it can be seen that the RX 5700 XT achieves 78.21 images per second compared to the 68.03 obtained by the RTX 2070, while the RX 5700 obtains 69.61 for the 59.65 of the RTX 2060 Although it depends on the title, you can see how AMD, little by little, is becoming more competitive using the compatibility layer developed by Valve.

What happens if the graphic quality of HITMAN 2 is increased to ultra while maintaining the resolution?

Surprisingly, the most recent AMD graphics endure the type with theoretically unfinished drivers. The RX 5700 XT exceeds the RTX 2070 by 9 images per second, while the standard RX 5700 exceeds the RTX 2060 by 8.

We continue with more HITMAN 2, but now run at 4K resolution and medium quality. With lower averages, we find the same situation of the previous tests, so we will take advantage to emphasize an important fact, and that is that the standard RX 5700 almost matches the RTX 2070 in all tests with this game, overcoming it very slightly with some imperceptible differences for the human eye.

From now on we enter a more arid terrain for AMD, starting with Strange Brigade for Windows executed with Steam Play and DXVK. At 1440p resolution and ultra quality, the RX 5700 achieves an average of 113.37 images per second compared to 109.30 of the RTX 2060, while the RTX 2070 manages to defeat the RX 5700 XT by getting 130.63 images in front aa 124.03. Here it is possibly more worrisome to see how the Radeon VII is unable to compete with the GTX 1080 Ti or higher NVIDIA graphics.

Raising the resolution to 4K in Strange Brigade the situation changes in favor of AMD, since the RTX 2070 and the RX 5700 XT practically tie at 75 images per second, while the standard RX 5700 achieves 69.53 images compared to 61, 87 of the RTX 2060. It is also good news that the Radeon VII manages to overcome the RTX 2080 and GTX 1080 Ti, even if it is an imperceptible difference.

Now it’s the turn of a native game, A Total War Saga: THRONES OF BRITANNIA. The games of the Total War saga carried by Feral Interactive have been a field that traditionally has been better given to NVIDIA, although fortunately the new graphics of AMD give some hope of changing this for the future. Executed at 1440p and in ultra quality, the standard RX 5700 obtained a result of 59.13 images per second compared to 56.90 of the RTX 2060, while RX 5700 XT is surpassed by only one image by the RTX 2070 ( 66.63 vs. 67.67).

We close the games with Total War: Warhammer II executed in ultra and resolution 1440p. Here the AMD solutions that star in this entry slightly exceed their direct NVIDIA rivals, the situation of Radeon VII being more worrisome compared to the higher-end GPUs of the giant Santa Clara.

Conclusion

It seems that AMD has put the batteries in the support of its graphics for GNU/Linux, trying to be competitive with the equivalent solutions of NVIDIA as soon as possible.

Although everything indicates that AMDGPU will offer Linux 5.3 a good support to play with the RX 5700, for now we recommend not to buy them because these tests have been performed with a kernel still under development and Mesa 19.2, which is currently a beta version .

It is important to wait at least for Mesa 19.2 and Linux 5.3 to arrive as stable, and here, of course, users of the official branch of Arch Linux have an advantage due to the aggressive update policy of said distribution.

In case those components do not arrive on time, Canonical may make some vintage through backward portability in Ubuntu 19.10, although it would be smarter to wait for Ubuntu 20.04 to get mature support.

After all that has been said, the good news is that GNU/Linux users will not have to wait too long to get mature support for the RX 5700. Who imagined this level from AMD 5 years ago?

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Carlos Dagorret
CTO Facultad de Ciencias Económicas

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.

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