AMD has been getting a lot of attention lately, especially with its great performance-over-price graphics cards and processors. However, that love story sounds limited when it comes to desktop PCs working on Linux, and with gaming.
We wrote few months ago about how great AMD is performing on laptops on Linux comparing to Windows. You can even get 10-20 FPS higher on Linux than on Windows using your integrated graphics card. We still stand on our experiments that we did on AMD-powered laptops, however, desktops is another issue. AMD on desktop PCs perform extremely lower on Linux than on Windows for gaming, and not just by a little bit, but by an extremely huge margin, that can sometimes reach 100 FPS between the two.
Our average hardware combination of the famous Ryzen 5 1600 CPU and the AMD RX 580 GPU is performing horribly on Linux comparing to Windows. While this setup is considered an on-budget one, and may not reflect all AMD’s cards, we think most people would consider it for their feature desktop PC, and we believed its important for you to know what you are about to enter if you plan to do Linux gaming on the same combination.
To be more detailed, we did few tests on some games using the same exact settings on both Windows and Linux. The first one of these was Star Conflict, which is a space war game. Its performance on Windows can reach up to 300FPS with an average of 200FPS, while on Linux, the highest framerate was 120FPS and the average was 85FPS (click on images to enlarge them):
We thought this might be a driver and a kernel issue. So we switched to Arch Linux and brought Linux kernel 5.5 (the latest) with the Git branch of Mesa for drivers, but the performance was still not improved comparing to the previous versions of these two. We tried some tweaks, such as:
- Forcing the Linux governor to performance.
- Trying other kernels optimized for gaming.
- Changing the Linux desktop environment to check that it doesn’t affect performance.
- Doing the same test on multiple other distributions such as Ubuntu 19.10, Ubuntu 18.04 and others.
- And we tried testing both the open source and proprietary AMD drivers… But no luck.
Another game we tried was CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive). Its average framerate on Windows was 177FPS while on Linux, it was 105FPS. The difference between the two is indeed big for most gamers, especially if you are going to run more heavy titles on your machine in the future. Of course, you don’t want to be limited with what you paid for because of the operating system, and we fully acknowledge that.
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Below you see a chart of our results:
An important side aspect we noticed when testing games on both operating systems was that in Linux, it sounds like the OS is doing all it can to avoid turning the fans on and keeping the temperature in the 60-65 °C range, and that’s why we noticed that games start great on Linux in the first screen, but the framerate drops extremely down later in few seconds and as times goes. Whereas on Windows, the OS had no issue in pushing the GPU to the 70 °C and turning the fans on whenever needed.
A research online shows that it isn’t just us. There are a lot of other people with AMD desktop hardware who are facing the same issues. You can even check a more detailed benchmark using the Phoronix test suit to compare gaming between Windows and Linux, and you’ll see similar results to ours.
So overall, you are thinking of buying AMD in general, then go for it. But if you are a gamer, you should know that you’d probably need to dual-boot Windows and Linux together in order to fully enjoy your desktop PC power.