Looking to purchase a new AMD GPU

Greetings DLN peeps (<-- that’s the cool way of saying “peoples”!).

I’m currently looking for a new GPU for an old desktop rig. In particular, I’ve been considering the AMD 5500XT or AMD Vega 56 (or 64). I’m not really a gamer (I play a little QuakeLive every now and then), but I do mess around with some graphics programming in my spare time. The most important thing to me is a smooth Linux desktop experience.

On another desktop rig that I use purely for work, I have an Nvidia 1080Ti. I’ve been very disappointed with my Linux desktop experience with the 1080, which is why I only use this machine for work (my day job involves churning out CUDA code, which is the reason why I need an Nvidia card in that machine).

I currently have an AMD RX 560D, and for the most part, it works okay. I love the way I don’t have to fiddle around with installing proprietary BLOBs, and the performance is pretty good considering the RX 560D is a low-end GPU. It quite comfortably drives my dual-monitor setup (an FHD TV and a 2K panel).

To explain what I mean by “smooth Linux desktop experience”: I recently had both Kubuntu 19.10 and Fedora 31 KDE on this desktop machine. When I played a full screen YouTube video on one monitor, Firefox would become extremely “suttery” on the other monitor (e.g. scrolling in Firefox felt like 5 frames per second - it’s painful!). This is not a “smooth Linux desktop experience”.

With the RX 560 I’ve had a much better experience with Manjaro KDE. I would probably be 80% satisfied with the RX 560 were it not for the screen recording issue :frowning: - using OBS or SimpleScreenRecorder and trying to screen capture the FHD monitor at 60FPS just doesn’t work - framerate is more like 15FPS. Although I haven’t looked in to it in any great detail (yet), I understand that the hardware encoders for AMD GPUs on Linux are pretty much non-existent at this stage (although I’d loved to be proved wrong!!!). For example, with my Nvidia desktop, I’m able to capture a desktop using SimpleScreenRecorder with the encoder set to “h264_nvenc”, and it’s awesome! A smooth 1080p 60FPS while only using around 3% CPU.

I understand that @dasgeek is “Team Red”, and he seems to have very good things to say about AMD GPUs. I’d like to know more about AMD GPUs from a Linux desktop point of view though (as opposed to how many frames per second you can get with Steam games).

I spend most of my time on the Linux desktop (mostly in IDEs instead of games), so I’d like to know what AMD card is capable of:

  • A smooth KDE Plasma desktop experience (i.e. no “jank” or “micro-stutters” with wobbly windows or Firefox scrolling, for example).
  • Ability to easily drive two monitors (one FHD, one 2K).
  • Ability to capture 1080p 60FPS (with or without hardware encoding).

I understand that what I’m asking is very subjective - I’m OCD about smoothness and responsiveness. I’d love to hear from current AMD GPU Linux users about their experiences/thoughts before making my next purchase.

BTW - love the DLN shows, watch them religiously (although have fallen behind in the last month due to work commitments - will catch up this week by binge watching episodes I haven’t seen yet).

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$(@dasgeek) != “Team Red”;

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If you just want a GPU to drive your monitors comfortably, I think an integrated one (either Intel or AMD) will work just fine. If you want to actually use some of the hardware features like either gaming, GPGPU (OpenCL) or hardware encoding, you need a dedicated one.

I’ve had a pretty great experience with my 5700 XT, but since the hardware is very new, I needed the latest software. Up until recently, on my Arch install I had to switch to the mesa-git repo, and sometimes use the linux-git kernel to get the best performance and stability. That’s fiddly, and I imagine you’ll have the same experience when the 5500 XT comes out for a while.

I think you’ll be good with either a vega 56 or even a 570 or 580, even second hand. If you want to try your luck or don’t mind some fiddling, go for the 5500 XT, it’s a great GPU.

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Bonus points if you are interested in hacking/flashing GPU firmware (Barring some caveats, you can flash Vega 64 bios over the Vega 56 to get meaningful performance benefits).

Very interesting, and good to know! However, I’m not really interested in messing around with firmware/flashing the BIOS, for performance gains. As mentioned, I’m not really a heavy gamer, and even the lowest-end GPUs handle the games I play quite comfortably. I’m more interested in a smooth Linux desktop experience (i.e. playing FHD video on one monitor while browser/coding on the other monitor).

@gabmus Thanks!

If you just want a GPU to drive your monitors comfortably, I think an integrated one (either Intel or AMD) will work just fine.

The desktop rig in question only has an Intel HD 4000 iGPU, and performance is pretty bad when driving both my FHD and 2K monitors. It struggles, even when something like Wobbly Windows is enabled. So while the HD 4000 “works”, performance is bad.

Yes, would like to look in to some OpenCL (I’ve only been using CUDA to date), and I do some screen recording at 1080p 60FPS every now and then.

I am very curious about the 5500 XT - awesome price-point, decent performance (albeit not Vega 56 performance, but good enough for my use cases). I don’t mind fiddling, so long as “the juice is worth the squeeze” :slight_smile:

I might even look at an RX 580 or even RX 590. Even though performance is only slightly better with the Vega 56 (from what I’ve read, gains of 15% to 30%, depending on what you’re doing), I have a hunch that it may result in in a better Linux desktop experience as Vega has been around a while longer.

You are probably using the Nouveau drivers which are not know for their best performance.

You can try these out.

@Trent The Intel iGPU drivers for Linux are baked in to the kernel. From the link you sent me:

Because these drivers are integrated into all popular Linux distributions, you can trust that your Linux system will deliver stunning, high quality graphics without needing additional hardware or extra driver software.

The Nouveau drivers are for Nvidia cards.

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I thought they were for box AMD and nVidia since nVidia does provide drivers for Linux. However, many distros have some thing seriously outdated.

Really glad you enjoy the shows, thank you for being apart of the community. AMD does provide a hassle free experience much like an Intel GPU. It is up to the distros to actually roll in the updated Mesa drivers for newer hardware and unfortunately your Debian based distros typically do not. Fedora 31, openSUSE Tumbleweed and Arch base you will have no problem with any of the options 5700xt or Vega 64. If you want to use Ubuntu with zero setup go with Vega 64. Also consider Radeon VII though it’s not in mass production is still performance beast and you can find them for a good price and supported across the board. Final note, while current Ubuntu doesn’t support out of the box, getting it to work is quite simple if you must have an Ubuntu base. Ubuntu 19.10 Doesn't Ship With AMD Navi / Radeon RX 5700 Support Working, But Easy To Enable - Phoronix


I’m actually going to strong dissuade you from finding ANY used Vega 56/64 cards as they were kind of the champion when it came to crypto mining. You could find yourself with a card that’s on its last legs.


I went with the brand-spankin’ new RX 5500 XT - one of AMD’s seocnd generation 7nm GPU :slight_smile: It’s a low-end card, but the price is reasonable, it runs cooler that Polaris/Vega, uses less power than Polaris/Vega, and is much quieter than Polaris/Vega.

As mentioned above, I’m not chasing bleeding edge GPU performance - I’m just after something that will run the Linux desktop a little better than my humble (but very reliable) RX 560D. I have really enjoyed using the RX 560D - it’s a graphics card that doesn’t even require external power (i.e. it’s powered completely from the PCIe slot!).

Anyway, it should arrive tomorrow - I’ll write something up about the installation/performance once I’ve had it for a few days :slight_smile:

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I certainly will.

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Installation wasn’t too difficult - I read on a Phoronix review of the RX 5500 XT that kernel 5.5+and Mesa 19.3+ drivers are required. I installed these (on Manjaro) using:

Update MESA:
$ sudo pacman-mirrors -aB testing
$ sudo pacman -Syu

Update to Kernel 5.5 RC:
$ sudo pacman-mirrors -aB unstable
$ sudo pacman -Syy

Set default back to Stable Branch:
$ sudo pacman-mirrors -aB stable

After rebooting, the RX 5500 XT worked :slight_smile:

  • KDE Plasma 5 desktop performance feels the same (as on the RX560D).
  • Screen recording still isn’t working properly (no more than 15FPS).
  • QuakeLive on Steam feels a little better :slight_smile:
  • It’s definitely quieter than my RX 560D and GTX 1080Ti.

I’ll have to dig around a little deeper to see why I can’t get more than 15FPS when screen recording (I have tried SimpleScreenRecorder, OBS, and FFMPEG from the terminal). I’ll create a new post regarding this.

I’ll install the Unreal Engine 4 development tools/environment in the next few days and will see how that compares to UE4 on my 1080Ti.