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Nvidia or AMD graphics card for a Linux gaming PC
Alyana commented on 11 July 2019 at 8:12 am UTC

Hi folks,

a friend asked me about which graphics card to get for a new Linux gaming PC. Does not have to be high end, I think a card that is about the performance of a GeForce 1050ti will be sufficient.

Maybe someone here could give me an info about the current status of the driver situation regarding Nvidia vs AMD?

Thank you very much

chancho_zombie commented on 11 July 2019 at 10:36 am UTC

I like AMD nothing is holding me back from running the latest kernel, updating the drivers is just trivial. With NVIDIA you are stuck with older kernels. With the work done by valve and other companies, there is a lot improvement potential on the AMD drivers, most likely AMD drivers will improve in the upcoming years and NVIDIA will just stale.

As for performance AMD counterparts are on par with NVIDIA, so if you are not going for the high end, where NVIDIA has the lead, on the mid-range and low range AMD it's the clear choice (imho).

damarrin commented on 11 July 2019 at 11:00 am UTC

To give some balance to zombie's post:

Nvidia's drivers are good right now, with excellent performance and there's no reason to think it will change in the future. AMD is often late with drivers for new hardware and performance is highly debatable, often requiring users to install pre-release Mesa and kernels to have a functioning card at all. Installing and updating Nvidia drivers is done through the package manager just like AMD's and is equally painless. Plus, there's no need to update parts of the system through unofficial channels to have your card running well.

sr_ls_boy commented on 11 July 2019 at 11:17 am UTC

If your friend is going to run Windows titles through Steam Play, DXVK recommends at
least 8 GB of video memory. Running out of memory is a big problem on 4gb cards.

chancho_zombie commented on 11 July 2019 at 11:31 am UTC

then there is the wayland problem I think that NVIDIA's driver is in really a bad shape for wayland, not sure though.
Wayland is the display manager used by some distros like fedora.

chancho_zombie commented on 11 July 2019 at 11:42 am UTC

I don't agree with you damarrin most likely the steam machines or other possible hardware done by Valve will be based on AMD. Maybe you are right that in some benchmarks sometimes the AMD driver lags a few fps, but that's only really on some few cases, probably because the game is optimized for NVIDIA. But with Valve pushing the AMD drivers and (in the future) with some upcoming valve amd-hardware, clearly AMD would be the number 1 choice. It's not unlikely that VALVE will lean towards recommending AMD over NVIDIA for building steam machines (or other upcoming linux hardware).

And also there is Google Stadia, which is based on AMD and runs Linux.

But yeah, at the moment there is nothing wrong with the nvidia driver, but the future perspective isn't looking too great for NVIDIA.

Werner commented on 11 July 2019 at 1:54 pm UTC

i would really love to use a amd card, but in my eyes in its current state it is not as smooth as running a nvidia card.
I built a PC and bought a used RX580, all good after adding ppa for mesa and ukuu for newer kernel, then all runs good, but as soon as you want do do some little tuning, like undervolt, or just handle fan,...... its in my eyes a pain in its current state, i wasted days to get it how i wanted it. Also i had heat issues in my ssfpc, so i decided to replace it with a used GTX 1070, since then no overheating issues, but the best thing was, install the driver and use the nvidia settings were all is in what i need, done in minutes.
I really would love to switch again to AMD Gfx and as soon as they get their stuff together i will, but currently i have to say i am happy with Nvidia even when i don't like them.

Rooster commented on 11 July 2019 at 1:56 pm UTC

The way I see it:


NVIDIA:

Pros:
- better value for the same price
Cons:
- proprietary drivers
- more likely to have issues during installation

AMD:

Pros:
- open source drivers
- works out of the box with most distros
Cons:
- less supported for Linux native games (example: https://support.feralinteractive.com/en/faqs/mesa_support/)

Xpander commented on 11 July 2019 at 2:03 pm UTC

chancho_zombieI like AMD nothing is holding me back from running the latest kernel, updating the drivers is just trivial. With NVIDIA you are stuck with older kernels. With the work done by valve and other companies, there is a lot improvement potential on the AMD drivers, most likely AMD drivers will improve in the upcoming years and NVIDIA will just stale.

As for performance AMD counterparts are on par with NVIDIA, so if you are not going for the high end, where NVIDIA has the lead, on the mid-range and low range AMD it's the clear choice (imho).

stuck with older kernels, really?. There have been few issues with rc kernels, but you can still patch the drivers for git builds. Anyway, with up to date release kernels, i never experienced any issues with drivers, you just have to have the latest drivers for latest kernel/xorg. Aalso you don't usually need git kernels with nvidia as they dont give you anything, with AMD you likely need, because of added features/improvements etc.


I'd say Nvidia is more pain free on Linux. Install the distro, Install the drivers and be done with it.
With AMD there are so many combinations of drivers, LLVM versions, Gallium, Mesa all the mess, to get up to date.
That being said, i think in midrange AMD is still pretty good. Navi GPUs specially, but they need some driver improvements first. Polaris seems way too powerhungry for its perf, compared to competition imo, but if the price is good, then polaris cards are pretty good.

BTRE commented on 11 July 2019 at 2:54 pm UTC

RoosterAMD:

Cons:
- less supported for Linux native games (example: https://support.feralinteractive.com/en/faqs/mesa_support/)

It's important to distinguish between "not supported" and "doesn't work" - I have nearly every Feral port and they all work with Mesa now. A lot of the "not supported" in that list was when Mesa was missing certain OpenGL extensions or whatnot years ago.

In practice, there's only a handful of games in my several hundred steam game library that don't work or require a Mesa-specific workaround. So long as you have a recent kernel and recent Mesa you should be good to go.

As for performance: radv is excellent and if you look at benchmarks on Phoronix and other sites, AMD cards are competitive with their Nvidia offerings in their price range save for the really high end range.

XpanderWith AMD there are so many combinations of drivers, LLVM versions, Gallium, Mesa all the mess, to get up to dat.
The only time you need to worry about LLVM is if you're compiling from source. On Arch it's as simple as installing the Mesa package and the vulkan-radeon package. What else would you need?

chancho_zombie commented on 11 July 2019 at 8:45 pm UTC

Xpander
chancho_zombieI like AMD nothing is holding me back from running the latest kernel, updating the drivers is just trivial. With NVIDIA you are stuck with older kernels. With the work done by valve and other companies, there is a lot improvement potential on the AMD drivers, most likely AMD drivers will improve in the upcoming years and NVIDIA will just stale.

As for performance AMD counterparts are on par with NVIDIA, so if you are not going for the high end, where NVIDIA has the lead, on the mid-range and low range AMD it's the clear choice (imho).

stuck with older kernels, really?. There have been few issues with rc kernels, but you can still patch the drivers for git builds. Anyway, with up to date release kernels, i never experienced any issues with drivers, you just have to have the latest drivers for latest kernel/xorg. Aalso you don't usually need git kernels with nvidia as they dont give you anything, with AMD you likely need, because of added features/improvements etc.


I'd say Nvidia is more pain free on Linux. Install the distro, Install the drivers and be done with it.
With AMD there are so many combinations of drivers, LLVM versions, Gallium, Mesa all the mess, to get up to date.
That being said, i think in midrange AMD is still pretty good. Navi GPUs specially, but they need some driver improvements first. Polaris seems way too powerhungry for its perf, compared to competition imo, but if the price is good, then polaris cards are pretty good.

I probably have some misconceptions about NVIDIA, but there's also some misconceptions, about AMD, on NVIDIA users as well. Mesa stable release is already in a very good shape, the 18 stable branch onwards, I think that the only piece that's missing is OpenGL 4.6, and that can be fixed with Mesa bundled profiling config/tool (that comes out of the box). And about git kernels I never run git kernels or rc kernels in fact I prefer LTS kernels or kernels that have over 15 point releases.
That happened years ago when the open source drivers were just starting, and yes you are right at that time running git mesa was a requirement for getting good support.
But I like the idea , from time if I want, I can give some RC/git kernel a spin, sometimes I do, to take a peak to know what's up with new features. But as I said, most of the time I like to run well proven stable kernels.
Anyway, for me it's an advantage that if I want I can try a git kernel or mesa git to check how it is running and if there's some bug normally I report it and most of the times it gets fixed.
I think that on the performance front it's highly debatable which one is better because some games will run better on NVIDIA or some on AMD, and yes there some games that run better on AMD counterparts, namely some DXVK games.
For example look at this benchmarks, https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=linux-sub200-2019gpus&num=3
The rx 570 is beating the 1650 NVIDIA counterpart on most DXVK benchmarks, and the Rx 570 is cheaper, again imho if you are talking about mid range and low range, the race is close but from my point of view AMD is better.

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