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[Rant]: RX 5700... a frustrating experience
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Tuxee 3 Nov, 2019

After several generations of NVidia cards I decided to switch back to AMD. Prior to my NVidia period my experiences with AMD cards had been... well, mediocre (proprietary drivers always lagging behind kernel releases, open source drivers laughably bad). But since then the open source drivers are supposed to be in good shape and with the RX 5700 a truly competitive hardware is finally available. What could possibly go wrong...

Got my Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 this October (I wanted a quiet custom design) and I was well aware that I required a 5.3 kernel, manually copied firmware and 19.2 Mesa drivers.
I set up a brand new Ubuntu 19.10 on my rig - a X570 board with 3700X and 32Gig RAM - added the firmware (wasn't there upon default install) and the Oibaf-PPA.
Outcome: A constant flow of
amdgpu: [powerplay] Failed to send message ...
or
amdgpu: [powerplay] Failed to export SMU metrics table!

Result: An unusable desktop which crashes hard after a few minutes.

Back to my trusty 18.04, added mainline kernel, added firmware, added Oibaf. This interestingly works. A dmesg shows nothing disturbing. Well, kinda works. It crashes hard every now and then, but not too often. Crashing games I can live with, but a crashing browser is more of an annoyance.

Googling and finding threads like that

https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=111481

I heartily have to agree to one of the posters there which states

QuoteWe’re Amd customers like anyone else, support was supposed to be introduced on Mesa 19.2 and improved on Mesa 19.3, so far none of these two versions work properly. Please get your shit together Amd, this is ridiculous.
because I don't get the feeling that this is going to be fixed anytime soon. After all the RX 5700 was introduced about 4 months ago... (He got reprimanded for "name calling" though I found he had put it "rather mildly".)

Next thing: OpenCL. I wasn't aware that the open source drivers lack that entirely. Extracting binaries from the proprietary packages and manually placing them appropriately fixed that too.

I'm all for Open Source but at this point I can only recommend NVidia graphic cards with their proprietary drivers. They just "work". I've always considered the attacks of Windows users claiming "hardware problems with Linux" as unfounded. And I was right - never had them. Till I came across the RX 5700. Now you really "have to compile kernels and drivers" and "do everything in a shell, typing cryptic commands".

On the bright side: Doing some Vulkan benchmarks yielded spectacular frame rates when compared to my previous GTX1060:
  • War Thunder saw a 70% increase (this game works now more stable with Vulkan than OpenGL, albeit far from flawless)
  • Shadow of Mordor went from 90 FPS to 146
  • Talos Principle exploded from 60 FPS to 280

sub 3 Nov, 2019

Damn, what a bummer. :/

I can only hope that this is during transition
to the new architecture and will be sorted out soon.

So far I'm more than pleased with AMD's politics and support.
Yet, I don't have one of the new cards.

I can fully understand your anger.

[freedesktop.org is down?]

tuxintuxedo 3 Nov, 2019

I somewhat understand where you are coming from, but note, that Linux users are still less important, than Windows users from the viewpoint of any kind of company (Nvidia included).
AMD truly made a huge turnover regarding their Linux drivers, but it can be expected to lag behind somewhat. Although I don't have problems with the AMD cards I have or with the ones my friends own, I wouldn't recommend one which is younger than half a year because of the support. That's sad, but currently not much can be done. AMD's Linux team has great people, but the upper management and the communication inside the company is still lacking in this regard.
So the most I can suggest is to try again the "flawless experience" sometime later, when it will be ready, like for older AMD cards.

Last edited by tuxintuxedo on 3 November 2019 at 12:24 pm UTC

sub 3 Nov, 2019

Quoting: tuxintuxedoI somewhat understand where you are coming from, but note, that Linux users are still less important, than Windows users from the viewpoint of any kind of company (Nvidia included).
AMD truly made a huge turnover regarding their Linux drivers, but it can be expected to lag behind somewhat. Although I don't have problems with the AMD cards I have or with the ones my friends own, I wouldn't recommend one which is younger than half a year because of the support. That's sad, but currently not much can be done. AMD's Linux team has great people, but the upper management and the communication inside the company is still lacking in this regard.
So the most I can suggest is to try again the "flawless experience" sometime later, when it will be ready, like for older AMD cards.

The Linux team has surely great people and absolutely
love the FOSS drivers / documentation available.

I currently only see one major problem with it,
that might cause problems like described by the OP.

Mesa has a release cycle. So unless you're able to build the stack yourself,
this means sometime waiting 3-6 month for a release that (properly) supports the new hardware.
In particular, if there is a major architecture change.
Now, why not simply push the new code earlier?
Well, products that are not released (probably announced) but have no official specs yet,are understandably a problem for AMD by means that they don't want to expose details early,that gives competition a major advantage. Be it simply to have an existing products ready that's at least competitive in the bang for buck target regime.

While I'm sure that AMD has an internal review process for the patches,
they have to undergo another review when they are pushed to Mesa.
Hence, this can't be simply done right before a release.

If you think exposing information early isn't a problem, then you have missed the many
news sites (not Linux related) that tried to speculate about upcoming AMD GPUs just by
some commits to Mesa. So this is a problem.
And while this stuff sometimes looks hard to read, people that are really interested
in those bits (read competitors) DO KNOW how to extract valuable information from it.

This is a true dilemma.
That could maybe just be resolved if Mesa would allow for private code reviews (including NDA),
which they probably won't consider for other good reason.

Last edited by sub on 3 November 2019 at 3:05 pm UTC

Tuxee 3 Nov, 2019

I've been long enough on Linux to be aware of the lack of importance for manufacturers, however when selling hardware which states on the package "supported operating systems include Linux, Windows 7 and Windows 10" I expect a working driver. There ARE packages provided by AMD, too (the ones I used to get my OpenCL support) but it is unclear whether their packages dating from August work any more reliably than my current setup (being it the closed source or open source variants).

The power consumption of 30W when idling should be addressed by kernel 5.4. Hopefully...

Phoronix had benchmarks up and running by the end of July (yes, everything was bleeding edge then)
https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=rx-5700-july&num=1
but three months later I don't think I'm asking too much when I ask for a somewhat stable driver. (Or at least guidelines which will yield a stable system.)

With the Oibaf PPA I am on the most recent Mesa stack. But there are several firmware versions floating around and the kernel has to be recent enough (with an 18.04 Ubuntu you will get the official 5.3 kernel next spring).

And then we look to the Green Side: Get a GTX2060, get pretty much any of their drivers readily available in repositories (they had RTX support in their drivers the same day they released the hardware), and - it works.

Whether withholding information will yield competitive advantages is questionable. For fellow Linux users I just can't recommend AMD cards. By the time the issues for the RX5700 are ironed out, the next generation is ready to launch. And the reports about bugs and problems might also bleed into the Windows world, fueling a general perception of AMD being sub-par.

Well, I just got carried away. I was pissed. Writing these posts helped :)

tuubi 3 Nov, 2019

Quoting: subThis is a true dilemma.
That could maybe just be resolved if Mesa would allow for private code reviews (including NDA),
which they probably won't consider for other good reason.
Nothing stops AMD from developing and beta-testing their hardware support internally before it's ever officially submitted to MESA for inclusion. Of course they do this already, but obviously big chunks weren't even started on when Navi HW was already on the shelves. In any case, MESA's licensing or development model do not force them to release any information or source code early so you're barking up the wrong tree.

MESA's code reviews aren't the reason Navi still has major bugs and missing functionality that were basically only discovered when a customer tried running a popular game or application on a popular distribution. AMD simply doesn't have a big enough Linux driver team to properly test and support a new consumer hardware architecture in a timely fashion.

All that said, my next GPU will most likely be AMD again. I'm rarely in a hurry to buy the latest and greatest anyway. I have been thinking about the 5700, but I don't think I'll take a serious look until Christmas.

TobyGornow 3 Nov, 2019

I feel you and agree 100% with you, If I had knew I would've dished out 100 bucks more and got me a 2070 Super instead of the 5700xt.

I'm not a Linux Poweruser so installing the latest Kernel-Rc then finding that it lacks the firmware and installing it, building the latest mesa-git, the one that is bugged with the game you're actually playing, filing a bug, waiting for the patch to be merged, re-building mesa to actually use your hardware is really really tedious for a product that is almost 5 months old. And you're right when you say it's exactly how Windows users describes us.

Heck, if I've gone the nvidia way : Unplug the old card, plug the new one, better than Windows.

I'm rendering some stuff on Blender and like you I need OpenCl, so right now my GTX 970 is better with her old working cuda cores.

Right now I'm satisfied, it's working well and I'm sorry to learn that you're crashing cause I don't have this problem, but tomorrow ? I feel like it's working but with duct tape and zip ties holding everything together and one wrong update or upgrade could mess it all really quickly.

Last edited by TobyGornow on 3 November 2019 at 6:48 pm UTC

Shmerl 4 Nov, 2019

5.3 is required, but far from enough. For at least moderately stable experience, use 5.4-rc6. Plus Mesa master to run games. Too many games hang with radeonsi with older Mesa. radv for the most part is OK.

Shmerl 4 Nov, 2019

Quoting: TuxeeThe power consumption of 30W when idling should be addressed by kernel 5.4. Hopefully...

Depending on your resolution and refresh rate, it's not addressed.

See: https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=111482

There is conflicting info on that. Some claim that for high resolution / high refresh rate. GDDR6 needs 30W (and they observe it on Windows as well) so it's not a bug, it simply differs from HBM2 which can handle it with less.

However others say, that it's possible to run it with less (see suspend resume sequence example). I tested that and indeed it's possible. So something is clearly missing here.

See also #amd-navi-linux chat room on matrix.org for active discussion.

Last edited by Shmerl on 4 November 2019 at 5:21 am UTC

damarrin 5 years 4 Nov, 2019

At least we will now have this thread to point people to when they ask what gfx card to get for their Linux machine.

I have a computer with an AMD GPU. It hangs hard any time from 5 seconds to 5 minutes after booting the system. I don't use it much.

Tuxee 4 Nov, 2019

Quoting: Shmerl5.3 is required, but far from enough. For at least moderately stable experience, use 5.4-rc6. Plus Mesa master to run games. Too many games hang with radeonsi with older Mesa. radv for the most part is OK.

Well 5.4 should be out in two or three weeks. I'll try it once it becomes stable. After all, I have to work on the machine, too...

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