Know which Vulkan API drivers run on AMD hardware on Linux.
We have done a very complete article on drivers for AMD GPUs on Linux, as well as about Nvidia drivers. Now it's time to talk about the Vulkan graphics API drivers that work with AMD GPUs.
When it comes to running Vulkan applications on Linux on AMD hardware, in addition to the Mesa and AMDGPU drivers, the applications also use a Vulkan driver, either RADV or AMDVLK.
To have a better understanding of this article, it is extremely important that you have at least reasonable knowledge of available AMD video drivers for Linux, otherwise you might get a little lost when you come across some names like AMDGPU, AMDGU-PRO, Radeon, Mesa and etc. If you don't know what each of these drivers is, first read the article we did about AMD drivers on Linux, and then continue reading this article. This way we ensure that you have the best experience possible by absorbing the content provided here.
The RADV driver, which in conjunction with the video driver and Mesa responsible for running Vulkan applications on Linux, is included with AMDGPU. Therefore the Vulkan driver is used on the vast majority of Linux systems running on a machine with an AMD graphics chip.
The community-maintained open source RADV is the Vulkan driver that performs better in gaming, although the difference is not that great. RADV is not only present on systems running on older graphics chips, as they use the Radeon driver, which in turn does not support Vulkan.
More details about the Radeon driver can be found in the AMD drivers article linked at the beginning of this article, as well as in this article.
The AMDVLK driver has the same function as RADV, but it was developed and maintained by AMD itself. AMDVLK is integrated with the AMDGPU-PRO driver, and has slightly lower gaming performance compared to RADV, although it may be a better choice for those using the computer for work such as video editing or 3D modeling.
Like AMDGPU-PRO, AMDVLK has compatibility with a very limited number of distributions, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.5, Ubuntu 16.04 and Ubuntu 18.04. Both Fedora and Ubuntu flavors are not officially supported.
Although it is included with AMDGPU-PRO, AMDVLK can also be installed on compatible distros using AMDGPU. To install on Ubuntu 16.04 or 18.04 you can install the file in .deb which can be found on Github official project release page. The video below shows a comparison made by the Claudio of the channel Mr Rob Linux Brazil, comparing game performance and synthetic benchmarks between RADV and AMDVLK.
Did you already know about these drivers, or have you tested AMDVLK? Tell us in the comments.
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