AMD and Valve are developing an improved Linux CPU driver that will benefit the Steam Deck

nanoguy

Posts: 894   +12
Staff member
In brief: AMD and Valve are working on an improved Linux CPU driver that improves the frequency scaling on Zen 2 processors. This should lend more credibility to Valve's claim that the Steam Deck can achieve at least 30 frames per second in all modern games.

When Valve announced the Steam Deck last month, it brought a lot of excitement among gamers who had been waiting for a way to play their favorite games from their Steam library wherever they want, without having to lug around a proper gaming laptop. Even Epic CEO Tim Sweeney thinks it's a great idea, but as always execution is what will ultimately determine whether or not it will become a success.

There's been a lot of speculation as to how well the console will perform, and the specs are quite impressive considering the size, at least on paper. Valve says the custom AMD APU paired with 16 GB of LPDDR5 memory is capable of at least 30 frames per second in pretty much any recent AAA game, but the company hasn't go into greater detail.

We can only assume the Steam Deck's RDNA 2 GPU is probably good enough to run games at low-medium settings on the 800p display (especially with the aid of AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution in games that support it), but the performance targeted by Valve may also be the result of additional software optimization work.

According to a Phoronix report, Valve has partnered with AMD to develop a better Linux driver for the Zen 2 CPU in the new console that should solve CPU performance scaling issues, among other things.

The main reason for this development effort is that the current ACPI CPUFreq driver is "not very performance/power efficiency [efficient] for modern AMD platforms."

In other words, the new driver will allow the processor in the Steam Deck to quickly ramp up to a higher performance state when needed and achieve better performance per watt. This is important as the power budget for both the CPU and the GPU is relatively limited at 15W.

We'll know more about AMD's new Linux CPU driver in September, as the company is expected to share more details at the X.org Developer Conference (XDC).

Permalink to story.

 

Tantor

Posts: 188   +331
YAY!

I run Dying Light, Valheim, Stellaris, the entire Civ series, and much more in Linux. I dual boot, but the last time I actually used Windows for anything was 6 months ago.

Gaming quality (FPS, graphics, temps, etc.) seems every bit as good as Windows.

 

Irata

Posts: 1,658   +2,777
As a happy side effect we might even see improved performance for Ryzen laptops running Linux, I'm sure a tiny amount of users but still.
One if them might be Charlie Demerjian.

In any case, I‘d call this win-win.
 

NeoMorpheus

Posts: 877   +1,637
YAY!

I run Dying Light, Valheim, Stellaris, the entire Civ series, and much more in Linux. I dual boot, but the last time I actually used Windows for anything was 6 months ago.

Gaming quality (FPS, graphics, temps, etc.) seems every bit as good as Windows.

I am really curious to see how good SteamOS 3.0 will be..

If it is that good, I hope that Steam keeps updating and supporting it more often than the previous one.
 

Rayneofpayne

Posts: 396   +331
As a happy side effect we might even see improved performance for Ryzen laptops running Linux, I'm sure a tiny amount of users but still.
Less that 4% of the world wide market(desktop and laptop) share use linux and that figure is thrown in basically with custom and other OSes, Windows Typically holds onto 80% and Apple has about 14% total but that includes devices that still use MohaveOS and legacy OS for Apple as well as modern MacOS.
Tbh yeah it will be a great deal to those people especially in the retro arcade scene as it gives them options as well.
TBH this will benefit console like devices more so than anything.

*Edit*Also keep in mind there is 2% fluctuation in market share hence why it doesn't add up, forgot to add that as people like to argue about the numbers not adding up fully to 100%.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
2-8 hours of battery life quoted. We all know what that means, 2 hours of intensive gaming. On top of that this thing is enormous, nearly 2 inches thick and more weight than 1.5 iPads.

Software and drivers still need optimising and they still need a compatibility layer. They don’t need windows. So why did they go with X86 CPUs? Mobile solutions would be able to deliver similar performance in a much smaller device with a longer battery life for less money.

Il be watching. I would absolutely love a handheld gaming pc that I could travel with. This thing is too big and heavy by far, weighing more than all the electronics I travel with combined but it may spawn smaller more powerful devices further down the line.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 928   +1,708
Less that 4% of the world wide market(desktop and laptop) share use linux and that figure is thrown in basically with custom and other OSes, Windows Typically holds onto 80% and Apple has about 14% total but that includes devices that still use MohaveOS and legacy OS for Apple as well as modern MacOS.
Tbh yeah it will be a great deal to those people especially in the retro arcade scene as it gives them options as well.
TBH this will benefit console like devices more so than anything.

*Edit*Also keep in mind there is 2% fluctuation in market share hence why it doesn't add up, forgot to add that as people like to argue about the numbers not adding up fully to 100%.
I as actually thinking of embedded ryzen devices after I posted that myself too: Raspberry Pi type boards work well on Linux but Ryzen Embedded could potentially fill the "powerful development board" niché like the Jetson nano has in the past.
 

defaultluser

Posts: 225   +182
Il be watching. I would absolutely love a handheld gaming pc that I could travel with. This thing is too big and heavy by far, weighing more than all the electronics I travel with combined but it may spawn smaller more powerful devices further down the line.

Yeah, I couldn't get behind's Nintendo's push for supersizing (3ds is as large as I want my portable to be) ...but even fans able to take the gargantuan size of a Switch in Portable can't begin to fathom holding this thing in their hands - it's OVER twice the weight of a Switch Lite!
 

Lounds

Posts: 892   +795
Everyone's talking about proton having some overhead but folk keep forgetting that Windows 10 has massive amount of overheads and background tasks running constantly. This is good news it just means more potential out of the device. No one is expecting this to be like a games console where you can tap every last bit of juice out of it like the Nintendo Switch but man this is gonna be a pretty decent handheld gaming device that will be able to play most PC games at 720/800 resolution on low to medium settings, which is still higher than what the Switch can do where games have to be lowered even further. Look at the Witcher 3 and Crysis for example, although both are still very playable.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
This thing is going to be like a George Foreman grill. You will use it a few times when you first get it, have some great times then put it away and not use it for months. It’s about the same size aswell 🤷🏻‍♂️.
 

Rayneofpayne

Posts: 396   +331
I as actually thinking of embedded ryzen devices after I posted that myself too: Raspberry Pi type boards work well on Linux but Ryzen Embedded could potentially fill the "powerful development board" niché like the Jetson nano has in the past.
Yeah, I completely agree on that, embedded AMD solutions similar in nature to Intel NUC design down to raspberry pi like devices could explode in popularity, esp. Linux based if they put the effort into it and focus on improving the experience.
 

bandit8623

Posts: 331   +181
This thing is going to be like a George Foreman grill. You will use it a few times when you first get it, have some great times then put it away and not use it for months. It’s about the same size aswell 🤷🏻‍♂️.
Not if driver and EFI optimizations happen. You will have the choice to cook an egg or warm a biscuit.
😄
 

theruck

Posts: 362   +193
First you announce a device
then you get the components you build it from
then you start doing drivers for CPU
then you prey it will be a success
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
First you announce a device
then you get the components you build it from
then you start doing drivers for CPU
then you prey it will be a success

Are you talking about the Deck or something else? Because the Deck has been in development for years.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 3,599   +1,710
A) Are they still developing this thing to be announcing a driver collab? Is current perf so low it needs it asap?
B) If eMMC is good, calm buyers with a benchmark preview.
C) Why was IGN given a device with games installed on SD? You'd think they would be installed on NVMe to put the device in the best light.
D) Weak non-upgradeable CPU at low res is never a good idea. Older Zen 2 with current gen RDNA2 seems like it was that or nothing to make up for CPU perf.

There's something off about the Deck. Kinda Steam machine-y vibes I got from that. They wanted $500 for a machine with a 750Ti. I know I sound like a hater, but I have a bad feeling about this.
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
A) Are they still developing this thing to be announcing a driver collab? Is current perf so low it needs it asap?
What does this sentence even mean?
Of course they are always developing it and improving it. Why would they not?


B) If eMMC is good, calm buyers with a benchmark preview.
Please elaborate. What do you mean by this?

C) Why was IGN given a device with games installed on SD? You'd think they would be installed on NVMe to put the device in the best light.
It's actually the other way around. IGN was impressed when they realized that the games were running from SD and still it performed well:


D) Weak non-upgradeable CPU at low res is never a good idea. Older Zen 2 with current gen RDNA2 seems like it was that or nothing to make up for CPU perf.
Everything is a trade-off. Too powerful CPU and the battery time will suffer. What is important is whether it's powerful enough to run the games that people expect at the performance that people expect. That remains to be seen.
There's something off about the Deck. Kinda Steam machine-y vibes I got from that. They wanted $500 for a machine with a 750Ti. I know I sound like a hater, but I have a bad feeling about this.
Is there anything in the market with this form factor with these performance numbers at a lower price than the Deck?
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
Everything is a trade-off. Too powerful CPU and the battery time will suffer. What is important is whether it's powerful enough to run the games that people expect at the performance that people expect. That remains to be seen.

Is there anything in the market with this form factor with these performance numbers at a lower price than the Deck?
The battery life is currently 2-8 hours, 2 hours for 3D gaming, so if that’s a trade off then it’s a pretty sorry position. And yes there is comparable hardware in the mobile market. Mobile GPUs can be quite impressive, the iPad Pro has a GPU that can technically push more data than an Xbox one GPU.

Every successful mobile gaming device in history has had bespoke hardware and software. Nvidia have their Tegra X1 solution which is used in the shield and Switch and there is a new one coming probably next year for the successive Nintendo switch (switch pro? Switch 4K?), rumours include that it will bring ray tracing and DLSS to Nintendo’s line up. If the rumours bear true it’s likely to be considerably faster than this RDNA2 solution from AMD. But it’s worth noting that the rumour mill did predict it to come out this year when all we are getting is an upgraded display to OLED, no upgrade to the chip on the switch this year (probably a smart decision with the chip shortages)

But I don’t think there is anything in the form factor of the steam deck on existence that we can compare to (Sega game gear maybe? But that was smaller and lighter still). It’s enormous, more than twice the weight of most modern mobile game systems, 2.4 times the weight of the switch lite which sports the ageing Nvidia Tegra unit. Laptops bear the closest resemblance in terms of weight, hardware and footprint.
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
The battery life is currently 2-8 hours, 2 hours for 3D gaming, so if that’s a trade off then it’s a pretty sorry position. And yes there is comparable hardware in the mobile market. Mobile GPUs can be quite impressive, the iPad Pro has a GPU that can technically push more data than an Xbox one GPU.

What does "can technically push" mean?
All articles about the Deck so far have compared the performance with that of PS4. That's not bad for a handheld.
It is much much more powerful than the Switch or any mobile. Naturally since the Switch is getting quite old by now.

Every successful mobile gaming device in history has had bespoke hardware and software.

How is the Deck any different in this regard?

Nvidia have their Tegra X1 solution which is used in the shield and Switch and there is a new one coming probably next year for the successive Nintendo switch (switch pro? Switch 4K?), rumours include that it will bring ray tracing and DLSS to Nintendo’s line up. If the rumours bear true it’s likely to be considerably faster than this RDNA2 solution from AMD.

Well, until a successor to the Switch is released it does not exist. It's of no use comparing the Deck with a hypothetical new version of the Switch that *might* be released next year and *might* be more powerful than the Deck that will launch at the end of this year.

But I don’t think there is anything in the form factor of the steam deck on existence that we can compare to (Sega game gear maybe? But that was smaller and lighter still). It’s enormous, more than twice the weight of most modern mobile game systems, 2.4 times the weight of the switch lite which sports the ageing Nvidia Tegra unit. Laptops bear the closest resemblance in terms of weight, hardware and footprint.

Yes, I agree that it is a bit like a powerful laptop but in a gaming form factor. We'll see how it goes. I think it will do OK. Not like the Switch but OK. It will not be a fiasco like the Steam machines and it will not be a roaring success.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
What does "can technically push" mean? 😊
All articles about the Deck so far have compared the performance with that of PS4. That's not bad for a handheld.
It is much much more powerful than the Switch or any mobile. Naturally since the Switch is getting quite old by now.



How is the Deck any different in this regard?



Well, until a successor to the Switch is released it does not exist. It's of no use comparing the Deck with a hypothetical new version of the Switch that *might* be released next year and *might* be more powerful than the Deck that will launch at the end of this year.



Yes, I agree that it is a bit like a powerful laptop but in a gaming form factor. We'll see how it goes. I think it will do OK. Not like the Switch but OK. It will not be a fiasco like the Steam machines and it will not be a roaring success.
Can you link me these articles which show PS4 performance on the steam deck? I didn’t think it was that powerful, valve state they target 720p/30fps and that’s a lot weaker than a PS4 in most games. It does have more memory and a much stronger CPU than a PS4 though.

What I mean by push data is exactly that. The GPU in the 2018 iPad Pro was quoted at being a higher teraflop part. It’s not a very good measure of comparison but it’s difficult to compare the GPUs as they both run completely different software. But Apples GPUs are powerful, there are a lot of games that have impressive visuals on the Apple Arcade. The main problem with a GPU like Apples is cost, it’s not cheap or easy to develop a bespoke graphics processor.

Yeah the successor to the switch is not released or even announced but a new Nintendo console will come sooner rather than later. The og switch has been out since 2017, 4 years now. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it’s successor out before holiday 2022. But yes, it was a hypothetical point. But we are talking about an unreleased steam console of which there is a lot we don’t know about. However I do not believe the switch is the best comparison, it runs bespoke software which is where it gets most of its advantage. Games are optimised specifically for the switch. This is a pc gaming handheld and offers a different experience. But millions of people do use a switch as a handheld gaming solution and currently they don’t have any competitors. Valve will want to take some of the switch market.

I play a lot of handheld games on my switch lite. I’d love a handheld gaming pc. But this steam deck will not replace my switch lite as its simply far too big. But if Valve made a small one, comparable to a switch lite, I’d be very interested and could potentially switch (ahem) if the software is good enough.
 

tomas42

Posts: 11   +9
Can you link me these articles which show PS4 performance on the steam deck? I didn’t think it was that powerful, valve state they target 720p/30fps and that’s a lot weaker than a PS4 in most games. It does have more memory and a much stronger CPU than a PS4 though.
Sure:


"A more apt comparison, at least when it comes to predicting the Steam Deck’s approximate power, may be that of the last console generation: at 1.6 teraflops, it slots in neatly between the Xbox One S (1.4 teraflops) and the PS4 (1.8 teraflops) in terms of raw graphical prowess. The Steam Deck does use a more modern RDNA 2 architecture, though, so it’s hard to directly compare the two on specs alone."

The 30 fps is apparently a lower limit if I recall correctly.
 

ron baer

Posts: 27   +10
YAY!

I run Dying Light, Valheim, Stellaris, the entire Civ series, and much more in Linux. I dual boot, but the last time I actually used Windows for anything was 6 months ago.

Gaming quality (FPS, graphics, temps, etc.) seems every bit as good as Windows.
what flavor you running?
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,717   +1,322
Sure:


"A more apt comparison, at least when it comes to predicting the Steam Deck’s approximate power, may be that of the last console generation: at 1.6 teraflops, it slots in neatly between the Xbox One S (1.4 teraflops) and the PS4 (1.8 teraflops) in terms of raw graphical prowess. The Steam Deck does use a more modern RDNA 2 architecture, though, so it’s hard to directly compare the two on specs alone."

The 30 fps is apparently a lower limit if I recall correctly.
That article does not confirm ps4 performance at all, the article even states its difficult to compare and that the steam deck has a lower output. Sounds like wishful thinking if you ask me. It may not be too far off but the PS4 runs most games at 1080p.

You can see the rough performance on the 5700G APU review as that has vega 8 RDNA2. It’s good enough for 720p for most games I would say but is unable to hit 30 in a lot of AAA titles at 1080p. Horizon Zero Dawn runs around 24 FPS on the 5700G but this game hits 30 on a PS4. And I should hope 30 FPS is the lower limit! games are unplayable below 30.

Bur this 5700G is a desktop part, the solution in the steam deck is a mobile unit with less power and cooling, it also has less cores and cache in its CPU. The steam deck doesn’t need to be as powerful as a PS4 to be a success. But I personally don’t think it’s healthy to expect PS4 level performance from this thing as you might well be disappointed.