Is Linux a better Gaming OS for Ryzen APUs? (Native, Proton, dxvk and lutris)


This video is brought to you by CuriosityStream,
which know comes with a really cool thing called Nebula for free. One of the greatest things about PC gaming
is all the options at your disposal. There are tons of brands for cases, power supplies, a million hard drives, motherboards, for gaming CPUs there was virtually one option
for a while and then Ryzen became a thing and well, look
at that. Nvidia dominates on the GPU front but AMD is improving there and… oh wow, would
you look at that. And Intel is getting on that soon! Then there are lots of monitors, memories and lots of options for operating sys… oh, oh
no. So far Microsoft has been pretty aware of
their dangerous position as the sole option for an operating system and they are, for
example, publishing a lot of their own games on platforms
outside the Microsoft Store, like Steam not to mention making it very easy to use
their operating system for free on eternal trial mode with very little penalty. But given the history of what happens, every
time options are reduced to one I am always alarmed by the evergrowing dominance of Windows
as a gaming OS. Not to mention how it tends to limit the options
in term of what a gaming PC can be. Imagine if Alienware’s fancy dandy handheld
PC computer wanted to have its own custom OS optimized for lower resource usage or controller
input. But they can’t, they get the same windows
as everyone else. Apple seems even less interested on gaming
outside their very specific walled garden so that leaves us with the penguin. The family of operating systems using the
Linux kernel. Now, this is not the first time I even touch
on the concept of Linux gaming. I did this video in 2018 using a low-end Nvidia
gt 1030 and was positively surprised on what steam play could do, but on that video, I
said the following about AMD: I will focus on Nvidia GPUs for this video As the drivers are also the easiest to install I am aware that there is a powerful open source AMD driver but it is also a fair bit more complicated to install More on that later This, turn out, was not true. What happens is that if you Google “AMD Driver
Linux” you get support pages that are extraordinarily intimidating for any Linux noob, versus the
one thing Nvidia provides for install. In reality, the current situation with AMD
way, way better. Open-Source AMD Drivers are not only very
mature but included in the mainline Linux kernel, which is a fancy way of saying that
for a lot of AMD GPUs Linux will just work for gaming out of the box without any extra
effort. Now if you try building a budget gaming PC
in 2020 from new components AMD APUs dominate so thoroughly that there just aren’t sub $100
options for dedicated GPU and competitive Intel options are still off in the future. So that leads to me wondering if you are building
a low-end AMD APU gaming PC like this fantastic mini PC that I built for a video earlier this
year that now never leaves my desk how viable of a system is Linux as a gaming OS in case
Microsoft starts to reconsider its position as a benevolent dictator? For this experiment, I will be using
the aforementioned mini PC based around a Ryzen 3 3200G with Vega 8 integrated graphics
and 8 Gb of RAM. Since my interest here is not to squeeze the
best Linux performance ever since… that is beyond my current Linux skill, I wanted
to see what sort of thing could be gotten with a lower effort to someone considering
joining in. Linux, as an I previously mentioned, is not
one monolithic operating system but a family of open source systems which can all, given
enough skills be customized to work and look in widely different ways including minimization
of background usage of resources. Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distribution
due to its large community, ease of use and it being impressively easy to install, at
least on an empty hard drive. Lubuntu is a variant of Ubuntu designed to
be as lightweight as possible by removing a lot of non-essential services and using
a very lightweight UI which still looks pretty freaking good. I would say if you are looking for an OS for
a laptop that is too weak for Windows this is right up there. They have improved it a ton since the last
time I tried. And, more importantly, Ubuntu is fully supported
by Steam and installing it is very easy and right from there you have several games available
to play. But before launching our first game, a clarification. AMD GPUs on Linux use two things, the main
open source driver and Mesa that translates openGL or Vulkan to the driver). In Nvidia their propierary driver replaces
all of that. In AMD you can updated Mesa just very easily
with a command or package manager but the base open source driver comes in the
kernel which is like the core of the operating system that interacts with the hardware. The good thing about this is that often you
do not have to worry about that driver as long as the OS is updated, the bad part is that distributions that Ubuntu
do not really use the latest kernel available but rather a few versions behind that have
been thoroughly tested for bugs, meaning that it sometimes takes a bit of time for critical
drivers fixes to get to you. The good thing is that for a Linux noob changing
the kernel is super easy thanks to software like Ukuu. I changed from 5.3.0 which was the stock included
in Lubuntu to 5.4.15 which was the latest stable kernel at the time of writing. By the time this video comes out there will
very probably be a newer kernel but when I tested to verify this video the performance
was mostly the same. Interestingly enough I tested with a variety
of games and saw no performance difference so for most stuff, you might want to stick
to a tested stock kernel if you experience bugs or devices not working however it can
improve game compatibility and there is one example where I noticed this: Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It would simply
crash when trying to render anything on the stock kernel and it just works on the newer
kernel. Also, I made sure to get the CPU to performance
mode with this command before testing which actually made a difference. Right, let´s get testing. Part one: Native Ports. The situation with games being ported natively
to Linux is tricky. Lots of Indie games are still coming, eventually,
to Linux but big players like Rocket League have recently
been retracting their support which is a bit of a shame and possibly marks the start of
a trend of Unreal Engine moving away from Linux which is worrying. Still, other Linux ports continue to exists
like the full modern Tomb Raider trilogy ported by Linux by the great Feral Interactive, since
all 3 Tomb Raider games have included Benchmarks this is a great place to start doing some
comparisons. Another thing I am going to benchmark is Counter-Strike
Global Offensive. Valve has had a long term commitment of porting
and maintaining their games to Linux, concerned as I am of the consequences of Window’s dominance. Now there is a consistently present belief
I see in comments and discussions about Linux where people recommend Linux as a way of getting
more gaming performance on their low-end PCs and… I have issues with how often I see this advice. I see where it comes from, distributions like
Lubuntu have vastly lower background resource usage compared to Windows but even Native ports are done in such a way
that often some performance impact inevitable and people like Feral do their best to try
and get as close to Windows as possible. For example, Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb
Raider both came remarkably close to Windows, much better than I expected. The difference is within a range that is surprisingly
manageable. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a different story,
but given the issues I was having with the Kernel, there is likely some bigger issue
here that requires a bit of thinking so I will give that one the benefit of the doubt. Counter-Strike Global Offensive, on the other
hand, is another story. To my immense surprise while running benchmarks
often Linux would come out top by the tiniest margin. Not enough for me to go: LINUX IS BETTER FOR LOW-END AMD CSGO GAMING. DOWNLOAD NOW. After all this is within the margin of error,
but the fact that it is at least perfectly on par is pretty amazing when you consider
how much lighter Linux can be. However, as all, you already probably know
Native is only the tip of the Linux iceberg when it comes to gaming, especially now. The constant star of the show is Proton, a
compatibility layer mostly maintained by Valve and integrated right into Steam. In fact, I was surprised to notice that Valve
is so confident in this tool that when searching for games on Linux they will display games
officially supported by Proton along with native ports without anything clearly telling
you they are running on a compatibility layer until you click play. And while this video was being edited a new
version of proton came out too. It did not change the performance of this
test but it does increase compatibility increasing the list of games you can play on Linux. For example, the ever fantastic Dark Souls
3 is directly supported and works pretty well, with the additional advantage that since this
is Steam we are talking about my dear Steam Controller, rest in pieces, works from the box with all my presets without
issues. When comparing to Windows the performance
impact was there and it was definitely noticeable, a loss of more than 10-15 FPS at this level
is nothing to joke about but it was still playable and usable. Now you can break of the Steam maintained
list of proven Proton compatible games and use Proton on pretty much anything in your
steam library… which can have mixed results. There is a fantastic community maintained
site called ProtonDB where people can make reports of their experiments and games are
assigned a rating depending on how well they work in Proton. The original Subnautica had a gold rating
so it seemed like a no brainer for a quick experiments. At 720p and lowest settings the proportional
impact of the proton penalty seems somewhat consistent with my previous experience. It is still amazingly playable on the APU,
even if the impact can occasionally be quite large. It is worth nothing that while, from a beginners
point of view Proton appears pretty much as a plug and play solution there are some quirks
to the system that I wish I knew before. For example, most games running on DirectX need
shaders need to be compiled in the background which can be pretty quick on a decent PC but
on anything more modest can take a significant amount of time. Since for most cases there is no visual indication
that this is happening in the background you might launch a game and wonder why it is stuttering
so bad, as I did when trying Halo Reach from the master chief collection which also has
a pretty high proton db rating. Turns out, I just had to leave the game running
by its own to compile shaders in the background for 10 minutes and then it worked fine. The same impact I saw from previous games
was maintained, the game runs very well with a proportional performance impact so while
again I can not quite go and recommend Linux as a low end PC Gaming solution the compatibility
layer does a remarkably good job on some games. Now, can a game theoretically perform better
using proton or a similar compatibility layer. Yes, and there are specific examples that
float around from time to time such as advances the community have been making on Hat in Time,
but it is worth nothing that most of time when I have seen these experiments they are running on much more powerful hardware
and I have not been able to reproduce them just yet on a budget part. In fact I wanted to include a Hat in Time
in my tests for this video, but when I ran it with the commands needed and the best option
I could find for compatibility the game would crash everytime I had to load a level outside
the spaceship. Given that this is a community effort in many
ways results can be mixed and low end parts are usually not the thing that is tested. ProtonDB is built on top of existing technologies
for running Windows Apps on Linux, such as Wine and DXVK, a translation layer from DirectX to Vulkan. Now, setting up Wine manually outside of steam
for a specific game can be a tremendously daunting task which is why there are community
maintained tools like Lutris that do all the configuration for you. Problem is that like all community tools results
are a bit hit or miss with games that update often but given enough time and interest from the community games that are popular enough the community can do amazing things. Case in point, Overwatch. I touched upon one of my favourite online
multiplayer addictions on the old video I did on Linux and lamented how even after using
all the steps Lutris it still has a very annoying stuttering that made it impossible
to play which might have to do with the shaders compiling like in halo even tough I let the game waiting for a long period of time Also, back then it took 2 days of troubleshooting
to get it to even boot. Now on 2020 using my budget Ryzen APU PC oh
have things changed. Lutris installed it all in one click with
no problems and I knew when to wait for the shaders to compile thanks to a helpful on-screen
message, and after that was done the playing experience
was so good it could easily fooled me into thinking it was Windows. Overwatch does not have a standardized benchmarking
tool but my attempts to use certain scenes led to performance so identical that sometimes
it was hard for me to tell if there was a performance impact. This was a huge surprise since, along with
Blizzard keeping what appears to be a benevolent stance on
Linux players, an amazing example of what can happen when
thousands of hours of work from the community come together and everything just works. If I were to just use this mini PC as Linux
Overwatch box I would have absolutely no issue doing so and that is tremendous easier progress compared to my last attempt. So going back to my issue with the people
constantly suggesting others to switch to Linux. I don´t think I can, in good faith, suggest
people switch to Linux as a performance tactic. I am sure with some pro-Linux tweaking the
gap on Native games can be closed further, but for a large number of games being run
through a compatibility layer like Proton or just plain Wine via Lutris the impact is
much smaller than I expected for a low-end system but still there. But for the people like me who care about
Linux improving with hopes of having some real alternative in what is a dangerous one-horse
race hope continues to exist, especially given the result in something as ideal for an entry-level
system as a Ryzen APU… If you own an APU based PC and fancy playing
with an OS that will support it right out of the box, the opportunity is definitely
there. But you know what you can also use your Overwatch
linux box to do? Watch content, specially if it is some of
your favourite creators flexing their creative muscles. So a problem with how YouTube is structured
is that it kinda punishes you for being too creative sometimes. Something that is just a bit too different
from your usual line? Algorithmically restricted. Something that has to do with war history? Too violent, demonetized. Because of this issues a large group of YouTubers
including myself have been working behind the scenes on a streaming platform called
Nebula that we control. Nebula is for streaming premium content as
well as our usual videos and there are already a number of interesting original content. Sam from Wendover productions, which many of you have pointed out I like, did a documentary on the world’s most useful
but useless airport and how it is changing the lives of an previously isolated island
if you are looking for something more geeky there is working titles, where on each episode
a different creator talks about why the intro to a show is awesome. And I might be working on my own first nebula
original, and it might just be one of the most ambitious pieces of content I have ever
aimed to do. If you want to be ready for that, good news,
it’s going to be super cheap. We are collaborating with CuriosityStream,
this video’s sponsor, on a special offer. CuriosityStream is a streaming service for
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they are doing for our community and you for watching

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