AMD’s unannounced Navi 14 GPUs enabled in new Linux kernel patches

High-end or low-end 5000-series cards... which will Navi 14 GPUs power?


We’re just a few days away from the launch of the new AMD RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700 graphics cards on Sunday, and we can’t wait to talk about how the new Navi RDNA GPUs perform. But we’re not allowed yet. What we can say, however, is that the Navi 10 silicon inside them is being joined by upcoming Navi 14 chips. Well, according to AMD’s own Linux submissions anyways.

Yesterday kernel patches for the as-yet unannounced Navi 14 GPU were posted, presumably in order to get into the new Linux 5.3 kernel update cycle instead of having to wait for the 5.4 version. AMD has already provided Navi 10 support for the Linux 5.3 kernel that’s getting merged in Autumn of this year, enabling the RX 5700-series cards, but you will still be able to use the new Navi-powered Radeon GPUs on Linux distributions that are compatible with the Radeon Software for Linux software.

Which end of the graphics card stack the Navi 14 GPUs will sit is still up for debate. Traditionally we’ve seen AMD launch with the high-end parts first, leaving the lower-spec cards to backfill its graphics card families. And that would indicate the 5500- and 5600-series GPUs mentioned in the latest Sapphire card registration could be the target for these new patches.

But Sapphire also registered 5900- and 5800-series cards too, so we’re really none the wiser. And we’ve also seen references to Navi 12 and Navi 21 GPUs in Linux display drivers signed off by AMD folk last month too.

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In short, there’s probably going to be a fair few Navi graphics cards arriving before the end of the year… don’t think AMD is going to stop short at purely unveiling the RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 and call it a day. The red team has a whole strategy for the competitive new cards.

Exciting, no?

AMD Navi Radeon RX 5700-series

The latest kernel patches were spotted by the ever-reliable Phoronix, who also points out that while this isn’t the first time that Navi 14 has been referenced in Linux driver patches, this is the “first time that we’re seeing the support actually enabled for the unannounced Navi graphics processor.”

The enablement code is limited to a little less than 1,400 lines of new code, built as it is on top of the existing Navi 10 patches, but adds in support for a virtual display feature. There has been some speculation on the Phoronix forums that this might mean Navi 14 is being pegged as more of a professional/server part… or even something to do with Google’s Stadia service.

The Navi RDNA architecture has been specifically tweaked for gaming workloads so that might make more sense than Navi 14 being dropped into workstations or standard server environments. Or maybe the virtual display is something the next-gen PlayStation or Xbox consoles are going to take advantage of.

It’s fun to speculate…

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