Linux Gamers Left Behind: No 4K@120Hz on AMD GPUs with Open Source Drivers


Linux users with AMD graphics cards hoping to enjoy the full potential of their HDMI 2.1 ports face a setback. The HDMI Forum, the organization responsible for the standard, has rejected AMD's proposal for open-source driver support for HDMI 2.1 and beyond. This means features like high refresh rates (4K @ 120Hz, 5K @ 240Hz) remain unavailable on Linux through HDMI, forcing users towards alternative solutions.

A tangled web of limitations:

The root of the problem lies in the HDMI Forum's decision in 2021 to restrict public access to its technical specifications. This move aimed to ensure quality and consistency by limiting access to authorized manufacturers and developers who pay royalties. While this approach safeguards the user experience, it throws a wrench into open-source development, which relies on freely available information.

AMD's efforts and the roadblock:

For several years, AMD has been working towards enabling full HDMI 2.1 functionality in its open-source Linux drivers. Engineers collaborated with legal teams and evaluated various options to comply with the Forum's requirements. They even developed internal code, but ultimately, the Forum rejected their proposal citing legal and compliance concerns.

The impact on Linux users:

This decision leaves Linux users with AMD GPUs at a disadvantage compared to their Windows counterparts who can access full HDMI 2.1 features. To achieve high refresh rates and other advanced functionalities, Linux users are now advised to switch to DisplayPort, a competing display connection standard with its own set of advantages and limitations.

The future remains uncertain:

The ramifications of this decision extend beyond immediate user experience. It highlights the ongoing challenges faced by open-source development in hardware-driven environments where proprietary information plays a crucial role. Whether AMD and the HDMI Forum can find a future solution that addresses both open-source needs and the Forum's concerns remains to be seen.

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