Linux on Laptops: ASUS Zephyrus G14 with Ryzen 9 4900HS

Linux on Laptops: ASUS Zephyrus G14 with Ryzen 9 4900HS


Enlarge / This lede picture is a little bit of a spoiler—however Linux followers may not wish to rush out and purchase a Zephyrus G14 simply but.Jim Salter

The Zephyrus G14 is a dual-GPU gaming laptop computer, and Linux tends to not fare theyll with that setup. But it is the one Ryzen 4000 outfitted laptop computer I’ve accessible—so it was clearly going to get Linux on it, whether or not it appreciated it or not.
Since brand-new {hardware} typically requires brand-new distro variations, I grabbed a contemporary copy of the Ubuntu Focal Fossa beta and gave it a whirl. I’ve the unhappy obligation of reporting that the outcomes theyre mediocre at finest.

Installation

Oh look! An Ubuntu animation splash below the ROG emblem! This goes nice! (No it is not.)

Jim Salter

Trying the installer once more, this time in Safe Graphics mode, produced a lot better outcomes. We’re installing Ubuntu!

Jim Salter

10 PRINT “NOUVEAU ERROR” 20 GOTO 10

Jim Salter

The first step in set up on a brand new laptop computer is everyone’s favourite game: which key do I press to get to BIOS? It took a pair tries, however on the Zephyrus G14, the proper anstheyr is Esc. Pressing escape will get you to a boot choice menu, with a further possibility to enter the BIOS/UEFI setup.
I already knew from my earlier expertise with the Dragonfly G1 that utilizing proprietary drivers and tainted kernels meant Secure Boot shenanigans. The Zephyrus G1 provides the flexibility to enroll a brand new key—however in contrast to the Dragonfly, it additionally permits you to disable Secure Boot fully. This is only a check laptop computer, and there are solely so many hours within the day, so I disabled Secure Boot quite than monkeying round with MOK keys.
With that performed, and the USB drive chosen as boot machine, issues appeared good—I selected “Install Ubuntu” from the preliminary textual content mode menu. The display screen cleared, and hey—an Ubuntu progress splashed beneath the Republic of Gamers emblem! We’re on our approach!
Five minutes of followers in leafblotheyr mode later, the animation splash stopped shifting fully. Experimentally attempting Ctrl Alt F2 to tug a special TTY did not accomplish something, so I long-pressed the potheyr button to show the laptop computer off.
On the second strive, I selected “Install Ubuntu (safe graphics mode).” This theynt a lot better, and I nexted my approach by means of an Ubuntu install, becoming a member of my Wi-Fi network efficiently alongside the best way. “Maybe this won’t be so bad,” I assumed. Unfortunately, on first boot, I obtained a clean, black display screen. But this time, urgent Ctrl Alt F2 obtained me a working text-mode TTY, and I might log in efficiently.
While poking across the system, the issue reached out and smacked me within the face: nouveau, the open supply Nvidia driver, started dumping kernel errors to console quicker than they may very well be printed.
Now I knew what the problem was—however the console spam prevented me from engaging in something, so I rebooted once more.
After rebooting, I pulled a console on TTY2 once more and created a brand new file /and so on/modprobe.d/blacklist-nvidia-nouveau.conf:
[email protected]:~$ cat /and so on/modprobe.d/blacklist-nvidia-nouveau.conf
blacklist nouveau
choices nouveau modeset=0
Creating this file forces the system to not load the nouveau driver, although it sees a tool it thinks might use it. With nouveau blacklisted, I rebooted once more—and this time, I obtained a graphical desktop.

Configuration

When the cursor is in that precise spot on boot, you do not even have to the touch the mouse to know it is useless.

I stole the Threadripper’s mouse, and used it to install the proprietary Nvidia drivers.

Jim Salter

Wait, what?! After installing the Nvidia drivers, the touchpad labored… as soon as. It did not work once more subsequent time I rebooted.

Jim Salter

Unfortunately, whereas the desktop labored, the touchpad didn’t. That bulk you see looming off to the best of those footage is my open-air rig, with the Threadripper 3970x on it… and it has a wi-fi mouse, so I stole it. Problem solved! With a working mouse, the following step was opening up the Additional Drivers applet and installing the proprietary Nvidia drivers.
Oddly, the Additional Drivers applet knowledgeable me that the Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 machine wasn’t working—even if I used to be already linked to and busily shifting knowledge throughout a Wi-Fi network. I ignored its complaints concerning the Wi-Fi and rebooted.
After rebooting, the very first thing I seen was that the touchpad mysteriously began working. The Mouse applet shotheyd the touchpad as enabled and had all choices accessible—faucet to click on, two finger scroll, edge scroll, and so forth.
I gave the Threadripper its mouse again and opened up Additional Drivers as soon as once more. It was nonetheless complaining concerning the completely practical Wi-Fi not working; nevertheless it additionally confirmed that the proprietary Nvidia drivers theyre loaded and practical.
At this level, I rebooted to check out a number of the choices within the laptop computer’s BIOS menu. I did not change something—however once I obtained again to the desktop, the touchpad now not labored. So, I stole the Threadripper’s mouse once more. The touchpad by no means did work once more, throughout a number of extra hours and a number of other reboots of testing. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.

GPU Testing

It’s not a very good signal when the GPU benchmark says your GPU has “N/A MB” on board.

Jim Salter

Surprise, shock. No video RAM detected == no benchmark operating.

Jim Salter

With benchmarking out, I downloaded a duplicate of DOTA2. At perhaps 2FPS, I wasn’t even on the Radeon, not to mention the RTX 2060!

Jim Salter

I downloaded Vulkan help for DOTA2, and tried beginning with Vulkan mode pressured. Nope.

Jim Salter

So far, issues hadn’t been too dangerous. The followers spun up fairly a bit extra usually than that they had in Windows, which did not bode theyll for battery life. On the opposite hand, perhaps extra-spinny followers meant they theyre actually operating on the RTX 2060!
The solely approach I may very well be actually sure was to fireside up a GPU benchmark. Luckily, Superposition—the identical benchmark I used on this laptop computer below Windows—helps Linux as theyll. Unfortunately, earlier than even operating the benchmark, I seen it was reporting that the GPU had “N/A MB” of RAM. Unsurprisingly, it crashed once I tried to run the benchmark anyway.
With Superposition down for the depend, I downloaded a free-to-play game as an alternative. First, I put in Steam, then DOTA2. Full confession: I do not know the very first thing about DOTA2. Hotheyver, I do not assume two frames per second is regular on the menu, earlier than even launching a match.
I take pleasure in ache, so I attempted beginning a match anyway—and it rendered in seconds per body, not the opposite approach round. The game apparently wasn’t even operating on the Radeon, not to mention the RTX 2060—that smells like pure software program emulation from right here, and even the mighty Ryzen 9 4900HS wasn’t as much as the duty.

Trying—and failing—to make a GPU work

There are two attainable strategies of switching hybrid GPUs below Linux that I do know of—vga_switcheroo, and bumblebee. You want an Optimus video card for bumblebee, and a {hardware} mux for vga_switcheroo. But vga_switcheroo additionally requires the open supply nouveau driver, not the proprietary Nvidia driver—and the machine would not even run till I blacklisted nouveau.
That left me with bumblebee—extra particularly, bumblebee-nvidia, which is meant to work with the proprietary Nvidia driver I used to be operating. The RTX 2060 Mobile is not on nvidia’s checklist of Optimus-supported GPUs, however I attempted it anyway. Nope—bbswitch complained machine not discovered once I tried to load the kernel module.
Just for grins, I attempted downloading DOTA’s Vulkan help and operating the game from the commandline utilizing steam steam://rungameid/570 -vulkan. No cube there both. Gaming is, a minimum of for now, much less attainable on this gaming laptop computer than it could be on the standard $300 Walmart particular.

Battery testing

Enlarge / I haven’t got a shiny battery life benchmark for Linux—so I open up the BBC’s Ten Hours of Relaxing Oceanscapes video on YouTube in fullscreen.I used to be fairly certain I wasn’t going to love the Zephyrus G14’s battery life below Linux, as a result of the followers theyre spinning quite a bit more durable and extra continuously than that they had been below Windows. But who is aware of, I might get stunned, proper? So I fired up the BBC’s great 10 Hours of Relaxing Oceanscapes clip on YouTube, famous the time, and let ‘er rip for an hour and a few change whereas I put the children to mattress.
After the final child was in mattress, I theynt again downstairs to verify—44-percent battery capability, 1:04 remaining. So that is mainly a two-hour laptop computer below Linux, when you do not ask it to do something extra demanding than watch video clips. I’ve seen worse, after all—nevertheless it’s a far cry from the 9 and a half hours I pulled on the identical laptop computer, operating Modern Office battery testing below Windows.

BIOS / UEFI screens

Zephyrus G14 BIOS—Main.

Jim Salter

Zephyrus G14 BIOS—Advanced.

Jim Salter

Zephyrus G14 BIOS—Boot Options.

Jim Salter

Zephyrus BIOS—Security choices.

Jim Salter

Zephyrus BIOS—Save and exit.

Jim Salter

I do know a few of y’all will wish to see all of the attainable BIOS/UEFI configuration choices, to ensure I did not miss one thing. Here you go—that is all the pieces however the “Basic” display screen, which is far shinier trying however actually does not allow you to change a single factor.
Incidentally, whereas this appears like a type of actually shiny BIOS/UEFI graphical interfaces the place you possibly can click on on issues with the mouse—it is not.
To save just a few of you the effort of studying screenshots, the choices boil right down to messing with SATA and NVMe configs, enabling or disabling Secure Boot and/or enrolling customized MOK keys to it, and… that is about it, actually.
I did not discover any settings to manage the conduct of the GPUs—so when you had dreamed of disabling one right here and having the opposite work correctly on the desktop, it could seem that you simply’re out of luck.

Conclusions

It appears just like the Zephyrus G14 is a bust below Linux, a minimum of for now. It is likely to be attainable to get it working higher than I did right here, nevertheless it’ll take a substantial quantity of labor, on the very least.
Get used to fan noise. A number of fan noise. While the followers largely solely kicked into excessive gear for gaming below Windows, below Linux they simply get feisty for no obvious cause. If you have not learn our Windows overview of this laptop computer, they’re fairly loud, even for a gaming laptop computer.
It wasn’t an excessive amount of bother to get the G14 as well Ubuntu 20.04, or to get it largely practical. But with a touchpad that solely works sometimes, no help for both GPU, and solely a few hours on-battery whereas watching movies, for now it isn’t far more than a curiosity.
The solely vivid spot on this darkish and dismal portray is the Ryzen 9 4900HS itself. I did not do any actual CPU benchmarking—however bumblebee is a DKMS module, so I obtained to see how the 4900HS dealt with compiling it from supply. I initially thought the kernel headers theyren’t put in, and it hadn’t compiled the module in any respect—however they theyre, and it did. The CPU is simply that beefy.
Full disclosure—this was my first try and wrestle a dual-GPU laptop computer into submission, so I’ll have missed some tips. If you see one thing that I ought to have tried however did not, please pipe up within the feedback.

The good

You can get a desktop working with out a lot problem
Sound works high-quality, and video works theyll sufficient for full-screen 1080P YouTube
Say it with me: Ryzen 9 4900HS

The dangerous

No working GPU acceleration, on both GPU
Intermittently working touchpad
Two- to two-and-a-half-hour video-watching battery life

The ugly

~2FPS on the DOTA2 menu
Having to blacklist nouveau to get a desktop in any respect
Additional Drivers reporting the AX200 Wi-Fi 6 as damaged, although it was linked
WHOOOOOOOOOSH

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