The long-awaited Linux Kernel 5.0 upgrade is finally out, and it is time to take a look at all the new features it has to offer.

Linus Torvalds, the principal developer of the Linux kernel, warned the public not to expect a drastic difference from its predecessor. He announced that the Linux Foundation does not do “feature-based releases.” Therefore, calling it 5.0 instead of 4.22 is just a matter of him “running out of fingers to count on.”

Some of the most exciting updates include AMD FreeSync support, data encryption, improved power management, providing official support for the Raspberry Pi touchscreen, and other hardware support.

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New features in Linux Kernel 5.0

AMC FreeSync display support

The first significant change is that Kernel 5.0 works with AMD FreeSync, with the help of Mesa 19.0.

This will fix tearing and stuttering, by synchronizing the refresh rate with the frames per second rate (FPS). Namely, the refresh rate on your computer is consistent, while FPS is not. For this reason, synchronizing FPS to the refresh rate can add input lag and is unreliable.

Therefore, it is the refresh rate that must dictate the speed at which FSP will send out frames for the monitor to display.

However, FreeSync does not work on all graphics processing units (GPUs), but only on ones with a specific FPS range. Also, to experience AMC FreeSync, you need a monitor that supports FreeSync and an AMD Radeon R5/R7/R9 200 series GPU.

Power management

Kernel 5 brings power management improvements with the Energy Aware Scheduler (EAS). Its task is to efficiently handle systems with asymmetric CPU topologies, such as big.LITTLE and DynamiIQ ARM platforms.

It increases performance and reduces energy usage by making energy-efficient scheduling decisions.

Data encryption

Substituting Speck, an encryption algorithm developed by the National Security Administration (NSA), Adiantum Data Encryption comes as part of the new Kernel 5’s merge window. Primarily designed for low-end Android Go devices, it is part of the crypto subsystem and offers fast file-system encryption.

Also, Adiantum in now also part of fscrypt, the management tool used for Linux file system encryption. Therefore, it will contribute to the desktop user experience through the native F2Fs and EXT4.

Users for whom data security is of high priority will find this innovation quite valuable.

Support for Raspberry Pi Touchscreen

For the first time, the Linux Kernel will now support the Raspberry Pi touchscreen with an official driver. Powered via general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins, the Raspberry Pi connects to the touchscreen via the DSI port. This raspberrypi-ts driver receives information via Raspberry Pi firmware, from a memory mapped area.

With such support, Raspberry Pi enthusiasts will have the opportunity to develop their own smart information displays and DIY tablets.

Advanced ARM hardware support

ARM processors are powerful because they can perform many tasks at once. For this reason, chipsets with ARM architecture are in most Android smartphones and tablets. It is crucial for operating systems to support such popular processers because of their widespread use.

Improved ARM support brings pointer authentication, a security feature built into the ARM architecture code. This kind of support allows signing and authenticating of pointers against secret keys, thus protecting the kernel from return-oriented programming (ROP) attacks.

Early support for the NVIDIA Turing architecture

Gaming enthusiast are especially excited to hear that the new Kernel 5.0 supports the NVIDIA Turing™ architecture. This is one of the most advanced GPU architectures on the market. It delivers exceptionally realistic graphics for PC games, as well as accelerates visual content editing. Besides everyday use cases, this GPU architecture may find its place in data centers, running demanding applications and being used for machine learning.

Some of the most exciting features of Turing™ include the increase of rasterization performance, ray-tracing processors, computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and tensor cores.

Other changes in Linux 5.0 include:

  • Support for NXP i.MX8 SoCs
  • Support for Allwinner T3, Qualcomm QCS404, and NXP Layerscape LX2160A
  • Intel VT-d Scalable Mode support for Scalable I/O Virtualization
  • Upgraded Realtek R8169 driver
  • Support for Logitech High-Resolution Scrolling
  • Support for the Chameleon96 Intel FPGA board
  • Updated x86 laptop drivers
  • Support for another Vega M GPU and Vega IDs
  • Security enhancement for Thunderbolt

Should You Download the Latest Linux Kernel 5

Unless you have a lot of experience or a good reason, do not experiment with the kernel on your own. The best idea is to wait for a stable release of a Linux distribution with the Kernel 5.0 included.

Linux Kernel 5.0 is available for download from the official Linux Kernel website. However, it is generally not recommended for everyday users to manually upgrade their Linux kernel.