Sunday, August 29, 2010

Google Chrome 7 Gets GPU Acceleration for 2D and 3D Content

One of the big features in the upcoming Internet Explorer 9, that Microsoft has been touting for months is hardware acceleration. But it now looks like Google Chrome may be getting GPU acceleration before IE 9 lands, even if it only announced the feature yesterday.

The latest Chromium builds can now send some of the rendering directly to the GPU resulting in better performance and less CPU strain. The most interesting part is that the GPU acceleration is not restricted to 3D content, some 2D operations can take advantage of the new feature as well.

"For some time now, there’s been a lot of work going on to overhaul Chromium’s graphics system," Vangelis Kokkevis, Software Engineer at Google, announced.

"New APIs and markup like WebGL and 3D CSS transforms are a major motivation for this work, but it also lets Chromium begin to take advantage of the GPU to speed up its entire drawing model, including many common 2D operations such as compositing and image scaling," he added.

"At its core, this graphics work relies on a new process (yes, another one) called the GPU process. The GPU process accepts graphics commands from the renderer process and pushes them to OpenGL or Direct3D (via ANGLE)," he explained.

The underlying technology has now been put in place. If you run a recent Chromium build with the --enable-accelerated-compositing flag, you'll notice the GPU process running along with all of the regular ones.

This is the process that will handle all of the hardware acceleration, be it 2D or 3D, while still keeping the web pages locked away in the sandbox.

With this in place, the team has started working on using the GPU to handle some of the tasks. For now though, most of the layers of a page, including text and images, are rendered by the CPU and then sent off to the GPU.

Video layers, though, can now do color conversion and scaling on the GPU, Google says, and 3D layers, such as those with WebGL elements, are rendered entirely by the graphics unit.

The final step, which blends all of the different layers together to create the page you see on your screen, is now handled by the GPU as well. In time, the team wants to move even more of the rendering off the CPU and onto the GPU which should result in a significant performance boost.

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