Opera Gets Hardware Acceleration, Finally!
By on February 28th, 2011

As todays browsers gear up to become the app platform of tomorrow, performance is more important than ever. We have already seen browser-makers fighting it out over JavaScript rendering performance. Whether it is Chrome with Crankshaft enabled V8, or Opera with Carakan, or Safari with Nitro, browsers of today are light-years ahead of browsers from even a couple of years back. The next big step for browsers is hardware acceleration. Chrome 9 already supports it through flags, Firefox will support it with v4, and Internet Explorer will do the same with v9. Now, Opera Software is also gearing up to join the club.

Opera Software has just released a Labs build with full hardware acceleration support. This has been in the cards for a long time. Opera had released an experimental build with 3D canvas as far back as in 2007. In 2008, it had published a video demonstrating Opera with hardware acceleration. Then in 2010, it released Opera 10.5, which featured a highly optimized Vega graphics render. We had mentioned in our original coverage that the new optimized software renderer meant that Opera Software was preparing to add hardware acceleration. Opera Software stated as much in its Up North Web event. Unfortunately, they could not get hardware acceleration ready in time for Opera 11.

Opera’s hardware acceleration feature is superior to what is present in Firefox and Internet Explorer. Opera Software’s Tim Johansson explained:

Like IE9 and Firefox 4, we do full hardware acceleration of all draw operations – but unlike those browsers, who only offer this acceleration on Windows Vista and Windows 7, our implementation will run on any OS with sufficient hardware support. This means we can have full hardware acceleration on Windows XP, Linux, Mac OS X and OpenGL ES 2 capable devices such as recent smart-phones and web-enabled TVs.

Opera-Hardware-Acceleration

Currently only OpenGL backend is supported; however, Direct3D support is planned for future builds. If you wish to try out Opera with hardware acceleration, head over to the Core Concerns blog. To confirm that hardware acceleration is indeed working, open “opera:about” page. If it mentions Vega backend as OpenGL, you are good to go. Otherwise, you will have to download the latest drivers for your graphics adapter. However, keep in mind that this is a lab release, and might be even more unstable than standard snapshot releases. Opera has stated that they don’t plan on including hardware acceleration in 11.10, and given their track record, I don’t expect to see this feature graduating from labs to regular builds within the next couple of months.

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Author: Pallab De Google Profile for Pallab De
Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .

Pallab De has written and can be contacted at pallab@techie-buzz.com.

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