Testing with AMD GPUs: Doesn't Work Yet

Update 4: AMD has released Catalyst 9.11 with Flash support for Radeon HD 5000 series and 4000 series GPUs. No word on integrated graphics platforms. We've begun testing but the drivers don't seem to enable H.264 decode acceleration under Hulu at this point, waiting for a response from AMD.

Update 3: AMD tells us that Flash 10.1 support is coming later today, we should have a working driver soon.

Update 2: The latest beta drivers from ATI do not enable Flash 10.1 hardware acceleration support (both leaked and the supposed Catalyst 9.11 drivers from ATI's developer site). We're still waiting for ATI to get us a version of their drivers that does enable GPU acceleration under Flash 10.1.

NVIDIA's drivers are publicly available however:

Desktop

http://www.nvidia.com/object/winxp_195.55.html

http://www.nvidia.com/object/win7_winvista_32bit_195.55.html

http://www.nvidia.com/object/win7_winvista_64bit_195.55.html

Notebook

http://www.nvidia.com/object/notebook_winxp_195.55.html

http://www.nvidia.com/object/notebook_winvista_win7_195.55.html

http://www.nvidia.com/object/notebook_winvista_win7_x64_195.55.html

Update: The Release Notes now indicate Catalyst 9.11 drivers are required, which would explain our difficulties in testing. We're still waiting on a version of Catalyst 9.11 from AMD that works with Flash 10.1. We will post updated data as soon as we have the driver.

I’d say that my ION testing went pretty smoothly, but the same definitely doesn’t hold true for AMD.

I setup an AMD 785G system (integrated Radeon HD 3200) with a AMD Sempron LE-1150. This is a 2.0GHz, single core, K8 based processor with a 512KB L2 cache. Definitely faster than an Atom.

The integrated graphics of the 785G chipset fully supports H.264 decode acceleration and shouldn’t have a problem with Flash 10.1. AMD has it on the supported list and things should be smooth. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t agree:

Windowed Average CPU Utilization Flash 10.0.32.18 Flash 10.1.51.45
Hulu Desktop - The Office - Murder 97% 100%
Hulu HD 720p - Legend of the Seeker Ep1 94% 100%
Hulu 480p - The Office - Murder 57% 60%
Hulu 360p - The Office - Murder 27% 35%
YouTube HD 720p - Prince of Persia Trailer 90% 100%
YouTube - Prince of Persia Trailer 8% 8%

 

Not only did CPU utilization figures not go down, in many cases they went up. I asked Jarred to help me with a sanity check. He had a notebook based on the mobile version of the same chipset with an Athlon 64 X2 QL-64 (dual core 2.0GHz) and ran his own numbers:

Windowed Average CPU Utilization Flash 10.0.32.18 Flash 10.1.51.45
YouTube HD 720p - Prince of Persia Trailer 46% 46.5%

 

There was no change in CPU utilization when moving from Flash 10.0 to 10.1.

The two of us did notice something however. Flash 10.1, although not perfect on AMD hardware, did seem to improve performance. Jarred measured the number of dropped frames between Flash 10.0 and 10.1 in our YouTube HD test:

Windowed # of Frames Dropped (lower is better) Flash 10.0.32.18 Flash 10.1.51.45
YouTube HD 720p - Prince of Persia Trailer 289 frames 212 frames

 

There’s a definite improvement in 10.1, but just not nearly as much as we saw from NVIDIA.

I tried a few more things before giving up on AMD. I tossed in a Radeon HD 5850 to see if it was the integrated GPU at fault - still no change in CPU utilization. Finally I upgraded processors and used an Athlon II X2 240 instead of the meager Sempron.

Full Screen (1920 x 1200) Average CPU Utilization Flash 10.0.32.18 Flash 10.1.51.45
Hulu Desktop - The Office - Murder (Sempron LE-1150) 100% 100%
Hulu Desktop - The Office - Murder (Athlon II X2 240) 80% 72%

 

CPU utilization finally went down, but not nearly as much as what we saw with NVIDIA. There’s something not quite right about how AMD’s hardware interacts with the Flash 10.1 preview; I guess that’s why they’re calling it a prerelease.

Flash/Hulu on ION: Nearly Perfect Flash on GM45 and Ion Laptops
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  • Olen Ahkcre - Monday, January 11, 2010 - link

    This article is totally off base...

    Flash video playback pausing frequently isn't caused by the Flash player. It's cause by the server being overloaded with too many requests.

    GPU acceleration is for playing back Flash _CONTENT_, not Flash video (FLV).

    The reason being some apps created using Flash place an unusual amount of load on the CPU.

    If you think GPU accelerated Flash has anything to do with video playback, I think you might be seriously confused.
    Reply
  • modulo - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    This article makes ANANDTECH, look like a bunch of apple swilling morons.

    Hello ANANDTECH, did you know that 95% of the worlds computers still use windows? Probably not, which is why you put an article like this using a MAC, on a website 90% dedicated to PC hardware. And what is there to know about mac anyway? RUMOR RUMORS RUMORS, being a mac"enthusiast" is all about how much shit you can talk, how many rumors you can start, and how hard you would suck steve jobs cock if he put it in your mouth.

    NOW.

    Flash, is a fabulous technology that makes 10 million different things possible on the web that would NOT HAPPEN without it. OK, and interestingly, this article advocates turning on an adblocker, for their own website!!! If I was a sponsor of this website I would demand to have my motherf***inh money back.

    LOL, now you noobie losers want to complain because your computers are slow, go talk to your grandma about how long it takes her to have a bowel movement, THAT is slow.
    Reply
  • TravisO - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    On Flash 10.1 video _IS_ GPU accelerated but there is a catch, only H.264 video is GPU accelerated but the old FLV video is not. Here's the text from the 10.1 release notes:

    H.264 video hardware decoding
    Flash Player 10.1 introduces hardware-based H.264 video decoding to deliver smooth, high quality
    video with minimal overhead across mobile devices and PCs. Using available hardware to decode video offloads tasks from the CPU, improving video playback performance, reducing system resource utilization, and preserving battery life.

    PS: Keep in mind you must use a supported video card to be accelerated, which means only GPUs invented these past two years approximately, virtually nothing from Intel is supported except the new Core i CPUs with the integrated GPU, if you have a Netbook you're screwed unless you have an Ion chipset.
    Reply
  • Xmister - Saturday, April 17, 2010 - link

    You should get some information before starting to write bull***t.
    "Flash video playback pausing frequently isn't caused by the Flash player. It's cause by the server being overloaded with too many requests. "
    You think they are so stupid, that can't see the difference of buffer-loading and framedrops?!

    "GPU acceleration is for playing back Flash _CONTENT_, not Flash video (FLV). "
    The GPU accelerated flash's main point is H.264 decoding, and all the HD flash videos are now H.264 encoded(on youtube non-HD too).

    "The reason being some apps created using Flash place an unusual amount of load on the CPU."
    And what do you think, what amount of load an HD video places on the CPU? I'll help you a bit: a lot.

    "If you think GPU accelerated Flash has anything to do with video playback, I think you might be seriously confused. "
    You are seriously confused, clear the lot irrelevant information from your head, and get some relevant. I could only advise this whenever you want to comment on anything.
    Reply
  • coachingjoy - Sunday, November 29, 2009 - link

    Is flash worth the install when advertisements are taken into account? Reply
  • Sunagwa - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    I don't understand the problem. I have a Core 2 Duo @ 3.8Ghz and I use Hulu all the freaking time with absolutly no problems whatsoever. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    Exactly. You have a high end system that can do all the video decoding in software on the CPU without problems. Not everyone has that. (And OS X is a different beast, apparently, at least as far as Flash is concerned.) Reply
  • Sunagwa - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    I see, my bad I guess I didn't really consider my CPU to be high end. The system he mentions at the beggining sounded pretty powerful though I have never run anything but windows so I may be wrong... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    I should clarify: it may not be high-end by today's standards (what with Core i7), but a moderate ~2.0GHz Core 2 Duo can handle 1080p video decoding in software (albeit at high CPU utilization). It's really more of a question of laptops and even then more netbooks and nettops. And Flash optimizations are of course also important - I've seen Flash choke other laptops with Intel IGPs on older Flash revisions, but 10.0 does much better. Reply
  • dicobalt - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    You guys misunderstand what I was saying. I can play 1080 video just fine, HULU, WMV, MP4, MOV, whatever. I am unable to play 1080 smoothly when I have the Folding@Home GPU client running, that's the only time I have trouble with it (and standard def video too). Though it was working fine on Vista before I installed Win7.

    Most of the time when I am playing HD video files CPU usage is about 28-48% on the most loaded core.

    BTW since I updated to Nvidia drivers to 195.55 now Firefox is no longer crashing on YouTube videos with Flash 10.1 installed. Seems to me that Nvidia was not ready for Win7 with their drivers, they got a lot going on right now.
    Reply

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