I suppose I could start this article off with a tirade on how frustrating Adobe Flash is. But, I believe the phrase “preaching to the choir” would apply.

I’ve got a two socket, 16-thread, 3GHz, Nehalem Mac Pro as my main workstation. I have an EVGA GeForce GTX 285 in there. It’s fast.

It’s connected to a 30” monitor, running at its native resolution of 2560 x 1600.

The machine is fast enough to do things I’m not smart or talented enough to know how to do. But the one thing it can’t do is play anything off of Hulu in full screen without dropping frames.

This isn’t just a Mac issue, it’s a problem across all OSes and systems, regardless of hardware configuration. Chalk it up to poor development on Adobe’s part or...some other fault of Adobe’s, but Flash playback is extremely CPU intensive.

Today, that’s about to change. Adobe has just released a preview of Flash 10.1 (the final version is due out next year) for Windows, OS X and Linux. While all three platforms feature performance enhancements, the Windows version gets H.264 decode acceleration for flash video using DXVA (OS X and Linux are out of luck there for now).

The same GPU-based decode engines that are used to offload CPU decoding of Blu-rays can now be used to decode H.264 encoded Flash video. NVIDIA also let us know that GPU acceleration for Flash animation is coming in a future version of Flash.

To get the 10.1 pre-release just go here. NVIDIA recommends that you uninstall any existing versions of flash before installing 10.1 but I’ve found that upgrading works just as well.

What Hardware is Supported?

As I just mentioned, Adobe is using DXVA to accelerate Flash video playback, which means you need a GPU that properly supports DXVA2. From NVIDIA that means anything after G80 (sorry, GeForce 8800 GTX, GTS 640/320MB and Ultra owners are out of luck). In other words anything from the GeForce 8 series, 9 series or GeForce GT/GTX series, as well as their mobile equivalents. The only exceptions being those G80 based parts I just mentioned.

Anything based on NVIDIA’s ION chipset is also supported, which will be the foundation of some of our tests today.

AMD supports the following:

- ATI Radeon™ HD 4000, HD 5700 and HD 5800 series graphics
- ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 4000 series graphics (and higher)
- ATI Radeon™ HD 3000 integrated graphics (and higher)
- ATI FirePro™ V3750, V5700, V7750, V8700 and V8750 graphics accelerators (and later)

It’s a healthy list of supported GPUs from both camps, including integrated graphics. The only other requirement is that you have the latest drivers installed. I used 195.50 from NVIDIA and Catalyst 9.10 from AMD. (Update: The Release Notes now indicate Catalyst 9.11 drivers are required, which would explain our difficulties in testing. ATI just released Catalyst 9.11 but we're having issues getting GPU acceleration to work, waiting on a response from AMD now)

Intel’s G45 should, in theory, work. We tested it on a laptop for this article and since the acceleration is DXVA based, anything that can offload H.264 decode from the CPU using DXVA (like G45) should work just fine. As you’ll see however, our experiences weren’t exactly rosy.

Flash/Hulu on ION: Nearly Perfect
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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.
  • modulo - Tuesday, March 2, 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.


    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.
  • TravisO - Tuesday, April 6, 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.
  • 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.
  • coachingjoy - Sunday, November 29, 2009 - link

    Is flash worth the install when advertisements are taken into account?
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.

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