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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  • JarredWalton - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    I stopped messing with Folding when I started doing the calculations for how much it was costing me in electricity (and a few pieces of failed hardware). Plus, the GPU client in particular always seemed to slow down system responsiveness. If you want to multitask GPU intensive applications, I think we're still deep in the driver update stages (whether ATI or NVIDIA). Give it another year... LOL.
  • dicobalt - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    I have been using Flash 10.1 for the last few days and it seems to crash Firefox in an Nvidia dll. All while using YouTube. Downgraded to the stable release and all is well again. Using Win7 driver 190.38 because newer drivers cause Flash to freeze video up for a half second for every every 10 seconds of video.

    How I wish Flash would die...
    PS. Adobe too.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    My testing on the ION LE was with Win7 and I didn't have any problems. Can you list details of exactly what hardware you're running on? Also, I believe the 195.55 drivers from NVIDIA are part of the requirements for this to work optimally (though if it's just DXVA that shouldn't be true).
  • dicobalt - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    e6300 / gigabyte-p35-dq6 4gb ram / 9600GT

    I have not yet tried the 195.55 drivers, those are still beta but I will give it a try. I was also having problems with the new Nvidia drivers not load balancing gpu folding@home while playing videos. The drivers in Vista would allow me to run gpu folding@home and playback a 1080 video without any frames skipping. None of the Win7 drivers allow me to do this so far.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    I would assume you're probably overclocking as well? Most people with something like an E6300 do that. Anyway, you might need to try several combinations, and with this beta software (and beta drivers) I wouldn't count on load balancing of multiple GPU applications.
  • dicobalt - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    The CPU from 1.86 to 2.8GHz yea, GPU is stock 650Mhz, all works ok in Vista though. I did just install the 195.55 drivers and it's not as severe as a problem with folding and 1080 video but it is still too much dropping to make it watchable. So far YouTube has not caused Firefox to crash yet, that usually takes some time though, it doesn't happen right away. These drivers need some more work and Flash needs to reach a final version so that Nvidia can fix Adobe's screwups lol
  • Halcyon666 - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    Will the 10.1 prerelease help with flash games like the SPAM on facebook? or is it just for flashed video?
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    Currently this is targeting video, but Adobe doesn't rule out the possibility of improving other Flash applications in the future.
  • 7Enigma - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    Anand I've got to be honest, I'm not liking the new trend of reposting an old article with a small update. It is difficult to find since you have to go through the article to find the updated information, and the comments section becomes jumbled up with old posts and new posts.

    Please go back to the old way of posting a small updated blog post with a link to the original article for those that didn't read it originally, or would like to read it again.

    For your faithful readers, it's not a small annoyance.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    Actually, the update was by me. I also tried to make it very clear, seeing that the page is labeled with "AMD and Intel Update". I could have done it as a blog, true, and perhaps next time I will.

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