Adobe Flash Player 10.1 beta with GPU acceleration arrives

flash 10.1

Flash video is tough on CPUs. Netbooks have relatively slow CPUs. As a result, netbooks and desktops with low power Intel Atom processors have had a tough time handling some high quality and high definition Flash video since day one. Well, today is officially day two, thanks to the beta release of Adobe Flash Player 10.1.

OK, that might be an overstatement. But here’s the thing: Flash Player 10.1 includes support for GPU acceleration for H.264 encoded Flash video. That means if you have a supported graphics processor, you should be able to watch 720p and even 1080p Flash video smoothly without overtaxing your CPU. Two of those supported processors are becoming increasingly common in netbooks and thin and light laptops: NVIDIA ION and Intel GMA X4500MHD.

The NVIDIA ION platform combines a low power Atom processor with NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics. The result is a low power laptop that might seem a bit sluggish performing some everyday tasks, but which can play some modern video games and decode Blu-Ray video. And thanks to Flash 10.1, it can also handle 1080p Flash video playback.

Intel’s GMA X4500MHD shows up in laptops using the Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) platform. That includes the Acer Aspire 1410, 1810T, and Asus UL20A, although the only laptop I’ve had handy to test Flash Player 10.1 beta with was the UL20A. It handles HD Flash video beautifully.

The folks at NVIDIA sent me an ASRock ION 330 nettop with ION graphics to test HD Flash performance, and the results are pretty impressive. You can check out my before and after videos after the break. Adobe Flash Player 10.1 should work just as well on laptops with the NVIDIA ION platform including the HP Mini 311, Lenovo IdeaPad S12, and Samsung N510.

Unfortunately, Flash Player 10.1 will not work with the GMA 950 graphics that come with nearly every other Intel Atom powered netbook on the market. I’m actually not sure about compatibility with Intel’s GMA 500 graphics, but I wouldn’t hold my breathe.

NVIDIA also cautions that while an ION-based notebook supports full GPU acceleration for HD Flash video, the CPU still has to be able to keep up with all the disk and network activity, and you may notice some stuttering because of that. You should be able to get around this in most cases by hitting pause on the video a moment after you hit play and letting it buffer briefly before you start playing the video again.

You can download Flash Player 10.1 from the Adobe Labs web site.

Update: The release notes are now available (PDF link), complete with a list of supported graphics cards. Flash Player 10.1 beta is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. But the hardware acceleration features are only available for Windows XP, Vista, and 7 right now. You can find a list of supported hardware after the break.


Supported graphics cards:

ATI

  • Radeon HD 4xxx and higher
  • Mobility Radeon HD 4xxx and higher
  • Radeon HD 3xxx and higher integrated/motherboard
  • FirePro V3750, V5700, V7750, V8700, V8750 and later

Broadcom

  • BCM70012 video decoding chipset (used in Broadcom Crystal HD Enhanced Video Accelerator)

Intel

  • Intel 4 Series Chipset family starting with graphics driver version 15.16.2.1986

NVIDIA (Mobile)

  • ION and ION LE
  • GeForce GTX 280M/260M
  • GeForce GTS 260M/160M/150M
  • GeForce GT 240M/230M/130M
  • GeForce G210M/G110M/G105M/G102M
  • GeForce 9800M GTX/GT/GTS/GS
  • GeForce 9700M GTS/GT
  • GeForce 9650M GS
  • GeForce 9600M GT/GS
  • GeForce 9500M GS/G
  • GeForce 9400M G
  • GeForce 9300M GS/G
  • GeForce 9200M GS
  • GeForce 9100M G
  • GeForce 8800M GTS
  • GeForce 8700M GT
  • GeForce 8600M GT/GS
  • GeForce 8400M GTGS

NVIDIA (Desktop)

  • GeForce GTX 260/275/280/285/295
  • GeForce GTS 150/240/250
  • GeForce GT 120/130/220/230/240
  • GeForce 205/210
  • GeForce G100
  • GeForce 9800 GX2/GTX/GTX+/GT
  • GeForce 9600 GSO/GT
  • GeForce 9500GT
  • GeForce 9400GT
  • GeForce 8800 GTS 512/GT/GS
  • GeForce 8600 GTS/GT
  • GeForce 8500 GT
  • GeForce 8400 GS
  • GeForce 9400 mGPU
  • GeForce 9300 mGPU
  • GeForce 8300 mGPU
  • GeForce 8200 mGPU
  • GeForce 8100 mGPU

Note that you may need to download the latest drivers or firmware updates for your graphics hardware in order for Flash Player 10.1 beta to work properly.

  • zima

    Hm, this development for Flash player is all written in a quite superlative way…

    And while of course this is a welcome change…let us not forget that the main reason for the need of it is an outregous state of Flash player up to now. That much CPU powe for playing of video? With proper video decoder even my old Athlon XP 1.47 GHz that I have lying around here can handle 720P H264 fine. On Linux you could “plug” mplayer into browser to intercept Flash video streams and it required much, much less CPU power.

    And it's still not all roses; look at the level of required video hardware. Basically only the last gen. For…video…playback.

  • http://scottsoapbox.com Scott

    Excellent comparison Brad. It really highlights both the struggles of the Atom (even dual core) and the aid of ION.

    It's nice to see Intel 4 series included as well so all those CULV-books will get a little help as well too.

  • Master9

    Just downloaded 10.1 for my Aspire 4810tz. Pentium Su2700 with a 400MHD.

    What a world of difference 10.1 makes. Before YoutubeHD was unwatchable and full-screen Hulu (normal quality) was as choppy as turbulence on a plane flight.

    I was just streaming my heart out in HD, and my eyes are pleased. Both YoutubeHD and Hulu run great and this is on the lowest end CULV!!!

  • lccurtis1

    Brad I would have to disagree with your statement that Adobe Flash 10.1 beta will not run on the GMA 950 chipset. I have downloaded falsh 10.1 on my Acer Aspire D250 with the intel GMA 950 chipset and although the quality is not the greatest it actually runs really smooth. and allows for most HD video viewing I am also running Bios 1.21 as well and this may have some effect as to why its running smoothly.

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  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    It's not my statement. That comes from Adobe. GMA 950 is not officially
    supported, and based on my experience with several netbooks with GMA 950
    graphics I'd have to agree.

    Do you have links to videos that you've watched that play smoothly on your
    netbook after upgrading? Did you try the same videos with Flash Player 10
    before updating to version 10.1?

  • DG

    Excuse my ignorance here, but is the GMA 950 basically devoid of accelerability for anything other than very vanilla MPEG etc, or is it just that no-one supports it properly for whatever reason? I find it a little hard to believe that something so ubiquitous and so recent would be so innately limited, even when designed for minimal power envelope as #1 priority.

  • lccurtis1

    Here's a link to the short video of Adobe Flash 10.1 on Acer Aspire D250 I am shooting this with my digital camera so the video is not of the best quality. However I just wanted to show you Adobe Flash 10.1 works on the intel GMA 950 chipset.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxajVeD5TbE

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    Thanks, but do you have a link to the video you were watching? I'd like like
    to try it on a netbook with and without Flash Player 10.1 here.

  • lccurtis1
  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    Interesting, I tried that link on my Asus Eee PC 1000H with Flash Player
    10.1 and it's choppy as all get out.

    There must be something else going on here.

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    Interesting, I tried that link on my Asus Eee PC 1000H with Flash Player
    10.1 and it's choppy as all get out.

    There must be something else going on here.

  • changturkey

    GMA 950 has been around since 2004. It is not “recent”.

  • DG

    Thanks – kind of thought that because in my experience Windows XP refuses to recognise it, it must have been broadly newer than that!

  • lccurtis1

    Not sure but it ran pretty smoothly the clarity was not that great. Also I am using a Acer Aspire D250 with Bios 1.21

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    Did you make sure to hit the HD button in the video? It's available in HD or
    standard quality. The clarity is lower in SD, but it plays smoothly on my
    computer. When I hit the HD button it goes into unintentional slideshow
    mode.

  • lccurtis1

    Yes I made sure the HD button was activated as well.

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    Odd. Are you running Windows XP or Windows 7?

  • lccurtis1

    Brad I am running Windows 7 Ultimate

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    Hmm.. I tried it first on a netbook with Windows XP, but I tried again on
    another netbook with a 1.66GHz Atom N280 CPU, GMA 950 graphics and Win 7
    Home Premium. It's still choppy as all get out.

    I wish I had an Aspire 250 lying around that I could test. As far as I can
    tell, GMA 950 still isn't supported, but I wonder if there's something else
    going on with your netbook that's giving it a boost.

  • lccurtis1

    The only thing that I may have that's different from the standard netbook configuration is a memory upgrade to 2 GB and Windows 7 Ultimate which I really can't see those minor upgrades providing much of a boost however you never know. I will downgrade my memory back to 1GB to see if that makes a difference. And I will let you know the results.

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  • TrackSmart

    Hardware acceleration works with GMA 500, HOWEVER, you need to use slightly older graphics drivers under Vista or Windows 7. I don't know if it works under XP. Details and caveats can be found here:

    http://www.aspireoneuser.com/forum/viewtopic.ph

    I hope that is helpful.

  • TrackSmart

    Hardware acceleration works with GMA 500, HOWEVER, you need to use slightly older graphics drivers under Vista or Windows 7. I don't know if it works under XP. Details and caveats can be found here:

    http://www.aspireoneuser.com/forum/viewtopic.ph

    I hope that is helpful.

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