Adobe has released an update for its Flash player that, for the first time, enables hardware decoding of Flash video on certain models of Macs. With this update, supported Macs can leverage the power of their Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) in decoding H.264 content "wrapped" in a Flash layer. The end result for Mac users: substantially reduced CPU load when running Flash content, better Flash performance, and possibly better battery life for portable Macs.
Adobe released Flash 10.1 in June with hardware acceleration for Windows. It's only now that the feature is available on OS X in a non-beta release despite Apple opening the hardware acceleration APIs for certain models of GPUs several months ago, way back in April. Even now, this release only supports hardware acceleration on Macs made in the last couple of years -- although in fairness, that's more Apple's fault than Adobe's. The list below, sourced from Flash's engineers and with clarification from us, shows which models of Mac will be able to take advantage of Flash's new hardware acceleration feature:
- MacBooks shipped after January 21st, 2009. In other words, MacBooks with an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M or higher; Intel's integrated GPUs aren't supported.
- Mac Minis shipped after March 3rd, 2009, which have the same GPU situation as the MacBook; earlier Mac Minis had the unsupported Intel GMA 950 GPU.
- MacBook Pros shipped after October 14th, 2008 -- note that this only means the unibody MacBook Pros. The 17" late 2008 MacBook Pro with the old-style non-unibody enclosure has an unsupported NVIDIA 8600M GT GPU.
- iMacs which shipped after the first quarter of 2009; again, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M or higher GPU.
Absent from Adobe's list are the MacBook Air and the Mac Pro. MacBook Airs with an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M GPU should be able to run hardware-accelerated Flash, as that model of GPU supports the feature. The Mac Pro is a much odder omission -- sadly, none of its GPUs are listed in Apple's technical notes concerning its hardware acceleration framework -- but as powerful as the Mac Pro already is, a lack of hardware-accelerated Flash doesn't hurt it as much as other models.
Hardware-accelerated Flash won't be coming to Macs that came out earlier than those listed above, but only because Apple hasn't opened the APIs for those Macs' GPUs. The integrated Intel chipsets of earlier MacBooks, Mac Minis, and the first model of MacBook Air probably couldn't handle the load anyway, but it's disappointing that my Early 2008 MacBook Pro's GPU isn't allowed to do the heavy lifting, either.
Let us know how the update goes for you, and, if you have one of the supported Macs, whether you're seeing better Flash performance now.
[Via Mac Rumors]