TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

theONbutton’s Flash HD video test: Hardware acceleration Mac vs PC

Flash has gained huge amounts of column inches in 2010.  This is mostly because of Apple’s current stance of not including it on the iPad while claiming at the same time that the iPad will be the best way to experience the Web.  Many commentators have disagreed with this statement because Flash is integral to so much online multimedia content.  As we previously explained part of Apple’s contention is that Flash is too processor intensive, which we agree with, and the company is pushing for HTML5 to be more widely adopted as an alternative.  Meanwhile as we also previously explained, Adobe is taking steps to use graphics hardware to accelerate Flash HD video decoding, which promises to allow smooth playback of content on computers with supported graphics cards.  The problem for Apple users is that due to the ongoing sparring between Apple and Adobe, this enhancement has only been announced for Windows.

What does all of this mean in real life?  The video above shows our side-by-side comparison of a MacBook 2GHz and Acer Aspire 2GHz playing back the same Flash HD 720p video.  The MacBook is running regular Flash on OSX and the Acer Aspire is running the new Flash 10.1 Beta on Vista with hardware acceleration using its Nvidia 9600M GT.  You can check out the result for yourself above, the bottom line is that the Acer plays the video flawlessly while the MacBook displays some motion sequences as freeze frames.

This is a simple video with minimal motion; when I tried with the faster moving IronMan 2 trailer at 1080p, the Acer again streamed it flawlessly due to the Flash hardware acceleration while it was completely un-viewable on the MacBook.  As the online world progressively becomes dominated by HD streaming, this situation is bad news for Apple users who will be left behind unless they own a model with a very fast processor.

While many people hope for a change in the Apple vs Adobe situation or a greater push towards HTML5, we have to be honest and look at the current Internet landscape.  That landscape is massively Flash dominated and the balance is unlikely to shift towards a competing technology for a long time still.  There are browser issues to be overcome, content providers to be convinced and frankly once hardware accelerated Flash reaches release status, the majority of Internet user won’t care about this issue any longer because they will benefit from the new version.  Apple users, myself included, may simply be left to languish until other technologies develop further.

I continue to believe that continued pressure to innovate in the Flash / HTML5 / Silverlight sector is important for the development of online media overall.  However it increasingly appears that in the short term Apple is handing Windows a win as the platform of choice for enjoying HD video streaming, given that most of that content today and for the near future relies upon Flash.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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Mar 11, 2010 - Posted by | Reviews, Software, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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