Hardware acceleration allows the browser to offload intensive tasks like image scaling, rendering complex text or displaying scripted animations to your PC’s graphics card. It has the benefit of freeing up the PC’s main processor and speeding up page load times.
Today’s faster graphics cards have created a new playing field for hardware acceleration. Microsoft has been trumpeting IE9′s accelerated capabilities since the first developer preview was released, and Firefox 4 will also take advantage of the new technology. Both of those browsers should be released before the end of this year.
Chrome 7, which is currently available in developer build form, is the latest browser to take advantage of hardware acceleration. Chrome’s tightly sandboxed rendering model — which prevents web pages from interacting directly with the OS — means that hardware acceleration is a little more difficult for Google than it is for IE or Firefox.
Of course it may be some time before any of these features make it to the stable release of Chrome. Chrome 5 is currently the shipping version and Chrome 6 — which features a considerably revamped interface — is currently in the beta channel. Thus far Google has not confirmed any release dates for Chrome 6, nor when Chrome 7 will move to beta status.
But If you’d like to test the early builds of Chrome with hardware acceleration, you can do so now. Grab the latest developer build of Chrome 7 and launch it from the command line with the new
As with Firefox, the hardware acceleration features in Chrome are only available in the Windows version.
Hardware acceleration isn’t the only new trick up Chrome’s sleeve. The Mac version of the browser is also experimenting with something Google calls “Tab Overview” or Tabpose. Tabpose is similar to Mac OS X’s Expose; it allows you to visually pull back and see all your tabs as thumbnails and quickly switch between them.
Some early reports have compared Tabpose to Firefox 4′s new Panorama tab organizer, but Firefox’s version is considerably more sophisticated, with extra features like drag-and-drop organization and the ability to group tabs and switch between groups. If you’ve used both Panorama and Tabpose, the differences are obvious.