Adobe Flash: A Look At Browsers, Codecs, And System Performance

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Another interesting article they should do in regards of flash is games/applications in flash vs java and other methods. I know a majority of the flash games that are on facebook have a tendency to put netbooks into a crawl whereas other methods perform a lot better. Also, an article on how to possibly improve flash performance on netbooks would be a really useful article as well.
 

reprotected

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This article should have not been released. Now Apple, Chrome and Opera is going to race against Firefox and IE for the best flash playing browser. MORE HYPE!
 
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What about performance of flash in different operating systems. For example speed in Ubuntu and Windows?
 

acku

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What about performance of flash in different operating systems. For example speed in Ubuntu and Windows?
Installing Flash in Ubuntu isn't straight forward unless you are on the 32-bit version. I hear 64-bit is a nightmare. And I'm talking about the official version. That says nothing about the poor performance of Gnash and swfdec. Now there is nothing wrong with using Linux, but it wasn't intended for that type of usage. I code in Linux occasionally. That said, we might look into it down the road.

Can you clarify what you mean by speed comparisons? I'm not sure I follow. Video is video. Regardless of operating system, the difference is going to be performance overhead.

Andrew Ku
TomsHardware
 
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What baffles me is the frame rate drop in full screen mode on Chrome/Safari/Opera.

And it would be very interesting to see results on a Mac.
 

acku

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[citation][nom]Umrath[/nom]What baffles me is the frame rate drop in full screen mode on Chrome/Safari/Opera.And it would be very interesting to see results on a Mac.[/citation]

Yeah, we only can speculate as to why that is for those three. There defiantly is something going on. As for Macs, point taken I'll be sure to address that in the future.
 

randomizer

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The 32-bit version works fine on 64-bit Linux, you just need to install the 32-bit libs. Flash player 10.2 beta has a 64-bit version I believe, and it doesn't need to pull in all those extra dependencies. I've used it on Arch Linux without an issue. Hopefully 10.1 officially gets replaced soon :)


Gnash is an admirable project, but it's too far behind Adobe's Flash player to be relevant. I don't think it even works with some more recent videos.
 

acku

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https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats/Flash#Flash%20for%2064-bit%20%28x86_64%29
While 64-bit Flash for linux is still beta, Ubuntu mentions that it provides
# Greater stability
# Greater speed and performance
# Fewer dependencies to install

over using 32-bit Flash in 64-bit Ubuntu. I haven't tried it myself, so I can't say for sure. I'm trusting Ubuntu's internal tests on this one.

We're of the same mind on gnash.

Andrew Ku
TomsHardware
 

scrumworks

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Interesting article in theory but apples to oranges comparison makes no sense. AMD got the worst treatment again of course. Two generation old low end Radeon on a single core Neo mini-laptop system. That must be the crappiest AMD system available.
 

acku

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[citation][nom]scrumworks[/nom]Interesting article in theory but apples to oranges comparison makes no sense. AMD got the worst treatment again of course. Two generation old low end Radeon on a single core Neo mini-laptop system. That must be the crappiest AMD system available.[/citation]

Actually this is very apples to apples. If you look at a k625 system, the numbers may not be 50% cpu but it still will be higher than 20%. UVD3 doesn't come into play unless you are using Cayman or a brand spanking new Brazos notebook. Remember that the Radeon HD 4200 series is still the most powerful of the integrated graphics solution that AMD is providing, at the moment. 4225 has a slower clock speed sure, but this has little to do with the performance of the fixed function decoder.

Andrew Ku
TomsHardware
 

knightmike

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Adobe Flash disables the ability for my monitor to turn off after x amount of time even after I have closed my browser and returned to desktop. I hate that.
 

Corning

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Thank you SOOO mutch for wrighting out the acronyms. I hear these terms all the time, its nice to see where they come from.
 

feeddagoat

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How will video change with the release of HTML5? seems flash is horribly fragmented with different standards trying to cover so many possible hardware set ups. In which case who does responsibility for compatibility and improving performance fall to? Hardware vendors like Intel, Nvidia or AMD or software developers like Mozilla, Google, Microsoft or the actual content providers/web developers?
 

kevith

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The installation on Ubuntu Amd-64 has become a breeze. I run 10.04 LTS, and was a bit worried when I saw the "does-not-support-64-bit"-warning.

It's one -1!- commandline operation and you're happy. It's this:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:sevenmachines/flash && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install flashplugin64-installer

After you restart Firefox it works with no flaws at all.
 

shadowmaster625

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What I want to know is why when I play an Adobe Air based game (League of Legends) my framerate drops to 5fps when I have Firefox running with a couple youtube videos in the background. Quad core with decent video card, all running very close to idle load and temperatures. It is beyond retarded that I am forced to run a 2nd pc if I want to have a video playing at the same time, especially since the game barely uses any cpu or gpu. I am starting to agree with Steve Jobs. Adobe is a big steaming pile of malware.
 

jnjkele

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Very nice article! Great breakdown of respective flash video performance issues. The thing that keeps nagging at me is the validity of the various claims I've seen regarding the impace flash has on overall system performance and battery life when it comes to flash use on websites. This covers the web video questions - what about Stevie Job's assertion that there's no flash on their mobile devices because it kills battery life? I know from personal experience that flash can be really buggy, but what about performance impacts on mobile devices?
 

mariushm

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Seriously, Tom's Hardware, do you really have something against making proper reviews and tests? It almost looks like you intentionally want to screw up tests.

Let's see the hardware configurations you chose :

1. Atom - Ion 2 : Low CPU - High video
2. Core2 - Intel : Medium CPU - Low video
3. i3 - Intel : High CPU - Low to medium video
4. i5 - nVidia : High CPU - High video
4. Neo - 4225 : Low CPU - Low video

note: low and high video are in regard to 2D/3D performance in desktop, not games.

We have 4 generations of Intel processors from low performance and power usage (Atom), to middle Core2 and i3 (office usage), to relatively high performance (i5).
Yet we have only one AMD processor that's designed to compete against Atom, paired with the only AMD video card, one that's also designed for notebooks and has the lowest performance out of all the cards, by design.

On the first platform, Flash is basically using Ion2 to decode the video in hardware.
On the Core2 and i3, the intel video cards are not good enough and don't have drivers good enough - everything is decoded in software
On the i5, both the processor and the video card can easily decode the video, and the video card is powerful enough to do the compositing in window mode
On the Neo, you have both low performance processor and low performance video card - while the card can decode the video in hardware the processor is barely enough to do the compositing with various other Flash layers, while still handling the 3D Aero.

Also, the lowest performance nVidia card used is a 600 Mhz part using the 4th generation of hardware decoding, VP4, introduced in 07/2010. In contrast, the AMD's only presence is an old chip running at 380 Mhz, using UVD2 and introduced in 01/2010. AMD is now at UVD4 with the 6xxx series. Hell, it's so slow the Firefox CPU usage was high because there was a flash or gif animation on the same page with the video making the video card sweat.

Where the hell is a mid-high CPU coupled with a decent AMD video card, like 4670 or 5450? I'm currently using an Intel Q6600 coupled with an AMD 4850 - in window mode, 1080p content is barely using 20-25% cpu while in full screen it's barely going over 15%. It's obvious hardware acceleration is working perfectly fine in both cases.

There are plenty of laptop video cards from AMD, parts labeled 6xxx part that are actually chips from the Radeon 5xxx series, which have UVD3 and have much better performance than the HD4225.

Naturally, in Full Screen, Flash can use other hardware acceleration features that can't be used in 2D so the performance is much better.

I also don't see any mention of Flash 10.2, currently in beta, which introduces a completely new rendering technique which allows in most cases complete hardware rendering of everything in Flash. I'll quote from the official beta page:

http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flashplayer10/

Flash Player 10.2 introduces new features and enhancements, including a new video hardware acceleration model that enables dramatically enhanced video playback performance.

Key new capabilities in the Flash Player 10.2 beta include:

* Stage Video hardware acceleration — A new method for video playback in Flash Player will allow developers to leverage complete hardware acceleration of the video rendering pipeline, enabling best-in-class playback performance. Stage Video can dramatically decrease processor usage and enables higher frame rates, reduced memory usage, and greater pixel fidelity and quality.
* Internet Explorer 9 hardware accelerated rendering support — Flash Player takes advantage of hardware accelerated graphics in Internet Explorer 9, utilizing hardware rendering surfaces to improve graphics performance and enable seamless composition.
* Native custom mouse cursors — Developers can define custom native mouse cursors, enabling user experience enhancements and improving performance.
* Support for full screen mode with multiple monitors — Full screen content will remain in full-screen on secondary monitors, allowing users to watch full-screen content while working on another display.
I have this running on my system and the performance IS improved compared to the old one, but the most important reason I actually installed it is the possibility of watching a movie in full screen on the second monitor, which works as advertised.

When was this article done, October- November 2010?

PS. And by the way, Youtube also uses 960x540, mostly for their live streaming at events but also on some videos. Usually they cheat when people select 1080p and the video is too popular or the person has bandwidth issues, it falls down to 960x540.
 

acku

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Hmmm.... I'm not sure you read the entire article. We actually went over 10.2 and actually explained its implications. Right now its just a press release. Just because Adobe says FULL GPU acceleration doesn't mean you get it right away. Please read the last page again.

As for system choices, this was done mostly on the mobile side because it relates more to battery life. We explained how this related to desktop performance on the last page. And a correction, its UVD2 not UVD4. UVD3 is only out with Cayman. And unless you have a brand spanking new 6000 series card or a brazos system you are likely to have uvd2.
 

flaxx

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If you want the features of VLC (such as integrated CODEC's) with the hardware acceleration features of Windows Media Player (including support for Intel Hardware Acceleration), get Windows Media Player Classic Home Cinema: http://mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/
It's available in x86 and x64 (unlike VLC, or WMP for that matter unless you have 64-bit codecs).

I wish it was included in this review.
 

acku

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Thanks for the heads up. :) Honestly, the "better decoder" was a tangential aspect of the article. The focus was Flash. The day-to-day media player was just a sidebar to explain why some video players will do better with respect to battery life.
 

mariushm

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It's not a press release... the download link is on the right side of that page, I have the plugin installed and works perfectly fine, without crashes.

System choices and battery life...

You have Neo, a very low power cpu and obviously low performance (the only single core processor in the review) paired with a low power video card, at low frequency, therefore low performance in Aero (which can be seen when running flash in windowed mode), which is inside a laptop/notebook with low battery size. FFS, it's not even designed to play 1080p movies, probably the screen is barely a bit over 720p (yet it's the only configuration with AMD video cards or processors)

At the same time, you probably have an i3 or i5 paired with a decent nVidia card, inside a laptop with probably a much bigger battery.

Both of the configurations above will probably have the same battery life, probably the second even less life, so your point about trying to point to battery life is moot.

What I don't see, is a decent or high performance AMD or Intel processor paired with a decent or fast AMD video card. I'll give you three examples, aimed at various battery life and performance:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834146853 - Turion 2 dual core 2.4 ghz + 5470 ( low to medium cpu, high video , uvd 2.2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834214193 - Phenom 2 dual core, 3ghz + 4250 (high cpu, low video, uvd 2)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834220755 - Phenom 2 quad core 1.6 ghz + 5730 (medium to high cpu, medium to high video, uvd 2.2)

Re UVD3 yes, I apologize. When I said UVD 3, I was actually thinking of the 3rd installement of UVD... there was UVD/UVD+ , UVD 2, UVD 2.2 so I was thinking of UVD 2.2

So of course people reading the review will only see a single AMD offering, which is low performance (but you don't point this out) and your conclusion:

Hardware: We should add that AMD's UVD2 decode hardware doesn't seem up to par with the fourth generation of PureVideo (1215N: Ion 2, T510: Quadro 3100M) or the decode hardware on Intel's Arrandale design with HD Graphics (or newer Sandy Bridge-based CPUs) or on the older Core 2 Duo (UL20A: 4500MHD). This is also reflected in additional tests with VLC and Windows Media Player.
Well sure, compare a 375Mhz video card with a system running a 650Mhz video card, or with another having a CPU that's probably about 2 - 2.5 times more powerful (at which moment the fact that the card is Intel is pointless)
You never bothered to compare the UVD decode hardware when paired with a more powerful processor, like you did with the Intel processors and nVidia video cards.


One more thing. You never even mentioned WebM videos, which are currently fully supported by the Google Chrome browser... see http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-to-play-webm-video-on-youtube.html Performance should be slightly worse than h264.


 
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