Adobe has released Flash Player 10.2, an update that focuses primarily on speed and performance improvements. New in Flash 10.2 is something Adobe calls “Stage Video hardware acceleration,” which the company claims will “decrease processor usage and enable higher frame rates, reduced memory usage, and greater pixel fidelity and quality.”
The Stage Video hardware acceleration means that Flash Player 10.2 can leverage your graphics card for not just H.264 hardware decoding (which works in Flash Player 10.1) but also color conversion, scaling, and blitting.
To try out the new Flash Player 10.2 beta, head over to the Adobe download page. If you’re using Google Chrome, which bundles Flash Player with the browser, look for an update to arrive in the near future.
The Flash Player 10.2 beta gave us mixed results when it came to speed and the final release is no different. Windows users will see the biggest speed bump, particularly with 1080p video that has been optimized with the Stage Video hardware acceleration. Mac users will need to be on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in order for Stage Video to take advantage of hardware acceleration.
For the beta I ran some test on the Mac platform (using Firefox and Chromium) using several 1080p videos on YouTube. The beta put CPU usage down to the 18-22 percent range, but the final release tops that, rarely climbing over 12 percent CPU use. On Windows (again in Firefox and Chromium) the story is even better, with the numbers hovering in the low single digits.
That’s good news for watching Hd video online, but it also means less drain on your laptop’s batteries, one of the main complaints leveled at Flash Player. Keep in mind though that in order to take advantage of the new Stage Video tools, sites like YouTube and Vimeo will need to alter their video players. So, it may be some time before the full benefit of Stage Video’s improvements makes it to your day-to-day web browsing.
Other new features in Flash Player 10.2 include support for fullscreen mode with dual monitors — meaning that you can have a movie on one screen and keep working on another — and some sub-pixel text rendering improvements which should make Flash text more readable.
As for Flash Mobile, where the benefits of lower CPU usage and less battery drain are even more welcome, Adobe says to “hang tight.” Adobe plans to talk about new versions of Flash Player for Mobile at the Mobile World Congress next week.