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Testing Flash Player 10.1 for the Mac

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All this makes perfect sense, so please don't read any criticism into these limitations - Adobe can't support more hardware than Apple supports with their new API, and limiting the supported hardware is an efficient way for Apple to get something helpful out the door quickly. Still, it's important to set parameters and expectations should you try the Player, and also provide some perspective for the results that I'm about to discuss.

What We Found
Back in early March, I ran some tests measuring the CPU horsepower required to decode the playback of a 720p YouTube video file and detail the test procedures here. At a high level, I played the file back using YouTube's HTML5 and Flash options, using Flash Player 10 and 10.1, and measured CPU activity via Activity Monitor. I pretty much duplicated those tests here, except starting with Flash Player 10.1 and the installing and testing the preview release. The table shows the results.

MacBook Pro - YouTube

Safari - HTML5

Safari - Flash

Chrome - HTML5

Chrome -  Flash

Firefox Flash

CPU utilization - Flash Player 10.1






Flash 10 vs HTML5






CPU utilization Flash Player 10.1 Preview






Flash 10.1 Preview vs HTML5






Change from 10.1 to Preview






To explain, with Safari using HTML5, playback of the 720p YouTube file took 13% of the total CPU resources of my test MacBook Pro. This corresponds to the gold standard discussed above, where the system leverages hardware acceleration for both H.264 decoding and scaling and display.

In Apple Safari running the Flash version of YouTube, playback of the same file consumed 38% of CPU resources, 198% more than HTML5. With the preview release, CPU utilization dropped to 22%, a decrease of 42%. While not equaling Safari running HTML5, it's a very substantial drop, with further decreases from scaling and displaying in hardware to come.

With Google Chrome, HTML5 playback consumed 40% of CPU resources, only 18% more efficient than the 47% consumed with the 10.1 Flash Player. The preview release drops CPU utilization to 34%, which is 14% more efficient than Chrome playing via HTML5.  The drop in CPU utilization from 10.1 to the preview release was a healthy 27%.  Finally, with Firefox, CPU utilization fell from 41% to 26%, a drop of 38%.

Overall, quite a tidy drop in CPU resources, though not yet up to the gold standard of Safari playing in HTML5. We asked Adobe if their plan to access GPU hardware for scaling and display would reduce CPU requirements to that level, but we haven't heard back yet. We'll update if we do.

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