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Firefox 3.7 Alpha Launches With Direct2D GPU Rendering

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Proving that Microsoft really was born to suffer in the browser world, Firefox has beaten Internet Explorer 9 to its one interesting feature...

While Firefox 3.6 continues to beaver away in beta developer Mozilla has already launched Firefox 3.7 alpha on its FTP and with it full Direct2D rendering. This is promised for IE9 and means for the first time a web browser can render a website using the power of a PC's GPU rather than its CPU - a move which can dramatically speed up loading times.
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Windows Vista or Windows 7 plus a DirextX 10 compatible graphics card with WDDM 1.0 driver are needed to be compatible, but early tests are extremely promising. Mozilla programmer Bas Schouten used a PC with a Core i7 920 processor and relatively midrange Radeon HD4850 and claims Direct2D rendering times more than halved on many sites (results pictured). This potentially skyrockets Firefox performance into and beyond Google Chrome territory and while how much will depend largely on what GPU you have even the GeForce 8400GS in my laptop shows definite improvement.

Currently dubbed 'Minefield', for obviously stability related issues, the build isn't intended for mainstream consumers but the Windows-only build does indicate a brave new world of browsing could be just around the corner. Of course with the likes of Adobe's Flash Player 10.1 beta also offloading video onto the GPU we may soon need to redesign software to give the increasingly idle CPU something to do!

In related news Mozilla has also pushed out the fourth beta of Firefox 3.6. Small performance tweaks are present, though it is mostly bugfixes and suggests a Release Candidate will be next on the horizon. And to think, those of you running Firefox 3.5 thought you were up to date...

Links:
Bas Schouten Blog Post
Firefox 3.6 Beta 4

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