Faster graphics for older PCs in Chrome 18

Google updates the stable version of Chrome with innards that process graphics faster, a prelude to robust game-playing courtesy of its Native Client tech that waits in the wings.

Google Chrome 18 brings two methods of improved graphics support to both newer and older computers. Released today, Google Chrome 18 stable for Windows (download)Mac (download)Linux (download), and Chrome Frameimproves both WebGL and Canvas2D.

To help along WebGL in Chrome on older Windows and Mac computers, it now gets a boost from a software rasterizer called SwiftShader, licensed from TransGaming. SwiftShader only works when Chrome’s baked-in graphics processor acceleration doesn’t run, and in the blog post announcing the update, Google said that it sought out this third-party solution so that “more users will have access to basic 3D content on the web.”

The Canvas2D changes will allow the same older PCs to process game and animation graphics faster. When Google originally debuted the improved Canvas2D in Chrome beta, the company noted that the multitude of older hardware configurations caused significant delays in implementing the improvements. The feature doesn’t yet work for Linux.

In the offing for Chrome 19, due around six weeks from today, and Chrome 20, due just before June’s Google I/O conference, are full implementation of Google’s Native Client (NaCl) tech. Already partially available in the Chrome 19 developer’s version, NaCl and its API set known as Pepper will allow, the company says, gaming support in the browser that will come close to console-quality graphics.

Chrome 18 also updates the Adobe Flash plug-in to its latest version, and makes numerous security and bug fixes. There were no “critical” security fixes, but there were a few “high”-level fixes, out of nine security fixes reported.

  • Hardware-accelerated Canvas2D graphics.
  • WebGL without the need of 3D graphics hardware through the software rasterizer SwiftShader.
  • Brighter “new tab” button.

You can read the Chrome 18 changelog here.

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