Hardware acceleration, at this stage, is not always faster than the software backend
Opera 12 has been in the works for almost a year now. It's been going slow, but that's to be expected with such a major update. But it's almost over, the beta is coming very soon Opera announced.There's plenty to be excited about Opera 12, but the big new feature is hardware acceleration.
Opera wanted to have the first browser to offer full hardware acceleration, not just for some elements or for the web content, but the UI as well, everything that's rendered on screen passes through the GPU.
That meant rewriting a lot of code, but it would be worth it in the end. Opera is almost done, it can offer hardware acceleration on all supported platforms, Windows, Linux Mac OS X, which is not something that other browsers can say.
In the latest experimental, pre-beta snapshot, Opera started using DirectX as a backend on Windows rather than the cross-platform OpenGL which is less supported on Windows.
So far so good, but there's a problem and it's not the usual incompatibility issue, caused by old hardware or drivers, hardware acceleration is not always faster than the software based backend, dubbed Vega.
It may seem counterintuitive, but Vega is tried and tested and highly-optimized. Even by the time Opera 12 goes stable, the hardware acceleration technology will still be new and unoptimized. Add to this all sorts of hardware configurations and it is very likely that the older technology performs better.
This is why Opera decided to ship Opera 12 with hardware acceleration, and WebGL with it, disabled by default. Users will, however, have the option to enable hardware acceleration on their devices if they choose to.
When Opera 12 goes stable there will probably be a configuration option for this, but, for now, users testing the snapshot can enable both hardware acceleration and WebGL manually by setting opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableHardwareAcceleration and opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableWebGL to 1.