Although Opera is not the first to do this since both Google Chrome and our highly secure, open source web browser Firefox too has an engine that uses the power of your Graphic card’s processor for rendering web sites for sometime now. But starting with the Alpha version 12, Opera not fully rely on your GPU acceleration rather than the CPU.
It’s true that the CPU or the central processing unit is the heart of your computer but for better performance + efficiency, the “trend” these days is the “APU” (advanced processing unit) where you get both the CPU and the GPU at the same core.
Anyhow, the CPU is certainly an extremely powerful tool but concerning some aspects (such as rendering graphics or dealing with graphics in general), the GPU is actually can be many times efficient than the CPU. The reason is simple, because the manufactures have literally designed & optimized it for those sort of calculations.
Thus, as many knows, with the introduction of the HTML5 that brings a lot of native support for advanced 3D and CSS rendering… the web browser developers just figured that by using your GPU rather than the CPU for dealing with web pages can not only fasten the rendering, etc but should also bring other advantages such as giving a bit longer battery life, since the work load of the CPU is lessened but still even though the GPU has to do all the work, but it’s more efficient that the CPU (meaning less power consumption).
So yesterday the Opera developers revealed the latest version of their web browser 12.0 (which is still at Alpha stage) which it uses your GPU for rendering web pages by default for the first time!. It’s code named “Wahoo” which is actually a pretty fast fish btw 🙂
Now this is certainly good news but it do have its issues, especially concerning GNU/Linux. For instance, the newly invented Ubuntu Unity and the Gnome Shell rely on OpenGL rendering thus they use your GPU power more than ever, meaning that having an optimized driver can make a difference. Otherwise, you could step into trouble (such as some Nvidia cards failing on Gnome Shell in recent times for instance).
The good news is that, right now, in both MS Windows & GNU/Linux, Opera uses OpenGL for 3D rendering (but they’ll be launching the Microsoft Directx compliant soon). But the problem is that, if you use Ubuntu for instance and having troubles running the Unity 3D desktop already then most probably you won’t be able to run Opera 12.0!.
But that being said, if you’re okay with that fact that it’s still at Alpha stage and have a powerful GPU that causes no issues with say Compiz in Ubuntu, then I think you officially qualified to try it out :P.
Not entirely sure whether it supports older versions but you can install Opera 12.0 Alpha on Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal and 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot by first downloading the “.deb” file from here (supports both 32/64 bit versions) and then simply double click on the file to install it.
Although for me, it didn’t work properly … but luckily things won’t be such bad for you ;-). Also remember, it’s a bit tempting to try it out with all these bragging about GPU and how great it is, etc … but it’s still at its Alpha thus may not be able to give you the most secure web browsing experience either. So use it at your own risk. Good luck.