Chrome 14 Expands GPU Acceleration and Syncing Options

By Wesley Fenlon

The latest version of Chrome, currently in the developer channel, is integrating Google profile features and instant search options into the browser itself.

Google quietly adds new features to Chrome’s about:flags page with every new develop build. Some work perfectly and become stock Chrome features. Others, like Side Tabs, linger in about:flags for months without becoming standard features. The list of about:flags features has absolutely exploded with the Canary build of Chrome 14--we now count 31 experimental options in version 14.0.801.0.

Among the additions are new syncing services, options for Google Instant Pages and more GPU acceleration.

Chrome 14 will definitely play host to quite a few new features judging by the dev build’s about:flags listings. Some of those features will be pushed to Chrome 15 and beyond, assuming they even make it into a stable build of the browser. And they’re not all brand new--we’ve seen some of the GPU acceleration stuff before, for example--but they clue us in on the direction Chrome is heading.

First, here’s a roundup of all the hardware acceleration options available in about:flags:

  • Override software rendering list
    Overrides the built-in software rendering list and enables GPU-acceleration on unsupported system configurations.
  • GPU compositing on all pages
    Uses GPU accelerated compositing on all pages, not just those that include GPU-accelerated layers.
  • GPU Accelerated Drawing
    Enable GPU accelerated drawing of page contents when compositing is enabled.
  • Disable GPU VSync
    Disables synchronization with the display's vertical refresh rate when GPU rendering. This allows frame rates to exceed 60 hertz. While useful for benchmarking purposes, this also results in visual tearing during rapid screen updates.

GPU accelerated drawing doesn’t work yet--it just produces a black screen. GPU compositing doesn’t produce any noticeable bugs.

Now for the Instant, search and syncing stuff:

  • Multiple Profiles
    Associates every browser window with a profile, and adds a profile switcher in the upper right corner. Every profile has its own bookmarks, extensions, apps, etc.
  • Restrict Instant To Search
    Restrict Instant to loading only search pages.
  • Preload Instant Search
    Preload the default search engine for Instant.
  • Show Autofill predictions
    Annotates web forms with Autofill field type predictions as placeholder text.
  • Enable syncing typed URLs.
    Enable typed URLs in the sync options. This allows syncing your typed URL history to other clients to assist in omnibox auto-completion.
  • Disable pre- and auto-login
    Disable pre-login to services when sync is enabled. Also disable infobar on login pages which help automate the login process. Pre- and auto-login are always disabled if sync is disabled.

Google’s moving into position to push its Chrome profile system, which links with a Google account and digs deeper into the browser than the current sync system. The profile switcher appears in the upper left corner (not the upper right) and allows you to run several Google profiles at once within a browser. Eventually all these syncing systems should be integrated, taking your browsing habits into account for Instant Search, carrying over autofill data and syncing your URLs between multiple Chrome installations. Since this functionality will involve a lot of personal information, it’s good to see Google added an option to disable auto-login.

As always, Google’s working on even more behind-the-scenes technology changes like MHTML support and vertical scrolling on the new tabs page. WebRTC, a technology for in-browser real-time communications with audio and video, has also gained Chrome support.

We’re excited about most of the new features Chrome 14 has in store, but the multiple profile switcher has to be the winner. Just look at that cupcake!