Google Engineer Sets Facts Straight on Android Hardware Acceleration


With the release of Android Honeycomb and now Ice Cream Sandwich, we have heard a lot of talk about hardware acceleration in Android in recent months. Some of this talk has led to confusion over how Android handles graphics and rendering, confusion that Google engineer Dianne Hackborn is tired is tired of dealing with. She took to Google+ to set the record straight and offered a bulleted list of “facts” for interested readers to peruse. Older versions of Android relied on software rendering at the CPU level, an inefficient method that leads to poor performance and responsiveness on devices with slower processors. Android Honeycomb introduced GPU-level hardware acceleration, and Ice Cream Sandwich further improves on the technical challenges associated with the shift from software to hardware graphics processing.

Hackborn clarifies that Android has always had some sort of hardware acceleration dating back all the way to before version 1.0, including the rendering of menus, pop-ups, and dialogs. Hardware could always render the window that held content, but the “full” hardware acceleration brought about in Android 3.0 deals with rendering the content within a window. However, “hardware accelerated drawing,” Hackborn states, “is not all full of win.” Rather than offer a full paraphrasing of the lengthy writeup she has posted, I suggest you head over to the Google+ source link below to read a more detailed breakdown, that is, if talking nuts and bolts about smartphone software and hardware is of keen interest to you.

[Google+ via The Verge]

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  1. That is a very good read!  I recommend it to anyone that can understand what is going on!

    1. Not me….straight up lost o_O Wish I did though….

  2. android 3.0 has hardware acceleration? that software really buggy i dont think it does

    1. No problems with bugs on my XOOM.

    2. It being buggy doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have Hardware Acceleration. It just has some other problems I guess.

    3. it was smooth as butter before samsung put there touchwiz on it. i think they don’t have hardware acceleration for their overlay… its annoying

      1. NO it is not. I have a stock Tab 10.1 from Verizon and it is choppy and stuttery. If THIS is the hardware acceleration we are getting in ICS…well the f**k.

        1. well shit, mine was pretty good before i accepted the update. :/ thats really discouraging though, hardware acceleration really needs to be PURE gpu acceleration like apple does.

    4. My transformer does fine, though of course I’ve not found 3.0/3.1 to be particularly buggy either, so maybe you were using the “special edition” or some such? ;)

  3. Hardware acceleration can make quite a huge difference. Running an AOSP rom on my Nexus S, and it’s so buttery smooth. :)

  4. little typo. “Dianne Hackborn is tired is tired of dealing with”

    Thx. Glad i got to read that post. Very interesting stuff.

  5. I don’t think she posted anything new that someone who follows Android wouldn’t know. 

  6. “Hardware accelerated drawing is not a magical silver bullet to butter-smooth UI”

    That is the killer highlight right there.

  7. It’s an interesting read (although it’s a little difficult at times… somewhat of a wall of text broken up by bullet points…). It’s a shame when people simply try to blame all of their problems on one boogeyman (software rendering) without actually knowing the full extent of the performance issues causing slow-downs. 

  8. Even with Google’s so called “hardware acceleration”, ICS users are reporting that the typical Android lag is still very alive and real, even on the Galaxy Nexus. This is a major disappointment and has many wondering if Google even knows how to fix it and if they really know what they’re doing. See issues 20278 and 6914 on the Android section code.google.com



    I really don’t want to get an iPhone, but Google is making it very easy to make the switch to the Dark Side. They’re doing this to themselves.

    1. you are going to be called a troll soon. the key ingredient in the google android fanboy kool aid is to deny any google criticism.
      it’s all roses in team fanboy land

      1. The same could be said for apple fanboys. If that’s not the case, tell me what’s wrong with the iphone, otherwise what’s the difference between apple and android fanboys?

        All fanboys do basically is stereotype. All androids do this or all iphones do that. It’s no different than all asians are like this or all blacks are like that. I may enjoy whatever device I currently have, but that doesn’t mean nothing is better than it is, just like you cannot say that nothing is absolutley better than what you have. What matters is what’s the best for you.

    2. Then go a feature-diluted iPhone.  

      1. out of curiosity.  (I’m own a non-rooted evo 4g)  What special features exactly can a non-rooted android do that a non-jailbroken iphone cannot?

        1. Flash, Live wallpaper, widgets, change the UI entirely, install non-market applications, have a keyboard/not have a keyboard, have a 3.5″ screen/have a screen that is NOT 3.5″, be an LCD/be something other than LCD, free tethering.

          That’s all I could think of on a whim.

          1. I mean i understand the hardware differences. So pretty much if you like the size and look of the iphone the only real difference is wired tethering/custom layouts vs smoother responsiveness. This is what i thought but i didnt know if there was anything extra i didnt know about.

          2. What he listed above was not only hardware differences. Also that fact that you have to jailbreak an iPhone to even come close is a huge deal. Also once jailbroken, you often can’t update your iPhone via itunes without running into issues. It’s not as easy as everyone makes it out to be. There are some annoying issues that crop up with jailbreaking that makes it more of a pain than rooting and running custom roms on Android.

            Also IOS can never completely imitate the customizability and flexiblity of Android, jailbroken or not.

          3. You are correct im sure, but i was asking specifically about an-rooted android vs an un-jailbroken iphone since it better represents real life usage.

        2. I’m sorry, yeah there’s not really anything significant that Android can do over iOS other than run Flash.  The rest is fluff.  However iOS has wireless mirroring which is a huge thing that Android lacks.  Siri is pretty damn cool and advanced but its still fluff.

          Overall capabilities are pretty much the same though to the common end user.  IMO. 

          1. Alright thanks, thats all i wanted to know. I mean i’ll still probably get a dual or quad core ics phone (whatever the new hotness is) when i upgrade in May but its nice to have info to combat the fanboys of all flavors

          2. Wrong. Android allows customization to a degree that Joseph can only dream of. Changing homescreens, keyboards themes, ringtones, notification sounds, stock apps, not to mention hardware choice and competition.

          3. Read the whole conversation…

        3. It can support the features of an evo 4g. Such as larger screen size. ios is stuck on 3.5″ for iphones but having just one screen size means they can optimize for it. But I’m not at all interested in such a tiny screen.

    3. I remember working on a mac a long time ago (long before OSX) and thinking how cool/pretty the spinning wheel was while it was churning away, trying to do basic tasks. It really gave the Mac an air of refinement, that even while working hard, it was smooth when spinning that wheel…

      But that’s all it is… a show. When it comes to actual work, Android takes the cake. I don’t think anyone here would argue that some more polish would be appreciated in Android. I think quite a few (myself included) would even say it’s embarrassing that there are a few hiccups. While some/most of these hiccups are caused either by user error, or by carrier software that can be fixed by running a proper ROM, I would agree that users shouldn’t be forced to do anything to get a polished experience. This goes double for Nexus devices, which should run nearly perfectly as the software is coded for their hardware specifically.

      On my year+ old DroidX, I occasionally see a hiccup, but most of the time it runs smoothly and efficiently. It simply comes down to whether you want more responsibility, or less responsibility. Users who want more responsibility get devices tailored for their own needs, with the software they want, all without someone else telling them what they can and cannot run. This comes with potential risks obviously, but for some, the pro’s outweigh the con’s. 

      If you want your device to run perfectly a higher percentage of the time, without the hassles of being responsible for your phone’s maintenance, then a closed ecosystem is probably the way to go. You’ll have far less choice, but the choices you are given are more likely to be the right ones and not negatively impact your device. 

      Thank God for choice eh?

    4. Wow. Not surprising that Google is doing this. They are terrible at making real improvements. They reskin and all the Android sheep go ooooh ahhhhh


      1. iphone 4 to iphone 4s, what’s the difference there. People are paying ETFs to get the same phone with dual core (that supposedly doesn’t need dual core), a slightly better camera, and a voice assistant app. So how is that better? To me it’s great for people who have an upgrade available, but to pay the ETF plus the cost of the phone, it’s just not worth it.

        1. And on top of that, the iPhone 4s has poor battery life (that wasn’t fixed with the update) and SIRI is as buggy and unreliable as they come.

          Give me ICS any day of the week over simpleton, overpriced crap from Apple.

    5. I read some of the comments In those links and most are just whiners who seem to think  a stutter or two every now and then is the end of the world. 

      First of all IOS is a very simplistic OS devoid of many of the functions Android has (widget capability, context menus, truer multitasking etc) so it should be faster by default. Does that mean it’s ok for Android to lag a little, well yes and no. If the lag gets in the way then no, if it clearly doesn’t or is just a once in a while issue, then yes, considering the benefits.

      Secondly, the iPhone has a smaller screen with less resolution than the Nexus – that definitely helps.

      Lastly, if you have to compare every Android phone to the iPhone before purchasing, and if you are so taken with how smooth the UI is, then maybe you should stick to the iPhone.

  9. sounds like google is covering it ass when people realize that there hardware acceleration is it as smooth and fluid as apple

    1. I have a Galaxy Nexus. It’s as smooth as butter. All the smoothness of an iPhone, all the benefits of Android. Lovely. 

      1. You’re wasting your time, The_ATL_Guy  and a couple other pet trolls come to feed here daily. Apparently their iBoring devices aren’t doing it for them.

        1. Agreed. Even the iPhoney sites report more about Android than their Crapple counterparts. If it wasn’t for Android, the Apple sites (like the “B” site and “E” site) wouldn’t have anything to post. So for that same reason, bozos like ATL_Weenie magically appear here since nothing is going on in their world for 11 out of 12 months. Android on the other hand is constantly changing, updating, improving and offering something Apple doesn’t… Choice. Thus we have real news always happening, and even the precious snowflakes that like Apple have no where to turn except sites like Phandroid.

  10. Honeycomb is a stuttery, laggy mess. I hope ICS is much better.

    1. My ASUS Transformer is smooth as butter… and my pre-order of TF Prime is even going to be better…

      1. Smooth as butter doesn’t mean much coming from people who only use Android’s shit OS

        1. It always cracks me up when people on one OS go to sites that deal with a different OS. What are you trying to accomplish? Everyone will see that you are right and call you a hero?

          Not every OS will work for every person, not every anything will work every person. Everyone has different wants and needs. I know plenty of people that iOS is just a better fit for them, just like I know plenty of people that Android is a better fit for them. But this I’ve got to get everyone on board to my way of thinking mentality is just sad. Some people will like what you like, some won’t. That’s life, deal with it.

        2. Shit OS?  Hating much?   as an ipad 2 user and android galaxy user, my ip2 is just as smooth as my galaxy.  And I’m still pissed off that half the features on my ipad I have to jailbreak and pay for when rooting is readily availabile for most android even before launch.  Might I add these incompetent devs takes 10 billion years to hack a single os.  WTF is that.  I give much credit to Android devs on that dept. I can live with steves damned walled garden for a tablet but for a phone I take everywhere?  NO THANK YOU.

          ps WTF ru doing here.

        3. You’re just saying that because you know you’re using a phone that’s only meant for soccer moms who think farmville is an intense action game.

        4. STFU troll and go back to your super slow battery draining 3G iPOS 4Sux Sisi….

  11. What I read from that is that is:

    When we first built android, we made some decisions, like building on top of java, instead of writing our own code from the bottom up, that has created some problems

    We have to deal with different chip sets, different hardware, across different generations of hardware.  

    Android does more than any mobile operating system

  12. From what I’ve read of all the various articles. It’s got basically the same level of HA as Honeycomb. Which should be an improvement for most phone users. The greatest benefit won’t be the lag, but rather the battery life.

  13. Oh c’mon, that can’t be her real name.

    (Yes, tongue in cheek)

  14. Maybe android should start taking screenshots of screens then animating the screenshots to provide smooth looking inaccurate transitions. Why inaccurate? Well, if anything changes on the screen you don’t see it until after the screenshot is done with its animation.

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