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Snow Leopard H.264 Hardware Acceleration and OpenCL Requirements

Apple's Mac OS X Snow Leopard specs page also reveals a number of other details about hardware support for both H.264 acceleration and OpenCL.

MacRumors had previously reported that the latest MacBook Pros offered hardware acceleration for H.264 video playback. While Apple has previously included graphics cards that have contained hardware support for H.264 decoding, the company has only recently taken advantage of this hardware acceleration. Mac OS X Snow Leopard's specs officially acknowledge this support but it appears to be limted to the NVIDIA 9400M graphics processors found in recent Apple laptops and desktops. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this support will extend to older video cards. Hardware decoding of H.264 video improves the performance of video playback while leaving your computer's CPU free for other tasks.

Meanwhile, Apple also details which GPUs will be supported for their upcoming OpenCL API. OpenCL will allow developers to easily offload additional processing tasks to the computer's GPU. Some tasks may find greater benefit from this than others, but could potentially offer substantial performance boosts. The list of supported GPUs include:

- NVIDIA Geforce 8600M GT, GeForce 8800 GT, GeForce 8800 GTS, Geforce 9400M, GeForce 9600M GT, GeForce GT 120, GeForce GT 130.
- ATI Radeon 4850, Radeon 4870

In one specific example, one company found a 5-fold increase in video encoding when using OpenCL-like technology on the PC.

Related roundup: MacBook Air