Graphics Capacity

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

If you've been reading this blog, then you've been hearing a lot about a piece of hardware known as the Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU. It keeps coming up because it's a powerful key to the smoother, faster, and more responsive browsing experience offered by Internet Explorer 9.

Among the world's largest manufacturers of GPUs is Silicon Valley semiconductor giant Advanced Micro Devices. Although AMD is better known for its central processing units -- the brains inside your PC -- gamers and hobbyists will be very familiar with its GPU line, which includes the Radeon brand. Whether it's integrated into your CPU or on a dedicated video card, your GPU handles the complex tasks of rendering graphics in 2D and 3D and manipulating them in response to user input. IE9 works more closely with your GPU than any other available browser; AMD invests heavily in advancing GPU technology; so it's no surprise that AMD has developed a showpiece site for IE9's graphics acceleration (which relies on an underlying Windows technology called Direct2D).

AMD Space Command is a shoot-'em-up game in which you man the guns on a space capsule, firing missiles at groups of alien invaders, floating blobs, and hostile space ships. Each hit earns you a point. You get 45 seconds to rack up as many points as possible, and then you play again to try to best your score.

You may vary the difficulty of the game from "easy" through "middle" to "insane" by adjusting what AMD calls a "GPU Capacitor." Jacking up the capacitor means that you're asking for more targets to aim at. As you increase the intensity, watch how that affects the speed at which your browser responds (measured as frames, i.e. screen updates, per second).

On a moderately speedy laptop with a dedicated graphics card, even as I increased the game's intensity from "easy" to "insane," IE9 kept running the game fast enough to appear smooth to the naked eye. Only one other browser came close. The rest turned in performances that were miserable in one way or another. (Some couldn't play the soundtrack; some couldn't play the game at all; most were just way too slow.) So if you play on IE9, you've got the winning game experience.

This story, "Graphics Capacity " was originally published by BrandPost.