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GPU Overdraw Debugging Tool

Debugging GPU Overdraw in Chrome

Intro

When diagnosing performance problems it can be valuable to visualize GPU overdraw. This can show you where Chrome might be doing more rendering work than necessary and help you see where you might be able to reduce rendering overhead.


The primary audience for this tool is Chrome developers but it can also be used to diagnose performance problems with web pages.

Getting Started

The GPU overdraw feedback tool built into Chrome has been inspired by the GPU overdraw debug feature that exists on Android and developers familiar with that feature will feel at home using this tool to improve the Chrome UI or web pages.


To visualizing GPU overdraw in Chrome navigate to about:flags and enable the Show overdraw feedback experiment. If you are on Chrome OS then it is also recommended to disable the Partial swap experiment as that produces output that is easier to analyze.


When enabled, this tool visualize overdraw by color-coding interface elements based on how many elements are drawn underneath. The element colors are hinting at the amount of overdraw on the screen for each pixel, as follows:


True color: No overdraw

Blue: Overdrawn once

Green: Overdrawn twice

Pink: Overdrawn three times

Red: Overdrawn four or more times



Example of GPU overdraw feedback output.


Some overdraw is unavoidable. As you are tuning your UI elements or web page, the goal is to arrive at a visualization that shows mostly true colors and 1X overdraw in blue. The calculator UI shown above is an example of undesirable amount of GPU overdraw.


Examples of undesirable and desirable Debug GPU Overdraw output.

Fixing Overdraw

There are several strategies you can pursue to reduce or eliminate overdraw. If you are working on the Chrome OS UI then it usually comes down to using fewer Aura windows with opacity set to TRANSLUCENT. For Chrome apps and web-pages in general, the following strategies will likely apply:


  • Removing unnecessary use of “position:fixed;”.

  • Avoid use of 3D transformations and translateZ=0.

  • Use  { alpha: false } for <canvas> elements unless alpha is needed.

Tracing

If you are analyzing GPU overdraw for animations or creating automated performance tests then overdraw feedback in the form of trace events can be useful. See The Trace Event Profiling Tool (about:tracing) for more details about how to record tracing runs. Enable the cc.debug.overdraw tracing category to have Chrome record the amount of overdraw for each frame. The result is presented as a GPU Overdraw counter that changes over time as overdraw increase or decrease.



The value of the counter is the percentage of overdraw in the last frame presented. No overdraw for one half the screen and 1X overdraw for the other half results in a Gpu Overdraw counter value of 50.


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