OpenGL 4.2 has now been finalized by the Khronos Group consortium and NVIDIA is the first to roll out a graphics card driver supporting the new standard, which makes it possible for OpenGL developers to enjoy the new specification from day one. Among the news we find a more intelligent way of handling compressed textures for significant performance gains.

Khronos Group is working constantly with developing support and specifications for graphics, media and GPGPU technologies. About a year ago it finalized the OpenGL 4.1 specification and now that it is time for the next update it hopes to increase performance in future OpenGL applications. The new OpenGL 4.2 specification is supported by all DirectX 11 compatible graphics circuits, but parts of it will also work with older GPUs.

News in OpenGL 4.2

  • enabling shaders with atomic counters and load/store/atomic read-modify-write operations to a single level of a texture. These capabilities can be combined, for example, to maintain a counter at each pixel in a buffer object for single-rendering-pass order-independent transparency;
  • capturing GPU-tessellated geometry and drawing multiple instances of the result of a transform feedback to enable complex objects to be efficiently repositioned and replicated;
  • modifying an arbitrary subset of a compressed texture, without having to re-download the whole texture to the GPU for significant performance improvements;
  • packing multiple 8 and 16 bit values into a single 32-bit value for efficient shader processing with significantly reduced memory storage and bandwidth, especially useful when transferring data between shader stages.

More information on OpenGL 4.2 can be found at opengl.org, where you can also download the complete specification. NVIDIA’s OpenGL 4.2 driver can be found at the graphics card manufacturer’s website and AMD has announced that it is planning a beta driver with OpenGL 4.2 support.

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