How to Force GPU Rendering on Android

When GPU rendering made it’s way to Android, it was unreliable, to say the least. It’s official purpose what to enhance the performance of apps, but back then a lot of graphical user interfaces didn’t know how to work with GPU rendering. In some cases, it was even slower than software rendering.

Over time, particularly after Android 4.0 came along, GPU got more reliable and slowly became the default for most apps. Now, most updated apps have GPU rendering coded into their builds.

But before we get to the bottom of how and when to enable this option, let’s figure out how it works.

What is GPU Rendering?

The GPU is the Graphics Processing Unit. At its core, it’s very similar to the CPU, but instead of doing calculations and performing tasks related to the operating system and hardware, the GPU handles the graphical information. In other words, it puts stuff on the screen for your eyes to see.

While the CPU is perfectly capable of handling graphical instructions, doing so will take time away from doing other important stuff for the system, which can lead to lag. Even more, the way CPUs are designed makes them quite inefficient with processing graphical data, compared to GPUs which are programmed to handle graphical information.

This is where GPU Rendering comes along – it takes the graphical processing part away from the CPU, thus freeing it up for more important chores. Since the GPU is much better with graphical data, the end result is better performance for both the CPU and the GPU.

When to Force GPU Rendering

Enabling this setting will offload window components like text, buttons and 2d graphics calculations to the GPU. This will make your device render UI animations better and feel less laggy. While you’ll definitely achieve a smoother experience and better frame rate in 2d applications, your device may end up using more battery. GPUs are known to consume more power than CPUs, so expect to see a 10-15% reduction in battery life if you leave it on at all times.

Forcing GPU rendering definitely makes sense on devices with a weaker CPU. If your device is anything less than a quad-core, I would recommend you leave it on at all times.

But keep in mind that GPU rendering is only efficient with 2d applications. Big games using 3D graphics can have worse frame rates with Force GPU Rendering enabled. The good thing is most Android versions won’t interfere with 3D apps and will only force GPU rendering on 2d apps that don’t use it by default.

Because most new apps already have this option enabled in their code, you might only notice sizeable differences when browsing through the menus of your phone. Your device will feel more snappy and display information on your screen faster than it used to. Sure, some older or badly-made apps will achieve higher frame rates while forcing GPU rendering, but those cases are rare.

Bottom line is, it’s up to you to decide if you want to trade battery life for increased fluidity and some additional frame rates. With this in mind, here’s how to enable Force GPU Rendering.

How to Enable Force GPU Rendering

  1. Go to Settings and scroll all the way down to the bottom.
    Note: If you see an entry called Developer options, tap on it and skip right to step 5.
  2. If you don’t see the option, tap on About phone (About device) and look for an entry called Build Number.
  3. Tap on Build number 7 times until you get a message saying “You are now a developer“.
  4. Go back to Settings, scroll down and you should be able to see a new option called Developer options. Tap on it.
  5. Scroll down to the Hardware accelerated rendering and enable the toggle next to Force GPU rendering.
Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.