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Qt 4.4 and Maemo

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After playing a while with Qt 4.4 on my N800 (will be the same for N810), the impression of “slow” (like latest Adam’s latest post) is something that I predicted will soon come out. So far, my very brief investigation reveals that the cause for this is both simple and sad: the Maemo’s X is running 16-bit visual (N8xx’s display is Highcolor only, not Truecolor). Thus, if you do something fancy with 32-bit stuff, like running a QPainter on a Format_ARGB32 or Format_ARGB32_Premultiplied QImage, then basically you force a 32-to-16 conversion every time you blit the image.

Take a look at PictureFlow, the infamous clone of Cover Flow. You can just checkout it, run qmake and make as usual and start to have some fun (all inside Scratchbox, and after that transfer it to the N8xx).

Surprisingly, it runs horribly slow, probably less than 5 fps. Consider than PictureFlow does its magic by straight pixel manipulation and then just blit the result, this looks really weird. However, it was found out that Qt needs to perform the conversion from 32-bit image to 16-bit pixmap for every single frame, hence the terrible slow down. In short, there is more CPU power wasted for the blitting vs for the rendering. Check your callgrind output to confirm this.

Good news: this is something that can be fixed (both in the application level and probably inside Qt). Personally this one is my favorite aim for Qt 4.5. Once we start to see ported Qt apps for Maemo, we can’t afford to allow a potential performance penalty like this, it would just give a wrong impression of Qt. Don’t you agree?

Sidenote: 16-bit can be useful because (on a non-accelerated graphics system), you can perform faster full-screen update (less transferred bytes). 32-bit is however easier to handle because each color component lives in a separate byte.

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