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OpenGL ES logo
OpenGL ES logo
Original author(s) ARB
Developer(s) Khronos Group
Initial release 28 July 2003; 13 years ago (2003-07-28)
Stable release
3.2[1] / 10 August 2015; 18 months ago (2015-08-10)
Operating system Cross-platform
Platform Cross-platform
Type API
License Free of charge, royalty or licensing

OpenGL for Embedded Systems (OpenGL ES or GLES) is a subset[2] of the OpenGL computer graphics rendering application programming interface (API) for rendering 2D and 3D computer graphics such as those used by video games, typically hardware-accelerated using a graphics processing unit (GPU). It is designed for embedded systems like smartphones, computer tablets, video game consoles and PDAs. OpenGL ES is the "most widely deployed 3D graphics API in history".[3]

The API is cross-language and multi-platform. The libraries GLUT and GLU are not available for OpenGL ES. OpenGL ES is managed by the non-profit technology consortium Khronos Group. Vulkan, a next-generation API from Khronos, is made for simpler high performance drivers for mobile and desktop devices.[4]


Several versions of the OpenGL ES specification now exist. OpenGL ES 1.0 is drawn up against the OpenGL 1.3 specification, OpenGL ES 1.1 is defined relative to the OpenGL 1.5 specification and OpenGL ES 2.0 is defined relative to the OpenGL 2.0 specification. This means that, for example, an application written for OpenGL ES 1.0 should be easily portable to the desktop OpenGL 1.3; as the OpenGL ES is a stripped-down version of the API, the reverse may or may not be true, depending on the particular features used.

OpenGL ES comes with its own version of shading language (OpenGL ES SL), which is different from OpenGL SL.[5]

Version 1.0 and 1.1 both have common (CM) and common lite (CL) profiles, the difference being that the common lite profile only supports fixed-point instead of floating point data type support, whereas common supports both.

OpenGL ES 1.0[edit]

OpenGL ES 1.0 was released publicly July 28, 2003. OpenGL ES 1.0 is based on the original OpenGL API, with much functionality removed and a little bit added. One significant difference between OpenGL and OpenGL ES is that OpenGL ES removed the need to bracket OpenGL library calls with glBegin and glEnd. Other significant differences are that the calling semantics for primitive rendering functions were changed in favor of vertex arrays, and fixed-point data types were introduced for vertex coordinates. Attributes were also added to better support the computational abilities of embedded processors, which often lack a floating point unit (FPU). Many other functions and rendering primitives were removed in version 1.0 to produce a lightweight interface, including:

  • quad and polygon rendering primitives,
  • texgen, line and polygon stipple,
  • polygon mode and antialiased polygon rendering are not supported, although rendering using multisample is still possible (rather than alpha border fragments),
  • ARB_Image pixel class operation are not supported, nor are bitmaps or 3D textures,
  • several of the more technical drawing modes are eliminated, including frontbuffer and accumulation buffer. Bitmap operations, specifically copying pixels (individually) is not allowed, nor are evaluators, nor (user) selection operations,
  • display lists and feedback are removed, as are push and pop operations for state attributes,
  • some material parameters were removed, including back-face parameters and user defined clip planes.

OpenGL ES 1.1[edit]

OpenGL ES 1.1 added features such as mandatory support for multitexture, better multitexture support (including combiners and dot product texture operations), automatic mipmap generation, vertex buffer objects, state queries, user clip planes, and greater control over point rendering.

OpenGL ES 2.0[edit]

OpenGL ES 2.0 was publicly released in March 2007.[6] It is based roughly on OpenGL 2.0, but it eliminates most of the fixed-function rendering pipeline in favor of a programmable one in a move similar to transition from OpenGL 3.0 to 3.1.[7] Control flow in shaders is generally limited to forward branching and to loops where the maximum number of iterations can easily be determined at compile time.[8] Almost all rendering features of the transform and lighting stage, such as the specification of materials and light parameters formerly specified by the fixed-function API, are replaced by shaders written by the graphics programmer. As a result, OpenGL ES 2.0 is not backward compatible with OpenGL ES 1.1. Some incompatibilities between the desktop version of OpenGL and OpenGL ES 2.0 persisted until OpenGL 4.1, which added the GL_ARB_ES2_compatibility extension.[9]

OpenGL ES 3.0[edit]

The OpenGL ES 3.0 specification[10] was publicly released in August 2012.[11] OpenGL ES 3.0 is backwards compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0, enabling applications to incrementally add new visual features to applications. OpenGL 4.3 provides full compatibility with OpenGL ES 3.0. Version 3.0 is also base of WebGL 2.0. [12]

New functionality in the OpenGL ES 3.0 specification includes:

OpenGL ES 3.1[edit]

The OpenGL ES 3.1 specification[14] was publicly released in March 2014. New functionality in OpenGL ES 3.1 includes:[15]

OpenGL ES 3.1 is backward compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.0, thus enabling applications to incrementally incorporate new features.

OpenGL ES 3.2[edit]

The OpenGL ES 3.2 specification[16] was publicly released in August 2015. New capabilities in OpenGL ES 3.2 include:

  • Geometry and tessellation shaders to efficiently process complex scenes on the GPU.
  • Floating point render targets for increased flexibility in higher precision compute operations.
  • ASTC compression to reduce the memory footprint and bandwidth used to process textures.
  • Enhanced blending for sophisticated compositing and handling of multiple color attachments.
  • Advanced texture targets such as texture buffers, multisample 2D array and cube map arrays.
  • Debug and robustness features for easier code development and secure execution.

Platform usage[edit]

For complete list of companies and their conformant products, view here

OpenGL ES 1.0[edit]

OpenGL ES 1.0 added an official 3D graphics API to the Android[17] and Symbian[18] operating systems, as well as by QNX[19] It is also supported by the PlayStation 3 as one of its official graphics APIs[20] (the other one being low level libgcm library) with Nvidia's Cg in lieu of GLSL.[21] The PlayStation 3 also includes several features of the 2.0 version of OpenGL ES.

OpenGL ES 1.1[edit]

The 1.1 version of OpenGL ES is supported by:

OpenGL ES 2.0[edit]

Supported by:

OpenGL ES 3.0[edit]

Supported by:

Supported by some recent versions of these GPUs:[29][30]

OpenGL ES 3.1[edit]

Supported by Windows, Linux, Android (since version 5.0) on devices with appropriate hardware and drivers,[31] including:

  • Adreno 400 series[32][33]
  • Intel HD Graphics for Intel Atom Z3700 series (Android)
  • Intel HD Graphics for Intel Celeron N and J series (Android)
  • Intel HD Graphics for Intel Pentium N and J series (Android)
  • Mali T6xx (midgard) series onwards[34] (Android, Linux)
  • Nvidia GeForce 400 series onwards (Windows, Linux)
  • Nvidia Tegra K1 (Android, Linux)
  • Nvidia Tegra X1 (Android)
  • PowerVR Series 6, 6XE, 6XT, 7XE and 7XT (Linux, Android)
  • Vivante GC2000 series onwards (optional with GC800 and GC1000)[35]

Android Extension Pack[edit]

Android Extension Pack is a set of OpenGL ES 3.1 extensions, all bundled into a single extension introduced by Google in 2014. This allows applications to use all of the features of the set of extensions, while only testing for the presence of a single one. The AEP was officially added to Android Lollipop to provide extra features like tessellation over what was officially in the GLES 3.1 revision. OpenGL ES 3.2 update is largely made up of the AEP additions, which are already present in desktop OpenGL.[36]

OpenGL ES 3.2[edit]

OpenGL ES 3.2 works mostly on the same hardware as OpenGL 3.1.[citation needed] It incorporates Android Extension Pack (AEP) into it: "OpenGL ES 3.2 boasts a small number of improvements over last year’s OpenGL ES 3.1. Both make use of similar features from the AEP. From the AEP, OpenGL ES 3.2 compliant hardware will support Tessellation for additional geometry detail, new geometry shaders, ASTC texture compression for a smaller memory bandwidth footprint, floating point render targets for high accuracy compute processes, and new debugging features for developers. These high-end features are already found in the group’s full OpenGL 4 specification."[37][3]

Supported by Windows, Linux, Android (since version 6.0) on devices with appropriate hardware and drivers, including:

  • Adreno 420 and newer (Android)
  • Mali-T760 and newer (Android)
  • Nvidia GeForce 400 series (Fermi) and newer (Windows, Linux)[38]

OpenGL compatibility[edit]

For full compatibility with OpenGL on ES-only devices, Nvidia offers a BSD licensed library called Regal, originally started by Cass Everitt.[39] Regal is used for example by Google's NaCl.[40]

See also[edit]

  • OpenGL – original cross-language, multi-platform API for rendering 2D and 3D vector graphics
  • OpenSL ES – API for audio on embedded systems, developed by the Khronos Group
  • Vulkan – low-level, cross-platform 2D and 3D graphics API, the "next generation OpenGL initiative"
  • WebGL - Web Graphics Library is a JavaScript API for rendering 3D graphics within any compatible web browser without the use of plug-ins.


  1. ^ Khronos Expands Scope of 3D Open Standard Ecosystem
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "3D Graphics API State of the Union: SIGGRAPH 2015" (PDF). Khronos. Industry will ship >1.7 billion devices in 2015 
  4. ^ Not dead yet: AMD’s Mantle powers new Vulkan API, VR efforts, By Joel Hruska, 4 March 2015, ExtremeTech, Ziff Davis
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Khronos Press Releases - OpenGL ES 2.0". 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  7. ^ Edward Angel, Dave Shreiner, Interactive Computer Graphics: A Top-Down Approach with Shader-Based OpenGL, 6th Edition, p. xxi-xxii, ISBN 978-0-13-254523-5
  8. ^ "The OpenGL® ES Shading Language" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-02-16. 
  9. ^ The OpenGL(R)Graphics System: A Specification (Version 4.1 (Core Profile) - July 25, 2010)
  10. ^ "The OpenGL ES 3.0 specification". 
  11. ^ "Khronos Releases OpenGL ES 3.0 Specification to Bring Mobile 3D Graphics to the Next Level". 2012-08-06. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "The OpenGL ES 3.0 Shading Language Online Reference Pages". 
  14. ^ "The OpenGL ES 3.1 specification". 
  15. ^ "Khronos Releases OpenGL ES 3.1 Specification". 2014-03-17. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  16. ^ "The OpenGL ES 3.2 specification". 
  17. ^ What is Android?, Google
  18. ^ Symbian OS v9.5 product sheet, Symbian
  19. ^ "Using OpenGL ES". QNX Software Development Platform (v6.5.0). QNX. Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  20. ^ OpenGL ES demo in PPT format
  21. ^ SONY/Khronos OpenGL ES/PSGL Presentation in PPT format
  22. ^ "New in this beta release". Release Notes - BlackBerry Java Application. Research in Motion. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  23. ^ Koh, Damian (2009-11-29). "What to expect for BlackBerry smartphones". CNET Asia. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  24. ^ a b "PDK - Overview". HP Palm Developer Center. Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  25. ^ "DMP announces OpenGL ES 1.1 conformant PICA 200 adopted by Nintendo". 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  26. ^ "Android 2.2 specifications". Google. 2010-07-01. 
  27. ^ "Maemo software - Nokia > Nokia N900 mobile computer > Technical specifications". Nokia Corporation. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  28. ^ iOS 8 for Developers - Apple Developer
  29. ^ "Khronos Conformant Products". 
  30. ^ Sag, Anshel (2013-04-11). "The State of OpenGL ES 3.0: Who's Got What". Bright Side of News. Archived from the original on 2013-06-15. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  31. ^ "OpenGL ES3.1 Conformant Products". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  32. ^ "Adreno™ Graphics Processing Units". Qualcomm. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  33. ^ "GL ES 3.1 on Adreno 3xx?". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  34. ^ "ARM's Mali Midgard Architecture Explored". AnandTech. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  35. ^ "Vivante Vega Cores for 3D". Vivante. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  36. ^ "Khronos Debuts OpenGL ES 3.2 & New GL Extensions, But No Vulkan This Week". August 10, 2015. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  37. ^ "OpenGL ES 3.2 and Vulkan – everything you need to know". Android Authority. 2015-08-15. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  38. ^ "NVIDIA Releases 358.50 Game Ready Drivers For Star Wars Battlefront". AnandTech. Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  39. ^
  40. ^ In-depth: Bringing Regal OpenGL to Native Client, By John McCutchan, 7 September 2012, Gamasutra

Further reading[edit]

  • Ginsburg, Dan; Purnomo, Budirijanto; Shreiner, Dave; Munshi, Aaftab (2014). OpenGL ES 3.0 Programming Guide. Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 0-321-93388-5. 
  • Pulli, Kari; Aarnio, Tomi; Miettinen, Ville; Roimela, Kimmo & Vaarala, Jani (2007). Mobile 3D Graphics with OpenGL ES and M3G. Morgan Kaufmann. ISBN 0-12-373727-3. 
  • Astle, Dave & Durnil, David. OpenGL ES Game Development. Course Technology PTR. ISBN 1-59200-370-2. 
  • Pulli, Kari; Aarnio, Tomi; Roimela, Kimmo & Vaarala, Jani. Designing graphics programming interfaces for mobile devices. IEEE CG&A 2005. 

External links[edit]