A totally biased comparison of Zutty (to some better-known X terminal emulators)

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2022-01-14 22:00:07

Zutty is the best X terminal emulator you have never heard of. It employs a radically simple, massively parallel rendering algorithm to completely offload the work of drawing the terminal screen to the GPU. This is quite different from how other terminal emulators operate, GPU-accelerated ones included. You can read more on How Zutty works.

Here I am interested in comparing Zutty to some alternatives: partly those that are well-known and have been around for many decades, but also (and especially) to other, newer programs similar to Zutty in that they also employ some kind of GPU-based rendering.

The comparison will be unashamedly biased: as the author of Zutty, I have a natural tendency to select criteria that makes Zutty look good. At the same time, I will try to make a fair comparison based on quantifiable metrics. Please note: I am in no way trying to convey that Zutty is altogether superior to any of the programs mentioned here; all of the programs are useful to at least some people and they have been written by obviously talented and dedicated programmers. I do not believe in reducing ranking among programs to a one-dimensional metric (a.k.a, “which program is better/best”), as the answer is, in nearly all aspects, “it depends”. The standard disclaimer also applies: terminals are notoriously complex beasts and my findings with any of the terminals might be due to “other factors” (including my own mistakes).

That said, I will aim to show that Zutty provides a compelling set of features at a high level of correctness and excellent performance characteristics. Compared to existing GPU-accelerated terminal emulators, Zutty runs on a wider range of graphics hardware by virtue of only requiring OpenGL ES as opposed to “desktop” OpenGL, and its resource demands are otherwise minimal. All this is provided by a relatively tiny codebase.

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