Nvidia Optimus laptop tech switches between discrete GPU, Intel integrated graphics

Nvidia Optimus laptop tech switches between discrete GPU, Intel integrated graphics

Summary: Remember Hybrid SLI? For those you don't, it was Nvidia's solution for an ever-vexing problem for laptop makers: How can you deliver the power of a discrete graphics card without sacrificing battery life?

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Remember Hybrid SLI? For those you don't, it was Nvidia's solution for an ever-vexing problem for laptop makers: How can you deliver the power of a discrete graphics card without sacrificing battery life? The Hybrid SLI solution was to have an Nvidia video card work in tandem with an Nvidia motherboard (and its onboard graphics) to provide a performance boost for graphics-heavy tasks like gaming and switch to integrated graphics for other applications.

Now the graphics powerhouse hopes to do Hybrid SLI one better with its new Optimus technology. The approach is similar—combine a discrete card with integrated graphics—but with a few important tweaks. The most notable one is that unlike other similar solutions, the switching between the two modes (discrete versus integrated) is fully handled in the background by Optimus' software. There's no need for the user to have to switch the settings him or herself, which according to AnandTech's lengthy report on Optimus, only occurred about 1 percent of the time. Nvidia also claims that a notebook using the Optimus solution will deliver twice the battery life of a similar portable that has a discrete GPU without the Optimus optimization.

There's also no longer a need for a special Nvidia motherboard to make the switchable-graphics magic happen. However, that does not mean that any laptop with an Nvidia graphics card and a recent Intel CPU is Optimus-enabled. There is a great deal of software tweaking involved with Optimus, so notebook manufacturers will need to release systems that have the technology baked in. (Asus has already announced its first four Optimus laptops; see a later post with the details.) But the fact that Optimus can work with the latest Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 mobile processors, as well as many Core 2 Duo and even Atom CPUs means that many new Optimus-enabled portables should be hitting stores relatively soon.

It may be overkill for Atom-based netbooks, but for those who want to do some 3D gaming and/or video editing on their laptops, an Optimus-based solution should at least be considered if you're looking to buy a new system in the near future.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Intel, Mobility, Processors

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6 comments
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  • Sounds like a workaround to me

    ...a workaround to get around Intel's current chipset debate with NVIDIA. NVIDIA's current debacle with chipset flaws with integrated video, as well as discrete MXM cards overheating over the last couple of years, and the fact that they alternate between AMD and Intel chipsets and aren't on an Intel schedule at this time means this is the only option for them to offer their graphics on Intel's new Core iX CPU-based systems for Q2 of this year.
    Joe_Raby
  • Note to editor: it's spelled "NVIDIA", all caps, not "nVidia"

    To my knowledge, it has never been typed as "nVidia". The logo would be alliterated as "nVIDIA", but that is only done in the logo and is a result of the custom typeface that they use.
    Joe_Raby
  • Not if you gave it to me free.

    Graphics, lap tops and DRIVER updates have been teh bane of lap tops for years.

    Hello NVIDIA, I need to update my graphics driver to solve a few issues.

    Dear customer, go talk to the lap top maker.

    Hello Dell, I need to update my graphics driver.

    Dear customer, sorry we don't have one.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
  • RE: nVidia Optimus laptop tech switches between discrete GPU, Intel integrated graphics

    Apple already does it. It's no big thing.
    Peteyboy1
  • RE: nVidia Optimus laptop tech switches between discrete GPU, Intel integrated graphics

    so how does this stack up to ion, or is ion a part of
    this?
    Naryan
  • Why does this sound like the 6 month old ASUS UL(20-80)vt?

    If I'm not mistaken, these already existed back in October. I already bought my wife one in November, UL80vt-X1. She love it due to the looong battery life, about 8-9.5hrs, and Win 7 64-bit appears to make no performance sacrifice. To turn on/off G210 M, simply press button in the upper left corner. Screen will dim and power consumption goes way down. Plenty of outstanding reviews on the net. BTW: From a spec point of view, the G210M and G310M are practically the same.
    Oxwax