Some ideas are so obvious that when announced, one's first reaction is to ask, "Wait, weren't we already doing it that way?" Such is the case with laptops featuring both integrated and discrete graphics processors, and Nvidia's new system for juggling them, called Optimus.
Common sense dictates that laptops with both a discrete GPU and standard integrated graphics should be able to switch between the two at will. After all, why waste battery life powering a GeForce card when you're just surfing the Web or sending an e-mail? Many laptops currently offer this option, commonly called switchable graphics, including select MacBook Pro models and systems from Asus, Sony, and others.
Unfortunately, until now, this required one to manually flip a switch to turn the discrete GPU off or on. Sometimes this was a software switch, sometimes an actual physical switch on the laptop. This kludgey system presents many problems. First, one has to remember to activate the GPU before launching a game or other graphics-intensive task, and then turn it off after (or risk killing your battery). Second, many mainstream users may not even know they have switchable graphics, and will simply leave the GPU permanently off or on, defeating the purpose altogether.
Some laptops label the two modes with unclear names such as "high performance" or "better battery life," which doesn't really spell out exactly what you're doing when you activate the mode. Even worse, some laptops require you to close all your apps and log out to switch modes (we're looking at you, MacBook Pro).
With Nvidia's new Optimus technology, that basic task of turning the discrete GPU on and off when appropriate has been automated. The company describes the process, saying, "Users can now experience the full performance benefits of a discrete GPU with the battery life of an integrated graphics solution. Nvidia Optimus automatically, instantaneously, and seamlessly optimizes the notebook to offer the best performance or best battery life depending on the application." … Read more