With a new burst of laptops this year, there is a good handful of them that now come with nVidia Optimus.
What is this technology? In a nutshell, nVidia Optimus is a technology currently for laptops that allows the use of both the onboard Intel GPU and the nVidia GPU simultaneously, depending on the processing needs of the running applications. When an application needs advanced hardware acceleration, it powers up the nVidia GPU from a “sleep” state. This dynamic use of the nVidia GPU allows for lower power consumption (and thus better battery life) because most of the productivity applications or the even the windows interface itself does not need the full power of an nVidia GPU.
There are a few “gotchas” to this technology, however. The first is that you must be running Windows 7 ™ with supported drivers in order to take advantage of this. If you aren’t, then you might be stuck using the Intel GPU, depending on how your system manufacturer routed the video on your motherboard. The second is that some applications don’t automatically run with the nVidia GPU. You might need to manually configure the application to run using the higher power GPU. The final one that I am aware of is that the use of currently available GPU monitoring software or widgets can severely impede hardware performance.
The typical GPU monitoring applications that cause some hardware quirks are the ones that periodically poll the GPU to obtain its temperature, clock speed, load, memory usage, etc. So far, it has caused the following:
- On the Dell XPS 17 (L702X), non-3D edition, running a GPU monitoring app or widget caused the fan to switch on (at high speed) and off. This in turn caused the CPU & GPU temperatures to go on a roller coaster ride, going sky high then back down, inverse to the fan’s state.
- On my Dell Precision M6600, running a GPU monitoring app or widget reduced my battery life by 40 some minutes!
This is all happening because the monitoring app causes the driver to wake up the GPU in order to poll for its status. So users, beware!
Have any other weird issues related to nVidia Optimus? Post a comment below.