As the notebook industry continues to grow, consumers are trying to find the best compromise between battery life and performance. With the increasing popularity of HD media, gaming, and GPU powered applications, the number of GPUs included in notebooks continues to increase.
While integrated graphics has historically delivered good battery life, it has failed to deliver the graphics and GPU performance end users demand. As a result, a few years ago NVIDIA developed a technology dubbed “switchable graphics” which allowed the end-user to choose which display adaptor would be used. In essence, this technology brought the best of both worlds, as it offered the battery life of an integrated graphics solution and the performance of a discrete GPU. Unfortunately, there were limitations to the technology resulting in the end user having to execute a fairly involved procedure to harness the most from the platform, resulting in only 1% of users ever switching between the two graphics systems.
With NVIDIA's new Optimus technology, 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.
When the GPU can provide an increase in performance, functionality, or quality over the IGP for an application, the NVIDIA driver will enable the GPU. When the user launches an application, the NVIDIA driver will recognize whether the application being run can benefit from using the GPU. If the application can benefit from running on the GPU, the GPU is powered up from an idle state and is given all rendering calls.
Using NVIDIA's Optimus technology, when the discrete GPU is handling all the rendering duties, the final image output to the display is still handled by the Intel integrated graphics processor (IGP). In effect, the IGP is only being used as a simple display controller, resulting in a seamless, flicker-free experience with no need to reboot.
When less critical or less demanding applications are run, the discrete GPU is powered off and the Intel IGP handles both rendering and display calls to conserve power and provide the highest possible battery life.
The beauty of Optimus is that it leverages standard industry protocols and APIs to work. From relying on standard Microsoft APIs when communicating with the Intel IGP driver, to utilizing the PCI-Express bus to transfer the GPU‟s output to the Intel IGP, there are no proprietary hoops to jump through. NVIDIA‟s new hardware and software design seamlessly blends into the existing frameworks.