For a while now, NVIDIA has been offering a graphics technology that allowed the user to change between a discrete GPU and an integrated GPU in their notebook computer. The user had to initiate the change when they wanted to use either GPU and many users simply never used the feature. The goal was to give the notebook user a powerful GPU when needed, but allow for a power sipping discrete GPU when battery life was the main goal.
NVIDIA has today unveiled a new technology called Optimus that takes the dual GPU system NVIDIA already has and makes it much easier for the user. Optimus is able to optimize the performance of the notebook automatically without any input from the carbon-based life form in front of the screen. What that means is that the technology knows when the system needs the discrete GPU and will start it up automatically and when the discrete GPU isn't needed, it turns it off automatically.
NVIDIA's Rene Haas said, "Consumers no longer have to choose whether they want great graphics performance or sustained battery life. NVIDIA Optimus gives them both -- great performance, great battery life and it simply works."
Notebooks using the Optimus technology will hit the market shortly and the first examples will come from ASUS. The ASUS machines are the UL50Vf, N61Jv, N71Jv, N82Jv, and U30Jc laptops. HotHardware reports that the important component is the Optimus Copy Engine and it is integrated into all current 40nm GeForce 200M and 300M GPUs. The Optimus technology will also be an integral part of all the upcoming Fermi-based GPUs for mobile devices.
HotHardware writes, "With previous NVIDIA offerings that featured support for Hybrid SLI, which also allowed an NVIDIA IGP to display the output from a discrete GPU, elements of the GPU's 3D pipeline were used to copy frame buffer data to the IGP. This caused the 3D engine to stall during DMA operations. With the new Optimus Copy Engine, however, the 3D engines are not stalled during the copy process."
As PC Perspective points out, the real magic here is that the Optimus system doesn’t require you to close any applications, logout of your account, or reboot to start one GPU or another. Hybrid graphics from NVIDIA before Optimus often required you to at least shut your open applications.