NVIDIA’s Optimus technology is designed to let laptops with integrated and a discrete NVIDIA graphics card switch between the two options automatically. Since the NVIDIA graphics chip uses more power, it only kicks in when you need it, letting you rely on the Intel graphics chip in your processor the rest of the time.
Up until now, NVIDIA has only officially supported computers running Windows. But at least one NVIDIA software engineer is working on adding support for Linux.
NVIDIA’s Aaron Plattner reports that he has a proof-of-concept version of a driver for Optimus-based laptops. It’s still a work in progress and there are still some kinks to work out.
But, given NVIDIA’s strained relationship with the Linux crowd, this is a pretty big development.
Meanwhile there’ s an unofficial open-source project called Bumblebee which aims to add support for Optimus-like graphics switching.
Optimus is a pain on Windows, and I’m sure Linux users will find it just as painful when it works, maybe more than it was when it didn’t work. You can’t use nVidia’s 3D Vision or 3DTV Play with Optimus. PhysX is hit or miss with Optimus. It’s something I’d rather not have to deal with for my next laptop.
I bought one of the first Optimus-enabled laptops and found the feature nearly useless. Windows doesn’t really support it either as it relies on the drivers to be in perfect harmony to work. You cannot apply the latest Nvidia driver or the Optimus stops working. Windows update tries to apply the latest Intel driver, and if it does, then you don’t get any Nvidia graphical goodness.
Kind of a mess if you ask me.
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