Nvidia Offers Optimus Technology for Notebooks

Nvidia's Optimus technology aims to improve battery life and power efficiency in notebooks by rerouting the processing workload based on what applications are in use.

Semiconductor giant Nvidia announced Optimus, a technology designed for notebook PCs that chooses the best graphics processor for running a given application and automatically routes the workload to either an Nvidia discrete graphics processing unit (GPU) or Intel integrated graphics.

The company said notebooks with Nvidia Optimus technology will be available shortly, starting with the Asus UL50Vf, N61Jv, N71Jv, N82Jv and U30Jc notebooks.

Nvidia compares Optimus technology as similar to the way a hybrid car chooses between the gas-powered and electric car engine on the fly and uses the most appropriate engine. Optimus technology directs the workload through the most efficient processor for the job, which Nvidia claims extends battery life by up to two times compared with similarly configured systems equipped with discrete GPUs. When playing 3D games, running videos or using GPU compute applications, the high-performance Nvidia discrete GPU is used. When using basic applications, like Web surfing or e-mail, the integrated graphics processor is used.

"Consumers no longer have to choose whether they want great graphics performance or sustained battery life," Rene Haas, general manager of notebook products at Nvidia, said in a prepared statement. "Nvidia Optimus gives them both; great performance, great battery life and it simply works."

The company was quick to illustrate the importance of the release by assembling a long list of testimonials from leaders in the technology community, including Mike Angiulo, general manager of Windows planning and PC ecosystem at Microsoft, who praised Optimus for its ability to balance the performance needs of users, and P.C. Wang, corporate vice president and general manager of Asus' notebook business unit system business group, who called the technology "a unique approach" to extending battery life without sacrificing performance.

"The genius of Nvidia Optimus is in its simplicity," said Dr. Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research. "One can surf the Web and get great battery life, and when one needs the extra horsepower for applications like Adobe Flash 10.1, Optimus automatically switches to the more powerful Nvidia GPU."

Earlier this month, the company announced the availability of its entire line of Quadro professional graphics solutions for mobile workstations, based on the CUDA parallel computing architecture. The CUDA computing architecture, which combines high-performance graphics and high-performance computation, enables enhanced performance in areas such as video encoding, image processing and ray tracing. The complete line of Quadro FX mobile professional graphics solutions is currently available worldwide.