Nvidia dropped a note about its Optimus technology in a short blog post prior to CES this year, but we've got the full low down from Nvidia for the service that launches today.
Nvidia Optimus seamlessly bridges the gap between integrated and discrete graphics meaning you get the benefits of long battery life (associated with integrated graphics), and the power to carry out intensive tasks, such as video transcoding and 3D gaming (associated with discrete graphics) in the same machine. It is a system that uses both hardware and software components.
This was possible in the past on a number of laptops, for example the MacBook Pro and Sony Vaio Z series, but you had to physically switch the graphics over yourself, sometimes with a restart of the machine. Rene Haas, general manager of notebook business at Nvidia, told Pocket-lint that their research suggested only 1% of those with a switchable notebook actually managed to switch it correctly, as it wasn't a great solution.
Nvidia Optimus allows the system to monitor the demands put on the system via Nvidia Profiler, which will tell the system to switch when necessary. The switch is seamless and completely automated, so basic tasks will run on an integrated graphics solution and the discrete GPU will fire up when you want to get a bit of kill time on Modern Warfare 2. You won't know - it just works.
Nvidia claims it will be a win-win situation for everyone - consumers will get the advantage of greater power efficiency when they need it, manufacturers will see greater customer satisfaction at the same cost and Nvidia - well, they get their technology in more laptops.
The new technology officially launches today, coming to major manufacturers and the first off the line is the Asus UL50VF, updating the UL50VG which launched last year (with manually switchable graphics).
Best of all, Nvidia Optimus is compatible with a range of existing platforms, such as Intel Arrandale, Penryn and Pine Trail, so it is as relevant to gaming laptops as it is to netbooks. It will work with a range of GeForce M GPUs as well as the next-gen ION.
Expect a slew of new notebook announcements to follow and you can bet your cotton socks that Nvidia Optimus will be stuffed into the next MacBook Pro, so perhaps we'll see a refresh from Apple soon too?