Power Consumption and The Wrap-up
NVIDIA's Optimus technology is less about performance and battery life than it is about the user experience. What we mean by this is that a GeForce 220M is going to consume the same power when in use, whether it is in an Optimus enabled notebook or not. And the same can be said about the IGP it's pared to as well. What Optimus does enable, however, is a seamless switch from a lower-power, IGP enabled state, to a higher performing, GPU enabled one. This seamless switch gives users all of the performance of a discrete GPU when it's needed, with the lower-power benefits of an IGP when it is not.
To show how power is affected over time with Optimus, we ran a simple test with our sample notebooks. In this test, we allowed the machines to idle at the desktop, then we fired up 3DMark06 and it's Canyon Flight graphics test. After a few seconds we exited 3DMark, and then the machines settle back to idle. The data shows the idle-peak-average power consumption for a notebook running solely on the IGP, solely on the discrete GPU, and finally on the Optimus enabled system.
What Optimus nets the end user is low-power operation when the discrete GPU isn't necessary, high-performance operation when it is, with a seamless switch back to low power. The end result is less power consumed over time, without any sacrifice in performance.
NVIDIA's Optimus graphics switching and power saving technology, though a little complex to explain from a design and software standpoint, couldn't be easier to understand and see in practice and function from an end users perspective. In fact, what NVIDIA has done with the technology enables a level of both functional and design simplicity that is, for us and we're sure notebook consumers to follow, a thing of beauty. There is a simple elegance here that NVIDIA has enabled with Optimus and it's the way it should have been done a long time ago quite frankly. Granted, we're sure that our expectations are based on an over-simplification of the level of engineering that NVIDIA poured into Optimus but we're more than happy that this level of seemless functionality for switchable hybrid graphics is finally here. Thanks to NVIDIA for making it a reality. We'll even go so far as giving the technology our coveted Editor's Choice award because, yes, it's that good.