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What should I do wrt nvidia optimus laptop

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  • What should I do wrt nvidia optimus laptop

    I recently bought an Acer Aspire 5742g laptop, and then found out about Optimus and its complete lack of linux support after it shipped :\ Naturally I'm strongly considering selling the laptop and buying one with a working discrete graphics card. The things I'm wondering about:

    1) when *is* Optimus support likely to show up on linux? The technology's like a year old, and I've heard stuff about getting it working being a google summer of code project, so if I'll be able to use the nvidia card on it by, say, september I might not bother.

    2) what other options do I have for getting a laptop with discrete graphics? Apparently ATI has a similar technology, but in at least some cases you have the option of switching the GPU manually (with an X restart). I'm hearing conflicting things about whether or not their hybrid graphics are going to be any better-supported.

    3) As much as I'd hate to buy nvidia after this, I'll buy whatever I need to get working discrete graphics. I'm also hearing conflicting things about how good ATI's linux drivers are now, I know that historically they were rubbish but apparently that's changed now? I've been told that the Acer Timeline series is a good line to look into.

    4) Part of the problem with the 5742g in particular is that the bios doesn't offer an option to turn the nvidia GPU off. If I could do that, even if I had to buy a laptop with optimus I could at least get better battery life, and maybe be prepared for whenever linux optimus support does eventually come. So I need to know what laptops do offer the option to turn that off manually.

    Basically, I'm looking for advice on what to buy, since the 5742g has kind of failed me.

  • #2

    If it helps, the older generation i7's did not have integrated graphics, so these processors with a discrete nvidia card will run linux w/o issue. That's what i did, i bought a new Dell XPS 15 laptop with an i7-740 (the older gen proc have a 3-digit suffix like '740' etc) at the start of this year w/ an NV 435GT card. All is AOK. The i5 & i3 of this same prior generation all had nvidia optimus so they will not work, only i7. With the latest generation chips, i3, i5 and now i7 all have optimus & hence will cause grief under linux. The newer generation i7 has a 4 digit suffix, ie like 'i7-2630'. Iirc the newer i7 etc came out Feb? this year, so maybe you can find a laptop w/ the slightly older i7 & nv card & you'd be golden. Maybe Dell will still build with the older processor, i dunno.


    • #3
      AFAIK optimus Thinkpads do have the BIOS switch. I don't have such a system myself though (partially because of exactly this uncertainty whether it might be another optimus linux brick..)


      • #4
        AFAIK, Nvidia has no intention of supporting Optimus on Linux, ever. If they are planning anything, they are not saying it.

        I don't know if the nouveau folks can figure it out, but I wouldn't bet on it in the short term.

        I don't know anything about ATI hybrid technologies, but the drivers are fine. Catalyst has apparently improved leaps and bounds since AMD bought them (probably not at the nvidia level yet, but much better than a few years ago), and the OSS drivers are fine for most uses now, albeit slower than Catalyst.


        • #5
          If I were you, I'd return it or try to trade it for a model which is supported under Linux. It doesn't matter whether the graphics are Nvidia, intel or AMD.


          • #6
            You should be able to turn off the discrete graphics using the control in /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch (/sys/kernel/debug needs to be mounted as debugfs for that). It will at least not drain the battery then.

            Be prepared to access your system via ssh in case you mistakenly switch off the wrong graphics. If it doesn't work, has instructions how to make a useful problem report to the mailing list.

            If you want to do the Right Thing™ then return the laptop (if you can) and explicitly name lack of Optimus support on Linux as the reason.


            • #7
              Hybrid technologies is almost a given on most laptops nowadays. Even the cheap ones with slower processors. Where is ATI's support? If ATI is really serious about Linux support, then the support for their hybrid cards should be there - for both Catalyst and OSS drivers.

              I haven't read much about the level of support but it doesn't sound very strong. I thought there should be at least something that gives some basic support but I suppose it is at the lowest level an probably OSS-based?

              I do agree to avoid Optimus-based laptops, though. Thing is, there's a lot of them right now. If you restrict to those that aren't, there's either Intel gpu only or the ATI hybrids. The ATI hybrids work fine in Windows so where is the support for Linux?


              • #8
       i mentioned, the i7 just prior to sandy bridge i7 has no optimus and can be had with nvidia discrete card.


                • #9
                  Isn't it possible to use sandy bridge for 3d on the latest intel cpu's? And ignoring the optimus part of it?

                  (Of course the optimus hardware is wasted unless you reboot into windows to play games, or the linux hacks become more usable).

                  Anyone know what the heat production would be on this kind of setup? Could the sandy bridge setup run unity without powering up the fans too much?


                  • #10
                    Looks like you're in luck! Optimus supported by open-source project in todays news, including using the proprietary driver! That is imo a great solution, because it means you can have to performace of the proprietary driver when you need it, and still have KMS and other open-source technologies working with the intel driver. This is making me want an optimus laptop now.