The problem with performance and battery life is they are always a trade off. Or at least they used to be...
Today Nvidia announced 'Optimus' - an exciting new technology that believes in the philosophy of having your cake and eating it too. What it brings for the first time is smart, application aware switching between integrated and discrete graphics chips.
In practice this means low power, low performance integrated graphics are used when you are doing basic tasks like word processing or web surfing and when you switch to games or HD video playback the higher performance discrete graphics instantly jump in. The switch back to integrated graphics is made the moment you return less demanding applications.
So what is new here is the automation process since laptops have long been on the market with switchable graphics. The problem is they tend to require restarts to implement and even then users forget to switch off the discrete graphics and suddenly realise they have drained their laptop batteries. In fact, Nvidia claims its research shows just one per cent of users with switchable graphics laptops use this feature.
The best part? Optimus is designed to work with ION in netbooks, is compatible with all GeForce 200M and 300M laptop GPUs and plays nicely with Intel 's Pine Trail-based Atom, Penryn-based Core 2 Duo and Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. If you're AMD on the other hand - with its ownership of ATI - then you're left in the cold.
Real world Optimus availability? Nvidia says any minute and it has racked up a wide array of design wins. The first of these will be the Asus 'UL50VF' - the successor to the UL50VG - and many other manufacturer announcements, including new Apple MacBooks with Optimus, are expected very soon.
Excited? Yep, we are too...
Nvidia Optimus Press Release