Nvidia’s Optimus technology is a great thing to have on your laptop, especially if it uses a more powerful discrete graphics chip like a gaming laptop normally would. The idea behind the Optimus tech is that it can automatically switch on and off the more powerful discrete GPU, depending on the current usage of the laptop, for example if you run a game the discrete video card becomes activated and you can enjoy high fps. But when you are working on the laptop with office applications or browsing the web you don’t need a powerful GPU and the integrated Intel GPU can do just fine, so the discrete GPU gets completely shut off saving battery. This way you get the best of both worlds – high performance in games and other demanding applications and longer battery life when you are on the go and need longer battery life. But how does stereoscopic 3D support fits into all this?
Unfortunately the way the Optimus technology functions prevents you from being able to use 3D Vision with an external 3D display or even 3DTV Play with an external 3D HDTV. The implementation Nvidia uses has the integrated Intel graphics active all the time, no matter if it is the GPU rendering the image, or only visualizing what is rendered from the discrete Nvidia GPU. When you run a game, the more powerful Nvidia video card gets activated and starts rendering the frames and as soon as a frame is being rendered it is sent to the integrated GPU’s framebuffer for visualization. So the integrated Intel graphics actually shows the image on the laptop’s screen no matter if it rendered the visual data or not, and so all the extra video connectors, such as HDMI for example, are usually connected to the integrated Intel GPU and not to the discrete Nvidia one. And if you connect a 3D HDTV for use with 3DTV Play or a 3D LCD monitor for use with 3D Vision you will not be able to use them in stereo 3D mode as they are not being properly detected… they are not physically connected to the Nvidia GPU, but to the Intel one. Although there are a few models that have the HDMI on the GeForce that will work, so be sure to check for that before choosing an Optimus laptop with the idea to connect it to a 3D HDTV and use 3DTV Play!
So if you plan on using your laptop with 3DTV Play or 3D Vision and the laptop itself does not come with a built-in 120Hz display and it does not have the HDMI port attached to the GeForce GPU, then unfortunately you will have to do without Optimus technology. The problem is that most new Intel-based laptops with Nvidia graphics do come with Optimus technology support, so you should be extra careful when choosing. And choose wise if the Optimus technology is more important for you or the stereoscopic 3D support, as currently it isn’t easy to make sure you have both at the same time in the same laptop.
And on a side note, the Optimus technology is officially only supported on Windows, making the lives of people using Linux and getting an Optimus equipped laptop a little bit of a hell. Fortunately, there was a recent positive development, so if you are struggling with that, then you better check this: Optimus on Linux Problem Solved.