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Nvidia Optimus Technology and 3D Vision Don’t Go Well Together

June 6th, 2011 · 20 Comments · GeForce 3D Vision

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.

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20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mgb // Jun 7, 2011 at 18:17

    And even better – if you have a 120HZ external DLP TV or projector.
    Although the Intel embedded graphics can normally drive a 1280×720@120 signal from most laptops – with optimus fitted it refuses to.

  • 2 phantom17574 // Jun 16, 2011 at 22:37

    So how about the Tridef3d software which is bundled/used with the new Samsung TA/SA950…looks like that may not work either with Nvidia`s Optimus technology (like in my new Alienware M11x R3).

  • 3 Junket_Creek // Jun 30, 2011 at 23:43

    So isnt it possible to fix this with a driver who activates the 3d vision option in the nvidia systemtool? I can play my games over the hdmi 1.3 port on my hd beamer with 120 hrz and full resolution…so why does the 3d wont work?

  • 4 rahu // Jul 5, 2011 at 09:44

    I have made purchase of Asus K53SV based on same technology explained above.
    My problem is that i am not able to get options for Display and stereoscopic 3D setup in nvidia control panel.
    Is there any one who can help me?

  • 5 Junket_Creek // Jul 6, 2011 at 00:06

    @ rahu
    i am not able to get options for Display and stereoscopic 3D setup in nvidia control panel too…do you have a solution? please tell me if you get it to work!

  • 6 Bloody // Jul 6, 2011 at 23:02

    As I’ve mentioned in the article above having Optimus technology and trying to get the laptop to work in stereo 3D mode with external 3D-capable display device can be troublesome. Depending on where your VGA/HDMI ports are attached to – the integrated Intel or the discrete Nvidia GPU you may not or may be able to make the 3D work. This is due to the way the Optimus technology works and there is nothing you can do if the VGA/HDMI output is attached to the integrated Intel GPU and not to the discrete graphics chip from Nvidia… I repeat THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO. So choose carefully if you are going for an Optimus-based laptop that you might need to be connected to a 3D HDTV or a 3D Projector.

  • 7 Junket_Creek // Jul 7, 2011 at 00:13

    @ bloody,
    can you explane why? i can play 3d games with the acer shutter classes and the iz3d driver..so why isnt it possible to use the nvidia kit? i have the full resolution an 120 hrz on my h5360 beamer if i play!

  • 8 NoirFleur // Jul 13, 2011 at 02:39

    Oh Bloody Hell, what the hell did the developers of Nvidia think?

    And why don’t you bring a driver which fix this problem?

    I only bought a new notebook with a geforce to play in 3d and watch 3d movies.

    And now I can return the notebook, because YOU are not able bring out new technology that works.

    Thinking of selling my whole 3d equipment and buy a notebook with ati graphics, just to show you that the customers do not swallow everything.

    Always got nvidia graphics in my computers in the last 12 years, but now You lost a true fan of nvidia

  • 9 PCA // Aug 13, 2011 at 17:42

    Firstly quick question, when 3dVision is enabled does the game interscale the frames/Hz or do the drivers do it?? Because if the game is in charge I am sure someone will force the Intel to 1280×720@120Hz with PowerStrip or something along those lines, Force the Nvidia at the same resolution and hack the controllers to send the signal to the glasses “I am working at 120Hz” and return 3DVision is enabled to the game so it does the fancy Hz switching. Otherwise the solution is more complex as Nvidia would need to fix the drivers with a software update. Anyone knows how it works??

  • 10 dinovom // Aug 23, 2011 at 12:16

    So is there any economically priced gaming notebook providing Optimus and 3D Vision – haven’t found one yet?

    Btw., why is an 120hz Panel needed? How about a notebook without 3D/120Hz Panel, but HDMI connected to Nvidia – would it provide 3D on an external Device?

  • 11 Bloody // Aug 23, 2011 at 18:13

    There should be some, however I’m not aware of exact models and unfortunately I do not have a list of notebooks that have the right configuration for both technologies to work. Most of the laptops with Optimus support that I’ve tried had the 3D Vision unusable…

    A 120Hz panel is required for 3D Vision, if you just want to use the HDMI for output to a 3D HDTV then you would need the 3DTV Play software. However in order for it to work you’d still need an Optimus-based laptop that has the HDMI port attached to the GeForce GPU and not to the Intel GPU.

  • 12 Archangel // Sep 14, 2011 at 19:17

    There is a work-around the problem (if you use anaglyph 3D).

    Attach any monitor to the HDMI, set it as primary and make the internal monitor clone the external.

  • 13 Dudy // Mar 7, 2012 at 04:35

    I had the same problem, I’ve spent a lot of money to buy a notebook and 3d vision kit and 3dvision did not run at all because of this Optimus technology, intel and nvidia do this stupid job, please provide a driver or bios to disable the Optimus

  • 14 Jahpa // Jan 30, 2013 at 18:17

    I have the same problem here. I just tried TriDef 3D yesterday, it worked very well. Looks like the only problem would be the NVidia software, and not the hardware itself. Something avoids the installation of 3DTV Play if the Primary Display Adapter is not from NVidia. The TriDef software is fine, but it can only display DirectX 9 programs. I’m thinking in purchasing the software from TriDef, but if NVidia’s software could be easily installed in my Laptop, I wouldn’t even think in finding another solution for this and certainly have already purchased the 3DTV Play.

  • 15 satyam // Feb 11, 2013 at 08:48

    i searched a lot to find a workaround for 3D gaming on the Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 but i had no luck.
    maybe i helped some of you with this informations i collected the last hours.

    Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 is NOT Nvidia 3D Vision compatible!

    You can’t switch Nvidia Optimus off or deactivate the Intel HD Graphic. Not in Windows nor in the Bios…also no chance with an unlocked Bios.

    The HDMI port sends the signal to the intern Intel-Chip so there is no way to use Nvidia 3D Vision with this notebook! Its an hardware problem an there is no software solution.

    I think the most new notebooks with nvidia optimus have the same issues.

    You can try other software to render 3D for games like TriDef3D (good solution but expensive coz of Hardware-ID bounded serial)
    or iZ3D (outdated and also from nvidia) but 3D-Vision is a way easier. For 3D Movies you don’t need any software because your 3D-TV does the rest.

    thanks for the stupid construction. nvidia optimus sucks without an option to deactivate it.


  • 16 Mike // Apr 15, 2013 at 20:50

    Does anyone have a list of NB that support 3D Vision Kit.

  • 17 yobaniyOptimus // Nov 20, 2014 at 00:49

    i have asus g750jz and lg 3d tv connected over hdmi. So, in windows screen resolution dialog i have “enable stereoscopic function” option. When this enabled i can watch 3d movies over Stereoscopic Player. If you don’t have this option, you need to switch your 3d tv as only one monitor out.

    Sorry for my english;)

  • 18 IHateIntel // Jul 2, 2016 at 09:31

    I looked very very hard to find a laptop without Optimus technology, and all of them cost way way more than my budget. And I didn’t want to settle for a non-gaming laptop in the hopes I could find one without Optimus.

    The fact is, most customer support doesn’t seem to know if an individual laptop model has optimus or not. So, I think Intel was telling online laptop sellers not to tell us if Optimus is on the laptop or not.

    I wanted to go with AMD instead of Intel, but they aren’t as good at gaming processors, and neither is Radeon. Besides, they support things that I don’t, politically.

    But if I could just find someone other than Intel.

    I tell you, Intel has gotten very bad about giving a lot of people stuff they don’t want, and what’s ridiculous about it, is they try to force it on customers. They don’t even offer options to give us the choice.

  • 19 IHateIntel // Jul 2, 2016 at 09:44

    Oh, just so you all know, I bought my laptop from Cyberpowerpc, and the representative would not tell me which models did not have Optimus or HD graphics, and many of their models, like mine for example, didn’t mention Optimus, but only the Nvidia GPU. It’s kind of like a hit and miss.

    I think it’s good for us to out the online computer sellers that help Intel to screw us over. Maybe if it does something to their wallet, they’ll learn that the customer takes priority over Intel.
    Of course, I suppose it could just be Cyberpowerpc. They didn’t even provide me with a way to update my BIOS, nor would they give me the MSI serial number for my laptop so that I could get a more technical support from them, such as finding an appropriate BIOS update or telling me if there’s a way to expand by BIOS options to disable Optimus.

    Every day, I am learning how screwed I was by Cyberpowerpc. Now, I guess the only thing left is to see how long my laptop lasts. If it lasts for 8 years or more, at least they’ve got reliability to speak of. If hardware stops working in 3 years, then it will mean they suck worse than Dell because at least Dell had quality tech support while the warranty was still active.

  • 20 IHateNvidia // Jul 2, 2016 at 09:55

    Oops, my bad. Apparently, Optimus is an Nvidia technology, not an Intel technology. Though Intel owns Nvidia, so it’s probably still Intel that’s at the root of the problem.

    It’s so ridiculous to push for a forced Optimus technology to be combined even when using gaming GPU’s, and then not even render the technology compatible with every feature of Nividia gaming GPU’s.

    I bet you all, that the root of all of this comes from the Democrats pushing for energy-efficiency, and this was Intel/Nvidia’s answer. Force everyone to use Optimus. Nobody really wants it to begin with, but they still force it . . . Must be political motivation behind it.

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