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I've been looking to get a new laptop, and I'm looking for something with good battery life and a good video card. After all, those are no longer mutually exclusive thanks to technologies such as NVIDIA Optimus.

But here's my question.

All Core i5 and i7 chips have onboard Intel HD graphics, right? Then, if you get a laptop with a powerful dedicated graphics card and an i5 or i7 processor, are you able to switch to use that Intel HD graphics and not the dedicated card? This obviously saves an incredible amount of battery life and I'm very interested in doing so.

So why doesn't every laptop with dedicated graphics and an i5 or i7 processor have Optimus? I mean, both graphics chips are in there, right? Does the Intel HD just sit there unused for its entire lifetime?

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Almost all Core in chips have intel HD graphics onboard, but the circuitry to actually use that isnt' always implemented by the chipset used. Quad core Core i7 mobile chips don't have integrated graphics chips at all, but dual-core i7 and all i3 and i5 chips have it. The circuitry to switch between the integrated and dedicated graphics is non-trivial, so not all motherboards implement it. Prior to Optimus and ATI's (less developed) switching technology, motherboards were essentially designed as a one-or-the-other sort of deal - either you had a dedicated graphics chipset, or an integrated one. Essentially, the only reason not all laptops have switchable graphics is because not all manufacturers have gotten around yet to implementing it in all of their computers.

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Ah, that makes sense. So indeed a graphics chip is just sitting there doing nothing. That's kinda funny. Hopefully more manufacturers will catch on quickly, because my 4-yr-old laptop's warranty is running out this month and I'm looking for a new laptop with good graphics and good battery life; Optimus fits the bill! – Ricket Oct 6 '10 at 13:57
While initially it seems unintuitive that the graphics processing portion just sits there unused, it really does make sense when considered from a broader perspective. If Intel had to produce two separate lines of chips, one with and one without integrated graphics, it would actually make all of the processors more expensive - it's much cheaper for them to just make them all the same. Good luck searching for a laptop! SuperUser doesn't encompass hardware recs, but there are many sites out there which could help you. – nhinkle Oct 6 '10 at 22:27

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