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I bought a new laptop with Switchable Graphics. Ok, I get the idea that one graphics card is for 'serious' use, while the other is low power. But, what exactly is this serious use I may encounter? And how much battery power will I kill just by leaving the graphics card defaulted to the (high power) GPU?

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3 Answers 3

"Serious use" typically means gaming. Expect 2-3 hours battery life with it enabled full-time.

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1  
To add to the gaming, anything graphics intense. –  MrStatic Dec 4 '10 at 18:44
    
2-3 hours? Heck, mine barely goes to 40 minutes... what card are you smoking?! D: –  Mehrdad May 24 '11 at 5:08

One is Intel's built-in Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA).

The other is an nVidia graphics chip.

As for the power draw of the two, i cannot say. i find the thermal design power of Intel's GMA is 35W (where a Core2 Duo is typically 55W).

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There are two kinds of video chips: integrated video and discrete video.

Integrated video means that the card is stuck in there next to the CPU and use the same RAM. Most normally integrated graphics means one of Intel's GMA chips.

Discrete video means that the graphics are processed by a different (usually more powerful) chip that can have its own RAM (called Video RAM, or VRAM).

Switchable graphics, obviously, means you can choose between the benefits of one another. Some cases you have to reboot to switch, but other cases it just means your screen will black out for a minute.


But, what exactly is this serious use I may encounter?

Depending on how powerful your CPU is (and if you have two graphics chips on your computer, the laptop probably has a pretty decent CPU) and RAM, serious use usually means 3D gaming, video editing, Flash (if you're a Mac fanboy using a Windows computer), and using Aero if your integrated graphics chip is the GMA 900.

And how much battery power will I kill just by leaving the graphics card defaulted to the (high power) GPU?

A lot. Anecdotally, it can boost battery life by about an hour or two (depending on your computer) and can keep the computer running at about 5°C less than with discrete graphics.

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