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AMD (formerly ATI) seems to have a lot different products (or names) for hybrid graphics technology. Which technologies does AMD have and what are the differences between those?

NVIDIA has just one such technology AFAIK: Optimus. This is a laptop with Intel + NVIDIA. On desktops it's called Synergy.

On the AMD side, there are combinations of Intel + AMD and AMD + AMD. Names that have been flying around:

Which one refers to the AMD + AMD combination and which refers to the Intel + AMD one? Are there other differences?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Just from doing basic research, we can see that there are fundamental differences between the AMD Switchable and Dynamic Switchable technology. In regards to which one is AMD+AMD or AMD+INTEL, the differences come down to the architecture on the actual computer:

AMD Switchable Available for the products mentioned in the first link you provided, mostly AMD+AMD build ups. Enables the computer to decide to use the discrete graphics capability when plugged into AC power, or to use the mobile processor (degraded video capabilities) when on Battery power.

AMD Dynamic Switchable Available for both AMD and Intel based products, assuming you have the AMD A APU, or the Intel processor with a supported Radeon Discrete card. The main difference here between the normal 'switchable' and the 'dynamic switchable' is that the dynamic makes it's determination not based on power consumption (persay), but on the actual application use of the A/GPU.

Meaning if you are using a video intensive application, it will be using the discrete card; if you are not using a video intensive application, it will be assigned to the integrated graphics. This happens even if you are on battery or on AC power.

The benefits of the dynamic mode allow the graphics processor to decide on the mode to use, and using the Catalyst control center, the user can also force applications to run in either mode a well. Which basically allows you to 'configure' or 'assign' applications to specific roles on the computer.

In Answer to your Question

  • Which one is AMD+AMD: Switchable.

  • Which one is AMD+Intel: Dynamic (which also includes AMD+AMD assuming you are using an AMD A series APU).

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So, AMD Dynamic Switchable (PowerXPress?) is like NVIDIA Optimus. Do you happen to know whether "Fixed mode" systems can be controlled manually? I found h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/… mentioning "Fixed" and "Dynamic" –  Lekensteyn Jan 28 '12 at 15:44
Deleted my previous edit; after some more reading. When switchable mode is off, the computer is using just the graphics in full mode, meaning it's always on. in Fixed mode, where switchable is turned on, the computer handles the switch between discrete and integrated. User cannot control that, unless they turn switchable off. When in dynamic mode, the user can specify what applications to control via the control center. Whew, lots of terms in that one. –  zackrspv Jan 28 '12 at 16:04
"Earlier models of HP notebook PCs supported Fixed Mode while later models support Dynamic Mode." (citation from link in last post) -- does this mean that there exist machines which only support Fixed mode? According to h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Notebook-Display-and-Video/…, there is support for both settings (although only one can be active at the moment which makes sense), but it's still unclear whether it applies to older (fixed) machines as well. –  Lekensteyn Jan 28 '12 at 20:53
From what I've been reading, I've been able to ascertain the following: Yes, there are machines, or configurations that ONLY support Fixed mode, and the newer models that are capable of interfacing properly with the A/GPU that support Dynamic Mode. There is support for both modes, that is correct (A dynamic mode compatible computer can do fixed or dynamic), but a FIXED mode only PC cannot use dynamic mode, no matter what version of the driver they are using as it's depending on the architecture of the computer & integrated video model. –  zackrspv Jan 28 '12 at 20:56
From the documentation on the AMD site, as well as some on Dell and HP sites, the BIOS controls most of these settings for the computer. For example, forcing FIXED mode only on a dynamically capable computer makes it so that dynamic mode isn't possible. So yes, it is possible to turn the switching capabilities off, usually via BIOS. Is it advisable? Up to the user really. You can leave switching capabilities disabled in BIOS, and the computer will just use the video adapter like it would any other type of video card: Always on, always consuming power, regardless of computer state. –  zackrspv Jan 28 '12 at 21:06
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