Before buying a laptop, check if it has nVidia Optimus, its purpose is infuriate you

So, you need a performance laptop, you choose only the best components, a Intel i7 with how much cores you can fit, the best motherboard available, 8gb Ram, and a nVidia GPU (because we all know that unless you want to mine Bitcoins, nVidia GPUs are awesome).

Then you launch your performance-needing software, be it a game, or a renderer, or a science application, and… it runs so slow that you think it is frozen, and your notebook fans go crazy, it is obvious that something is very wrong.

Congratulations, you just met nVidia Optimus, its purpose is to infuriate you and make you consider AMD, there is no other reason to exist, theoretically its idea is save power, what it do is switch between a crap but economic Intel VGA chip, and the nVidia GPU as needed, except that you bought this machine because you want performance, who the hells buy a i7 to save power? You buy a i7 with nVIdia GPU because you WANT power! You want to guzzle electrons to do blazing fast calculations, but instead you get one of the most broken systems ever invented.

How broken it is? Well, the first time I realized I had nVidia Optimus, was when researching why the hell almost none of games on my computer worked properly, games are all buggy, very buggy, and slow, I opened some game settings and it was blaring to me that the game was not intended to work with Intel VGA chip… And I was thinking the store ripped me off, and that this ASUS N46VM machine was actually pirated or a rip off and it had no GPU… But actually, it has a GPU, after some googling, I found out that it supported nVidia Optimus (a “feature” so good that is not advertised, in times where people advertise even that the computer has sound at all…), and it was explained how to check what video chip it has choosen when running applications.

I went to nVidia control panel, and found out that it defaulted almost every single game installed to Intel chip. With one exception: Wolfenstein 3D. Yes, nVidia Optimus, that theoretically can choose the appropriate GPU, decided that Fallout NV, Dark Souls, The Witcher 2, and several other heavy games, deserved Intel VGA chip, while Wolfenstein 3D, that one for DOS, that one made before DOOM, needed nVidia GPU.

At least, this is “fix-able” in the sense that you can manually set what programs use what GPU. It is really bothersome and irritating, but doable…

But things get worse, the Optimus driver only works on Windows (Linux, and Hackintosh it just cause lots of bugs), and if you want to remove it, seemly you have to reinstall Windows entirely (I saw this on Tom’s Hardware Guide, I found no other way of removing it on Windows).

And finally, my issue of yesterday, the great motivation for this post: I am greatly upset with this ASUS laptop in general, one of the USB ports don’t work, it shuts itself down randomly, suspends randomly, and it was this way since I bought it, and from what I saw on internet, it do that with other people too, but what REALLY annoys me is that its screen looks very funky, I never found a proper balance that is pleasing to the eye, and as many laptops, it has no contrast control except using the driver controls.

But remember we had TWO VGA chips? Well, nVidia Optimus breaks that too, as the chips switch, the settings you saved about gamma, contrast, colour temperature and whatnot change, not only that, some people report the settings are completely lost, sometimes just after closing the calibration app.

I thought that maybe, updating my video drivers, I could see a improvement on that, ASUS site has no new driver, but nVidia site had a new laptop specific driver, so I went to their site, got  a new driver and installed.

Result: nVidia GPU now is disabled, it does not even launch nVidia control panel anymore, nor any software that uses D3D or OpenGL, also Windows ignored the driver update on creating a restore point (it has restore points for every app I installed before the driver, and one just after I installed the driver, labeled DirectX install…), so I am downloading a old driver from ASUS site, and HOPING that it will fix my machine…

Next time I buy a laptop (this was my first laptop), I will avoid Optimus like the plague, because it IS the plague, this is the time that I wish I was rich enough to buy a MacBook, it would have no issues with Optimus, Windows 8 (this laptop came with Windows 8, and the UEFI is buggy too and don’t let me disable Secure Boot to install a OS of my preference… I only bought this laptop, because NOONE in Brazil was selling empty laptops without charging a premium :( ), non-working USB, random shutdowns… And I say that as someone that dislikes Apple.