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Short version: Can someone please advise me of the effect of adding a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M card to an Ubuntu laptop in terms of power consumption and performance gains/losses when doing general productivity tasks and booting up. Also, how good are the closed source, open source, and Bumblebee drivers for these newer cards compared to support for the Intel HD4000?

Long version/Background, if any info here is helpful:

I'm thinking of ordering a laptop from PC Specialist (a UK company who actually sell machines without Windows pre-installed) with the following specifications:

Genesis IV: 15.6" AUO Matte 95% Gamut LED Widescreen (1920x1080)

Intel® Core™i5 Dual Core Mobile Processor i5-3210M (2.50GHz) 3MB

4GB SAMSUNG 1600MHz SODIMM DDR3 MEMORY (1 x 4GB)

120GB INTEL® 520 SERIES SSD, SATA 6 Gb/s (upto 550MB/sR | 520MB/sW)

Intel 2 Channel High Definition Audio + MIC/Headphone Jack

GIGABIT LAN & WIRELESS INTEL® N135 802.11N (150Mbps) + BLUETOOTH

Now, as I want this laptop mainly for work and not for games, I would be more than content with the HD4000 integrated chip which comes with the processor. However, for compatibility reasons, I am not able to get the specs I want unless I choose a NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M 1GB graphics card, which I don't have a great deal of use for.

I'm willing to buy it, however, as it's still cheaper than any other laptop with the specs I want. However, I know that Linux power management isn't fantastic with open-source graphics drivers, and I don't much about Bumblebee. Basically, whilst I'm happy to 'tolerate' the card being there, I don't want to experience any negative effects on the rest of my system (battery, performance etc) and if there are likely to be any, I might reconsider my purchase. So if anyone can advise me on the effects, I would be very grateful, since I doubt I can just turn the card off.

Thankyou for any assistance :)

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1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The card will be 'off' the latest 'M' series nvidia cards which use the Optimus system only activate the nvidia card when a graphics hungry application requires it to. In Ubuntu, this doesn't work by default, Bumblebee will force the system to use the nvidia GPU to do the maths but it will still be the intel chip doing the drawing. Put simply, if you don't need the nvidia GPU, get the machine and don't bother with bumblebee.

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So if I install Ubuntu and don't install bumblebee, the card defaults to 'off' and draws no/minimum power? What about if I just install the NVidia driver? And if I did install Bumblebee, would it mean the card would only draw power when it needs to be used, or would it power it up for everything including Unity's special effects? –  Sman789 Sep 5 '12 at 16:52
    
If you don't install bumblebee the card will be powered but do nothing, as linux doesn't natively manage Nvidia Optimus hybrid graphics setups. This will cause a small battery drain. If you install bumblebee you can either use it (by starting software using the prefix 'optirun') if you want to do something graphically intensive, or you can use it to totally switch off the Nvidia chip. Not sure how to switch it off, as I use bumblebee to run games. Just installing the nvidia driver will have no effect on your system, as the card will not be active without Bumblebee. –  Mups Sep 5 '12 at 20:07
    
Thanks - that seems to make sense. Apparently Bumblebee automatically turns the card off in its newer versions, and apparently you can use bumblebee-gui for an indicator to show if it is on or off as well. :) –  Sman789 Sep 5 '12 at 22:02
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