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I would like to buy a Thinkpad T420 and install Ubuntu. THinkpad T420 comes with an option of choosing between NVIDIA NVS 4200M Graphics with Optimus Technology, 1GB DDR3 Memory and Intel HD Graphics 3000. Which one is better compatibility with Ubuntu. Please let me know.

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IF you choose the Nvidia one, beware it comes with Optimus and Optimus support on Linux is deficient. And i'm surprised no one told you anything about Optimus. – Uri Herrera Sep 6 '11 at 0:33
Why does everyone think he's choosing between NVidia and Intel? Doesn't NVidia Optimus imply that the laptop comes with BOTH NVidia AND Intel adapters? – Sergey Sep 6 '11 at 0:52
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Note that while both NVidia and Intel graphics are well supported in Ubuntu, Nvidia Optimus is a complelely different beast - it's a technology to seamlessly switch from an energy-efficient Intel chip to the powerful NVidia chip when an application requires some extra performance.

My understanding is that the current state of support of this feature in Linux is not complelely free of trickery. See Project Bumblebee for more details and be ready to get your hands dirty :)

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Both nVidia's and Intel's are known to be well supported on Ubuntu, nevertheless you can find issues reported by users like this: Poor Performance with Intel HD 3000 GPU and I am sure that there are also known bugs with nVidia drivers as well... a search in this site will drop lots of documented issues (try this)

Anyway, in my experience, nVidias are better supported and reports less major issues or less of those kind of issues that requires a hard work in order to get it fixed.

I would suggest you to go for nVidia if it doesn't represent a more expensive investment.

Good luck!

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you have for the Nvidia card the proprietary Drivers that can be installed during or after the Live CD installation. So its not a problem to install them. One click away. You also have the open source version of it, the Nouveau version. It is good, but if you do pick Nvidia I highly recommend (Until Nouveau catches up to the proprietary one), to install the proprietary version of the Nvidia driver.

Now for the Intel, it is my understanding that it will work out of the box but to fully have the Intel power of the HD series of cards you can wait for Ubuntu 11.10 or upgrade 11.04 when it comes out. There has been several updates regarding the Intel HD series.

But if you tell me, which one runs better, faster with little to no hassle, then I would go with the Nvidia using the proprietary drivers.

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I own a T430 with the Intel graphics option and I've been using it out of the box on Ubuntu 12.04 with triple display (two external monitors and thinkpad LCD), 3D acceleration in the desktop manager and WebGL support on all browsers and even hot-swap monitor configurations without any reconfiguration, logout or reboot. And did I mention "out-of-the-box"?

I just got myself another T430, this time with the nVidia Optimus option. So far spent about eight straight hours and three reinstalls and can't get things to work. Google is not encouraging: there are several convoluted and partial solutions and no consensus what's best.

Hands down: avoid nvidia optimus at all costs

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