We've always thought switchable graphics made a lot of sense on laptops, and NVIDIA's new Optimus tech looks like it's going to bring it mainstream in a serious way -- there's no more manually toggling between the powerful discrete GPU and the power-saving integrated chip. More than just automatically switching off the discrete GPU when the laptop is unplugged, the idea is that you don't have to think about when you want to use the different graphics options: the software and hardware combo will take care of deciding which graphics processor is best for the application or content. For instance, launch Call of Duty 4 and the discrete GPU will power on, close out and start writing an e-mail and it will switch to the IGP. Sounds pretty simple, but under the hood its much more complicated as NVIDIA has moved to running the drivers for both graphics subsystems concurrently and removed the multiplexers under the hood. For more details on all the technical fixes hit the more coverage link.
Unsurprisingly, Intel hasn't been involved in these innovations, but NVIDIA says Optimus will work with Intel's new Core 2010 processors and the Pineview Atom platform, along with NVIDIA's GeForce 200M series, GeForce 300M series, next-gen GeForce M, and next-gen Ion GPUs. Speaking of Ion, NVIDIA wouldn't officially say what the next version will look like, but they confirmed it will be announced in March and use Optimus technology (we're pretty much assuming that it will combine the Pineview platform with a lower-end discrete GPU, like the previously hinted G310). The first Optimus-enabled laptops will hit at the end of this month courtesy of ASUS, and will include the UL50Vf, N61Jv, N71Jv, N82Jv, and U30Jc. We've been playing around with the $849 UL50Vf, so hit the break for some early impressions and video of the new graphics technology.