Nvidia Optimus laptops: Which are prime?

Nvidia's automatic-switching graphics technology has found its way into numerous laptops; we round up what we've seen so far and pick our favorites.

The Alienware M11x (Core i7, Optimus)
Alienware's newer M11x models are among the better examples of Nvidia Optimus at work. Sarah Tew/CNET

Over the last few months, we've seen quite a few Nvidia Optimus laptops. Optimus automatically switches between discrete and integrated graphics, powering the horsepower down when not used in order to save a little battery life. It's a similar idea to what's also included on the spring 2010 15-inch MacBook Pro, except Apple never created any branding for the concept.

And there's the rub: it's basically invisible tech, yet Nvidia has branded the concept for greater visibility. Really it amounts to something we'd obviously prefer to have in any laptop with dedicated graphics. Right now, only certain laptops have Optimus technology, although the number is growing daily.

Though Nvidia Optimus automatic switching does help conserve battery life, it doesn't guarantee great battery life scores. Still, among the numerous Nvidia Optimus laptops we've reviewed so far, we have found a few winners. The Alienware M11x with Core i7/Optimus earned 4 out of 5 stars, as did the Asus Eee PC 1215N. Both systems are ultraportables with 11.6- and 12-inch screens, where battery conservation for graphics makes a lot of sense. We also liked the Asus U33Jc-A1, one of the first Optimus laptops we reviewed, with its distinctive bamboo design and integrated Intel Wireless Display technology.

Check out our recap of Nvidia Optimus laptops thus far by clicking below, or look at some of the top models compared side by side.

We're tempted to add one more Transformers joke to button this post, but it simply isn't forthcoming.

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Apple MacBook Pro Spring 2010 (Core i5 2.53GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, 15-inch)

The Bottom Line: The new 13-inch MacBook Pro uses a faster version of last year's processor, but a graphics chip upgrade and better battery life give it more value for the same price. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Asus Eee PC 1215N-PU17 (black)

The Bottom Line: The Asus Eee PC 1215N combines Intel's dual-core Atom CPU with Nvidia Ion graphics and Optimus GPU-switching for an impressive overall package, but one that still feels a bit too much like a Netbook. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Alienware M11x (Core i7, Nvidia Optimus)

The Bottom Line: Equipped with Nvidia Optimus technology and new Core i5 and i7 processors, the updated 11.6-inch Alienware M11x has improved performance, but it takes a small step forward, not a quantum leap. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Asus U33Jc-A1 (bamboo)

The Bottom Line: A welcome change of pace from the usual glossy plastic and brushed-metal laptop styles, the bamboo-clad Asus U33Jc-A1 looks great and also packs in some very useful technology. / Read full review

About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.



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