What's the point in having dual graphics?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by DrTorque, Nov 24, 2011.

  1. DrTorque macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2011

    I have a Macbook Pro [15" Early 2011, with the 2.2 i7 and Radeon HD 6750M]. I'm not quite sure if I'm doing something wrong, but I can't see the point of having integrated graphics at all! Even after having installed gfxCardStatus, when I force integrated graphics, Video on Skype doesn't work, and as I discovered yesterday, even fullscreen youtube videos don't play on chrome! Is this true for everybody or is it just me?
  2. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    Same here. I switched back to using safari, and no adobe flash. I use chrome for the occasional flash, then quit it again. Skype I don't use that often, so it doesn't create a battery issue.

    If you always run applications that require dedicated graphics, you won't benefit from the integrated graphics.
  3. kockgunner macrumors 68000


    Sep 24, 2007
    Vancouver, Canada
    Well one saves battery and the more powerful one is for games. I noticed too that in Firefox, I can't play Youtube videos without the discrete card. The video area is just jumbled. As soon as I force discrete and refresh that page, the video loads.

    In Chrome, the Youtube video section is transparent so you actually see the window behind, or the desktop...

    Having two video cards is useful if one is broken too which seems to happen a lot with nVidia chips in Apple notebooks. The 2010 Macbook Pro's screen blacks out very often requiring a reboot when using the discrete card so the Intel chip is the only one that works until I get the computer fixed.
  4. DrTorque thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2011
    Yeah, Apple touts dual graphics as the solution to not wasting battery when you don't need it, but it never seems to work that way. The notebooks without dedicated graphics (i.e, 13" Macbook pro's, the Air, the Macbook) seem to get on fine on integrated graphics for youtube videos and Skype, and I can't get them to work on mine! And so I end up with dedicated graphics and wasting battery either way!

    Is there a difference in the integrated graphics drivers that they're running? Or is it an issue with the switching circuitry? Does seem rather wasteful, calling in the cavalry of the dedicated graphics to watch youtube!
  5. StevenQ macrumors newbie

    Nov 12, 2011
    I'm quite pleased with the Intel Graphics. Even ran DiRT 2 accidentally with Forced-Integrated graphics (gfxcardstatus) and it ran on highest settings and resolution of 1680x1050 with 15 FPS (not TOO bad..).

    Youtube HD videos (even full hd) as well as HD videos in quicktime (4 mbps+) don't seem to be a problem either. I don't have Skype so I can't judge about that.

    Maybe it's a RAM problem.. i upgraded to 8 gigs so I have 512 VRAM. Doesn't make that a difference, but maybe?
  6. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    I think the issue lies with the switching. Apple just messed it up and for a proper solution there would be some layer based approach like Optimus. Apple's way clearly doesn't work very well and they cover it up by switching to dedicated for just about anything.
    In my experience most programs need a restart to work properly once you switch the GPU. It seems as though it renders quite a bit in software after you switch.
    In theory Apple has two GPU drivers and switches between them turning the respective GPU on/off in the background. For some reason that is not transperant to the Application that is running.
    Nvidia Optimus and AMD DSG have only one GPU driver that matters. It is perfectly transperant to Applications. This one driver later routes all workload to whichever GPU is specified and puts the computed frames into the IGP framebuffer.
    Switching between graphics drivers at runtime obviously seems to be rather difficult and I am guessing that Applications with good acceleration access driver specific apis which are loaded at startup. After the switch to a different driver there is probably some emulation so nothing breaks/stops working but it sends some api calls over to the CPU which probably kills performance or forwards them very inefficiently to the other GPU.
    I am guessing the same framework of emulation and what not also messes stuff up if you don't switch at all but run the IGP on those MBPs.

    According to Nvidia writing a good graphics driver is about as much work as writing an entire operating system. It is porbably not as simple as just rerouting some API calls. Afterall it took AMD also about a year and a half to release DSG. I think Apple just overreached themselves and that is why their auto switching sucks.

    PS: I feel like a 13" MBP gets the real Intel GPU driver but the 15"/17" only get a crippled driver that expects the dedicated GPU to do everything that is a little more complex and only the dedicated drivers are full featured.
  7. oiuh151 macrumors 6502

    May 18, 2011
    You have to switch/force the GPU to the integrated before you open the app that will activate the discrete GPU. If you switch while say Skype is running then it will cause problems.
  8. Bloodstar macrumors regular

    Mar 19, 2011
    Philadelphia, PA, USA
    I tend to force integrated a large part of the time - a few applications that want to use the discrete card really don't seem to even remotely need it. (Twitter, for one... not to mention Firefox seems to be using it when it doesn't have any remotely intensive sites open. MacTubes, as well - hey, YouTube is seriously lacking in their HTML5 support and I don't want to install Flash.)

    It seems like only VirtualBox running 7 wants to be stupid with it forced - the screen's pretty much entirely black and blue if it boots while integrated is forced. Have to enable the discrete graphics for that, but once I boot the VM up everything works just fine when I switch back.

    There are some cases where I get use out of it, but as of yet I just see it turning itself on far more than it has to.
  9. DrTorque thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2011
    Doesn't work that way - After forcing integrating graphics, when I attempt a video call, the audio works fine, but I can see neither my video preview nor the video from the other party. If it switches in the middle of a call (i.e, Magsafe disconnects - I have gfxCardStatus set to force integrated on battery) the video disappears.
  10. oiuh151 macrumors 6502

    May 18, 2011
    Did you even read what I said? :confused: You have to force the integrated before you open the app that's going to activate the discrete GPU.

    This is what you have to do:
    Quit Skype > Force integrated GPU > Open Skype
  11. w00t951 macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2009
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I don't know about you, but I just let OS X handle the graphics cards. It always seems to prefer the integrated Intel 3000. Only when I am watching a 1080p video or encoding video does the 6750M activate. Safari with Flash is flawless and does not lag with the Intel 3000.
  12. Embio macrumors member

    Mar 1, 2010
    the chrome problem is fixed in Chrome Canary.... tried it the day I got my new machine and it was fixed but not in the latest beta :D

    means someone on the Chrome team just got an MBP and is using gfxstatus I think!
  13. ender land macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2010
    I have a friend who does development work who got the upgraded gpu in the 15" and regrets it because he almost never uses the discrete card.
  14. miniConvert macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2006
    Kent, UK - the 'Garden of England'.
    I just got my 15" MBP and I'm loving the dual graphics. I've hardly been on the ATI so far, but I know it's there for when I want to play World of Warcraft or PKR :)

    Had about 9 hours on my first charge just using the integrated.

    I'm not using any mods, just letting OS X do its thing and being a bit careful about what I install and have running.

    So yes, love it :)
  15. CarcinogenX macrumors member

    Jun 12, 2009
    Orange County, CA
    I have gfxCardStatus set to force Intel 3000 and the ONLY time I have to switch is when I output video/audio via the Mini Display Port. It doesn't work otherwise.
    I run Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, all web applications, watch 1080p movies, etc., etc. all using Intel 3000. I've fiddled with the dedicated graphics to see if there was a noticeable difference but I saw no performance change at all.

    My previous 15" model had the Nvidia 9400m and in two years I never once had to switch to the dedicated graphics card as it allowed video through the Mini Display Port.

    Integrated graphics have come a long way.
  16. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    I only use the integrated graphics. I've never had any issues.
  17. phyrexia macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2010
    Switching to integrated graphics, then restarting Chrome fixes the transparency problem. It's not an OS problem, it's an application problem.
  18. nippyjun macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2007
    On my late 2011 15" macbook pro it's just about always using the discrete graphics according to gfxcardstatus.

    Even trivial things turn on the discrete graphics.

    Is this a Lion issue, a hardware issue or a general software issue?
  19. GuitarG20, Dec 11, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011

    GuitarG20 macrumors 65816


    Jun 3, 2011
    video calling on skype not working is a well-documented issue with the way skype runs on OSX. it needs the dedicated graphics to render the video.

    EDIT: Nevermind... I just used skype on the integrated graphics, and it worked fine. Although I know (from emailing him) that there are some bugs with the latest version of gfxCardStatus that should be fixed with the next update, so it's entirely possible there's still stuff being processed with the dedicated card. make sure your copy of OSX is all the way up to date.

    However, fullscreen youtube works perfectly for me in chrome, and in 1080p too. Make sure your chrome is up to date.
  20. ABadSanta macrumors regular

    Jul 3, 2011
    OP, if you see this thread 2 weeks after you posted it, have you solved your issue?

    I also use gfxcardstatus, and I keep mine almost always on integrated only. It adds almost 2 hours to my battery life. Videos, skype, etc work perfect on it.

    A quick tip though, I've tried switching between integrated and dedicated WHILE applications are open such as Chrome, and it will mess things up. Close your application first, then switch switch graphics before going back to it.
  21. grahamnp macrumors 6502a

    Jun 4, 2008
    This is an incompatibility between gfxCardStatus and several programs. For me, Chrome, Reeder, Sparrow and Skype all behave a bit oddly after a switch. Restarting the app after switching GPUs should help OR try just switching to the GPU with which the program was launched.

    Not ideal, I know, but that is the reality of the situation for now. The creator of gfxCardStatus has maintained a non exhaustive list of known incompatibilities. You can view it on the website.
  22. miniConvert macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2006
    Kent, UK - the 'Garden of England'.
    I wonder how many people are installing gfxCardStatus as a matter of course (i.e. because they read about it on places like MacRumors) rather than because they actually need it?

    I'm still letting Lion switch my graphics and I'm sure for 99% of users that would be optimal.
  23. MagicBoy macrumors 68040


    May 28, 2006
    Manchester, UK
    I've got it installed, but just because I'd like to know what it's using. I leave Lion to do it's thing and 90% of the time is spent using the integrated. Safari seems to have a lot less problems than 3rd party browsers.
  24. grahamnp, Dec 13, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011

    grahamnp macrumors 6502a

    Jun 4, 2008
    For me, pretty all my most commonly used apps like Chrome trigger the dedicated GPU. Whether people are aware of it or not, Lion's implementation of GPU switching isn't perfect and gfxCardStatus helps so no harm done.
  25. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    After a few "getting to know" days with my MBP, I stopped using all that stuff... no iStat, no gfxcardstatus, and I try to limit my use of coconut battery and activity monitor.

    The time one spends on manually setting stuff that the OS is doing pretty well also if left alone is just wasted.

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