Confused about Crossfire vs SLI vs Optimus

gaveitatry

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Jan 26, 2014
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I want to buy a laptop for Second Life, which uses OpenGL and not DirectX for its 3D graphics. I don't do any other gaming.

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I would have bought Laptop #1:

Intel Core i5-3337U Processor 1.8GHz with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.7GHz

NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M with 2GB of dedicated DDR3 VRAM

6GB DDR3 Memory

I didn't because 1.) the price went up from $599 to $779 before I got my paycheck and 2.) the 720M is only an entry level gaming card.

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So that's when I considered Laptop #2:

AMD Quad-Core A10-5757M Accelerated Processor 2.5GHz with TurboCORE Technology up to 3.5GHz

AMD Radeon HD 8750M Graphics with 2 GB of dedicated DDR3 VRAM

8GB DDR3 Memory

I liked it because 1.) it had a higher clockspeed, 2.) it had 2GB more RAM, 3.) the dedicated 8750M seems like it could be better than a GT 720M, 4.) it was explained to me that if both GPUs crossfire that it would be even better than a GT 740M, and 5.) the price is only $610

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However someone on Amazon complained that Laptop #2's dedicated 8750M only got activated when playing newer games, not older ones and they told me that the dedicated 8750 probably wouldn't get activated when playing Second Life.

This worried me so I asked Tom's Hardware, and the answer I got from a Tom's Hardware Moderator is that Crossfire only works on games that use DirectX 10 or 11. The dedicated card won't become activated on games that use DirectX 9. I told him that Second Life uses OpenSL, and he said that yeah only the integrated card will be activated when I play Second Life. I don't want that because it's been recommended to me that I use a dedicated card for Second Life, not an integrated one.

So I did some more research. I found posts where people said Crossfire and SLI don't work with Second Life. That reassured me that it was a good decision to cancel my order for Laptop #2, since Laptop #2 was starting to look more like Laptop #1 and also because I was finding stuff about how people seem to think that AMD cards are not as OpenGL friendly as NVIDIA. A lot of people think that NVIDIA is the way to go for SL. So, I decided then that I would give up on Laptop #2 and start looking around for laptops in the $600-1000 range that have NVIDIA 720M, 630M, or better.

I then found a blog where the blog owner went so far as to say that Optimus is not good for Second Life because "Optimus switches between Intel onboard graphics and the NVIDIA card based on need, which is great on paper but in practice doesn't work with OpenGL applications like SL. Whether or not your laptop uses its full potential will be luck of draw, especially since companies like Dell offer no option to turn Optimus off. I guess that means that in the desktop world NVIDIA is a clear winner but with laptops it's a complete crap shoot." So I got all worried again. I dug and dug around, and it seems like all NVIDIA graphic cards have Optimus technology built in and that any laptop with Intel CPU and a NVIDIA card also has Intel onboard graphics.

So now I am super confused. According to all the research I've done, 1.) Crossfire technology is bad for Second Life because it uses two GPUs and Second Life uses OpenGL instead of DirectX, 2.) SLI does not work with Second Life because it uses two GPUs and Second Life will only use one, and then 3.) Optimus might be bad because in addition to the NVIDIA GPU there is also an integrated Intel onboard graphics that might end up doing all the work and not let the dedicated NVIDIA kick in. That makes no sense to me. Optimus sounds like the same thing as SLI and Crossfire, but it can't be. Because all NVIDIA has some sort of Optimus, but not many have SLI. What is going on here? What should I look for and what should I stay away from?

All I know is that Acers are probably bad gaming laptops, but I really like how they look so I sorta want one over an ASUS or any of the other brands that are considered. Of brands like ASUS, MSI, Toshiba, Sony, Lenova, etc, I think ASUS is the most trusted and I think Lenova is the best looking. My last computer was a HP Pavilion dv6875se that had a 1.83 Ghz Intel Core 2, 3 GB RAM, and a NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS with 256 MB dedicated. I definetely want to get something that is as good as that or better (not any worse) that will last three solid years of a lot of use if it's a $600 laptop and 4-5 years of solid use if it is a $900-$1000 laptop. If I'm paying around $600, the same performance as my old HP Pavilion would be good, but if I'm paying $900-$1000, I want to notice a significant difference in performance from before while playing Second Life. I was thinking that I want 2-3.5Ghz, but since my last laptop had 1.8, I guess that is fine as a minimum too. I want 4 MB RAM or better, 8 GB would be nice. I want something that works very well with Second Life's OpenGL. I want Second Life playing on a dedicated graphic card with 2GB-4GB, since I never heard anyone telling me that integrated cards are good for SL. I don't like optimal drives at all, so if a laptop has one it will need to have really good specs to make up for the unwanted bulk. I'm thinking a 15.6" would be perfect for me, but I am not opposed to a 17.3" if it's a $900-$1000 laptop (if I'm paying $300-400 more, I might as well get some more screen). I don't know if TouchScreen causes a noticeable glare or not, but I don't think I need TouchScreen to appreciate Windows, since I don't give a crap about some apps. And I don't care if I use Vista, 7, or 8, just as long as the specs are good for Second Life. Is Optimus safe for what I want? Is it just Crossfire and SLI that I have to stay away from? Sorry, I'm just a really careful shopper and the more I learn, the more I hesitate. Just trying to make a wise shopping decision here. Thank you.
 

LummusMaximus

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Nov 1, 2013
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A dedicated card will use up a lot of energy, and eat up battery very quickly. That's what Optimus does: when the dedicated card isn't needed, it turns off to save battery. Low performance tasks are: web surfing, word processing etc. when it is needed, for programs like video editors and games, it switches on to give you a performance boost. SLI means you have two Nvidia graphics cards at once, increasing performance. However this generates a lot of heat. CrossFire is similar to SLI, but CrossFire is with AMD cards. There are two ways CrossFiring can work: the first is with two AMD Radeon cards, and the second is with a Radeon card plus an AMD APU. APU is just a fancy word for a CPU made by AMD. APUs have strong integrated graphics, so they can be CrossFired with a dedicated card.
 

LummusMaximus

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Nov 1, 2013
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A dedicated card will use up a lot of energy, and eat up battery very quickly. That's what Optimus does: when the dedicated card isn't needed, it turns off to save battery. Low performance tasks are: web surfing, word processing etc. when it is needed, for programs like video editors and games, it switches on to give you a performance boost. SLI means you have two Nvidia graphics cards at once, increasing performance. However this generates a lot of heat. CrossFire is similar to SLI, but CrossFire is with AMD cards. There are two ways CrossFiring can work: the first is with two AMD Radeon cards, and the second is with a Radeon card plus an AMD APU. APU is just a fancy word for a CPU made by AMD. APUs have strong integrated graphics, so they can be CrossFired with a dedicated card.
 
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