Laptop Questions

What is a MUX Switch for Gaming Laptops?

A MUX switch lets you disable the integrated graphics in your gaming laptop, giving you a performance increase in games at the expense of worse battery life.

To understand what a MUX switch does, you need to first understand how Optimus works.

What is Optimus?

Most gaming laptops have two GPUs, the integrated graphics (iGPU) which is part of the processor, so Intel or AMD, and the discrete graphics (dGPU), Nvidia RTX 3060 for example.

The dGPU is more powerful, so it burns more power. This is not ideal in a portable device where battery life is important. Instead of using the beefy graphics all the time, when they’re not needed the lower powered integrated graphics are used instead. The dGPU is still there and ready to be called upon should it be needed.

When you open a game or some other GPU intensive workload, the system is smart enough to run the workload on the more powerful dGPU. This is Optimus at work, also known as MSHybrid.

The Optimus Bottleneck

When running a game, the frames might be generated on the dGPU, but they’re first send through the iGPU before reaching the screen. This means that in many scenarios the iGPU acts as a literal bottleneck, and this is why being able to disable Optimus results in a performance improvement in games.

I’ve compared 9 games with Optimus on and off here, but basically on average Optimus off gave a 17% FPS boost in these 9 titles. This is at maximum setting levels too, lower settings levels generally see an even higher boost.

Lenovo Legion 7 - Optimus Off vs On
Lenovo Legion 7 – Optimus Off is 16.7% Faster Than On

It depends on the workload though, games with higher frame rates like eSports titles typically see a larger performance increase with the iGPU out of the picture. Rendering workloads like V-Ray or Blender see next to no difference, as the task is basically fully offloaded to the dGPU for processing rather than frames being sent back via the iGPU as is the case in games.

What is a MUX switch?

A MUX (short for Multiplexer, often misspelled as “mucks” or “muc”) switch lets us manually enable or disable the integrated graphics. It does this by physically changing the connection between the GPU and the screen. Being able to disable Optimus therefore requires that the laptop has physical hardware support for this feature, this is not something you can upgrade yourself. You cannot simply disable the integrated graphics through device manager in Windows, this does not change how the GPU and screen are physically wired.

A restart is required after enabling or disabling Optimus through Windows software to apply the change. This is a bit of an inconvenience if you’re changing frequently, but if you’re always gaming on wall power anyway then it makes sense to leave Optimus disabled.

With Optimus disabled, the integrated graphics are no longer available. They don’t show in task manager anymore, instead only the discrete graphics are available. This is much more like a regular desktop PC now, where the screen is connected straight to the high powered GPU. Gaming performance should now be improved, as shown above, but if you need to run on battery power the run time will be less.

Battery Life - Optimus On vs Off
Battery Life – Optimus On vs Off

In this example, Optimus on was lasting for almost twice as long as Optimus off.

MUX switch unlocks extra features

Additionally, it will now be possible to use extra features. With Optimus enabled, Nvidia ShadowPlay can only work within games for screen capturing. To use ShadowPlay outside of games with other software or just the Windows desktop requires the direct connection between the screen and Nvidia GPU – That is Optimus Disabled. Optimus disabled is also required to use G-Sync on laptops that have G-Sync compatible panels.

Does my gaming laptop have a MUX switch?

Great question! If it’s a model that I’ve tested then you can refer to this page to find out if it has a MUX switch. If your model isn’t on that list, you can find out how to check your laptop for a MUX switch yourself for all popular gaming laptop brands here. I also mention this in every gaming laptop review on the Jarrod’sTech YouTube channel.

A MUX switch is a preferable, if premium feature

Without a MUX switch, your gaming laptop is either stuck with Optimus enabled or disabled, you cannot change it.

Throughout the last year, gaming laptops with a MUX switch have definitely become more common compared to the year before, or the year before that.

Many high end gaming laptops unfortunately still do not have it. ASUS in particular have told me that they didn’t include it in mid range models like the Strix G15 Advantage Edition as it would increase cost, but then they also didn’t include it in their higher end Zephyrus M16 either.

Personally, I think user choice is best. If you want maximum gaming performance while running a game you can, then if you need maximum battery life at school or in the office you can do that too. The downside is of course that inconvenient reboot, but this may soon be a thing of the past.

Advanced Optimus – A Panacea?

The idea behind Nvidia’s Advanced Optimus is basically an automatic MUX switch, so no need to reboot to swap between iGPU and dGPU. Basically when you’re just using your laptop to browse the Internet, the integrated graphics will be in use, but then when you load up a game it will swap over to the Nvidia graphics only for full performance.

This is obviously much more preferable compared to manually rebooting your laptop every time you want to swap between them – especially if you have a Dell G15 5515, as you have to go into the BIOS to make the change, there’s no software front end option!

While Advanced Optimus sounds great in theory, in practice I’ve never personally had the chance to use it despite it apparently being available for some time now. This is kind of telling to me as a laptop reviewer that it may not be ready for prime time just yet.

Sure, there are some laptops sold with the feature right now, but I’ve heard from a number of large companies that they’ve had to delay their launch of Advanced Optimus. I haven’t been given a clear reason as to why, but I get the impression it’s bugs or other implementation challenges.

I don’t have a MUX switch, can I still bypass Optimus?

No MUX switch? No problem! You can still boost gaming performance by instead attaching an external monitor to your laptop. Just as long as the display output connects directly to the discrete graphics rather than the Intel or AMD integrated graphics. For more information on this topic, please refer to this video.

Hi, I’m Jarrod, a tech reviewer from Australia. I mainly focus on laptops, but am interested in all things tech related!

63 Comments

  • Timon

    Hey Jarrod, thanks for the great explanation and those who do not know better! I want to ask a question a statement I have been seeing a lot. Is the base Legion 5 considered budget as in things like ‘nitro 5 and tuf a5’ or more or less a lower midrange machine. Thanks in advance.

  • Mizumaky

    Hi Jarrod, nice summary!
    Although, the thing I was looking for was information about the option for selecting the GPU for the laptop’s display in Legion 5.
    I do not mean the “Hybrid mode” switch, but the “Dynamic display mode” switch (located at a special tray icon). There, with hybrid mode enabled, I can select either Automatic select, NVIDIA GPU only, or Optimus. What it says it does is change which gpu outputs to the laptop’s display on the go. Could that be advanced optimus?
    And could selecting NVIDIA only actually work the same as disabling hybrid mode?

    Maybe the tray icon was not visible by default, but I always enable all icons from the Nvidia control panel.

    The downside of this option I noticed is, that when I connect an external display, it automatically switches the laptop display to Optimus and prevents me from changing it.

  • Mizumaky

    If you still have a Legion 5 / 5 pro / 7 with you, you could try if you have it there. I have a regular Legion 5 (model 15ACH6H from 2021 with 5800H and RTX3060) and have it, so it makes me wonder whether all have them or that just this one is somehow special.

    As I have checked, it should indeed be Advanced Optimus:
    https://nvidia.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5097/~/nvidia-advanced-optimus-overview
    The settings can be found in the Nvidia control panel under Manage display mode.
    OR
    In the Nvidia control panel in the top menu at “Desktop”, there is a checkbox saying “Show Dynamic Display Mode”. Then, I can see an additional icon in the tray where I can set this too.
    (Hybrid mode needs to be enabled for it to appear)

    • Jarrod

      Advanced optimus is rolling out on many current models over time that don’t initially come with it, I just did a bunch of updates on my Legion 5 and can confirm I have this option. I assume the 5 Pro and 7 will have it too, I remember Lenovo telling me it was coming back when I had it for review they just weren’t sure when so I never mentioned it as a feature because there have been too many instances of stuff like that never eventuating.

  • Jon

    I’ve got the same Legion 5 (15ACH6H 5800h/3060 – Part No. 82JU002WUK).
    From recollection, the Dynamic Display Mode Tray Icon was on (by default) ‘out of the box’; due to getting notification popups from this, I subsequently disabled the tray icon in Nvidia Control Panel but enabled the GPU Activity tray icon, which I actually find useful as it shows when the dGPU is active.

    I had no idea that the Dynamic Display Mode is part of Advanced Optimus until I read your’s/Jarrod’s posts above.
    When ‘Nvidia GPU only’ is selected, after a brief screen flash/update, the other options appear the Nvidia Control Panel (additional display settings, like the G-Sync options, and also color settings). Also, as per the Nvidia page, there’s now 2 Displays shown in Windows Display settings.

    It’s quite a surprise to see both a MUX switch and Advanced Optimus on the Legion 5, as I’d understood that both were sort of ‘Premium’ features whereas the Legion 5 is said to be more budget oriented.

    • Jarrod

      It seems like advanced optimus updates are rolling out, so that’s good to hear it’s been added.

      Update: confirmed mine has it, I just did a bunch of BIOS and Nvidia updates so not sure when it added.

  • Jon

    I only got my Legion 5 last Friday and one the first things I did (after imaging the drive – before I even booted to Windows first time) was run updates; BIOS version GKCN40WW was installed via Vantage (I’ve since found & installed version GKCN44WW, which wasn’t yet available via Vantage, via the Lenovo site downloads).

    On the Nvidia site (https://nvidia.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5097/~/nvidia-advanced-optimus-overview) it states, under the Info about ‘Manage Display Modes’ in the Nvidia Control Panel:

    Automatic Select (Default)
    When the user selects this option and an application that is in DDS allow list is launched, an internal display switch to discrete GPU will be triggered. The display switches back to integrated GPU only when the last application that is in allow list, is closed.

    What’s the ‘DDS allow list’, I thought. Google searching “Nvidia DDS” brought results about texture tools and th like?!?!? However, it does appear that DDS means ‘Dynamic Display Switch’ from looking at the Razer site page about Advanced Optimus.
    What I can’t actually find is any details of creating/amending a ‘DDS allow list’ i.e. putting an application/game to ‘DDS allow’.
    Does an application that uses the dGPU which isn’t ‘DDS allow’ just use ‘standard Optimus’ i.e. the output still routes via the iGPU?

    Perhaps, an idea for a video – testing applications using ‘standard optimus’ , Advanced Optimus and with Hybrid diabled/Optimus off. Also covering the thing I couldn’t find – introducing the ‘DDS allow list’ (i.e. what it is) and also how to adds applications to this list.

    • Jarrod

      I’ll have a look into it but might be a while as I only updated today and found my Legion 5 could do advanced optimus, I’ve never used it otherwise yet so I don’t currently know too much about its workings.

  • Jon

    Forgot to add (before posting) in the post above.

    One thought I had regarding the ‘DDS allow’ list was….is it the same as Nvidia Control Panel, Manage 3D Settings – Program Settings and then selecting the dGPU for a specifc application? i.e. customising Optimus as per this page (https://nvidia.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2615/related/1/session/L2F2LzEvdGltZS8xNjMxMTc2NzE1L2dlbi8xNjMxMTc2NzE1L3NpZC9mVVRDaXhEVDJ5cGJPQTMlN0V4a1lmXzJuazNKVURRSGRKM3hwTVJwbGZMT1F0Um1XWWQ3VnBvRHlpc3VtZjBrJTdFZ0p1cll6UDREM0Z0MEI0TFB4SnRVOE5vNE9fZyU3RXozSGZQbzZEaGZHZXk2ZnN2Vk43VnViNDU5UHclMjElMjE%3D) from 2010!?!?!

  • Cody

    Jarrod, I love the channel and really appreciate all the work you do in research and keeping the community informed.

    Question semi related to this post- could you recommend a laptop for $2500 USD or less? I’ve watched dozens of hours of you, gizmo, Linus, Dave, etc. There’s so much information out there to sort through its hard to feel confident in a decision. Also, even just telling me your 2-3 most trusted brands would be a huge help!

    The games I will play most- Minecraft, NBA 2K, Skyrim, The Witcher, RDR2, the upcoming Halo.
    Also, I will be doing the vast majority of my gaming on an ASUS TUF 27″ 1440p display. So I wouldn’t be that concerned with the laptop not having a MUX.

    Thanks again, I look forward to your reply but also understand if you don’t feel comfortable recommending anything specific.

    • Jarrod

      The problem is that I don’t really keep track of laptop prices, outside of a couple of popular models I couldn’t even tell you any machines near that money right now without spending a bunch of time researching. You should be able to find a 3070 full powered version for $1800 or so, so I guess 2500 is likely 3080 territory which is honestly diminishing returns once you’re at the top of a product stack. Personally I think the Eluktronics Mech-15 G3 / XMG Neo 15 with 3070 is one of the best so would probably get that and call it a day.

  • AnglianARK

    Thanks Jarrod for rigorous and thorough testing of all your Laptops.
    It was because of your reviews, I made a Calculated decision to go for “Lenovo Legion 5 Pro”. I am absolutely loving it. and I also got 2 of my friends to Buy Legion 5, This is a great line of products. You’re literally the MAN to watch for anything related to laptops. I hope you write more articles such as this brilliant one. Optimus is crystal clear to me now and I also have an understanding of future of Advanced Optimus.
    I want to sub to your newsletter but it’s not letting me do that, apparently you have too many email subscriptions pending.

    thanks for all your help.

  • Clyde

    Hey there! Just a question. Generally, how much does having a mux switch increase the price of a laptop? Just want to know

    • Jarrod

      I’ve never really looked at prices of laptops that do/don’t have it to compare, and I haven’t had information from manufacturers on how much it costs them.

  • Miguel Rodriguez

    Jarrod I have a question. I’ve seen your reviews on the MSI delta 15 5800h 6700m model & also the Legion 5 5800h 3060 130w
    I have both of these currently at my house , I’m not too familiar with laptops but currently both of these laptops are the same price
    1299.99. Which is the better choice ?

    • Jarrod

      Best bet is probably to compare the game comparison videos rather than say the 3060 vs 6700M video, the comparison uses external screen and same RAM to keep things fair for the purposes of the GPU comparison, but doesn’t actually represent how both laptops are when you buy them. Eg Delta has better RAM but Legion has MUX switch and gets a boost there. Personally I prefer the design/features/build quality of the Legion, but that’s personal preference.

  • Max

    Hey Jarrod, I have recently purchased a Lenovo Legion 5 Pro, and I was wondering if i could delete the integrated AMD graphics drivers, in order to use vibrance gui. I have optimus turned off, and I dont plan on using it, as i only really use my laptop plugged in. Help would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Jarrod

      Not sure what the GUI is, but you’ll need the drivers for the iGPU, but yeah as you say if you never plan on turning the iGPU on I suppose there’s no harm uninstalling.

  • Omar Hussein

    HI JERRDE,
    i have a dell g15 5510 with Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-10870H CPU @ 2.20GHz 2.21 GHz
    and rtx 3060

    and it doesn’t have the mux switch
    what would I do to make it better

    hope you answer me

  • Omar Hussein

    I already have a total ×16 ram but with no mux switch it’s useless
    I played Days gone and it gave me 50 frames
    at maximum performance
    isn’t there any solution

  • SUMIT SAHA

    As you said in your Lenovo legion 5i gen 6 17.3″ review that it has a mux switch but not advanced Optimus. I guess In Lenovo legion 5 gen 6 R7 5800H 17.3″ that would be the same. So, what are the disadvantages of not having advanced Optimus?

    • Jarrod

      The 15″ AMD one has it, but not sure about the 17″. Disadvantage is that if you just have regular MUX you have to reboot between on or off, with advanced optimus it’s meant to be automatic.

  • Chin Yoon Fui

    I would like to ask model of Lenovo Ideapad 3 which is the RTX3060 version…The cheapest version of gaming budget laptop in Lenovo series…Does anyone here using it? Jarrods review is the GTX1660 only… Anyway, I know it does not support Optimus, but does plug in an external monitor through HDMI can boost the performance of gaming? (Happen to know that this model of Thunderbolt 3 does not support video output as well). Thanks!

    • Jarrod

      Lenovo didn’t send that one to me unfortunately so I cannot say, generally lower / mid range options aren’t validated for Thunderbolt, so if I had to guess it may not be there, but I do not know.

  • Alvin

    Does the acer triton 500 2020 mode (pt515-52) have mux switch, I am thinking of getting it now that the price has gone down on Amazon

  • Lim Wen Qi

    Hi Jarrod,

    I’ve been following your videos for some time. Just to ask if there’s a way to disable the dedicated GPU? i.e. Nvidia or AMD graphics card on laptop? Because at normal workload I do not want it to be used as it can turn up the fan.

    Do I need MUX switch for this?

    Thank you!

  • Richard

    Hi Jarrod

    I am after a new gaming laptop but have the a few parameters I want to follow. Don’t mind the brand of the laptop just need it to be reliable. Do play games on it but do also use it for CAD, so the basic specs are below any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    17.3″screen
    The processor needs to be either an I7/9, 10th or 11th gen or Ryzen 7/9 5800H/U.
    Dedicated GPU 6gb minimum NVIDIA Geforce / AMD Radeon
    16gb ram minimum
    512GB M.2 NVMe SSD minimum would prefer 1TB
    I have a budget of around £1,200

    What would you recommend?

    • Jarrod

      You’re asking for something pretty broad, I don’t know how much stuff costs in your region so hard to say, especially as I haven’t test a whole lot of 17″ models lately. What I will say is wait for a week for CES as there is a bunch of new stuff very close.

  • Miguel

    I’d pay 100$ extra for a MUX switch, even on my work laptop that I don’t pay anything for right now.

    Windows not allowing the use of the dGPU for non-fullscreen apps combined with a 4k display means that I now have an MX150 I desperately need but can’t use. So 1080p it is.

    And if that isn’t bad enough: All the video outputs are hooked up the iGPU.

  • Elias

    Hi! I just wanted to ask if there is a benefit to manually disable dGPU for battery life instead of using mux switch/optimus/hybrid mode. I guess one example could be school. If you only play games when home would there actually be a difference between manually disableing dGPU and the hybrid mode?

  • Nitin Kumar Singh

    Hi Jarrod,
    First of all, big fan here. Thanks for all the information which cleared a lot of concepts and helped me buy my first gaming laptop Legion 5 pro (Intel) 3060 RTX variant.

    Just wanted to know I always have a monitor connected (mostly for coding purpose) through the thunderbolt port.
    I was wondering if it could reduce the lifespan of my gpu since I am using external display more than the internal one when I am at home and since I get video out from RTX 3060 only when I connect through thunderbolt.
    Is there any way to use internal GPU to render on external display?

    • Jarrod

      Doubt it will cause any problems, I didn’t test the Intel 5i Pro, but the 5i non pro had all external ports going to the dGPU rather than iGPU, so I guess there’s no alternative.

  • Timileyin Faseyi

    Hi Jarrod, The MUX switch on my legion 5i pro isn’t working, I’ve tried switching from the lenovo vantage software and through the bios it just comes on with a blank screen.
    My legion spec includes
    Rtx 3070 dgpu
    32gb ram
    I7 11gen
    Windows 11

    • Jarrod

      It’s blank with iGPU on or off? If on, you might need to manually get Intel graphics drivers. Windows update won’t install them when the GPU isn’t available.

  • Arthur

    Hi, Jarrod!

    Thanks for the great post, big fan here!

    I have a legion 5 and my question is that, at home i always have a monitor connected for mostly gaming, but I usually bring my legion to work also, where I have only light loads of work on it. I always have the “hybrid mode” off, but I’m wondering if it make sense, since the MUX switch doesn’s affect the hdmi (correct me if I’m wrong) and at work I would rather prefer a longer battery life. So in this case it make more sense to let the hybrid mode on?

    Thank you!! Greetings from Brazil!

    • Jarrod

      Hey Arthur, yeah in that case I’d probably just leave hybrid mode enabled (optimus on) to get the power savings when running on battery power, and then as you say, the external screen will bypass the iGPU anyway.

  • Bilal

    Hi, thanks a lot for the knowledge you share. Apart from gaming, If I use rendering software like blender/ keyshot , does optimus effect the render time?

  • S.T

    hi Jarrod, i’ve rewatched your Dell G15 review on YT quite a lot, it’s unfortunate you were only able to cover the RTX 3060 version.

    I was planning to buy a G15 5510 with the 3050Ti, apparently this model has no Mux switch. But then I reached Dell’s assistance and they told me that the 3050 Ti model doesn’t have Optimus… and that I need to manually activate the iGPU… so technically, from a gaming point of view, isn’t that a good news ? Does the absence of Optimus means that heavy video processes automatically goes through the dGPU (3050 Ti) ? Also, have you ever tried to just assign a GPU to a specific program, in Windows 10 ? Wouldn’t that be a workaround for the Optimus issue ?

    My laptop would be mainly used for gaming on-the-go, with some occasional youtubing and web browsing.

    • Jarrod

      Not sure what they mean by “manually activate the iGPU”, if I had to guess, go into the BIOS to change the MUX switch as that’s how you do it on the Dell G15, there’s no software option to toggle it like most laptops have – at least at the time I reviewed the 3060 one. I would be extremely surprised if it has no optimus at all, that’s very rare. Assigning programs to a GPU doesn’t change how they’re physically wired to the display. You can say “hey game run on nvidia” but it would do that anyway, the frames still go via the iGPU to the screen. For 3D modelling apps / video editing it matters less, you’re not smashing frame buffers to show stuff on screen ASAP.

  • AHMET

    Hello Jarrod ı have legion 5 2021 model with r7 5800h with rtx 3050ti model ı am not sure do ı have mux switch and even if ı have a mux switch how can ı enable or disable optimus. thanks for your time waiting answer.

  • S.T

    Thank you for your answer, eventually I ended up not picking the 3050 ti model, too many uncertainties and overall it’s clear this GPU will be soon enough too limited by its lack of memory.

    I just hope 3060 models will drop their prices a little more.

  • Yi Ran Wang

    Hello Jarrod, just asking for your omen 15 2021 review, you manage to get around 550 minutes on the youtube playback test, can I ask how do you save battery life? I have the same model but the cpu is a 5800h, but my battery only lasts around 2-3 hours at most watching youtube.

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