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New for Mid-2012: “Enduro 5.5” Enhancements

When AMD created the Enduro brand, they were really almost where we wanted them. They had dynamic switching with support for most of the latest games and applications, and when it worked properly it would be difficult to tell if you were using an NVIDIA or an AMD dGPU. The problem was when things didn’t work and you had to go into the drivers, and there were several problems. OpenGL support was totally out, many of the latest games were also missing default profiles (and sometimes wouldn’t let you properly specify the correct GPU), the UI was obtrusive and sometimes hard to use (particularly for power users), and the drivers were dictated by the laptop manufacturers and were usually months old at launch and never updated.

While the UI seems like a minor thing to fix—I would have thought one or two months to improve the UI would have been sufficient—at least prior to the forthcoming update it remained largely unchanged. The lack of AMD-provided driver updates was really the major issue, because everything else could potentially be fixed with new drivers and you would never know. The other areas like OpenGL/OpenCL and support for various games/applications should improve over time as well, provided you can get drivers. That brings us to the upcoming Enduro release, scheduled to come out sometime this month or next. Officially it’s still just Enduro, but to help differentiate between the previous Enduro release and the upcoming release we’ll sometimes refer to the new version as “Enduro 5.5”.

The biggest news with the latest iteration of Enduro is that AMD is planning to make universal reference drivers available for all the Enduro laptops. It’s not clear precisely what that means, but potentially any laptop with Dynamic Switchable Graphics or later (e.g. PX4.0 and later) would be supported by AMD’s “reference” drivers. That’s huge, and if AMD can deliver it will assuage most of our concerns with their hardware/software.  Hopefully none of the OEMs get bent out of shape or refuse to allow support, which is a problem we've seen in the past. We should see the first public release in the next month or two, and then another release somewhere in the November/December timeframe.

Besides the availability of driver updates, the UI also receives a much needed overhaul, providing both regular and power users all the options they’re likely to need as far as control of graphics switching is concerned. Open up the switchable graphics options and the top section remains largely the same, but the bottom now allows you to see all application profiles (or just the profiles for detected applications). There’s also a quick search option that works both on executable name and application/game name (e.g. HL2.exe or Half-Life 2 will both find the profile for Half-Life 2). From either list (recently used apps up top, or all apps at the bottom), you can set the GPU profile.

Where previously there were two settings (three if you count “Not Assigned”), there are now three options. As before, “Power saving” sets an application to run on the integrated graphics while “High performance” sets an application to run on the discrete GPU. The new third option is “Based on power source”, which does precisely what you’d expect: plug the laptop in and the apps with this setting will run on the discrete GPU; switch to battery power and they’ll run on the integrated graphics. For many users, everything could default to “Based on power source” and they would be happy, but certainly there will be times where you’re running on battery power but still want to use the dGPU and the drivers give you that option. Should things get squirrelly, you can also reset applications individually or globally to their default settings. It’s worth noting that the power state aware setting is something that NVIDIA currently does not implement, requiring manual intervention if you wish to override your normal settings—though how often people are using apps that require the dGPU while on battery power is something we could debate.

Besides the individual application profiles, AMD is also adding a new area to their drivers: Switchable Graphics Global Settings. This is something you could sort of get before with some laptops, but previously it involved changing from Dynamic Switchable Graphics to manual switching (i.e. switching based on power source) and then forcing the laptop into High Performance or Power Saving mode if you wanted to be low power while plugged in or high power while unplugged. That was clunky and at least in the case of the Sony VAIO C we tested it caused flickering similar to the old switchable graphics, with the dGPU drivers getting unloaded and iGPU drivers getting loaded (or vice versa), with some work behind the scenes copying context from one GPU to the other. It worked but it wasn’t elegant; perhaps more importantly, Microsoft doesn’t want anyone doing this with Windows 8 and thus new laptops won’t be able to get a Windows 8 sticker if they use this method of switching (which basically means no new laptops will do this). To make up for the loss of this functionality (which some people still prefer), AMD has added a new global settings section.

Unlike the individual application profiles, the global settings gives you four options each for Battery and Plugged In. The top two options are similar in most cases and will generally run most applications on the iGPU, and the same goes for the bottom two modes where you’ll run most apps on the dGPU. The difference is that “Force Power Saving GPU” will run all applications (regardless of what the custom profile says) on the iGPU, essentially disabling the dGPU completely. “Optimize Power Savings” in contrast will run all unknown or “Based on power source” applications on the iGPU while respecting the application profiles where they exist. “Optimize Performance” is sort of the reverse of that, running all “Based on power source” applications on the dGPU while leaving unknown applications on the iGPU. Finally, the “Maximize Performance” option runs all unknown and “Based on power source” applications on the dGPU—but applications specifically set to use the iGPU will continue to do so.

The reason for that last discrepancy (e.g. why you can’t simply run everything on the dGPU and forget about the iGPU) is that certain tools have to run on the iGPU. Intel’s drivers are one example—loading those up on the dGPU would cause problems. Intel’s WiDi is the only other I could find on my particular Clevo notebook. We were told that some of the laptop utilities like an overlay showing percentage of brightness, volume, etc. may also need to run on the iGPU. Besides the few applications that have to run on the iGPU, any applications that are set to Power Saving will continue to use the iGPU—and this makes sense as there are a lot of applications that can be set to run on iGPU/dGPU that have no need of higher performance GPU options (several anti-virus utilities come to mind, where they're starting to create a 3D context for their UI). The net result is that other than a few specific applications where the profile will exist and be locked to the iGPU, with no option to change to dGPU, everything else that uses higher function graphics can be customized to run on a specific GPU, but if you set something to iGPU presumably you want it to always run there—otherwise you would use the “Based on power source” setting.

A full set of screenshots from all the driver screens is available in the gallery below if you’re interested.

One final topic worth discussing is Windows 8. Certainly there are owners of existing laptops with switchable graphics that are wondering if they can upgrade to Windows 8 and what will happen. We’ll have to see how this actually plays out, but it sounds like the earlier versions of PowerXpress (3.0 and earlier) will probably get support with one driver bundled with Windows 8, and that may be it—but there’s always the possibility for the laptop OEMs to release their own updates, or for AMD to roll out additional drivers for older laptops. The potential for PowerXpress 4.0 and later laptops to get regular driver updates (for Windows Vista/7/8) is there, but until we actually start seeing public driver releases AMD hasn’t fully committed to supporting all of those laptops.

Recap: AMD’s PowerXpress, aka Dynamic Switchable Graphics, aka Enduro Other Technical Details and Performance Expectations
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  • Vozier - Monday, September 10, 2012 - link

    The whole 7970M and other 7000 series ATI cards and their enduro issues is more than discussed.
    I am missing some kind of statement mostly from CLEVO, HP and other manufacturers, that want it or not are losing sales on this debacle, since Alienware has become a good "bang for the bucks" alternative (who would have believed that would ever happen!) and selling more just for this.
    Needless to be said Alienware owners are more than happy with their 7970s, since they can really use them.
    I would think the manufacturers and resellers (who are also losing money on returns and card swaps) would at least speak their minds to defend their positions.
    Maybe clevo could announce a muxer for their new laptops? i dont know.....

    The lack of any kind of official statement is what really is messing with everyones mind, do they really think this will pass like water under the bridge????

    Is this silence a good or a bad omen????

    Jarred, do you have any insights on this branch of the issue?

    Voz
    Reply
  • hulawafu77 - Monday, September 10, 2012 - link

    Clevo/Sager does know about it and before this article was written, Clevo/Sager contacted AMD to try and find a fix for it. They continue to work with AMD on this issue. Clevo is a good company, they won't ignore it and will try to get it resolved. Not like Asus. Reply
  • Vozier - Monday, September 10, 2012 - link

    Yeah, thats my guess too, but they have kept silent as late, same as AMD.

    Well, since these article is becoming a meeting point for different communities i share here a positive post from someone who has been in contact with AMD (more or less like Jarred and Anandtech)
    My guess is that good news are coming, better take your 7970M's out of ebay, because its about to be revalued....
    I bet AMD techs and workers are slowly leaking information that the fiz is coming, they probably cant hold it to themselves....
    so GOOD NEWS!

    ""Yes.

    Without committing AMD to anything because I've got NO OFFICIAL news for you, I would expect to see a big improvement in performance for 7900M Enduro users in a future beta performance driver. Timeframe is not confirmed but I would think in about a month but I'll try to pin it down more.""

    source: Rage3d ( caveman-jim, Tech Writer)
    Reply
  • loop1982 - Monday, September 10, 2012 - link

    As from my point of view Clevo and the others who have created a System that needs Enduro have no other choice than being quiet.
    Why do I think so?

    1. They cannot disable Enduro by Bios Updates
    2. They cannot fix the Enduro problem on their own
    3. AMD put the ball for Enduro support to the notebook manufacturers (for me that means they kinda commit that something is wrong, or they have no real team behind the notebook tribers side...)
    5. If they release a new model with hardware support to turn Enduro off, they can just directly make a recall of all other models because it's like commiting a mistake and problem in their setup.
    4. They are still selling lots of systems because the review sites still recomment the setup and the easily google able results (f.i "clevo p702 radeon 7970m test") don't directly point to any issue. You would have to google for Enduro Problem or under utilization but who knows about this before getting hit by it? No one!

    What so ever, the customers are the stupid ones here, we can only learn from this and hope that there will be a fix or a big lawsuite (which wont happen in my opinion).
    Reply
  • hulawafu77 - Monday, September 10, 2012 - link

    One thing is for sure though. If the 7970 Desktop came out with the GTX 580 outperforming in more than half the games and yet touted to be significant improvement, AMD would have had that fixed in no time. I really don't understand why AMD slacks on it when mobile gaming is the future, not huge desktops. Even now, I think laptop gaming is more popular than desktop, there are far more people on laptops gaming no doubt. I even know more people gaming on MacBooks than I know people who have desktops! Reply
  • erick.mendes - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I havn't heard of XGP for quite a while... it was a POWER solution for mobile graphics for sure... Not punny discrete notebook GPU's ... You could house a full blow GPU on an external case, connected to the notebook thru PCIe 2.0 cable, then connect monitors to the external box:
    http://forum.notebookreview.com/gaming-software-gr...
    That would make me give up my desktop... But AMD don't want to invest on it... : /
    It would extend notebooks lifetime, because all I would need to upgrade is the external GPU... Perhaps that's why it's canned... XGP would hurt planned obsolescence plans...
    Reply
  • spaceman44 - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    hey guys

    just an update from my earlier post. i feel like i may just be explaining the obvious to some people here (i know i feel a little foolish for taking 3 weeks to look into these settings), but i've managed to get much better performance from my 7970m in a clevo p150em.

    you need to go into the advanced power settings. control panel (change to view by large icons) > power options > change plan settings > change advanced power settings.

    the settings you need to check/adjust for plugged in are:
    - switchable dynamic graphics - automatic GPU selection
    - Intel(R) Graphics Plan - maximum performance
    - PCI express Link State management - off (not sure if this actually effects the card or not but it's one that i changed)
    - ATI graphics power settings - maximize performance

    when i checked these settings on my rig the default settings for plugged in for intel, ati and pci were all set to maximize battery life. I'm not sure if this is just how my laptop came or if everyone's clevo is being sent out with these settings. it would be great if some other clevo owners could try this and reply back :)

    after i changed these i'm getting much better GPU usage, i've only really tested it on battlefield campaign and a bit of dayz. But the most notable difference is when playing BF3 on low or medium settings i'm now getting a GPU usage of 50 - 75% (before it was 30ish) and fps of 55-90 (mid 60's av). before i was getting 25-40 fps on low. with dayz i'm still getting 35-65% on max settings but now if i lower most settings to high and turn off AA (except FXAA) i still get 35-65% GPU usage but quite playable fps of mid to high 30's.

    by no means is this a fix for the problem, as i feel this card can perform better (i really do think it will be a demon of a card with sweet drivers). but these changes have improved my gaming experience a great deal.

    i really hope this helps out some fellow frustrated clevo owners!!!!
    Reply
  • Vozier - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    That sounds lkike the default windows configuration, i always change it to my desired configuration after installing OS. I dont have my P150 EM yet tho.

    Seems like you got lots of improvements changing those settings, good news for the ones who will be waiting for the AMD official drivers, now we can play ate least...

    Will post your findings in NBR.

    good comment!

    Voz
    Reply
  • transphasic - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Are you referring to the settings somewhere within Catalyst Control center?
    Otherwise, I am not sure what settings you are referring to, because the Windows Control panel has none of the things that you are talking about, nor even CCC.

    Within CCC, I have all my program settings set to Maximum (High Performance), but there is no where else with which to make further adjustments. there.

    Can you elaborate further as to what options you are talking about, and where I can go to find them?

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Vozier - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    I think he means windows control panel, not CCC, you need to go to start and find the power options, its in the screen and appearence section i believe (right now i am in windows XP), were you setup your screen saver and desktop.

    QUOTE< you need to go into the advanced power settings:
    . control panel (change to view by large icons) > power options > change plan settings > change advanced power settings. >>
    Reply

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