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Recap: AMD’s PowerXpress, aka Dynamic Switchable Graphics, aka Enduro

Getting back to the switchable graphics, AMD has gone through a variety of names over the years. Here’s AMD’s summary slide, which I’ll discuss in detail:

Originally introduced as PowerXpress back in 2008, the first AMD switchable graphics solutions were like that found later in the ASUS UL80Vt and similar laptops: you had to flip a switch, and in the first iterations you would then need to reboot the laptop so that the BIOS could disable the discrete GPU and activate the integrated GPU. It was messy and a bit inconvenient, and NVIDIA’s early studies showed that many users ended up not using the feature—they would either run on dGPU all the time or on iGPU all the time. Both AMD and NVIDIA had a second series of switchable graphics designs where the need to reboot was removed; the first Alienware M11x could switch GPUs in about 10-15 seconds, and the same was true of HP’s first ENVY laptops. These were using PowerXpress 2.0 and 3.0, and for most people the switching side was adequate: you’d run on dGPU when plugged in and switch to iGPU when on battery power.

Last year, AMD took a step forward with their switchable graphics by introducing PowerXpress 4.0, which also renamed the technology to Dynamic Switchable Graphics (DSG for short). I got a chance to do a head-to-head of the technology using a Sony VAIO C laptop provided by NVIDIA. You know a company is confident that they’re going to win a technology comparison when they’ll actually give you a competitor’s product. In some cases, DSG was just as good as Optimus: you could launch a supported game and never realize all the extra stuff happening in the background; unfortunately, there were several titles where it wasn’t quite as convenient as we would have liked, and OpenGL support from DSG was completely missing.

Step forward to early 2012 and we got another update to PowerXpress 5.0 (note that PowerXpress is now only used internally by AMD and hasn’t been their marketing name since before PX4.0) along with a rechristening: Dynamic Switchable Graphics was out and Enduro was in. If nothing else, at least it makes my job easier as Enduro is much more concise. There's also the fact that the GPUs are no longer "switching", as the iGPU is always running; now the dGPU is simply supplementing the iGPU when needed. Along with the name change, AMD added OpenGL and OpenCL support to the mix, and with their Zero Core Technology (which is also part of their 7000 series desktop GPUs—a case of mobile design influencing desktops) the need to keep a small portion of the chip alive (aka BACO: Bus Active Chip Off) was removed. OEMs could also ship with custom profiles for applications, so for example Dell might want all of their extra utilities to default to running on the iGPU.


Hopefully this problem goes away next month!

Other than those changes, the UI and driver updates situation on early Enduro solutions remains largely the same as with DSG/PX4.0—and that’s what I initially received with the Clevo P170EM, with drivers from around March 2012. A quick check at AMD’s site also let me know that there weren’t any new drivers available, as the P170EM wasn’t currently supported by the latest Mobility Catalyst drivers.

Introduction New for Mid-2012: “Enduro 5.5” Enhancements
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  • Vozier - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    you DO have a point, i agree with you.

    Maybe this aint the best place for this, lets keep this article a source of help and not an open window to complain, just a thougt...

    regards
    Voz
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    The good news is that we won't be deleting anything here, I can guarantee that. You might also consider asking NBR and the other places where threads have been deleted exactly why they did so. If a forum kowtows to the manufacturers and deletes negative posts -- especially posts that are full of data showing the problem with a specific set of hardware -- I'm not sure I'd trust the forums any longer. Actions like that are basically saying, "We want advertising money more than we want members." Reply
  • Vozier - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    DITTO. Reply
  • vgray35@hotmail.com - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    Maybe so, but there is a lot that should be said and was not said. Two issues needed to be differentiated - the fix itself, and corporate shenanigans, and the latter needed some attention. I will try to be silent now. Reply
  • transphasic - Sunday, September 09, 2012 - link

    Excellent points! Well said. Reply
  • transphasic - Sunday, September 09, 2012 - link

    The problem with this is, I didn't know about the Enduro mess causing low FPS rates and utilization problems until after the 30 day return policy was up.
    I suspect the same thing can and will be said by others as well.

    Since we all had no idea initially that Enduro was causing all this when we bought our Sagers, it was only starting to snowball downhill with more and more reports coming in about this. Then I got to see it firsthand with the games that I played, and that was after the 30 day return period, so by then, I will stuck with it.

    I contact Sager about it, and they told me that there was no problem with the 7970M, so there was nothing I could do about it, short of swapping out my GPU card for the Nvidia, and that, they said, would cost me $800 dollars to do.
    Obviously, Sager was flat our wrong about it, and that makes things even worse for all of us.
    Reply
  • hulawafu77 - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link


    I find it curious AnandTech's reviewer wasn't more shocked that the 580M performed better than the 7970M in over half the games. If you look at the specs AMD posted, the 7970M is about 2X more powerful than the 580M. The in game results are just incredible, I really hope AnandTech edits the article to be more outraged that a machine that costs $1,500 today performs less than a $1200 machine in half the games. The current 675M is a rebadge of the 580M and costs signifitcantly less. What if the 7970 desktop performed less than last years 580 in over half the games? But I forgot, this is mobile, and us mobile users don't matter.

    On the popular NBR forum, threads are being closed and deleted because AMD has issued legal threats to some OEM/Brands who have been nice enough to try and gather feedback to help us owners. NBR was asked by said OEM, and NBR complied because said OEM, Sager, have been a great supporter of the forum and had great relations. They did this as a favor, so NBR is not to blame, nor is Sager.

    A post from NBR that clarifies that it was in fact AMD that requested the threads to be closed/deleted.
    http://img862.imageshack.us/img862/8637/34838071.p...

    Please check Rage3D. On Rage3D we've had an advocate on our behalf and AMD continues to ignore his inquiries and it's been 2 months with no results since AMD claimed they were investigating the issue. Clearly for AMD, mobile users are second class and do not deserve the performance they paid for, even though the mobile counterpart to desktop part is nearly 2X in price. The 7970M is a $500 piece of hardware and yet we just get spit in our face.

    I know on NBR, Rage3D and Guru3D, 7970M users are furious. And on this review, I get the sense, it's meh, AMD is working on it. No big deal attitude.
    Reply
  • hulawafu77 - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    http://forum.notebookreview.com/sager-clevo/686991...

    Sure the article title and the objective of the thread is biased, but I think overtime it will clearly show that mobile gamers right now, in their opinion between the two flagship titans, Nvidia 680 at $300 more is a better value, since it works.
    Reply
  • transphasic - Sunday, September 09, 2012 - link

    You are absolutely right about this. For us sorry 7970m owners, it simply amounts to the old saying: "Penny wise, pound foolish", because since Sager said that if I wanted to swap out my 7970m for the FAR BETTER Nvidia 680m, it would cost me a total of $800.
    Gee, what would I rather do- spend an extra $300 now, or $800 later?

    Hmmm....wait...let me think...

    The choice is an easy one for everyone involved- spend the extra $300 for a far better GPU now, or spend A LOT more money later when you realize that what you just bought and supposedly "saved" $300 dollars on with an AMD, isn't what you bargained for.

    Either way you look at it, spending an extra $300 to save $500 makes a lot more sense.
    Reply
  • Seanzky - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    Take it from a guy who owns a Clevo P170EM with a 7970M built by Malibal. To say I am very disappointed in AMD's negligence in terms of providing support or even just a public statement or some kind of assurance for their non-functional technology, is a huge understatement. The thread we started in the AMD forums was locked because some AMD fanboys who don't own a GPU with Enduro problems (with no understanding of the issues whatsoever) started flaming us. The thread Sager started over at NBR was locked and deleted. The last time @CatalystCreator acknowledged the Enduro issues on Twitter was almost a month ago and hasn't mentioned it since. I've asked a few AMD reps on Twitter about Enduro problems that plague the 7900 series and one of them directed me somewhere else but then sent me a malicious link privately. (I have proof in my email.)

    But look no further than the NBR forums (NotebookReview.com) to see what my fellow 7970M owners have to say. Keep in mind that most of these guys are hardcore AMD bandwagon, fanboys. When the Enduro issues first surfaced, these guys stuck with AMD like they owed AMD something. Now read what their honest opinion is after they've seen and experienced the Enduro issues. It's not in our imagination, but we are getting brushed off while AMD sweeps this one under the rug. After all, why focus your money into fixing this problem or providing a recall when you can use that money and put it into R & D for the next generation of GPUs to rip off even more people?

    I'm not here to hate on a product I paid over $600 for, obviously. If I could defend it and be proud of it, like I hoped I would, I would really much rather do that. But I can't. I'm just a very disappointed customer who put faith and money into AMD's product and in turn was left hanging high to dry.

    My advice to those looking into building a high end custom laptop? Do you research. Don't go to these biased reviews sponsored by AMD. Go to the forums where real owners own the actual product. Watch out videos, logs, tests, etc. THAT'S where you can find FACTS.

    (I reckon my comment will be deleted for whatever fishy reasons, but at least I tried.)
    Reply

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