Introduction

A couple weeks back, I contacted AMD to let them know I was working on a notebook review—a Clevo P170EM from AVADirect with HD 7970M graphics. Much to my surprise, when I received the notebook I discovered it used AMD’s Dynamic Switchable Graphics, now rebranded as Enduro. It has been just over a year since my last look at the technology, where things were so bad that I felt most users would be better off if they had only discrete AMD GPUs and no switchable graphics—or they could simply buy NVIDIA Optimus enabled laptops. The short story is that my initial experience with the P170EM was largely the same, only the lack of driver updates was even more damning when looking at a notebook sporting such a high-end GPU. What could be done? AMD scheduled a meeting with me to go over the latest updates, and thankfully things aren’t quite so grim as I first thought.

First, let’s get everyone up to speed. Historically speaking, AMD/ATI has been on the forefront of switchable graphics technology. While the first laptop with switchable graphics tested at AnandTech used NVIDIA’s implementation (the ASUS UL80Vt), Radeon-based alternatives also existed in a similar time frame. The main problems with early switchable graphics solutions is that they required extra hardware on the manufacturer side (muxes), increasing cost, and more importantly you were generally locked in to getting graphics driver updates from the laptop OEM. NVIDIA addressed both problems when they launched Optimus in early 2010, and while there were certainly some teething pains the vast majority of users have been pleased with the result. Where did that leave AMD? Simply put: out of most laptops.

Was it because NVIDIA had superior technology, better drivers, or better marketing? I’d say yes to all three, and it has been painful to watch as the number of laptops with discrete GPUs (at least in the US) has largely shifted to being NVIDIA products. Up until now, if you wanted a laptop with a discrete GPU, the ability to switch off that GPU, and you wanted regular driver updates, your only viable option has been NVIDIA equipped laptops. Perhaps that’s why every major OEM (along with most smaller OEMs/ODMs) ships at least some of their laptops with NVIDIA’s Optimus Technology. With laptop sales now outpacing desktop sales, giving up so much ground to their competitor is a serious problem AMD needs to overcome.

I should note that AMD has other products that actually help get around our concerns with Enduro. The Llano and Trinity APUs for example offer integrated GPU that are as fast (faster in some cases) as discrete GPUs. If you’re looking for a good budget laptop that gets excellent battery life and you don’t want to deal with switchable graphics at all, Llano started the trend of providing a decent GPU with acceptable CPU performance and Trinity continues that trend. Even better: driver updates aren’t a problem as there’s only one AMD GPU to contend with. Trinity/Llano didn’t win any awards for pure performance, but in terms of bang for the buck and creating a well-rounded device, the APUs have proven successful. But we’re not going to worry about Trinity/Llano or other APUs; today’s focus is on discrete GPUs and switching between these high-power, high-performance GPUs and low-power, low-performance integrated graphics.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the history of AMD’s switchable graphics as well as where they intend to go in the near future.

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