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


View All Comments

  • 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...

  • 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
  • - 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • hulawafu77 - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ( 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.)

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