NVIDIA Optimus

NVIDIA Optimus refers to a dual graphics configuration found on laptops consisting of an Intel integrated GPU and a discrete NVIDIA GPU.

There are different methods to take advantage of the NVIDIA GPU, which depend on the driver version supported by your hardware.

In order to determine the correct driver to install, it is not enough to look at the "Supported Products" list on NVIDIA's website, because they are not guaranteed to work in an Optimus configuration. So the only way is to try installing the latest nvidia, rebooting, and looking at the kernel log. If your device is not supported, you will see a message like this:

NVRM: The NVIDIA GPU xxxx:xx:xx.x (PCI ID: xxxx:xxxx)
NVRM: installed in this system is not supported by the xxx.xx
NVRM: NVIDIA Linux driver release.  Please see 'Appendix
NVRM: A - Supported NVIDIA GPU Products' in this release's
NVRM: README, available on the Linux driver download page
NVRM: at www.nvidia.com.

which means you have to uninstall nvidia and install the legacy nvidia390.

A summary of the methods supported by Void, which are mutually exclusive:

PRIME Render Offload

  • only available on nvidia
  • allows to switch to the NVIDIA GPU on a per-application basis
  • more flexible but power saving capabilities depend on the hardware (pre-Turing devices are not shut down completely)

Offloading Graphics Display with RandR 1.4

  • available on nvidia and nvidia390
  • allows to choose which GPU to use at the start of the X session
  • less flexible, but allows the user to completely shut down the NVIDIA GPU when not in use, thus saving power

Bumblebee

  • available on nvidia and nvidia390
  • allows to switch to the NVIDIA GPU on a per-application basis
  • unofficial method, offers poor performance

Nouveau PRIME

  • uses the open source driver nouveau
  • allows to switch to the NVIDIA GPU on a per-application basis
  • nouveau is a reverse-engineered driver and offers poor performance

You can check the currently used GPU by searching for renderer string in the output of the glxinfo command. It is necessary to install the glxinfo package for this.

PRIME Render Offload

In this method, GPU switching is done by setting environment variables when executing the application to be rendered on the NVIDIA GPU. The wrapper script prime-run is available from the nvidia package, and can be used as shown below:

$ prime-run <application>

For more information, see NVIDIA's README

Bumblebee

Enable the bumblebeed service and add the user to the bumblebee group. This requires a re-login to take effect.

Run the application to be rendered on the NVIDIA GPU with optirun:

$ optirun <application>

Nouveau PRIME

This method uses the open source nouveau driver. If the NVIDIA drivers are installed, it is necessary to configure the system to use nouveau.

Set DRI_PRIME=1 to run an application on the NVIDIA GPU:

$ DRI_PRIME=1 <application>