I was tinkering about in the System Preferences of my Macbook Pro yesterday, when I came across "Automatic Graphic Switching" within the Energy Saver pane as exemplied below:

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What exactly is Graphic Switching, and are there any reasons or instances when it shouldn't be automatically enabled & switched off ?


Graphics switching is where the integrated graphics is switched for the discrete graphics when more performance is required (and where performance is more important than battery life & heat output).

You can see the current graphics card that is enabled, and forcefully switch between the two, with gfxCardStatus.

  • Integrated graphics should be used when you need battery life over performance (the Integrated Only option in gfxCardStatus can be used to force integrated graphics in circumstances where OS X believes that the discrete graphics is required).
  • Discrete graphics should be used when you need performance over battery life (this is usually not required to be set manually with the Discrete Only option since OS X is happy to switch automatically).
  • Dynamic Switching uses the default OS X graphics switching.

When 'Automatic graphics switching' is disabled in the Energy Saver system preference pane, only the discrete graphics is used.

  • I thought to determine which graphics card your mac is using you all you need to do is - click the Apple Icon and select About This Mac. From the popup window select the More Info button. This will bring up a report window. Within the list it will say graphics followed by the graphics card you are using. – Simon May 18 '13 at 13:15
  • Yes, but this is slow and annoying to quickly check. gfxCardStatus adds a menu bar item that you can use to check: the icon changes between i (Intel integrated) and n (NVIDIA discreet). It also lets you forcefully change between graphics cards as I mentioned. – grg May 18 '13 at 13:16
  • Ah I see, good to know :) – Simon May 18 '13 at 13:18

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