What is a MUX switch?

Gaming laptops are much more advanced than they were a few years ago. One of the many new features you can see on some of the best gaming laptops is the MUX switch, a feature that can be used to improve graphics performance. But how does it really work, and should you spend extra money just for this feature? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a MUX switch?

Short for Multiplexer, a MUX switch gives users the choice to optimize their gaming laptops to prioritize battery life or pure performance while playing games. Essentially, it is used to manually disable the laptop’s integrated GPU and disable any optimization fixes. It works by connecting the dedicated graphics card directly to the screen. This means that the laptop must have hardware support for this feature and it is not something that can be done through software alone. Also, since the MUX switch is soldered to the motherboard itself, it cannot be installed by the end user.

Most gaming laptops have a pair of GPUs, an integrated GPU (iGPU) and a discrete GPU (dGPU). An iGPU is part of the processor, which means that Intel and AMD both offer their own integrated graphics solution. On the other hand, a discrete GPU is the more powerful graphics chip on your laptop, such as the Nvidia RTX 3070 or AMD Radeon RX 6700s, needed to power high-end games.

The integrated GPU is less powerful and consumes less power. Thus, the iGPU is good for common tasks such as watching videos, browsing the web, writing a document, and so on. However, discrete GPUs require a lot of power to deliver raw graphics performance compared to integrated GPUs. This is one of the biggest reasons gaming laptops don’t offer great battery life. To address this issue, manufacturers came up with battery optimization solutions such as: Nvidia Optimus and AMD switchable graphics card.

Diagram showing how Nvidia Optimus works.
Image Credit: Nvidia

A laptop with Optimus automatically saves battery by switching to integrated graphics when you don’t need a lot of graphics power. As soon as you open a GPU-intensive workload, say a game, it recognizes the requirement and switches back to the dGPU. It sounds useful and it is even claimed to offer an increased performance of up to 30%, but there is a flaw. While the game processing takes place on the dGPU, the signal is sent to the iGPU first before reaching the screen, sometimes causing a bottleneck. This is where the MUX switch comes in.

How do I know if my laptop has a MUX switch?

This can be tricky as laptop manufacturers aren’t very picky when it comes to marketing a MUX switch on their products. The best way is to go to the product page on the manufacturer’s website and dig through the spec sheet. Alternatively, you can also check the system tuning software that came with your laptop to see if the system has a MUX switch or not.

If you don’t have a MUX switch on your laptop, you can still improve your gaming performance by using overclock your GPU or connect an external gaming monitor to your laptop. However, you must ensure that the display output is connected directly to the discrete graphics card rather than to the integrated GPU from Intel or AMD.

How to enable or disable a MUX switch?

The MUX switch can be turned on or off using the custom system tuning software that comes with your gaming laptop, after which a system reboot is required. It is usually called a switch GPU Switch:Hybrid graphicsor Nvidia Optimus† For certain laptops, you may need to go into the BIOS and then toggle the MUX switch on or off.

How to toggle the MUX switch in Armory Crate.
Image Credits: ASUS

Do I need a gaming laptop with a MUX switch?

Having a MUX switch definitely gives you an advantage as it allows you to get the highest performance from the discrete GPU on your gaming laptop. It is also suitable for someone who intends to always use the laptop connected to the power supply. Most of the leading gaming laptop manufacturers, including ASUS, Acer, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, MSI, Lenovo, and Razer, are now implementing the MUX switch and they don’t cost much more than those that don’t. However, if you’re planning to buy a new laptop, we recommend doing some research as the feature is usually only found on a few midrange and premium gaming notebooks. If you already have a gaming laptop that doesn’t have a MUX switch, we don’t recommend investing money in a new one just for that feature.

However, if you’re looking to buy a new gaming laptop, here are the: best gaming laptops you can buy in 2022

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