Nvidia Prime just got handy for upcoming Ubuntu 14.04

Support for Nvidia Optimus is coming on in leaps and bounds in Ubuntu, I especially love how it’s shaping up in the next release of Ubuntu – 14.04 Trusty Tahr.

Having used Bumblebee up until now to enable my discrete card I can’t wait to try out Prime support.

I must say, despite the fact the final release of isn’t out until next month – it feels very polished. Unity feels far more stable and useable than it has done in any previous iteration.. It’s not my favourite desktop, and at times feels very cluttered. The launcher almost screams at me sometimes and overloads my vision with too many options to suite my search – most of which are lamentably still not right. Searching for files does seem quite on the ball now though.

However, this post is not a review – it’s not out yet!

What I do want to write about though is the new Nvidia Prime features and a handy little gadget from those good folks at WebUpd8.org.

What is Nvidia-Prime?

NP is a way of adding Hybrid graphics support to your laptop or computer. Many pcs (but laptops especially) use hybrid graphics to provide stable but power-saving support most of the time, then a bit more grunt for playing games, graphic design or any other resource-intensive use. Up until now NP has really only given you the option to have your graphics card on or off, and certainly not with any kind of easy switch between the two. As a result most users have resorted to Bumblebee to switch between cards via the command line.

Last year, as reported at webupd8, Prime 0.5 was released to the world (well, released into the 14.04 proposed repository) with a switch built into the updated Nvidia Settings control panel:

NVIDIA X Server Settings_007

Now, four months down the line Ubuntu 14.04 is up to release 0.6.1 and I’m ready to give it a go! More than that a very handy little Unity Applet which allows you to seamlessly switch from duty to heavy duty.

The Installation:

This was actually a lot simpler than I expected. I started by adding the webupd8 repository:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8

After that update:

sudo apt-get update

Now all you need to do is install the prime-indicator. Brilliantly this pulls in all the Prime packages you need:

sudo apt-get install prime-indicator

And you are done! All you need to do now is restart your computer, and after logging in you should now have an extra icon in your system tray:

Selection_006
The only real problem with this for now is that to switch from one card to another you still have to restart the Xserver – this means you will be logged out. So make sure you’re ready for that! Also, so far in my experience unity seems a little slower while using my Nvidia 630m rather than just the vanilla Intel graphics.

One thing I have definitely noticed though is that while switched to Intel my laptop is getting nowhere near as hot as before. I expect to get a lot more juice out of the battery too. I’m happy to stick with nvidia-prime just for that!

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