It’s definitely a safe environment…and for most applications (especially the ones you’ve listed) it’s the preferred environment… But a little background…
The whole purpose (concept) behind a hybrid system is done for one reason and one reason only… Power Management. A graphics processor (GPU) can take up quite a bit of power, even when doing the simplest task… So the idea behind hybrid systems is that you have 2 GPUs…one that isn’t very powerful (aka, not very good) and therefore uses less power, and one that is very powerful and can do all kinds of cool graphics tasks at amazing speeds. Given those two GPUs, the system (Windows) can now decide which GPU to use for which tasks, and thus, “try” to better manage the power usage and consumption on systems that run on batteries (i.e. Laptops). So when something like Notepad is being used, there really is no need for a high powered GPU just to render and draw text, and so Windows will not load the high-end graphics drivers into Notepad’s process space, thereby forcing the use of the Intel GPU…which in turn reduces the power consumption, and thus maximizing the batter life…at least that’s the theory… The reality? … Most applications today provide some sort of graphical capabilities, whether it’s something like Maya or Rhino trying to pump out rendered 3D frames as fast as it can, or something like a word processor that also allows inserting pictures and even videos into their documents…the bottom line is that even the most simplest application today will most likely benefit from the higher-end GPU…and so users prefer that over “battery life”… It’s also why you now need to specify which GPU you’d like to use for which application…and as I said, most users today, when asked that question, will always answer “I want the better GPU to be used, after all, I paid a premium for it!”…right? And I’m still not even convinced that theory really works (at least not very well, and not the way it was intended)…it’s also thrown all kinds of logistics and management issues into the mix, which as you’ve experienced, can cause additional problems under the hood.
So having said that… Disabling the Intel GPU is no different than if you had bought a laptop with only an NVidia GPU installed…and the end result will “supposedly” be that your laptop battery will drain faster than if you only had an Intel GPU…but I haven’t seen any real data to back that up. What I have seen and have personally experienced is that the best way to extend your battery, and get the best up times, is the Screen Brightness…that LCD on your laptop consumes a crazy amount of power, and I’ve personally experienced that just turning the brightness down by 50% can almost double my battery usage…which far better than any kind of automated GPU switching could ever do…mainly because as I said, most users will want/prefer speed and capabilities over longer battery life…especially when running graphics-intense applications like Maya and Rhino, and/or games… So the theory behind hybrid systems is a good one…but in practice, I don’t believe it lives up to the desired or expected outcome…but what it does do is create complicated and complex software problems that are almost impossible for 3rd party developers to figure out or even solve.
When I get a laptop, and I’m not planning on using it for testing Rhino, I almost immediately disable the Intel GPU …when there’s another GPU available of course.
So… what now? Well, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve come up with a process that can “fix” the situation permanently…but have only seen it work on very specific configurations… We typed up a document explaining the process, and it’s posted here:
But don’t let the title confuse you…the problem was originally found on some systems as “frozen viewports”…but in reality, the problem is related to hybrid configurations and how Dell pre-installs its drivers for the GPUs. The basic concept behind the solution is to completely wipe your system clean of any and all GPU drivers and do NOT let Windows update them automatically (this is done by disabling your Internet connection during the process, and you’ll see that it’s mentioned in the document)… Then once all video driver crud has been wiped off the system, you then manually install the “proper” drivers for your NVidia GPU, and then let Windows update the Intel GPU drivers itself…again this is all mentioned in the document I wrote.
But again, it’s your call if you want to try going through the process… If you do decide to, I suggest reading over the document in its entirety first, before actually jumping into it. Just know that we have seen this not work on some configurations but have seen it work incredibly well on most system experiencing similar issues. So after going through the tedious process, you may be no better off than you are now…but there is a possibility that everything works.
Let me know what you decide, and if anything worked.
Thanks again for your patience, this type of problem is not an easy one to solve…especially since it’s really not related to the software we write.