Sunday, October 28, 2012

Using Multiple Displays and Projectors with Windows 8 and Lenovo W520

When Lenovo started shipping hybrid graphics in their W500-series workstations, it was a great improvement for road warriors who need both full-power graphics when connected to a power source and long battery life on the go. This is achieved by the presence of two video cards – an integrated Intel chip side-by-side with an nVidia Quadro GPU. The nVidia drivers ship with software that automatically switch between graphics modes based on the current power profile.

This configuration works great until the machine is connected to an external monitor or projector via the VGA port. For some reason, the nVidia software is unable to automatically balance the output between both video cards when the display is duplicated. Many users have resorted to disabling one or the other video cards in the BIOS, which works fine but requires that the change be made manually each time to computer is rebooted (assuming that the user wants the low power mode at some point – if the machine is always plugged in then it's really not an issue).

There is, however, a way to get display duplication working with the auto-switching Optimus mode. All the configuration options are there in the nVidia control panel but the configuration isn't very intuitive. Here's how to make it work (this holds true for both Windows 7 and Windows 8, although the sub-menu text in the control panel is a bit different between driver versions)...

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