Nowadays, gaming laptops are powerhouses that can compete against all but top-tier PCs thanks to bigger and better hardware. That said, it’s not always as simple as Nvidia or AMD shoving a near fully-baked desktop graphics card under the hood and calling it a day. Some brands rely on something called a MUX switch to eke out better gaming performance, but what exactly is it, does your laptop have one, and is it something you need?
Most of the best gaming laptops have a MUX switch, which is a built-in bit of hardware that can help boost your device’s graphical output but that same boost can come at a cost. We’ll give you the lowdown on how MUX switches work along with their drawbacks, benefits, and why you should consider one for your next laptop.
MUX switch in gaming laptop - Explained
What does MUX stand for?
To begin explaining its use, we should first know the basics and why it’s so popular among the modern laptop gamer. MUX is short for “Multiplexer”, and simply put, works as a toggle for your gaming laptop’s graphics display.
Essentially, it allows you to quickly swap responsibility for display output between your laptop’s internal graphics processor(iGPU) and its discrete graphics processor (dGPU), with the aim of reducing latency and increasing overall performance, putting it on par with some of the best and most affordable desktop PCs.
What is the benefit of a MUX switch?
In an average laptop setup, the information processed by a dGPU would then run through the iGPU before it makes it to the laptop screen, all in favor of battery life and ease of processing, but at the cost of that latency we mentioned. In a time where gamers are pushing for every frame to be rendered as fast as possible, a MUX switch offers them the option to focus their dGPU to communicate directly with their display screen, an obvious benefit that removes the slower iGPU’s influence.
Nowadays, MUX switches featured in current-gen laptops will appear as a dedicated microchip, placed between your iGPU and dGPU on the motherboard, acting as a physical connection that is triggered by a software program (e.g Nvidia’s Optimus or AMD’s Switchable Graphics) or a companion suite. Most MUX switch settings can be reached via a machine’s companion app such as ASUS’ Armoury Crate, or sometimes accessed directly through the laptop’s BIOS.
How do I check if my Laptop has a MUX switch?
Check your laptop manufacturer’s companion app
Most gaming laptops will come packaged with a companion app where most of the graphical options, power-saving settings, and more will be located for ease of access. To check if your laptop has a MUX switch available, check whichever suite is installed on your machine, examples include:
- ASUS: Armoury Crate
- MSI: MSI Center
- Alienware: Alien Command Center
The name each manufacturer uses can differ, but keep your eye out for sections in each app like “GPU Mode” on Armoury Crate or “GPU Switch” on MSI. The options to toggle between the hybrid (iGPU+dGPU) mode or the dedicated dGPU mode should be found there.
Note: If you’re running a Dell laptop, or a similar, less gaming-focused machine, any switch options will likely be located in the BIOS settings instead. You’d be surprised what some of the best gaming laptops under 300 can do with the extra oomph from a MUX switch onboard.
Search official product or support pages and online forums
If you’re stuck and without a clue on whether your laptop has a MUX switch, the best port of call will be your laptop manufacturer’s official product or support page. While most MUX switches are rarely included in the product’s list of build parts, devices will often have a dedicated support page you can check.
Alternatively, you can check online forums such as Reddit and Overclockers for advice from aficionados who could point you in the right direction.
How to turn on or off MUX switch
While not a typical ‘on or off’ switch, it’s important to remember the MUX switch basically acts as a rerouter for signals traveling through either your iGPU or dGPU. There are multiple ways to go about toggling a MUX switch, which is already explained above.
If you’ve got a companion suite installed on your gaming laptop, most will have specific options that make use of the MUX switch. Look for terms like GPU Mode, Hybrid Mode, Graphics Switcher, or GPU Switch, to name a few.
MUX switch - Advantages and disadvantages
There are a few benefits available to you with the MUX toggled and your discrete graphics processor taking full responsibility. Most notably, the considerable increase in graphical fidelity, a boost in frames per second, and generally better display performance.
While it’s obviously important to keep in mind that the raw increases in performance across these factors are entirely dependent on the system you’re running, it’s very much worth your while if you’re needing that extra processing power on the more graphically intensive, AAA experiences, or if you’re in the business of first-person shooters where each frame counts.
Another big plus to using your laptop in dGPU mode will come in the form of the unlocking of features that aren’t usually available via the hybrid mode, such as Nvidia’s Shadowplay or G-sync. Similarly, HDR display options are often also unlocked when using a gaming laptop’s dGPU mode, offering a welcome improvement in the color profile of your screen.
With great power, comes great battery life consumption. The use of a MUX switch and the associated dGPU firing off on full cylinders will drastically reduce the amount of time your gaming laptop’s battery can hold out, which could reduce your internal battery’s lifespan over time.
Now, keeping it plugged into a socket for the duration is the obvious answer, but naturally, that also infers an increase in power consumption overall - not ideal during a global energy crisis.
Should I buy a gaming laptop with a MUX switch?
If you're wondering whether a MUX switch is important for gaming laptops, it's not the end of the world if you don't have one. There are certainly higher priorities out there when upgrading, especially with new RTX 40 series laptops carrying plenty of punch. That said, what use is wasting your hard-earned money on a 40 series graphics card without the ability to push it to its limit?
According to ASUS’ Republic of Gamers division, tests showed having a MUX switch installed resulted in a substantial reduction in latency as well as “boosting framerates by an average of 9% in [their] testing—though some games, like Rainbow Six Siege, saw more than a 30% boost.”
As such, the MUX switch is clearly a perfect way to circumvent any bottlenecks coming from a non-optimal iGPU, and with manufacturers standing by them over the years, it’s absolutely worth your consideration in any future gaming laptop purchases.