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Retina MacBook Pro: extending battery life by disabling the discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics

Posted by jpluimers on 2013/06/14

One of the big differences between my old 13-inch MacBook Air and (fairly new) 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro was the predictability of battery usage.

The MacBook Air lasts between 4-5 hours. The Retina MacBook anywhere between 3-5 hours.

I finally found out the cause: Chrome, Remote Desktop and VMware Fusion will often (VMware fusion immediately) switch to the  discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics. Which uses a lot more battery (but less memory) than the integrated Intel HD 4000. Though both can drive the retina display at 2800×1600 (see Retina MacBook Pro Pushes the Limits of its Graphics Capabilities – Mac Rumors) the latter is better suited for the road warrior.

But still having the need for Chrome, Remote Desktop and VMware Fusion, I wanted a way to block switching to discrete graphics.

Luckily, quite a few sites describe how to do that:

The all come down to installing gfxCardStatus by cody krieger.

Steps to force integrated graphics:

  1. Install gfxCardStatus.
  2. Quit all applications (actually: only the ones on the dependencies list)
  3. Force “integrated only”
  4. Start your favourite applications

Note that the integrated graphics can take quite a bit of your main memory, but that’s why you bought the 16 gigabyte Retina MacBook Pro, right?

Note that gfxCardStatus sometimes switches back to Dynamic Switching (back from Integrated Only or Discrete Only) after a reboot (especially after a cold reboot).

See the screenshot (thanks Ars Technica):


3 Responses to “Retina MacBook Pro: extending battery life by disabling the discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics”

  1. Also editing the application plist if it seems to support automatic graphics switching, NSSupportsAutomaticGraphicsSwitching = YES. Just change that to NO and it should force the app to only use onboard graphics. I do notice that whenever you close an application it triggers a Card switch, probably due to transparency and animations. Looking to find a way to turn those off now.

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