Friday, February 24, 2012

Lucid Virtu MVP: What it is, and why you’ll want it on your motherboard


One of the real standout features of our Z68 series motherboards, was the inclusion on Lucid’s Virtu software on several models. For those of you who are new to Lucid Virtu, the elevator description would be that …“it basically allows you to switch between your onboard graphics and your discrete graphics card”. HHmm… and why exactly do I need that?

Switchable Graphics

Well there are a few reasons. The main benefit from this ‘Switchable Graphics’ feature, is that you can power down your graphics card when running less GPU-intensive 2D tasks like web browsing, watching video and general purpose productivity tasks, but then engage the discrete card when you need it, i.e. when cranking up your favorite 3D games.

One of the more obvious benefits from ‘Switchable Graphics’ is that today’s discrete graphics cards tend to consume a lot of power, adding significant wattage to your PC’s overall power consumption even while idling. Being able to switch off the discrete card when it wasn’t needed offers a tangible reduction in power consumption, and perhaps most significantly, a tidy reduction of your electricity bills too.

Other benefits included having access to Intel Quick Sync technology, a popular feature that discrete graphics card users would typically have to abandon, as Intel’s Quick Sync is a processor-bound feature that required you to use Intel’s processor graphics. With Lucid Virtu’s Switchable Graphics feature you could essentially have your cake and eat it too; want super fast video encoding thanks to Intel Quick Sync? No problem, select processor graphics. Want great 3D performance for your latest DX11 games? Switch to that monster card you paid all those dollars for…

Now you’re probably saying that this is old news, but there is a new feature in MVP that gives you control over whether to use processor graphics or the discrete GPU for each application. Here’s a peak at what it looks like.


But wait, there’s more to come..

However, since the Z68 launch, I’ve come to the conclusion that Lucid’s first iteration of their Graphics Virtualization software, Lucid Virtu, was actually just the beginning. Here was something that would grow, gathering momentum to quickly become a ‘must have’ feature for DIY PC builders and PC gamers. Having recently spent some time with the good people from Lucid, I’m now more excited than ever.

Here at GIGABYTE we’ve been working with Lucid to bring the latest Virtu MVP technology to our new 7 series motherboards. Trust me when I say that this is going to be popular bundle, and that’s because while Lucid Virtu MVP has the same switchable graphics feature that I describe above, they’ve also added new technologies that make it truly a game-changing feature (excuse the pun).

Virtual Vsync

If you’re using a powerful graphics card you may find that you’re getting some amazing frame rates at times, especially if you’re playing slightly older 3D games - many DX9 titles like Left4Dead and Portal 2 for example are still very popular. Today’s midrange and enthusiast graphics cards can rip through those games with blistering frame rates.

However, one problem that will arise with really high frame rates is that your monitor will almost always be limited to a refresh rate of around 60 Hz (can be equated to 60 frames per sec/FPS). Now if your game is running at 90FPS or more, this frame rate mismatch can result in a phenomenon known as ‘Tearing’. Check out the door frame and mirrors in the image below. You’ll see how tearing can look within a game. Not exactly the best graphical experience.


Most games offer a fairly clumsy solution to the problem, euphemistically referred to Vsync. If you enable Vsync within your game’s settings, the game will basically limit frame rates to be equal to that of your display – typically 60 FPS. This will result in a wholly inferior game experience. Frame rates of 80 and 100FPS are very much preferable. Most gamers agree, Vsync is a solution that can prevent tearing, but alas, at a significant cost.

Virtual Vsync however is a much more sophisticated solution which resolves the tearing problem, but crucially, without limiting the frame rate. In fact, Virtual Vsync delivers almost the same frame rate as you originally experienced. Again, Lucid has found a solution that means you get the best of both worlds. Fast frame rates of 100 and above, without tearing.


The other new feature that we’re looking forward to offering you guys is what Lucid refers to as HyperFormance, a feature which claims to substantially improve overall 3D gaming responsiveness. By responsiveness we mean how well the game actually responds to your mouse and keyboard, a key factor that contributes greatly to a better overall gaming experience.

Without getting too technical, Lucid Hyperformance basically examines each piece of data as it passes through the graphics pipeline with the aim of eliminating redundant rendering tasks. This allows for shorter rendering cycles which, in turn translates into better overall responsiveness for you the gamer. We have toyed around with Hyperformance here in our labs, and we’ve been impressed at how the game just feels faster. If you were running at 100FPS, enabling Hyperformance will most likely give you even higher FPS. Not only does the FPS show marked improvement, but so too does the feel and responsiveness of the game.

A Bundle Worth Waiting For

Although at the moment we can’ talk about when our 7 series boards will hit the market, we can tell you that when they do, many models will come bundled with Lucid Virtu MVP. We’re really looking forward to that day, and we’re convinced that this new platform will be a big hit with casual and enthusiast gamers who want to enjoy the best 3D gaming experience possible.


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