Lucid Virtu GPU Virtualization Software Review - Sandy Bridge and Discrete coexist
One of our Sandy Bridge complaints
Lucid first showed up its Virtu software virtualization for GPUs at CES in January but they are now finally ready to give us some hands on testing time. Virtu promises to marry the integrated graphics features of the Sandy Bridge Intel processor graphics to the performance of discrete solutions from NVIDIA and AMD. The result is a system that can fully utilize BOTH GPUs and user that finally gets what they deserve.In the first week of January this year, Intel released the Sandy Bridge based Core i7, i5 and i3 desktop processors to pretty much universal fanfare with performance and features that far outmatched what the competition has been able create. The new processors were the first desktop offerings to integrate graphics on the same die as the primary CPU processing cores and the resulting "processor graphics" were one of the key selling points of the new chip to mainstream and budget PC builders.
The Intel HD Graphics 2000 and 3000 as they were branded offered a lot of improvements over any previous generation of Intel integrated graphics including features like QuickSync video transcoding, 2D and even 3D full Blu-ray decode acceleration and vastly improved gaming performance. While the gaming performance turned out to be pretty good for mainstream titles, the real show stealer in my opinion was the oddly-named QuickSync technology that offered hardware transcoding support faster than anything we have previously used, including GPGPU implementations for Radeon and GeForce GPUs.
There was a problem with the implementation though; if a user decided to go with a discrete graphics solution then the QuickSync video technology was no longer accessible to them. In other words, gamers that valued their frame rates were left out in the cold from Intel's integrated graphics features as the entire processor graphics block was disabled when using a PCI Express based graphics card.
Obviously for a lot of users then, especially readers of PC Perspective, the impressive features of the Sandy Bridge processor graphics were a moot point as they were never going to sacrifice their NVIDIA or AMD cards. I said as much in the conclusion to my review of the Sandy Bridge architecture in January:
Lucid, a company that was previously known for their HYDRA software that attempts to allow more flexibility in discrete graphics upgrade options, saw an opening that fit their software model fairly well and decided to start development of a solution to exactly this problem. In fact, Intel was so impressed with it during early evaluation that Intel showed the technology in its booth during CES as well.
What Lucid Virtu attempts to do is allow the user to run both the integrated and discrete graphics solutions while keeping the benefits of both and running them seamlessly. In the image above you can see that two monitors are connected to the integrated graphics output on the H67 motherboard (nothing is connected to the DX11 AMD discrete graphics card) and we are running the Unigine Heaven benchmark. While that test will run on the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics, it doesn't run well and it won't support DX11 features like tessellation. So while the discrete GPU runs that application, the integrated processor graphics are responsible for running the HD video stream on the right hand display.
Now we were able to get the software in our hands and test it out for ourselves. As you'll see, despite a couple of minor hiccups, the Lucid Virtu software delivers on its promise.