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Lucidlogix’s Virtu: Reclaiming Performance And Transcoding

The Intel Z68 Express Review: A Real Enthusiast Chipset

In our earliest preview, Lucidlogix’s Virtu software allowed you to virtualize discrete graphics thorough Intel's HD Graphics frame buffer. This created a whole host of frankly inconvenient caveats. Natively, Intel's output is limited to 1920x1200. Moreover, games were only considered compatible once they were added to a white list of tested titles. And even then, there was a quantifiable performance hit attributable to overhead (check out this page of our Virtu preview for a deep-dive on how the software actually works).

Lucidlogix addressed all of our concerns in Virtu 1.0.105 by supporting discrete graphics natively, while virtualizing HD Graphics. This is a massive move forward. Instead of keeping track of a growing list games via the white list, you only have to keep track of one or two Quick Sync-enabled transcoding apps.

Really, nothing has really changed since our exclusive preview. Z68 motherboards are now shipping with Virtu v1.1.101, which seems to consist mainly of stability enhancements.

Without Virtu Installed
With Virtu Installed
3DMark 11 (3DMarks)
Overall: 3716
GPU: 3499
Overall: 3721
GPU: 3499
Crysis 2
1920x1080, Extreme Quality
55.6 FPS
55.2 FPS
Just Cause 2
1920x1080, High Quality, 8x AA/ 16x AF, Concrete Jungle
48.15 FPS
47.38 FPS
Word of Warcraft: Cataclysm
1920x0180, Ultra Quality, DX11

87.9 FPS
87.9 FPS

We’ve already seen Lucidlogix deliver native gaming performance from discrete cards in discrete mode, so this is more of a spot check. With a GeForce GTX 460, we see no performance penalty when we install Virtu to enable HD Graphics virtualization. Just as it should be.

~600 MB Blu-ray Bonus Scene to iPad Profile
Without Virtu Installed, HD Graphics
With Virtu Installed, Discrete Graphics
Badaboom 2.0
49 seconds
Not Compatible
MediaConverter 7
Not Compatible
Not Compatible
MediaEspresso 6.5
45 seconds
46 seconds

The three major media encoding applications that can take advantage of Quick Sync are MediaConverter, MediaEspresso, and Badaboom. By default, the first two programs are whitelisted by Virtu, but we can't get the latest version of MediaConverter 7 to transcode Blu-ray-quality video. For some reason, the progress bar stalls at 0%. This seems to be a glitch limited to our Z68 platform, which we hope will be solved quickly.

It's also interesting that we can leave our GeForce GTX 460 installed and, without Virtu, still run MediaEspresso natively by connecting our display to the motherboard's DVI port. Badaboom requires us to completely uninstall the Nvidia graphics card before we're able to transcode video through the Quick Sync engine.

Power Consumption

Power Consumption
Virtu On
31.2 GB Blu-ray H.264 Playback
Virtu On / Off
Virtu Off
Native HD Graphics
Virtualize Discrete Graphics
81.2 W
93.0 W
Native Discrete Graphics
Virtualize HD Graphics
81.8 W
104.8 W
80.9 W
Native HD Graphics
(no graphics card installed)
63.0 W

Lower power consumption was Lucidlogix's original aim in virtualizing discrete graphics. When you aren't gaming, you can disable the graphics card by clicking on the "Off" button. But this doesn't translate into using any less power. Disabling Virtu doesn't shut down the discrete graphics card; it only stops you from accessing its performance. In the meantime, the graphics card still consumes power while it's idle.

Virtualizing discrete graphics (and leaning on Intel's integrated solution) really matters when you're doing something like playing back video that the Quick Sync pipeline accelerates. Using HD Graphics natively, you access Intel's on-chip logic instead of Nvidia's, which requires less power than using a card like the GeForce GTX 460 just to access Nvidia's PureVideo decoder.

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