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Can Lucidlogix Right Sandy Bridge’s Wrongs? Virtu, Previewed

Truth be told, the enthusiast market is small beans for Lucid. The company has its eyes on the mobile space, which is where it sees the real volume, despite the fact that we’re seeing the software running on a desktop first. But the mobile angle is precisely why we’re being forced to hook up to the HD Graphics output first, and not a discrete card.

At first glance, Virtu looks a lot like what Nvidia is doing with Optimus. When we asked Nvidia for comment, its representatives mumbled something about not validating other companies’ solutions and shuffled off. Sounds like we're onto something there. The obvious advantage favoring Lucidlogix is that Virtu will be available to desktop users, it supports Quick Sync, and it can operate independently of GPU vendor, as seen in our testing.

Lucidlogix does still have work to do. We’d like to see the operating system choose which adapter to use, rather than a white list in Virtu’s control panel. We hear this functionality is planned in an upcoming version. We’d like to see Virtu shut off the discrete adapter entirely when it isn’t being used to save power. After all, that’s the justification currently given for using HD Graphics as the native display output. Instead, the discrete card simply idles along. Also, there’s no way to harness CUDA- or APP-based transcoding on an Nvidia or AMD GPU. But then again, Quick Sync is vastly superior anyway. The only place we’d miss CUDA acceleration would be in Adobe’s CS5 suite.

How might you expect to get your hands on Virtu? Motherboard vendors will need to license it, just as they would with SLI. Lucidlogix will identify the vendor, SKU, and enabled feature parameters in its driver, then create a BIOS key for identifying a validated platform. After installation, you’ll be able to download updates either from Lucidlogix or the board vendor. And until Lucid expands its initial scope to include mobile systems or boards from AMD, you’re going to be limited to H61-, H67-, and Z68-based platforms. The H6x-class chipsets remain sub-standard for power users in my mind, given Intel’s artificially-imposed limitations. Z68 is most definitely going to be the way to go.

To say I’m excited about Virtu is an understatement. I was really pretty let-down after spending an afternoon talking to the principle media architect behind Sandy Bridge, Intel’s Dr. Hong Jiang, getting excited about the fixed-function logic’s capabilities, and then realizing it’d only be accessible on systems constrained to integrated graphics. The holy grail of Intel’s newest platform is a Core i5/i7 K-series chip, Z68 Express, and Lucidlogix’s Virtu software.

Is Virtu fully-baked yet? It works—I’ll say that much. There’s still work to be done, though. Ideally, we’d be looking at an app with a black list that blocked any game known to not work properly and let everything else through. I’d also like to see the discrete card treated as native on desktop systems. I believe both of those things are planned in an update. Even until that happens, though, I’d be happy to use Virtu, just to work around a limitation Intel should have addressed on its own.

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