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

GPU Virtualization Enables Quick Sync And Discrete Graphics

The quest to differentiate pits engineers against marketers. On one side, you have teams of brilliant people trying to figure out how to design the best product possible. On the other, often equally-intelligent minds are devoted to extracting maximum profit from those same products. When both camps strike a harmonious balance, the result is usually something that enthusiasts are willing to embrace.

I’m singling out the hardcore users for a reason. We’re willing to pay good money for a Core i7-2600K because its complete feature set is downright impressive. We know the speeds and feeds. We know what to expect. We know damn well when something is being taken away from us. And we know that when we don’t like something, we can speak with our wallets.

Mom, dad, my wife—they don’t care if they buy an H67-based motherboard today and can’t overclock their processor tomorrow. Instead they count on a system builder to put the right components together. But we know better.

Frankly, the chipset side of Intel’s Sandy Bridge launch soured the deal for enthusiasts who salivated over Quick Sync functionality and then learned it required H67 Express—the only desktop chipset capable of exposing the HD Graphics engine, but designed to artificially crush processor overclocking efforts. Bad marketing, bad.

Video Enthusiasts: Wait For Z68

If Quick Sync means nothing to you, then carry on. P67 Express is probably the platform that’ll make you happiest, especially if you purchase a K-series processor.

If the ability to slash 80% off of your transcode times sounds sexy though, and you can’t live without discrete graphics, wait for Z68 Express, expected in the May/June time frame. The Z68 chipset will make it possible to:

  1. Overclock your K-series chip through manual clock ratio selection
  2. Utilize integrated graphics, freeing up overclocking of that component, too
  3. Enable SSD-based caching—but more on that later

That still leaves us with a problem, though. It’s possible for HD Graphics 3000 to coexist alongside a discrete graphics card in a Z68-based machine. However, nobody is going to get behind their PC to swap display outputs and restart every time they want to transcode a video or play a game. That’d eat up any potential time savings from Quick Sync super-fast.

Lucidlogix To The Rescue

But Lucidlogix—the same company we've seen try to unify multi-card rendering solutions from AMD and Nvidia—has an answer that it hopes will make Z68 an even more viable solution for enthusiasts: GPU virtualization. Using the company’s Virtu software, you can connect a display to the output of an H67- or Z68-based motherboard, drop in a discrete card, and harness the capabilities of both components.

Virtu is generic in that it conceptually doesn’t care if you’re using an add-in card from AMD or Nvidia, or an integrated graphics solution from Intel or AMD. It's only being validated on Sandy Bridge-based platforms today, but we expect that there will be a time when Lucid officially adds support for other configurations as well. It just so happened that Intel left an opportunity wide open by limiting access to Quick Sync for enthusiasts.

Sound like something Intel might have been counting on all along? Intel Capital is one of Lucidlogix’s investors, after all…

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.