Lucid's Virtu brings dynamic graphics switching to desktops

Lucid is best known for its Hydra GPU load-balancing technology, which allows graphics chips from different vendors to be teamed in hybrid multi-GPU configurations. For its next trick, dubbed Virtu, the company is tackling Optimus-style dynamic graphics switching. According to SemiAccurate, Virtu is capable of putting discrete graphics cards into an "idle mode" when they're not in use. The scheme is designed for Intel's new Sandy Bridge CPUs, which feature an integrated graphics component that takes over when the discrete card powers down.

Nvidia's Optimus technology provides similar functionality in notebooks, and we've been particularly impressed with how seamlessly it can switch between discrete and integrated GPUs. Lucid is promising a similar experience with Virtu. Here's a snippet from the official press release:

"What we have really accomplished here is a seamless visual experience where it is not necessary to choose between the amazingly rich media features of Intel Sandy Bridge platform, like HD playback and powerful video transcoding, and the high-end 3D graphics functionality and performance of a discrete GPU," said Offir Remez, LucidLogix president and founder. "Now it is possible to experience a no-guilt, no-compromise PC entertainment experience, and save on energy at the same time."

Cutting power consumption is great, but for desktop applications, I tend to think that the resulting reduction in noise levels is more important than wattage savings. Lucid's idle mode doesn't appear to shut down discrete cards completely, so I'm curious to see how it compares to the low-power modes already employed by modern graphics cards. At least Lucid's solution seems to be entirely software-based. Additional hardware shouldn't be required, although it's unclear how the technology will be made available to end users. Here's hoping it'll be a reasonably priced download compatible with any Sandy Bridge motherboard.

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