Lucid software lets QuickSync video mix with discrete GPU

Several of the decisions Intel made when putting together the platform for its Sandy Bridge processors have combined to result in a bizarre and frustrating situation. One of Sandy Bridge’s most intriguing features is the hardware-accelerated H.264 video encoding capability built into its integrated graphics processor, known as QuickSync video. Since the IGP also has separate video decoding hardware, the Sandy Bridge IGP can transcode high-quality video very quickly, purportedly with relatively low power consumption.

That’s great, but QuickSync video is available only when the processor’s IGP is active and in use. Generally, that means the CPU must be installed in a motherboard based on the H67 chipset, since the enthusiast-oriented P67 chipset doesn’t support a display output for the IGP. On that H67 board, your graphics options are limited, too, if you want to use QuickSync. The IGP must be connected to a monitor; using a discrete graphics card alone will disable the IGP.

For most users with a single display or aspirations toward multi-monitor gaming, that means considerable inconvenience will be required to make use of QuickSync. In fact, we suspect the great majority of users wouldn’t bother.

We didn’t like this situation when Intel first explained it to us back at IDF last year, and fortunately, somebody was listening. In its booth at CES, Intel showed us a bit of software alchemy that untangles things somewhat. The folks at Lucid, makers of the Hydra multi-GPU load balancer, are funded by Intel Capital and happen to have some very nice GPU virtualization technology. They’ve cooked up some software, still in the early stages of development but evidently quite functional, that allows access to both the Sandy Bridge IGP and a discrete graphics card simultaneously on an H67 system.

The demo we saw, pictured above, involved Unigine Heaven running smoothly on a GeForce GTX 480 while CyberLink MediaEspresso transcoded an H.264 video with the help of the Sandy Bridge IGP. Neither task appeared to slow down while the other was running.

Lucid’s solution looks to be darn near seamless. Although we suspect a virtualized GPU might not offer a completely optimal gaming performance, disabling virtualization is apparently as simple as shutting down the Lucid program, with no reboot required.

We don’t yet know when Lucid will have its virtualization software ready to roll, how much it will cost, or how it might be distributed. We understand Lucid hopes to strike deals with motherboard makers to package its software with their H67 boards, but those details haven’t been fully worked out yet. We’ll let you know more when we do.

This is all very good news for prospective Sandy Bridge owners, no doubt. The news would be better if this software could tap into the Sandy Bridge IGP on a P67 board, but Lucid tells us that’s not possible. (An earlier version of this story suggested P67 support was possible. Apologies for the error.)

Given the option to use QuickSync alongside discrete graphics, many folks might just opt for an H67 mobo, if it weren’t for the overclocking situation with Sandy Bridge, in which Intel now has more control than ever. Intel has decided to restrict CPU core overclocking to the P67 chipset. (You can overclock the IGP on an H67 board, which is a little like putting nitrous on a shopping cart.) So you can either have QuickSync video or you can have the opportunity to overclock your processor, but you can’t have both at once. We may not see a solution that offers both types of freedom at once until the release of the rumored Z-series chipset later this year.

Comments closed
    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    Keep up the news on Lucid Scott!

    • Next9
    • 9 years ago

    No virtualization here. I guess this solution simply take picture from framebuffer of one GPU and put it into framebuffer of the other, where monitor is connected.

      • Voldenuit
      • 9 years ago

      I’d imagine some sort of lag penalty is incurred. I’m curious if it will be high enough to be noticeable/detrimental in shooters and beat’emups.

        • Next9
        • 9 years ago

        The principle should be same as nVidia optimus.

    • HisDivineShadow
    • 9 years ago

    I just see no reason why Intel couldn’t be bothered to develop a way for a discrete GPU to work in tandem with their integrated GPU. See, if I was making the case that MY integrated GPU was not garbage and was actually worth something, I’d want people to actually USE my integrated GPU and see it as a benefit, no matter what kind of user they were.

    Lucid shouldn’t have to be doing this. Intel should have done it already as a natural consequence of their making their 3k HD an integrated GPU worth building into their CPU. Instead, we got a third party coming in and promising to charge extra for it.

    Wow. Thanks, Intel. Innovative.

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    Gotta say, Intel seems to be the absolute best at designing a [i<]fantastic[/i<] processor and then making [i<]extremely stupid[/i<] decisions in order to arrive at "product segmentation". Kudos to Lucid for unfocking what Intel hath focked. [quote<]The news would be better if this software could tap into the Sandy Bridge IGP on a P67 board, but Lucid tells us that's not possible. [/quote<] Oops, looks like I spoke a little too soon. This is a bit maddening. Intel, you screwed up. You should have endowed the P67 with the ability to use Sandy's IGP. Fail.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      What you missed is that Lucid IS Intel:

      [quote<]The folks at Lucid, makers of the Hydra multi-GPU load balancer, are funded by Intel Capital[/quote<]

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    Very interested in what Lucid is doing and I’m happy they’re doing it. Props go out to them for seperating the mold.

    Now since Intel is really the only chipset right now for, well, Intel processors it’s a little bit sad that they’re starting to monopolize on the lack of competition with the overclocking lock outs.

    • r00t61
    • 9 years ago

    I think I’ll still wait for Z68, notwithstanding.

    Maybe by then we’ll have some Bulldozer numbers for comparison.

    • BiffStroganoffsky
    • 9 years ago

    The nox bottle in the cart is for me. I’m just lazy and don’t want to carry it.

    • Stargazer
    • 9 years ago

    I’d be *very* interested in something like this if it allowed the discrete card to power down completely when it wasn’t needed. If not… meh. QuickSync alone isn’t worth the extra hassle *for me*.

    • Damage
    • 9 years ago

    An earlier version of this story suggested P67 support was possible. Looks like it isn’t! Apologies for the error.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 9 years ago

      Crap! Are you serious? This is a major fail on Intel’s part then.

    • KingGeek
    • 9 years ago

    Wrong title? In the article, it says that the software will only works with H67 mobo?

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    So Intel is selling a software unlock introduced by their own product segmentation issues. They’ll sell you a CPU that you can’t use all of (any of the K series with the 3000 graphics, you can either have better integrated graphics or OC, but not both) and then they’ll give you part of that missing functionality back for an added cost. That’s terrible. 🙁

      • dpaus
      • 9 years ago

      That’s called ‘incremental revenue opportunities’ and some marketing hack just got a bonus and raise for it. Suck it up (with the emphasis on ‘suck it’)

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        Oh, yeah, I’m sure there was a fine dinner reception for this guy. It just…ugh. I was considering going Sandy Bridge this summer, and now I just might not do it because I don’t like this “hidden cost” bit.

      • travbrad
      • 9 years ago

      This is exactly why I hope AMD can stay competitive. Intel with no competition starts doing stuff like this. They aren’t charging $1000 for it this time at least, which is a positive I guess (or just market research showing $1000 CPUs and economic recessions don’t mix).

      It’s just ridiculous with all the things they have moved off of the mobo on to the CPU, that $200 enthusiast motherboards can’t fully utilize a supposedly “unlocked” CPU. It’s like they made too perfect of a product, and thought we weren’t worthy of it or something…

      AMD would probably do the same thing (see AMD64 prices) given the opportunity, so I don’t want them to be dominant either, just to stay competitive.

      • Farting Bob
      • 9 years ago

      If you buy a 3.3ghz CPU, dont bitch because you cant clock it to 4Ghz, its a 3.3Ghz chip and thats what its sold as. If the IGP is more important than OCing (and for most people who buy computers it is, the OC crowd is a small but vocal minority) get the H67. If you really require both wait for Z67 boards later in the year.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        OK you’ve completely missed the point; if I buy an unlocked CPU with a graphics processor built in, I should be able to use the whole thing – the unlocked multiplier AND the graphics. I only get one or the other right now.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    How hilarious that they show it running on an Nvidia graphics card, after the sliming that Jen-Hsun’s been giving them, both verbally and in cartoon form. Still, it’s hard to imagine they would have been any happier showing it running on an AMD card.

    Sometimes, you just can’t win.

      • StuG
      • 9 years ago

      Should have used VIA

      • jthh
      • 9 years ago

      Edit/Reply Fail.

      Naw, Intel and Nvidia are buddies now. [url=http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2011/01/10/intel-to-pay-nvidia-15b-in-patent-deal.html/<]Intel Settles with Nvidia![/url<]

    • 5150
    • 9 years ago

    Lucid’s really bringing the heat. If they can deliver on the promises they’re making I think they’re going to be pretty successful.

    • BoBzeBuilder
    • 9 years ago

    First!!!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This