You may recall that the folks at Lucid have been cooking up a GPU virtualization program called Virtu for Sandy Bridge motherboards. Virtu has a couple of, ahem, virtues. One, it will allow systems based on the Intel H67 chipset to access Sandy Bridge's QuickSync video transcode acceleration while using a discrete graphics card. Since the QuickSync logic is part of the Sandy Bridge IGP, it's otherwise inaccessible when a graphics card is in use. Two, Lucid bills Virtu as a power-saving solution for dynamic graphics switching, kind of like Nvidia's Optimus. From its press release today:
Lucid GPU virtualization software assigns tasks in real time to the best available graphics resource based on power, performance and features considerations, with no need for additional hardware. If graphics power is needed for applications like high-resolution 3D gaming, the system will assign the job to the discrete GPU. If not, the discrete GPU automatically goes into idle mode, while heat drops, fan speed slows down and GPU utilization goes down to zero, resulting in a green, power-efficient, long-lasting system.
The power-optimization angle is intriguing, but our primary interest in Virtu is access to QuickSync transcoding, no question.
Either way, though, Lucid's software could be making its way into the package with revised Sandy Bridge motherboards based on the corrected B3 stepping of the H67 chipset when they ship. Lucid announced today that it has released a final version of Virtu to motherboard makers. We don't yet know exactly which motherboard brands will include Virtu with their products, but Lucid tells us it has been in productive talks with all of the major ones. Since Lucid is backed by Intel and is already selling its Hydra GPU load-balancer to motherboard makers, we expect it to get at least some uptake for Virtu immediately.
Virtu isn't a cure-all for the QuickSync conundrum, as we've noted, since it's not compatible with Intel's enthusiast-oriented P67 chipset. Since Intel has disabled CPU overclocking on its H67 chipset, even with its own unlocked K-series parts, the appeal of H67 boards for many of us is limited. Virtu also requires the user to connect the display to the motherboard's display output, and it situates the discrete GPU behind an abstraction layer that may cause compatibility hassles. Still, we're intrigued by the flexibility it promises, so we'll reserve judgment until we've had some hands-on experience with Virtu.