The Virtu Software and ImplementationThe installation of the Virtu software is pretty basic though anytime you are installing multiple graphics drivers on a Windows 7 system you have to be a bit more careful than normal. My method was to setup the H67 motherboard first (in my case an ECS H67) and get that working 100%. That includes installing storage drivers and graphics drivers, etc. After that was complete, I plugged in a discrete graphics cards, a GeForce GTX 460 1GB, moved the monitor cable from the integrated graphics to the GeForce card, booted up the machine and went through the standard driver installation procedure (in my case the latest 262.xx offering).
After I was comfortable everything was working as planned, I shut down, moved the display cable BACK to the motherboards display outputs and started the machine back up. This is where I found my first hassle: I never saw a POST screen or boot up screens on the display and instead was not met with any video output until the Windows 7 startup screen appeared. While everything worked as expected in this form, not being able to access the BIOS without moving the cable BACK to the discrete card was kind of a letdown. I think this might be more motherboard / BIOS dependent as ours didn’t offer an option to initiate the integrated graphics before the PCI Express discrete graphics. Other boards might make this more manageable, but it is definitely something to take note of.
Also, keep in mind that once you switch the monitor cable from the discrete solution BACK to the integrated graphics you will likely get an error from the Catalyst Control Center (if you are using an AMD card) saying that an incompatible graphics card was found and you will NOT be able to access the control panel settings in the same way you are used to. This occurs with AMD GPUs only and is kind of annoying as you might miss out on some of the control panel only features (like advanced AA options). This seems to be a limitation of the Windows 7 driver model but we are trying to get more details from Lucid and associated parties.
Once I was back in Windows, the next step was to install the Virtu software and then reboot one more time. The process for that is quick and easy and once back up you are met with the Lucid Virtu control panel that looks like so:
The user interface here, while clunky and somewhat unprofessional looking, is pretty straight forward. A big red or green button on the left indicates whether you have the technology ON or OFF with an image of the CPU and a graphics card to help visually drive the point home. On the right you can see options to enable, disable or set the location of the “Lucid Virtu” logo that will appear in your game or application to indicate that the discrete GPU is being utilized. This might seem annoying to most of you but it is nice to at least be able to turn it on once or twice to make sure the technology is working in your new game as you expected it to.
Because we are using a demo of the software (that Lucid will be providing) we didn’t have the option to disable it and rather than just show up in a corner, the logo floated across the screen randomly. Now THAT was annoying.
The second tab shows your application support. Virtu works on a “whitelist” algorithm that basically means all programs will default to running on the integrated Intel HD graphics unless the associated EXE file is located in this list. Here is that list as it stands in our release candidate software:
That is pretty good list of “validated titles” though there are some notable missing items like the Left 4 Dead series and pretty much all Valve games. But Lucid wants to be sure that we realize these are not “profiles” in the same sense that NVIDIA and AMD have profiles for multi-GPU gaming and that a user can very easily just add in another title to this list. Unfortunately, because were using demo software, we weren’t able to add a game like Left 4 Dead 2 to the whitelist to make sure this feature worked. Instead, when we ran L4D2, it ran on the processor graphics. Hopefully we’ll be allowed access to the full version soon.
The point here though is that validation is really just used to make things easier for the consumer – Lucid doesn’t foresee any problems with adding additional games to the whitelist in the future. If that is correct, then when a brand new title like Bulletstorm is released a user would simply have to go into this Virtu control panel and manually add the games EXE to the list and you are off and running.
With all of the software installed we were ready to try and use it to the fullest. This meant running applications like CyberLink’s Media Espresso for QuickSync implementation, games and benchmarks for discrete GPU utilization and then both at the same time for the successful coexistence of both GPUs.