In around three weeks time Micro Star International (MSI) will be releasing their Big Bang Motherboard for hard core gamers – a P55 product which is compatible with Intel’s Core i5 and i7 Lynnfield processors. This will be the first board on the market to utilise the Lucid Hydra 200 chip. The claims are that this will allow both ATI and Nvidia graphics cards to work together in a multi GPU configuration.
Currently as most of you will know when an enthusiast user wishes to achieve a multi GPU setup they are limited to either Nvidia’s SLI or ATI’s Crossfire. Each of these systems uses various split frame rendering modes to achieve performance boosts.
The benefits with Hydra 200 are interesting because it is designed to handle all the required processing between a systems processor and graphics cards, as long as the cards are PCIe and DirectX compatible. No bridges, dongles, cables or specialised drivers are required and more importantly there is apparently no need for game profiles either which is a huge talking point if it works as planned.
If you use Windows 7 then the manufacturer claim that mixing ATI and Nvidia boards is perfectly feasible – because it is the first OS which supports more than one graphics driver at a time. The Hydra 200 will run on Vista but the choice of cards will be limited to those which can work with a common software driver.
If Hydra is successful in practice it will be able to adapt its algorithms in real time to address whatever processing bottleneck the specific game is facing. It can also use a frame based system if Lucid’s frame detection algorithms determine that one is the right choice in a specific context.
The Hydra 200 is based on the 32 bit RISC Tensilica Diamond Architecture processor with a clock speed of 300mhz, 64kb of on chip instruction memory and 32kb of on chip data memory.
There will be three models of the Hydra 200 processor. The LT24102, LT22102 and the high end LT22114. This high end variant is the first one to ship and is the one included in MSI’s Big Bang motherboard with the other lower end models being incorporated in other products at a later date.
The models vary by the number of PCIe lanes found in the chip with the LT2114 also having the smallest power consumption which means it could possibly be used within the mobile environment.
On the flip side, both AMD and Nvidia are dubious of the claims of Lucid and AMD have stated that several of Lucid’s techniques can in theory become bottlenecked by the substantial processing power required to effectively recombine graphic elements in real time when assembling the final output frame, a problem which is not apparent when using frame based techniques. There are also potential issues when maintaining driver and API compatibility which will be a regular ongoing process.
Microstuttering could also be a problem surrounding the technology because the technical ramifications of synchronising between various combinations of graphics cards may very well end up a huge issue.
Allan Campbell: Heaven Media