Lucid HYDRA 200 Details With AMD, Lucid & NVIDIA

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Our Thoughts on the Concept

After seeing the demo and having the initial shock and awe wear off we were left pondering a number of questions. Actually, we got stuck staring at a list of the benefits from using the Hydra 200 that was included in their marketing kit. The slide we are talking about can be seen below and came from a presentation that we were given this past week at the Intel Developer Forum (Lucid got Venture Capital from Intel and other companies).


LUCID Hydra 200 Demo System

Let’s dissect the HYDRA 200 user benefits.

  • Motherboard Availability – LUCID has just one motherboard that they can tell us about coming to market and that is the MSI Big Bang.  This motherboard is due out on October 29th and pricing remains a secret. I contacted MSI and they said the board would come with a higher price tag than comparable motherboards due to the addition of the HYDRA 200. MSI is unsure if the board will have an SLI license, which is key in figuring out the price of the motherboard. Lucid did mention that the price would be around $1.50 per PCIe lane. They have four different chips, with the high end chip having 48 total PCIe lanes ($72) and the low end chip having 24 lanes ($36). Lucid said other motherboard manufacturers are interested and that AMD platforms could be possible if things take off.
  • Achieve Ultimate Gaming Performance –  Load balancing cards together should improve performance, but are you better off with NVIDIA SLI or ATI CrossFire?
  • Dual/Tri/Quad Within Any Vendor – Sure, if your motherboard supports two to four x16 PCI Express slots. You can run Quad-SLI or CrossFireX with four GPU’s without the Hydra 200 as it stands now, but you are limited by vendor and series.
  • Mix and Match GPU’s From Different Vendors – By far the best feature of HYDRA 200 and something that you can’t do without the HYDRA 200! 
  • Re-Use Existing Graphics Cards – Sure, but will re-using a GeForce 9600 GT and pairing it with a new ATI Radeon HD 5870 be worth it? You could just re-use your old card for PhysX and improve gaming performance that way. You also can mix and match different DirectX cards, but are limited to performance gains using the older card. You can’t pair a DirectX 10 graphics card with a DirectX 11 graphics card to see a performance improvement in a DirectX 11 game title for example. 
  • Easy To Upgrade: Connector Free – Since the ASIC is on the motherboard no extra connectors or cables are needed.
  • Added Value Features For Any Vendor (multi monitor) – With recently announced graphics cards like the ATI Radeon 5800 series you can run up to three monitors from a single graphics card if you have monitors than can support DVI-D and DisplayPort. ATI even announced a video card capable of doing six monitors on a single card!

Of all the benefits that LUCID claims of the HYDRA 200 the real benefit that I personally see is the ability to get higher gaming performance by mixing and matching different series and brands of graphics cards. Lucid vice president of research and development, David Belz said that the “HYDRA 200 allows the consumer to get more ‘bang for their GPU buck’ by extending the life of their current GPU investment, providing even faster graphics performance and later upgrading their system with whatever card they choose.” While this is generally true, the market right now is shifting from DirectX 10 to DirectX 11 graphics cards.  That means if you go run out and purchase an ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics card to upgrade to DirectX 11 from your previous DirectX 10 enabled NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 you might have a few issues if you plan on using a LUCID HYDRA solution.

For starters if you want to mix and match an ATI video card with an NVIDIA video card, you can only do so if you are running Windows 7, as that is the only Windows operating system that will allow you to run two different video card drivers at the same time. Luckily, if you plan on upgrading to a DirectX 11 graphics card in the near future, this is only a minor issue. A more important feature is that if you mix and match a DirectX 11 graphics card with a DirectX 10 graphics card and try to get a performance improvement in a DirectX 11 game it won’t be happening. You’d have to disable the older DirectX 10 graphics card with the LUCID GUI, thus ending the chances of any performance speedup.  If you are playing an older DirectX 9 or DirectX 10 game title then you should be able to mix and match the cards just fine and see a performance boost. The only problem is that consumers who play various DirectX 9/10/11 game titles will need to be manually switching modes.

Lastly, when we asked LUCID if our readers would be better off with their solution or just sticking with a tried and true CrossFire or SLI multi-GPU setup they said that it depended on the game title and the video cards being used.

From our perspective we are really interested in what Lucid is doing with the HYDRA 200 and while we see some minor issues the technology and idea behind the product seems solid. In less than one month we’ll be able to get our hands on the MSI Big Bang motherboard and show you how it really performs in the hands of gamers and enthusiasts.  Rather than trying to guess how Lucid HYDRA 200 will do in the real world we decided to ask them some questions in an interview. While we were at it we also got in touch with AMD and NVIDIA to get their thoughts on the new technology as well. So, we will sign off and leave you with three pages of Questions & Answers from AMD, Lucid and NVIDIA!

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