Lucid HYDRA 200 Details With AMD, Lucid & NVIDIA

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Q&A With AMD

Legit Reviews also got a chance to talk with Godfrey Cheng (Director of Technical Marketing for graphics products), Chris Hook (AMD Global Communications Director), and Jay Marsden (Public Relations Manager) at AMD about Lucid and what they think about HYDRA 200.

Legit Reviews:  ATI CrossFire was first made available to the public on September 27, 2005 and has come a long way since the days when a dongle used to be needed in order to run a multi-GPU setup.  CrossFire technology is now four years old, which is fairly ‘old’ technology compared to the Lucid Hydra 200 solution that was announced this past week at IDF. Some journalists have gone as far as saying that this is the death of CrossFire. Does ATI have any concerns with this new technology or  are you safe in the long run?

AMD’s goal with CrossFireX is to deliver the best graphics performance possible and give gamers the ultimate upgrade path. We have added numerous software and hardware innovations to CrossFireX technology over the years to ensure that we deliver performance and compatibility in spades. If there are technologies that exist that would help us sell more GPUs outside of CrossfireX, we will warmly embrace it. To say CrossFireX is old is plain wrong, it would be like calling Radeon old.

MultiGPU technology is a key focus for AMD. We are on the cutting edge with our solutions today and we continue to invest in this area to ensure that we deliver the best solutions in the long run. We are in favour of solutions that improve the user experience and we have not yet seen that from Lucid. It’s up to them to show the world that their technology works as they say it does.


Legit Reviews: For our readers that are gamers and enthusiasts is CrossFireX still the best option for a multi-GPU solution? If so, why would you say this?

Yes.  Gamers are already adopting the first of our new generation of DX11 products, the ATI Radeon HD 5870, because it is clearly the world’s fastest GPU.  The CrossfireX performance of the ATI Radeon HD 5870 is incredible.  CrossFireX can deliver ultimate levels of performance because it leverages key features of the PCIe industry standard, offers open platform support and does not require expensive and proprietary bridges and licensing fees.  Our products speak for themselves and your readers can see the results of your testing.

Legit Reviews:  Lucid recently said that GPU frame rendering methods that are being used by both ATI and NVIDIA were primitive and that you are limited by AFR [Alternate Frame Rendering] and SFR [Split Frame Rendering]. Is this true?

There are multiple rendering techniques such as AFR, SFR or object-based rendering and each have their pros and cons.  In theory, object based rendering sounds great, implementation in current operating systems and graphics APIs is much more difficult.  One of the big negatives with object-based rendering is the recombination of data from each GPU which often creates a bottleneck not seen with techniques like AFR.

The difference between theory and product is engineering and we have the best engineers in the world.  In practice, methods like AFR and SFR deliver the best performance.  That being said, AFR and SFR deliver what gamers want, performance.  If there are new multi-GPU problems that we want to address, AMD is more than capable of developing the right technique for the problem.  In fact, you will hear more of this in the near future.

Legit Reviews: Why hasn’t ATI developed a product like Lucid’s Hydra 200?

If multi-GPU performance were just a simple hardware problem, we would have thrown in a few million transistors in our GPUs.  On a GPU like the Radeon HD 5870 with over 2.1 Billion transistors, a few million is a rounding error.  Any modern chipset has PCIE lane bifurcation and it doesn’t make any sense to develop another bridge chip that adds costs, latency and power consumption.

Multi-GPU solutions must work in a complex environment with operating systems, graphics APIs and game engines. The bulk of the development cost of CrossfireX is software.  Any new entrant into the Multi-GPU market will learn very quickly the investment required to deliver performance, compatibility and robustness.

Legit Reviews:  On paper, having two identical graphics cards in a system that do not depend on driver profiles for scaling would seem superior to an end user. This has always been a caveat of CrossFire when a particular game or demo has no out of the box profile. What makes CrossFire technology better than the Lucid Hydra solution in this situation?

CrossfireX is a shipping technology and delivers great scaling and performance.  We have regular Catalyst updates that get profiles for popular games as they hit the market.  It is hard to compare shipping technologies to simulated performance and canned demos.  If Lucid can deliver on their promised performance, we will embrace their technology.

Legit Reviews:  Can you run ATI Stream or Eyefinity technology on a multi-GPU setup with a motherboard that runs Hydra 200?

We have not engaged with Lucid on Hydra 200 so at this point we don’t know.  If they ship product, we will test it against CrossfireX and determine its value in driving multi-GPU performance.

Legit Reviews:  If you can would the experience be the same as on a CrossFireX certified motherboard?

For gamers to be happy, any motherboards with Hydra 200 would have to be significantly better than current CrossfireX motherboards because of the additional cost.  This is for Lucid to deliver.

Legit Reviews:  When it comes to multi-GPU systems ATI allows you to run CrossFireX on identical series of cards no matter who the manufacturer is and you allow users that want to run CrossFire to mix and match different cards within a particular series. Is there a reason that you only allow mixed CrossFire to work in a particular series?

ATI is committed to delivering a great gamer experience with CrossfireX. Mixing cards from different series can lead to game compatibility problems, often eclipsing performance benefits.  That being said, there are a whole host of CrossfireX innovations that we have in the oven.  All in good time.

Legit Reviews:  What are some challenges or problems that you think Lucid’s Hydra will have?

I cannot comment on Lucid specifically, but in general the challenge with multi-GPU technology is to get the game engine, typically designed to use one GPU, to spread the workload across multiple GPUs.  The bulk of the software work involves splitting up and then merging the renders from each GPU, then adjusting to ensure seamless gameplay.  Any company with aspirations of commercializing multi-GPU technology will need to invest in developer relations, driver development and qualification.  This is a big investment that is currently undertaken by only two companies in the world today.  We’re obviously one of those two companies.

Secondly, to offset the additional cost, latency and power consumption with another chip, Lucid is going to have to demonstrate tremendous value to the gamer through better performance and compatibility than today’s multi-GPU solutions, which will be a tall order.

Legit Reviews:   Is the Lucid Hydra 200 being certified for CrossFire?

No, we do not provide certification for future products based on demos.

Legit Reviews:  Intel’s venture capital arm invested in Lucid Logix and helped pave the way for their product reach the market.  Would you speculate that Intel’s support of Lucid Logix was done to disrupt the GPU market before they could introduce Larrabee?

We cannot speculate on Intel’s motivations.

Legit Reviews:  Lastly, the last time a company tried to make a move in the GPU market it was AGEIA with PhysX.  NVIDIA eventually purchased that company shortly after their products hit store shelves. Does AMD have any interest in Lucid Logix?

AMD is always interested in innovative technologies that advance the PC platform, but if Lucid can deliver on their promises they might not need us.
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