One can easily make the mistake that this review is solely about the Hydra chip used on the Big Bang Fuzion motherboard. In the grand scheme of things the Hydra chip is merely a little extra lovin' to play around with and as such it should be seen that way. We definitely like what Lucid is trying to accomplish, but we also have to acknowledge that we ran into quite a lot of problems, compatibility issues and sheer limitations. Where it works it can work well, but in the end, in this time and age, the combination of two similar Radeons in Crossfire or two NVIDIA GeForce cards in SLI will simple make much more sense as you by far will not have to deal with the profile support and compatibility issues.
Now bear in mind, it also took both ATI and NVIDIA a year or two to stabilize their drivers for SLI and Crossfire. Multi-GPU support is complex, very complex and that is exactly what will be haunting Lucid.
Some practical issues and things that raise questions:
What if you have a Radeon card and a GeForce card and want to select an NVIDIA AA mode... well you can't.
What if you want to enjoy PhysX in X-mode? - well you can't, as the minute the NVIDIA driver sees an ATI card, it will disable it.
Got a GeForce and Radeon card in X-mode? You can't access the primary graphics card control panel e.g. in our case we could not load up the NVIDIA control panel.
What about DirectX 11 games? Well currently there's no support.
Is there CPU overhead due to Hydra? -- Yes.
You want to run the latest Forceware driver yet use Hydra? You can't as the Hydra driver needs to support it.
So you see, there's more to the entire multi-GPU setup than just merely getting support for it to render with two GPUs.
All that aside Lucid has an advantage though, if (and only if) they get their drivers right and released very often, then multi-GPU combinations that are vendor independent will become a reality and that certainly is very unique. But next month when this motherboard becomes available, please do not expect a finalized and shiny shaped multi-GPU monster. In its current state it's a nice additional gimmick to play around with for a very limited amount of game titles, and nothing more than that. We certainly applaud what it is, but also feel a big step needs to be taken in order for Hydra 200 to be commercially viable. Two things can happen, either a year from now the product is a decent enough success for an excruciatingly tiny market... or a year from now everybody will have forgotten all about Lucid and its Hydra 200 chip completely.
Right, enough on Hydra, let's refocus! So Hydra is like only 10% of this motherboard -- the center of attention is the Big Bang Fuzion motherboard, which is of course a hardware enthusiast's wet dream. When you forget about Hydra for a minute, the board is of course exactly the same (except the NF200 chip) as the Big Bang Trinergy. And that board is amazing.
Again we see a feature set that is nothing short from astonishing. Overclockers will love this board, as there is an excess of features and options to fool around with like the V-Check points and voltage switches and of course the handy OC Dashboard and OC Genie. To leave your PC at 'default' would be a real shame. The BIOS offers a wide variety in tweaking and overclocking. If you need to do so at an advanced level with specialized cooling, no worries, the thresholds on voltages, dividers and multipliers are really extensive. The BIOS is a true geek-fest for overclockers. The OC Dashboard might be really handy if you are overclocking with say LN2 and need to increase the base clock frequency quickly and on the fly. Though a bit of a gimmick it's a handy device alright. Of course you could overclock from within Windows with delivered OC software as well.
On that topic of overclocking, the new OC Genie functions just really lovely. You power down the PC. Then push the OC Genie button. And power on the PC. Now make sure you have proper cooling obviously, yet within a second or 15 your PC will start to post a really far fetched overclocked. Our 2.93 GHz clocked Core i7 870 processor was then overclocked to 4 GHz while our memory was tweaked to its rated 1676 MHz CAS -- very close to its optimal XMP profile. So yeah, that's astonishing to see. I really like the OC Genie function. So if you need some extra power, use it. If you like to preserve power and do daily things on your PC, leave the PC at default (as if that would be slow with a system like this).
The baseline performance of this P55 motherboard is at least as good as any other P55 motherboard available on the market, top notch, and often is ranked among the fastest boards we have tested to date.
Features then: just think about the 12 SATA ports (2 eSATA) alone man... we love that, we spot dual-Gigabit Ethernet ports, DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1800/2000/2133 (OC) capability, Coaxial and Optical S/PDIFs, 1 IDE port and the eight USB 2.0 ports located at the back.
One thing though, well two actually... much like the Trinergy the one thing that would have made the board perfect would have been integration of USB 3.0 and a SATA3 controller. The Hydra chip adds additional PCie lanes, and as such creates more bandwidth for devices that actually need it. Yes -- SATA3 SSD's are closing in real fast and I expect the first announcements at CES 2010 already.
Ehm, what else... well the passively cooled design is lovely, the sheer quality of components used, the little Quantum Wave add-on audio board bringing along EAX 5.0 and THX TruStudio PC -- it just doesn't stop eh? We like it.
The MSI Big Bang Fuzion motherboard is impressive in every shape and form. It has a great design, the exceptional arrangement of all components, comes with quality components. Also just think about the wide variety of options, the overclockability, the OC Dashboard, the extra audio options and sure... of course the Hydra 200 chip allowing you to play around with multi-GPU configurations.
Bottom line: The Big Bang Fuzion is nearing perfection, an astonishing product series. Now please don't buy it just for the Hydra 200 capability, right now it's a nice gimmick at best. No, please look at it as an additional feature to play around with on a nicely designed high-performance motherboard that comes with heaps and heaps of features. All this goodness comes at a price though, expect to cough up 329 / 389 USD for this motherboard which obviously is incredibly steep for a P55 motherboard. But it's niche, it's sexy and some of you do not mind at all spending that kind of cash on a product like this. We guarantee you though, you'll have a blast with with it.
MSI Big Bang Z77 Mpower review Today we test the Z77 MPower version, which as you'll notice is a pleasant upgrade from their Z77A-GD65 motherboard -- yet with an improved CPU VRM, more friendly warranties and a new black and yellow color-scheme which merges the Lightning series graphics cards and these motherboards a little closer together. Have a peek at what was just released, this is the MSI Big Bang Z77 MPower motherboard. You just have to be impressed by the overall looks ...
MSI Big Bang P67 Marshal review Powered by Intel's P67 chipset, the MSI Big Bang Marhal comes with MSI's latest Military Class II design that makes use of a 24 phase (!) power SFC choke setup alongside the best quality Hi-c CAP's and Japanese made solid capacitors. Added to the mix for additional PCIe lanes is a Hydra chip, which also can be utilized to combine mix and match graphics cards in a multi-GPU setup. The board comes with 24-phase DrMOS power design, voltage monitoring points, an external overclock device called the OC dashboard, that all new EFI BIOS, dual-BIOS selectable with a simple button, and OC genie button that allows you to have say a 2500K processor run at 4200 with the flick of a switch. I'm not done though, we spot integrated audio with SoundBlaster X-Fi application (software) layer, ten SATA ports of which four are based on the all new SATA 6G. Thick heatpipe (passive and thus silent) cooling and more and more. This board is a true hardware enthusiast dream come true, or is it ?
MSI Big Bang X58 XPower review We test and review the XPower from MSI. Last month Intel added a new processor in the line-up, the ever so strong Core i7 980 Extreme six-core processor. Seriously breathtaking, and to date the fastest consumer processor on the globe with very decent overclock potential as well. That was reason enough for most ODM to make new updates and revisions of the X58 chipset based motherboards, as next top the new processor we also have seen the gradual adoption of features like USB 3.0 and SATA3 6G.
MSI is on of the ODMs releasing something really special, today we'll review the Big Bang X58 XPower motherboard. It is chucked full with the latest gadgets and features, it is equipped to make sure you get the very best overclock out of it and heck, even if you can't overclock, flick a button and the motherboard will do the work for you, completely automated.
MSI Big bang Fuzion (Lucid Hydra) review MSI has yet another motherboard lined up in the P55 motherboard Big Bang series, ready and waiting for you. It's called the 'Fuzion' and comes with that much discussed Lucid Hydra 200 chip. Now the big deal about the Big Bang mainboard is that the board has that Lucid Hydra 200 chip that allows it to support multiple video cards of different brands and models at once. This in theory would allow you get the extra performance from your old video card and your new card even if one is NVIDIA and the other is ATI. The Hydra 200 is a real-time distributed processing engine that acts as an intelligent graphics load balancer.