Many Z68 motherboards will also have a power switching feature for graphics cards. Basically, with this motherboard you can run the integrated Intel graphics unit inside the processor, but you can also install a dedicated graphics card. The implementation of LucidLogix Virtu gives the ability to switch in-between the two GPUs based on your need.
So as an example, in Desktop mode you'd be utilizing the Intel IGP whereas when you start up a game your Radeon or GeForce graphics card will kick in. The idea here is to provide the best of both worlds while consuming as little power as possible. Now we've tried and tried, but this solution does not significantly save on power. Dedicated graphics cards these days have very decent IDLE power states and once you plug in the additional graphics card, disabled or not, it will require a minimum amount of power to keep it alive. There's nothing this feature can do about that.
In our case we installed a GeForce GTX 580 next to the Sandy Bridge IGP (reference board results below btw):
Z68 | 2600K no graphics card
Z68 | 2600K + GTX 580
Z68 | 2600K + GTX 580 LucidLogix Virtu
It is the IDLE wattage we are interested in. As you can see, the MSI Z68A-GD80 without a graphics card installed performs brilliant really with 47 Watts in IDLE. Once we install a GeForce GTX 580 we now IDLE at 85 Watts. Then when we install and apply LucidLogix Virtu in desktop mode we IDLE at 83 Watts and we can confirm the Intel IGP is at work here. But there's merely a 2 Watt difference in-between the two.
Here we can see the LucidLogix Virtu application software, it's an atrocious looking software suite to be honest.
The Virtu Control Panel allows users to toggle the software layer that automatically switches between the integrated and discrete graphics solutions (provided you have a discrete GPU installed). Do note that you have to also have installed Intel HD Graphics drivers before you can install LucidLogix Virtu. In the 'Games' tab you can add your own list of games such that Virtu will recognize them, but a peek at the settings xml file shows that there are already many supported games. But sure, once again we have some sort of driver dependency and dislike that very much.
Also, to be able to run Virtu, you'll need to follow these requirements:
The system must fulfill all requirements and follow the setup procedures to construct the Intel Multi-Monitor environment
The system must utilize Microsoft® Windows 7 operating system (32 or 64bit)
The system must have at least 2GB of DRAM installed And to fulfill item 2:
The Intel driver for HD2000/3000 series integrated graphics must be installed to enable multi-monitor support
The iGPU Multi-Monitor support option has to be enabled in BIOS to allow the integrated graphic to remain functional while any add-on graphic cards are activated.
The big plus however is that the software can assign applications to a specific GPU. Now with a dedicated GFX card installed you should know that the IGP is pretty much rendered useless, along with some snazzy features. For example, with MediaShow Espresso we lose the transcoding feature over the Sandy Bridge processor, which sucks as QuickSync will be disabled.
Now with LucidLogix Virtu active, the IGP for this program is set to Intel and the QuickSync path for MediaShow Espresso is ridiculously fast. LucidLogix Virtu allows us to use it. Here's what that looks like performance wise.
Seconds - Lower = better
Z68 | 2600K + GTX 580
Z68 | IGP Quick Sync
In the above test we transcode a 200 MB AVCHD media file to a 1920x1080P MP4 binary (YouTube format). This measurement is in seconds needed for the process, thus lower = better. So while the processor with a dedicated graphics card installed (GTX 580, CUDA disabled) takes 55 seconds, with LucidLogix Virtu allowing us to switch to the IGP, we can do the same job in 16 seconds as QuickSync can now kick in.
And before you ask, sure, the GTX 580 over CUDA would be able to get the job done fast as well, roughly 23 seconds. Overall it is a feature we can appreciate, but the software needs to be cleaned up as the GUI is just horrible looking. Unfortunately, once we had Virtu active... we also were confronted with increased instability in Windows 7. So again, there's a lot of work in progress for this feature.
In short: Virtu allows the systems to simultaneously take full advantage of both the low-power best-in-class media processing features of the 2nd generation Intel Core processor graphics and the 3D gaming performance of add-in cards with graphics processing units (GPUs) from AMD and NVIDIA. With Lucid virtualization it is possible to run one or two discrete GPUs and still utilize the transcoding performance and lower power of the Intel® HD graphics in the 2nd generation Intel Core processor.
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