So, lots of people were asking really good questions about Lucid and their Hydra engine after we posted the initial story on it. We had the opportunity to sit down with them and ask some of those and other questions. And they had quite a lot of really interesting things to say.

From a mile high and the promise of hardware not this year but next, it is tough to really get a good understanding of exactly what's going on and what the implications of this hardware could be if they can deliver on what they say they can. We'll do our best to explain what we know and also what the pitfalls could be.

First, let's address the issue of the box we showed off in the previous coverage. No it will not need an external device. Lucid has designed this to be solution that can be dropped onto a motherboard or a graphics card so integration and user experience should be seamless.

This would be even more transparent than SLI and CrossFire because not even an internal bridge would be needed. Just plug any two cards from the same vendor (and i think they also need to use the same driver version though this is less than clear) and performance will scale linearly with the capabilities of each card.

They did mention the fact that they can implement a solution in an external box for notebooks. For those who need something portable but want high end graphics at home, they could just attach the graphics cards linked with a Hyrda 100 (via PCIe over cables) to the notebook. Not ideal, but it still offers some advantages over high end internal cards (especially in the area of heat) that you might not need when you're on the road.

Sound too good to be true? Yes. Did we see it working? Sure. Do we have performance numbers? Not yet. So there's the rub for us. We really want to put this thing through its paces before we sign off on it. Running on both UT3 and Crysis (DX9 only for now -- DX10 before the product ships though) is cool, but claiming application agnostic linear scaling over an arbitrary number of GPUs of differing capability is a tough pill to swallow without independent confirmation.

We asked them for hardware, and we really hope they'll get us some sooner rather than later. They seemed interested in letting us test it as well. Even if we can't publish numbers on it, it would go a long way for us being more excited about the product if we could run our own benchmarks on it just to see for ourselves.

Let's Talk About Applications
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  • Spivonious - Monday, August 25, 2008 - link

    I don't think nVidia or AMD will try to force Lucid out of the market. If I can actually get a 100% increase in performance from purchasing a second video card, I will.

    This chip only means more sales for nVidia and AMD.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, August 26, 2008 - link

    But that doesn't help their bottom line in the end. Right now CF and SLI are not very popular due to their scaling and custom profile issues. Because of that, many people spring for the highest priced single card they can afford. This keeps the market segment basically tiered the way any business would like. You have low end parts, mid-grade, and uber parts.

    Now throw in the possibility that this Hydra chip works as specified. That 3 tier system just fell apart. When you look at most of the non-mainstream parts from both sides (for example Nvidia's 280, 200, and say 9800/8800GTS), you'll notice that while the price of those chips are drastically different, the performance is not near as different. This makes sense from an R&D standpoint to recoup costs, but from a logical standpoint shelling out $650 for the 280 when it debuted WOULD NOT make sense if 2 200's or 2 9800's was significantly faster for the same or less total $$$.

    That's why both ATI/AMD and Nvidia don't want them in the market. It destroys the pricing structure, and would place much more influence on the bang for the buck part (currently this would hurt Nvidia with their 280 and favor slightly ATI/AMD with their cheaper 4870 and 4850).

    Why would I spend twice as much for a 30% increase in performance with a top of the line single card solution, when I could just get two of the cheaper version for a near 60% increase over the single top card (using general performance of the latest cards)? Sure I'd need a board to support it, but it would make the SLI/CF mobo's MUCH MUCH more attractive then they currently are (I have no plans to purchase a dual-slot mobo with my upcoming build....unless we can get some actual data before Jan09...not likely).
  • jnanster - Tuesday, August 26, 2008 - link

    This is terrible!
    I was all set to buy a new system in a few months.
    Now I have to wait again, again.
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, August 26, 2008 - link

    lol sorry dude... but hey this way you can wait for 8 core nehalem cpus too.
  • TheDoc9 - Monday, August 25, 2008 - link

    This article reads like the same sort of hype-machine dribble that many of the dot-com wonder companies used before the 2001 collapse so they could get investors interested.

    The writer of this piece is fortunately skeptical and he should be, more so even. I hope I'm wrong and we see this technology in a year or so, but it reminds me of Constellation 3D.
  • shin0bi272 - Sunday, August 24, 2008 - link

    The way they outlined it in one of their diagrams is, an instruction which usually goes from the cpu to the northbridge to the gpus and then the gpu's sort out which card should render the command. The Hydra changes that to, cpu to northbridge to hydra to which ever gpu is ready for a new instruction. Which means its essentially taking the place of the little bridge between the gpus and the chip that makes the decision on which card is rendering the scene.

    Nvidia and AMD could have put a chip like this on their motherboards yeah but then you wouldn't need to buy 2 of the same card (and it would possibly work for the competitors card too like the hydra does). Nvidia never tried a motherboard chip to my knowledge and ati did at one time do a y cable and software controlled card selection. But I dont believe that they had a chip on the motherboard either. That reminds me of the difference between a software raid5 card and a hardware raid5 card. The hardware raid card has much better performance but it costs 3x as much. Cost could still be a factor with this chip too. I mean if it ads an extra 20 or 50 dollars to a motherboard gamers will have no problem with that. But if its an extra 200 dollars would they? Gotta make back all that R&D money somehow even if Intel backed them.

    Another question is will this solution require a multi y-cable type device like ati used to do? If the different cards are rendering the scene at different times it would stand to reason. Or will one card be designated as the output card and all finished scenes be sent to that card? That would probably be a bad idea latency wise but who wants to buy a 4way y-split cable? Then again if im going to get linear performance out of sli I can spring for a cable. Could even make a 4 way hub sort of device so that all of the cards would feed into it and then one into the monitor. Could also do a multi-in and multi-out hub to do multiple monitors (though you might not need to do that it could be easier to add and subtract monitors with one).
  • computerfarmer - Sunday, August 24, 2008 - link

    It is nice to here about new products. I hope to see this work.

    I am still waiting for the AMD 790GX/SB750 review.
  • MamiyaOtaru - Sunday, August 24, 2008 - link

    What are the odds this will be cross platform? If it relies on drivers for doing a lot of stuff odds are it will not be, which would make it a nonstarter for me. And yes I know close to no one cares ;) I do though and I'd be interested to know.
  • metro15 - Sunday, August 24, 2008 - link

    hey. they do not need any motherboard manufacturer. Imagine a Intel Labaree graphic card with many cores synchronized with Lucid chip. The performance would be unbeatable.
  • pool1892 - Sunday, August 24, 2008 - link

    larrabee does not need hydra. it will reconfigure itself to suit the load. and with something like larrabee gen2 it will have qpi, which results in much lower latencies and much higher bandwidth.
    larrabee could even achieve more than linear skaling. (theoretically more cores could result in less context changes, which means more cache hits and less waiting cycles - this will of course not happen in reality)

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