Switchable graphics solved an important problem for gaming notebooks, leveraging the power of a discrete GPU for gaming while falling back onto power-sipping integrated graphics for everything else. Lucid's new Virtu MVP Mobile software takes things one step further, letting you use both GPUs in tandem to improve performance. Boutique PC vendor Origin will be the first to offer the software on their EON notebook lines in an exclusive partnership with Lucid. We gave the software a spin on the Origin EON 11-S, and it works rather well — though there are some caveats.
Lucid's Virtu MVP Mobile software attempts to make a graphics card render frames from a game as efficiently as possible, boosting frame rates while eliminating the screen tearing associated with Vsync. The app works by sitting between a game and your GPU and preemptively eliminating rendering tasks that aren't in sync with your display's refresh rate. But it also requires fairly strong performance to begin with — you'll start seeing improvements in a game's performance if your machine can pump out about 45 frames-per-second, but earning over 60 frames-per-second before using Lucid's software will offer the best results.
The app is optimized for quite a few titles, but finding games we owned that Lucid has validated and perform well on our test machine was something of a challenge — something prospective shoppers should watch out for. Apps that aren't officially validated can still take advantage of the software, but performance bumps might be meager or nonexistent, and some glitches may arise. We ultimately settled on Far Cry 2 and HAWX. Both games saw a notable improvement when all of Virtu MVP Mobile's bells and whistles were turned on: Far Cry 2 saw a 78% performance boost (from 74 to 170 frames-per-second), while HAWX saw a 60% bump (73 to 136 frames-per-second).
Of course 30 frames-per-second is generally considered the threshold for playability, so these inflated numbers may seem like fluff. But Virtu MVP Mobile is all about improving responsiveness, The higher frame rate indicates the total frame calls your game or app sees, but the extra frames are only rendered when Lucid's software determines it makes sense. You won't see more than 60 frames-per-second on a 60Hz display, but you'll likely feel it: input lag is reduced, and (when it works) your every key-press and mouse movement are rendered faithfully. The software also purportedly improves battery life a tad, but the EON 11-S barely gets a full hour of gaming time when untethered, leaving our testing inconclusive.
It might sound like snake-oil, but rest assured that the technology works, and has for some time — Lucid's Virtu GPU virtualization software first made the rounds on desktop motherboards sporting Intel's Z68 chipset last year, while Virtu MVP came into its own with the Z77 chipset earlier this year. The software is free and optional — if customers choose the app while ordering a laptop, Origin will pre-install it include a license key that's tied to the machine. Virtu MVP Mobile will remain exclusive to Origin for a limited time, but only amongst boutique vendors; Lucid has announced that other manufacturers will be jumping on board soon.