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Written by David Ramsey   
Saturday, 07 April 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI Z77A-GD65 LGA1155 Motherboard
Intel Z77 Express Chipset
Closer Look: MSI Z77 Motherboard
Z77A-GD65 Detailed Features
MSI ClickBIOS II and Control Center
Motherboard Testing Methodology
AIDA64 Extreme Edition Tests
PCMark Vantage Tests
CINEBENCH R11.5 Benchmarks
CPU-Dependent 3D Gaming
Media Encoding Benchmarks
SPECviewperf 11 Tests
SPECapc Lightwave
Blender and POV-Ray
Intel Native USB 3.0
Lucid Virtu MVP
Overclocking and Final Thoughts
MSI Z77A-GD65 Conclusion

Lucid Virtu MVP

When the Sandy Bridge CPUs were introduced with the Cougar Point chipset family (P67, H67, etc.) there was a surprising limitation: you could choose a desktop system based on the P67 chipset, but that disabled the Sandy Bridge internal GPU. Or you could buy an H67 motherboard that enabled the GPU, but locked out overclocking features. In other words there was no way to use all of the capabilities of the CPU you'd purchased.

When the Intel Z68 chipset was introduced, motherboards built around it sported Lucid Virtu technology, a way to integrate the use of both the Sandy Bridge integrated GPU and a separate video card. Benchmark Reviews has an article describing the previous version of Lucid Virtu here. Virtu offered users the ability to make the most effective use of both the Sandy Bridge integrated GPU (iGPU) as well as a separate graphics card. Users could chose "Virtu i-mode", wherein the iGPU was the primary display mechanism, with the graphics card only being used when its performance was required, or "Virtu d-mode", in which the graphics card is the primary display mechanism, freeing the iGPU to drive a second monitor or be used for compute tasks like Intel's "Quick Sync" video transcoding.

At about the same time, NVIDIA announced their Synergy technology, similar to the Optimus feature that some notebook computers have been using for a couple of years. Like Virtu, Synergy would use the low-power integrated GPU for most tasks but seamlessly switch to the discrete graphics card under load conditions. Originally slated to be formally introduced in June 2011, nary a word has been heard from NVIDIA since the original announcement. In the meantime, Lucid's stepped up their game with Virtu MVP.

Virtu MVP is the latest iteration of Lucid's GPU virtualization software, and it expands on its predecessor's capabilities with two new features: HyperFormance and Virtual VSync. Let's take a look:

msi_Z77a-gd65_virtu_panel1.jpg

The main Virtu MVP control panel looks pretty much like the previous version. You can turn GPU virtualization on or off, and select whether or not you see a "Virtu" icon in games.

msi_Z77a-gd65_virtu_panel2.jpg

The "Performance" panel is where the new features are. HyperFormance "improves overall game performance and frame rate" while "Virtual VSync" lets users with enable VSync at rates otherthan 60FPS, a real benefit if you have a 120Hz monitor. The problem these performance features attempt to resolve is that your video card's frame rate rarely matches up to your monitor's refresh rate, especially in cases where the card can't generate enough FPS to make normal 60-FPS vsync feasible. Lucid's software trys to solve this by "Detecting, predicting, removing and replacing redundant rendering tasks, to enable the best visual quality with cleaner and smoother frames, and peak responsiveness."

Lucid has a white paper explaining HyperFormance and Virtual VSync in detail here.

So what does this mean to the game play experience? I ran two graphics benchmarks (both DX10 because that's all the iGPU of the i5-2500K supports) comparing the performance of the iGPU, Radeon 6850, and Lucid Virtu MVP with HyperFormance turned on and off. The results were amazing.

Lucid Virtu MVP.png

With the Lucid Virtu version shipped with Z68 motherboards, I saw about a 3%-7% frame rate hit. This made sense because Virtu has to copy each rendered frame from the video card's frame buffer to the iGPU frame buffer in main memory. And in the Heaven benchmark, with HyperFormance turned off, there's a 3.68% drop in frame rate. But with HyperFormane turned on, the frame rate increases by 14%

Lucid Virtu MVP2.png

In 3DMark Vantage, the HyperFormance increases are huge: 60% in the Jane Nash test and 63% in the New Calico test. How does Virtu MVP accomplish this?

I've read through Lucid's white paper, and as best I can determine the way HyperFormance works is to elminate "redundant frames", which Lucid defines as frames that wouldn't be shown completely because they would be interrupted by a monitor refresh interval. In these cases render of the redundant frame is aborted and the time that would have been spent rendering it is devoted to the next frame. You'd think this would result in some jerkiness in the displayed images, but I didn't see any, so I guess Lucid's onto something.

This makes the HyperFormance benchmark scores understandable: of course you can get more FPS if some of the frames are simply displayed multiple times, rather than each frame being a unique render. So while the effect may be that of a higher FPS, you're not really seeing the same thing you'd see if the video card could actually generate that many FPS. Futuremark has already announced plans to upgrade 3DMark to detect Virtu and provide a more realistic frame rate result. However, I can report that visually, I didn't see anything amis and the perceived performance was definitely better with HyperFormance turned on...which is of course the whole point.



 

Comments 

 
# Mistaken Video Portshookems 2012-04-09 12:16
The third video port is an HDMI not Display Port. Otherwise great review.
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# RE: Mistaken Video PortDavid Ramsey 2012-04-09 13:12
Oh, good catch! I've edited the specifications to reflect this.
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# priceTHUMPer 2012-04-11 12:29
Price is now 169 on newegg.
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# RE: MSI Z77A-GD65 LGA1155 Motherboardwrong 2012-04-21 09:11
The board has PCI-E 3.0 not 2.0
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# RE: RE: MSI Z77A-GD65 LGA1155 MotherboardDavid Ramsey 2012-04-21 10:00
No, it doesn't. The Z77 express chipset provides eight PCI E2 .0 lanes. In the very near future it may be possible to install a processor that provides PCIE 3.0 lanes, but not as of the time of this review.
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# great & complete reviewdawgamerhybrid 2012-04-25 04:08
Thx for the great review, ive been "building" my ultimate hybrid system since before the z68 got released and i still didnt pull the trigger :). Would i merrit from waiting for another brand's (asus, gigabyte,...) z77 release to compare with the msi... or should i just pull that trigger allready, questions questions... The fact that it doesnt yet have native pci 3.0 kinda dissapoints me. Also i'm quite shure that after a few bios updates the z77 gd65 will perform above par in comparison to the z68a gd65 which allready had a ton of modifications.
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# RE: great & complete reviewDavid Ramsey 2012-04-25 07:23
No Z77 motherboard will ever have "native" PCI-E 3.0. The PCI-E 3.0 lines are provided by the Ivy Bridge CPU.
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# extra cashcolman 2012-09-25 09:11
is this mobo worth the extra cash u pay over the MSI Z77A-G45
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# HELP!!!Martin Rønning 2012-10-21 13:44
I have a problem!
I try OC but when Windows starts up, my computer just stops in the loading Screen for windows....
Same if i use OC-genie
And sometimes it appear a2 in right bottom corner on the screen (rest is black)
My computer specs:
I7-3770K Intel prosessor
MSI z77a-gd65 motherboard
H100 cpu cooling (corsair)
12GB ram Dominator GT / ram fan (corsair)
MSI hd r6800 series HAWK
And i got a H2Go case from MountainMods.com
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# RE: HELP!!!David Ramsey 2012-10-21 13:49
My only guess would be that your overclocked settings in OC Genie are too high. Try loading the defaults in the BIOS before using OC Genie, and then checking the "My OC Genie" page to make sure the settings are reasonable.
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# HELP!!!Martin Rønning 2012-10-21 23:09
Il test it when Im home.
Im crossing my fingers :P
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# PCIx16?Drnkbeer 2012-11-26 08:33
Now MSI is being sneaky and not informing people that they decide to put a second GFX in the 2nd PCI-E 3.0 port it would be reduced to 8x as would the original 16x. Which to me seems ridiculous. Was tempted to get a Mobo that would SLI but if the main card gets reduced what the hell is the point? Does anyone know of any motherboards that can run two video cards at 16x PCI-E 2.0, with 1155 and can accept 1600 DDR3 RAM?
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# RE: PCIx16?David Ramsey 2012-11-26 10:20
Several comments:

1. This is true of ANY Z67/Z68/Z77 motherboard except high-end boards with PLX chips. You've only got 16 PCI-E lanes from the CPU, so provisioning 2 x16 slots is impossible without extra hardware.

2. If you're using an Ivy Bridge chip, you've got PCI-E 3.0 lanes with twice the bandwidth as PCI-E 2.0 lanes, so those two x8 slots are the equivalent of two x16 slots if you're using a PCI-E 3.0 compliant graphics card.

3. But even if you're running Sandy Bridge CPU and older graphics cards, guess what? Nothing out there saturates 8 PCI-E lanes anyway, so games won't play one FPS slower on a 2x8 SLI or Crossfire system than they would on a 2x16 system.

But if you want to spend extra money, yes, there are many LGA1155 motherboard that can supply 2x16: ASUS Maximum V Extreme, ASUS P8Z77-WS, ASUS P8Z77-V Premium; EVGA Z77 FTW. MSI doesn't seem to have any boards like this, but again, unless you're running triple or quad cards, you don't really need a board with a PLX chip.
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# Black screenJOHN 2012-12-26 09:59
Bios update failed.. blank screen, anybody knows how to restore bios,, have blank screen, I try to reset removing battery and clear cmos and nothing happen, is another way to do it>>>???
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