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Updated 06/01/2012: We had originally published this review one month ago. Our results showed no performance improvement by using the Virtu MVP technology with video cards using graphics processors from AMD. Lucid, the developer of the Virtu technology, contacted us saying that the 2.1.110 driver we used (which came on the motherboard’s CD) had a bug and didn’t work correctly with AMD’s Catalyst 12.4 driver. They provided us with a new driver, 2.1.113, which presumably corrects the bug. Therefore, we redid all our tests with this new driver version. Let’s see if it really corrected the problem.
The Virtu Universal MVP is a software-based technology that is available on most motherboards that use the Intel Z77 chipset. It brings two major improvements for games: one related to image quality and another related to performance.
When a game doesn’t limit the number of frames per second the video card is generating to match the video monitor’s maximum refresh rate (or if this limitation, called VSync, was disabled by the user), flaws on the image, popularly known in the gaming community as “artifacts” or “tearing,” may be generated on the screen. This happens because while the monitor is still drawing the current frame, the video card has already sent out the information of the next frame, and the monitor may finish drawing the current frame with information of the next frame, making the image “broken.” Limiting the number of frames per second the video card generates solves this problem, but it limits the performance of the game, and users may perceive the game as being slow.
Virtu Universal MVP implements a technology called “Virtual-VSync” that solves this issue. It allows the video card to generate as many frames as it can and, at the same time, prevents “artifacts” from being drawn on the screen.
The Virtu Universal MVP also allows you to combine the CPU integrated graphics processor to your regular video card, increasing gaming performance. This feature is called “HyperFormance.” This is similar to what occurs with the NVIDIA’s Hybrid SLI and AMD’s ATI Hybrid technologies, with the notable difference of not being limited to GPUs or CPUs of a specific manufacturer. In this review we will see if this technology really works and how much performance you will gain by using it. We will also take a look at the performance of the integrated graphics processor available on the Core i7-3770K (“Ivy Bridge”) CPU.
We measured the effects of the Virtu Universal MVP technologies using four video cards at different price ranges, the Radeon HD 6570 with 512 MB GDDR5, the Radeon HD 7750, the Radeon HD 7850, and the Radeon HD 7950. We ran four games on each video card, first without the Virtu Universal MVP driver installed, and then with it installed, to see if there was any noticeable performance gain. We also measured the performance of the Core i7-3770K integrated graphics for comparison purposes.
[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]
During our benchmarking sessions we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable device was the video card being tested.
- Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H (F8d BIOS)
- CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K
- CPU Cooler: Intel stock/AMD stock liquid cooling solution
- Memory: 4 GB DDR3-1866, two G.Skill Ripjaws XF3-14900CL9D-4GBXL memory modules
- Hard Disk Drive: Western Digital Black Caviar 1 TB (WD1001FALS, SATA-300, 7,200 rpm, 32 MB buffer)
- Video Monitor: Samsung Syncmaster 932BW
- Power Supply: Antec TruePower New 750 W
Operating System Configuration
- Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
- Video resolution: 1440×900 60 Hz
- AMD video driver version: Catalyst 12.4
- Intel Inf chipset driver version: 188.8.131.529
- Lucid Virtu Universal MVP driver version: 184.108.40.20680
We adopted a 3% error margin. Thus differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.
[nextpage title=”StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty”]
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a very popular DirectX 9 game that was released in 2010. Though this game uses an old version of DirectX, the number of textures that can be represented on one screen can push most of the top-end graphics cards to their limits. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty uses its own physics engine that is bound to the CPU and thus does not benefit from PhysX.
We tested this game at 1440×900, setting the texture and graphics quality settings at “Ultra.” We then used FRAPS to collect the frame rate of a replay on the “Unit Testing” custom map.
|Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty||1440×900||Difference|
|AMD Radeon HD 7950 (MVP)||170.4||13%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7950||150.7|
|AMD Radeon HD 7850 (MVP)||141.8||9%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7850||130.6|
|AMD Radeon HD 7750 (MVP)||77.8||10%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7750||70.6|
[nextpage title=”Deus Ex: Human Revolution”]
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a DirectX 11 game. We used the in-game introduction to measure the number of frames per second, using FRAPS. We ran the introduction at 1440×900, setting all image quality settings to their highest values.
|Deus Ex: Human Revolution||1440×900||Difference|
|AMD Radeon HD 7950 (MVP)||168.9||12%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7950||151.4|
|AMD Radeon HD 7850 (MVP)||131.2||8%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7850||121.5|
|AMD Radeon HD 7750 (MVP)||89.3||8%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7750||82.4|
DiRT3 is another DirectX 11 game. We measured performance using this game by running a race and then playing it back using FRAPS. We ran this game at 1440×900, setting all image quality settings to their highest values.
|AMD Radeon HD 7950 (MVP)||221.6||10%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7950||201.1|
|AMD Radeon HD 7850 (MVP)||193.8||7%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7850||180.9|
|AMD Radeon HD 7750 (MVP)||109.7||8%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7750||101.6|
[nextpage title=”Battlefield 3″]
Battlefield 3 is the latest installment in the Battlefield franchise released in 2011. It is based on the Frostbite 2 engine, which is DirectX 11. In order to measure performance using this game, we walked our way through the first half of the “Operation Swordbreaker” mission, measuring the number of frames per second using FRAPS. We ran this game at 1440×900, again setting all image quality settings to “high.”
|AMD Radeon HD 7950 (MVP)||79.4||9%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7950||72.9|
|AMD Radeon HD 7850 (MVP)||69.2||10%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7850||62.9|
|AMD Radeon HD 7750 (MVP)||47.6||9%|
|AMD Radeon HD 7750||43.6|
With the new 2.1.113 driver, we finally saw performance increase by using the Virtu Universal MVP. It increased the performance of our video cards between 7% and 13%, which is great, since the Virtu Universal MVP is a feature that may come for free with your motherboard. So, we don’t see why you shouldn’t install and enable this technology. In addition, with its “Virtual-Vsync” you can achieve your video card’s maximum frame rate without the generation of artifacts while you play.
But there is one big caveat: you must download the latest driver at Lucid’s website. If you use the driver that comes with the motherboard, you may not see any performance increase at all.
By the way, on 3DMark 11, results with the Virtu Universal MVP increased up to 46 percent, but these results are not correct, as explained at Futuremark’s website.