Lucid Hydra gets official on graphics cards

With some help from PowerColor

LUCID’S HYDRA HAS yet to prove itself as a replacement for either CrossFire or SLI, but today Lucid announced a new solution which might see the company gaining some more ground. Lucid’s new Unity graphics card design (PDF link) looks set to change the way that the Hydra chips have been used so far, as by moving the Hydra chips to the graphics card, the motherboard is no longer a limiting factor.

So far only Asus and MSI have shown any interest in Lucid’s Hydra solutions, although only MSI have products available for purchase. The problem with this approach is that if you change motherboard – or prefer a different brand – then you’re out of luck, well, at least you were until now. Lucid has teamed up with PowerColor to launch the first graphics card to feature an on-board Hydra chip and has at the same time created a solution that allows its technology to work with any chipset on any motherboard.

PowerColor’s card was shown off back at Computex in June, but it appears it has taken this long to get the product ready for retail. We’re not sure that PowerColor got things right from the word go with regards to the choice of GPU though, as AMD’s Radeon HD 5770 isn’t exactly a high-end GPU. Considering that there will be a price premium involved it seems odd to start with a mid-range card, especially as this is likely to become out-dated quicker than a high-end model.

Nonetheless, the ability to use two graphics cards on any motherboard independently of any manufacturer’s proprietary technologies to get a performance boost is an interesting concept. At the same time we’re not sure it’ll be worth the price premium over sticking with a pair of cards from the same manufacturers. However, there is one advantage here and that is that you can use cards from two different generations of GPUs which means that when you upgrade your graphics card, you could keep the old one to gain an extra performance boost.

The press release also suggests that more than two cards can be used – motherboard slots permitting – something that so far hasn’t been possible on any retail motherboard with Lucid’s Hydra chip. This might be the real winner for Lucid’s new Unity solution, especially as many high-end motherboards have three or more x16 PCI Express slots. This also seems like a much more sensible approach to get extra graphics performance from your system than Asus’ Immensity board with an on-board GPU in combination with a Hydra chip and space for two additional cards.

Lucid has also gone and changed the name of its chips to HydraLogix, but the products remain the same. As far as pricing is concerned, well, we don’t really know who besides PowerColor will launch products, but the press release states that we’re looking at some kind of a product that will arrive at retail in time for the holidays for sub $199. Not exactly a clear cut message and if this card will use the Radeon HD 5770 then we’re looking at a $40-50 price premium over what a standard card retails for. Unity does at least give Lucid a real fighting chance to compete, but we’re not sure if it’s enough to gain the wide spread consumer approval that Lucid needs to become a major player in the consumer market.S|A

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