Mixed GPU, Nvidia with ATI?


Originally posted 2015-11-19 17:00:33.

How would this be possible? Back in 2010 a company named Lucidlogix attempted to achieve this by using a combination of a custom chipset and proprietary software named Hydra. This mesh of hardware and software would intercept information from DirectX and OpenGL then redistribute it multiple video cards and spit out a working image. These cards were not required to be of the same brand but it was a very proprietary setup which would require motherboard manufacturers to add the Lucidlogix chip to their boards, so it never really went beyond the wow that’s really neato stage but how can we make money with it?

Enter Microsoft with DirectX 12, In Directx 12 there are 3 modes of communication which game developers can use to communicate with the video card; Implicit Multi-Adapter, Explicit Multi-Adapter, Explicit Multi-Adapter with Unlinked GPUs.  Implicit Multi-Adapter is basically the same as programming with directx 11 with windows 10 support and has the highest compatibility, so this is what most developers would use to make a cross-platform title. Explicit Multi-Adapter is used to support multi GPUs and target the higher end pc user, but it’s up to the developer to program how much of this it wants to support.

Explicit Multi-adapter with Unlinked GPUs is the most interesting addition to DirectX 12, this allows for both Linked and Unlinked mode. Linked is standard SLI or Crossfire, unlinked, however, can work with any GPU from any vendor. But this also leaves everything in the software developer’s hands, this means they could allow the use of two dissimilar GPUs, or a GPU with and integrated GPU. This technology is in its infancy and very few developers have chosen to take advantage of it. The potential of this could be massive, provided the industry takes advantage of it.

Think of a world where you could buy any GPU you want, and plug it in to enhance whatever game you happen to be playing. Or you pick up a random older GPU at a garage sale and plug it in and just have it work. Or perhaps you buy a cheap all in one with an IGPU but it only supports a slim line cards, so being able to buy a lower end card to work in tandem with your IGP and be able to play the latest games. The only thing limiting this future is support from software developers.

Ashes of the Singularity, developed by Oxide has taken the first step of taking a stab at programming with unlinked GPU’s in mind. Oxide released a tech demo with this enabled and the results are promising, but the technology is in its infancy.

I can see this technology being an issue for GPU manufacturers; it could benefit them by allowing a better marketplace for more people to want to buy multiple video cards. But at the same time they most likely don’t like the idea of their brand being mixed with the competitor’s card. I feel this will help advance the industry, with the ability to mix cards there could be a new meta of people trying to figure out what the best combination of card is, which could drive an influx of people buying multiple cards bringing both AMD and Nvidia more money. I for one look forward to this working out, but only time will tell.

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