First Look: MSI's budget Hydra motherboard

MSI's going for the lower-end Hydra board and not directly competing with the high-end CrossHair IV Extreme of Asus. Doesn't make it less interesting, I think ...

We took our first look at what Lucid's Hydra chip can offer earlier this year in MSI's Big Bang Fuzion motherboard, and more recently we've had a sneak peek at Asus' first Hydra equipped board, the CrossHair IV Extreme. Both of those boards are unashamedly expensive, and MSI is attempting to bring the cost of a Hydra multi-GPU board down by pairing the Hydra with AMD's mid-range 870 Northbridge. Lucid's Hydra chip will take the single PCI-E 2.0 16x path from the AMD 870, add its own PCI-E lanes and the result is a board with two true 16x PCI-E 2.0 lanes for a pair of graphics cards. By limiting the board to a two card configuration, there's less board engineering and the driver support (already a big issue for the Hydra) becomes simpler too. MSI tells us that the last six months of driver development for Hydra have resulted in substantial performance gains - this is something we hope to revisit in the coming weeks. The biggest gain for users is not necessarily that they can mix-and-match GPUs (although Hydra does allow this), but that AMD system builders once again get access to SLI - something Nvidia enthusiasts have been missing since last year.

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