Intel Smart Response Technology: SSD Caching on Z68 Tested
Boot Option ROM / Boot Performance
Boot Option ROM
While a GUI is required to enable the Intel Smart Response Technology, it is actually employed at a very low level within the Z68 chipset. This is more than a simple OS / Driver level caching implementation. The cache kicks in during POST - before the Windows boot process begins, meaning the *entire* boot process can benefit from the cache. The Intel Option ROM makes this change evident:
Here we can see the system considers the SSD Caching configuration as a sort of modified RAID-0. There are also a few options added withint the option ROM (entered by hitting ctrl+I when prompted):
While not as flexible as the RST GUI, there are some limited options available - focused primarily at disabling the cache without the use of the RST. This would come in handy in case the Windows install became corrupted or otherwise unbootable and the user wanted to remove the cache without needing to reinstall:
Since it is possible for the cache to be out of sync with the HDD, an extra option is available to force a sync prior to disabling and/or removing the cache. This will prevent data loss in such a case.
With the caching at play during the entire boot process, we should see some good SSD-like gains in that area. To check this, I did some old school stopwatch timing of the Windows 7 x64 boot process. Timing was done from the end of the POST process to the time where the last notification icon appeared (our test system was set to display all icons for consistency). Boot times were evaluated for three sequential boots - just as was done with the earlier PCMark testing:
Boot times were just 3 seconds shy of those achieved with the OS cached on the SSD entirely. Of significant note here is that the SSD 310 was able to edge out (0.5 secs) faster boot times than the SSD 320 *and* the SSD 510, which we tossed in for an additional point of comparison. SATA 6Gb/sec doesn't do much in the way of boot speeds, at least in the case of the SSD 510.