Review Index:

Intel Smart Response Technology: SSD Caching on Z68 Tested

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

SSD Caching performance

Synthetic benchmarks are essentially useless in this sort of testing. We need to use some sort of trace based testing (i.e. PCMark) in order to capture something as close to the userland 'seat of the pants' feel. We did our testing with the following configurations:

  • Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB (solo)
  • Western Digital Caviar Green + SSD 311 (enhanced mode)
  • Western Digital Caviar Green + SSD 311 (maximized mode)
  • Intel SSD 311 Series (solo)
  • Intel SSD 320 Series 300GB (solo)

We ran each configuration three sequential times. While we would normally average results, I wanted to demonstrate the dynamic nature of results in the caching configurations. Here are the results:

View Full Size

You will notice the HDD results are (understandably) the lowest of all. The next two (cached) series show HDD-like performance on the first run, but a very rapid increase to close-to-SSD like performance on the second and third runs. We were surprised to see how close the SSD 311 came to the SSD 320, considering the 320 has a significantly higher write speed rating as well as double the internal data pathways to the flash.

Looking at the enhanced vs. maximized mode differences, it looks like enhanced can get you about 90% of the way there. Those wanting the extra 10% can just switch on the fly to maximized, but that carries with it the added risk of having data out of sync between the cache and the HDD. This is not a big deal most of the time, but comes into play when failures and power loss scenarios occur. I'd personally stick with enhanced mode unless I was extremely confident in the stability of my system (and had it connected to a good UPS).

May 11, 2011 | 09:28 AM - Posted by drexeltim (not verified)

Great Article.

Allyn, is there any reason this wouldn't work using one of OCZ's PCIE Revo Drives?

May 11, 2011 | 11:39 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It has to be a SATA SSD connected to the Z68.

May 11, 2011 | 10:33 AM - Posted by Subsailor

Awesome job Allyn, thank you.

May 12, 2011 | 04:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Allyn, can a RAID 1+0 configuration (4HDD) be used together with the SSD Caching ? OR 2HDD in RAID 1 with th SSD Caching?

May 14, 2011 | 11:21 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Yes. From the Intel docs:
Intel® Smart Response Technology only support 1 HDD + 1 SSD or 1 RAID Partition + 1 SSD combination.

I'd put the RAID 10 on the 4 SATA 3Gb/sec ports, for consistency.

May 19, 2011 | 09:02 AM - Posted by Bernie (not verified)

Hi Allyn,
I have just installed my OCZ 64GB SSD and am using a Hitachi 1TB HD. All is working well, but I would like to know if other factors (normally used on SSDs alone) need to be addressed here too?

Some of these factors are: Sector Alignment, turning off Defrag, No Pagefile, etc.


July 26, 2011 | 02:39 AM - Posted by lynnandmike (not verified)

I noticed the Intel 310 40 Gig SSD on the HW leader-board. It looks like this drive is more for Notebooks vs, desktops where size and low power isn't as critical. Any idea why we should select this vs. something designed more for Desktops? I want to use this drive on a Z68 MB as a SMART scratch drive. What do you recommend for around $100?

Looking at getting most or all of items on High-end HW Leader Board.

October 10, 2011 | 11:28 PM - Posted by Undermoose (not verified)

Sandy Bridge motherboards have UEFI support (not sure if all of them have it).

What I did was create a single volume 4 x 2tb raid 10 array, C & D partitions, installed Windows 7 with EFI boot on the GPT disk.

Walla Sandy Bridge Raid 10 boot with 60gb SSD caching both partitions on the single volume.

January 7, 2012 | 05:59 AM - Posted by Sean (not verified)

Seems to be an excellent performance boost with older slower drives, but suppose you use a 60GB SSD cache, a 120GB SSD drive for apps, and a larger SATA 3 for data?

Would this be a waste of hardware?

What if the smaller drive used as a cache read/writes at about 250 Mbps and the larger SSD for apps writes at around 500?

Would one be better off leaving the cache out of the mix?

Thanks in advance!

March 18, 2013 | 01:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Quick questions:

1) what is faster, 2x HDD 7200Rpm in RAID or 1 HDD + small SSD for caching?

2) would a combination of 2x HDD 7200RPM in RAID + small SSD caching both be as fast as 2x SSD in RAID?

June 5, 2013 | 07:20 AM - Posted by antimo (not verified)

sorry, how can io access the option rom menu? generally it's "ctrl+i" but not on my laptop. thanks.