A twofold of new features are introduced along with Z68 as well, the first being Intel Smart Response Technology.
Intel Smart Response Technology
A new feature introduced on Z68 is a form of SSD caching. It is now possible to combine a HDD and an SSD with the help of Intel Smart Response Technology, you pair them into a hybrid mode.
Basically you need to use your HDD as primary operating system storage unit, and then an added SSD will cache the most regular used static data. After a couple of runs the primary storage load will get cached on the SSD and will be loaded from there the next time you access it. And yes, it sounds a lot like Windows PreFetch and SuperBoost.
Here's how it works, in the BIOS you set the SATA storage configuration to RAID. You Install Windows 7 on the HDD, install the SSD. Then install the Storage controller software from Intel (Intel rapid Storage technology). Once you load up the software you'll notice a new option called 'Enable acceleration', and click it. You may now assign a cache volume size e.g. 20GB. That's pretty much all there is to it. Intel Smart Response Technology will now monitor and learn storage unit behavior and starts caching, allowing you to load from the SSD, not the primary HDD.
It is clever technology and can speed up the primary and most used data up-to 5x by making use of that SSD cache. We're not sure just yet how popular this feature will be, as you are very tied to that RAID mode setup in BIOS, leaving a lot of generic and your average end-users puzzled. Another problem is that once you have installed Windows 7 in SATA or AHCI mode, there's not way to migrate to that required RAID mode. So this only works with fresh Windows installations.
Also, and we feel this is a little trivial, once you purchase an SSD we doubt you'd still be going for a SSD/HDD combination anyway. We certainly wouldn't. But it's definitely a very creative idea. Especially if you combine this feature with a small low priced SSD you could benefit from SSD performance increases for very little money.
Intel's explanation on Smart Response technology:
Intel Smart Response Technology implements storage I/O caching to provide users with faster response times like system boot and application startup. On a system with traditional HDD, performance of these operations are limited by the HDD, particularly when there may be other I/O intensive background activities running simultaneously like system updates or virus scans. I/O caching accelerates system response by putting frequently used blocks of disk data on an SSD, which provides dramatically faster access to user data than an HDD. The user sees the full capacity of the HDD with the traditional single drive letter (i.e. C:\) with the system responsiveness similar to an SSD.
As compared to standard HDDs, Intel® Smart Response Technology offers these key features:
Significantly higher performance
Lower power consumption
Increased system responsiveness
If you like to fool around with the technology yourself, again Intel RAID mode in the BIOS must be enabled in order for Smart Response Technology to function.
We've made a setup. Now once you already have Windows installed on SATA or in AHCI mode, you can not switch and migrate to Intel RAID mode, you'll end up in a nightmaare of blue screens (BSODs). So to get the feature working this only applies alongside a new Windows Installation, that or you already have RAID mode up and running. The first in the BIOS is that you set your storage mode from IDE or AHCI towards RAID. Now you install Windows. After the installation you install the Intel Rapid Storage Technology software, previously know as the Matrix storage driver. We assume you installed a HDD as primary root drive and an SSD, currently unused but installed.
If all went well and you startup the RST software you'll notice a new function called Enable acceleration like so (click thumbnails to enlarge):
As you can see you'll get some options here. So we select our 500GB HDD with Windows installation as the Volume that needs to be accelerated. SSD wise we use a Corsair F100, now we do not want to use up all that expensive NAND flash, so we assign roughly 20GB of the SSD for caching, the rest (free space) will get it's own partition and we can use that as a separate SSD drive. Click Enhanced mode and then OK.
So after a little while you'll notice that the RST software has created a new storage array, one ~20GB partition for caching, one 75GB partition which we can format and use as SSD storage.
So caching works, we now go towards Computer Management -> Disk Management and initialize and format the 75GB SSD storage. And that's all there is to it. The 20GB array now fully functions and is active as cache, plus you have a separate SSD partition fully up and running and working tremendously well.
Now for this review this SSD unit arrived too late to make the review, hence our results are based on a regular Corsair F100 SSD. But Intel will release new SSDs (Larson Creek) sized 20GB. They will be very affordable and offer a nice chunk of performance. So this unit was developed specifically for this SRT and will be cheap, since its capacity is rather small in itself. But you can use any SSD you like of course.
But let's analyze what SSD caching does in terms of performance, next page please.
ASUS P8Z68 V PRO Intel Z68 review Intel is closing a gap with the Z68 chipset. A chipset that has the full feature set of BOTH the H67 and P67 chipsets and then it also has a little surprise in store. With the Z68 Intel also introduces Intel Smart Response Technology, which allows you to use a SSD to cache a large volume HDD, it's a bit of a hybrid mode, a symbiosis of the two to gain on static storage performance. Next to that most Z68 motherboards will get the ability to switch in-between the processor IGP and a dedicated graphics card. That means you could use the Sandy Bridge IGP for seriously fast transcoding, yet once you want to play a game your dedicated graphics card, that 3D accelerated solution will kick in. Pretty cool stuff, in theory.