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post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-11-2011, 05:09 AM
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**About the P8Z68 and it's two new main features**

**Many people wonder what's so special about the new P8Z68 chipset. And if they need it's two new features, or if they just can go for the good old P8P67 chipset. Well, instead of me trying to explain, I will just quote from Guru3D's ASUS P8Z68-V PRO review**

Full Review: http://www.guru3d.com/article/asus-p8z68-v-pro-review/1

Intel Smart Response Technology
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.


We'll immediately tackle some benchmarks. The PCMark Vantage is the best trace test we can fire off at this setup to measure real world desktop usage of the PC in a highly stressed environment. The series of tests will look at items you normally do with your PC and will try to measure what kind of an effect that has on your user experience by testing eight different segments stressing the storage unit.

  • Test 1 - Spyware is very common on systems without protection against it, letting Windows Defender scan & protect your system is recommended that is what test 1 does.
  • Test 2 - Streaming data from an HDD in games allows for massive worlds and riveting non-stop action.
  • Test 3 - Importing digital photos to Windows Photo Gallery is where a high performance HDD shines.
  • Test 4 - Starting Windows Vista is a rather demanding task for the storage device, but a fast HDD will notably decrease the loading time.

LucidLogix Virtu on Z68 Motherboards
Many Z68 motherboards also will have a power switching feature for graphics cards. Basically with this motherboard you can run both the integrated Intel graphics unit inside the processor, but you can also install a dedicated graphics card. The implementation LucidLogix Virtu switches in-between the two GPUs based on your need.

So as example, in Desktop mode you'd be utilizing the Intel IGP whereas you startup a Game your Radeon of GeForce graphics card will kick in. The idea here is to use the best of both worlds while consuming as little power as possible. Now we've tried and tried, but this solution does not significantly save on power. Dedicated graphics cards these days have very decent IDLE power states and once you plug in the additional graphics card, disabled or not, it will require a minimum amount of power to keep it alive. There's nothing this feature can do about that.

In our case we installed a GeForce GTX 580 next to the Sandy Bridge IGP:


It is the IDLE watt we are interested in. As you can see the ASUS P8Z68-V-Pro without a graphics card installed performs brilliant really with 47 Watt in IDLE. Once we install a GeForce GTX 580 we now IDLE at 85 Watt. Then when we install and apply LucidLogix Virtu in desktop mode we IDLE 83 Watt and we can confirm the Intel IGP is at work here. But there's merely a 2 Watt difference in-between the two.

Here we can see the LucidLogix Virtu application software, it's an atrocious looking software suite to be honest.


The Virtu Control Panel allows users to toggle the software layer that automatically switches between the integrated and discrete (provided you have a discrete GPU installed). Do note that you have to also have installed Intel HD Graphics drivers before you can install Lucid Virtu. In the Games tab you can add your own list of games such that Virtu will recognize them, but a peek at the settings xml file shows that there are already many supported games. But sure, once again we have some sort of driver dependency and dislike that very much.

Also to be able to run Virtu, you'll need to follow these requirements:
  • The system must fulfill all requirements and follow the setup procedures to construct the Intel Multi-Monitor environment
  • The system must utilize Microsoft® Windows 7 operating system (32 or 64bit)
  • The system must have at least 2GB of DRAM installed.
  • And to fulfill item 2, you will need:
  • The Intel driver for HD2000/3000 series integrated graphics must be installed to enable multi-monitor support.
  • The iGPU Multi-Monitor support option has to be enabled in BIOS to allow the integrated graphic to remain functional while with add-on graphic cards activated.

The big plus however that the software can assign applications to a specific GPU. Now with a dedicated GFX card installed you should know that the IGP is pretty much rendered useless, along with some snazzy features. For example with MediaShow Espresso we loose the transcoding feature over the Sandy bridge processor, which sucks as QuickSync will be disabled.

Now with LucidLogix Virtu active, the IGP for this program is set to Intel and the QuickSync path for MediaShow Espresso is ridiculous fast. LucidLogix Virtu allows us to use it though. Here's what that looks like performance wise.
  • Transcode Seconds - Lower = better
  • ASUS P8Z68-V-Pro | 2600K + GTX 580 55
  • ASUS P8Z68-V-Pro | IGP Quick Sync 16

In the above test we transcode a 200 MB AVCHD media file to a 1920x1080P MP4 binary (YouTube format). This measurement is in seconds needed for the process, thus lower = better. So while the Processor with a dedicated graphics card installed (GTX 580 CUDA disabled) takes 55 seconds, with LucidLogix Virtu allowing to switch to the IGP, we can do the same job in 16 seconds as QickSync can now kick in.S

And before you ask sure, the GTX 580 over CUDA would be able to get the job done fast as well, roughly 23 seconds. Overall it is a feature we can appreciate, the software needs to be cleaned up the as the GUI is just horrible looking. Unfortunately once we had Virtu active... we also where confronted with increased instability in Windows 7. So again, there's a lot of work in progress for this feature.


In short: Virtu allows the systems to simultaneously take full advantage of both the low-power best-in-class media processing features of the 2nd generation Intel Core processor graphics and the 3D gaming performance of add-in cards with graphics processing units (GPUs) from AMD and NVIDIA, with Lucid virtualization it is possible to run one or two discrete GPUs and still utilize the transcoding performance and lower power of the Intel® HD graphics in the 2nd generation Intel Core processor.

Lucid Virtu working with the ASUS P8Z68-V Pro Motherboard
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