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.Performance
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.