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Intel Z68 Express Chipset Preview: SSD Caching And Quick Sync

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March 10, 2011 3:00:04 AM

Enthusiasts were forced to hit the brakes on Sandy Bridge when motherboard vendors massively recalled platforms based on Cougar Point. We take a Z68 Express-based board for a spin to see if you should wait for Intel's true LGA 1155 enthusiast chipset.

Intel Z68 Express Chipset Preview: SSD Caching And Quick Sync : Read more
March 10, 2011 3:16:53 AM

interesting read
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March 10, 2011 3:39:22 AM

Nice. Thanks for the quick heads up, I was just starting to build my new rig but now that I read this I'm going to wait for the Z68 MOBOs :D 
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March 10, 2011 3:48:50 AM

I am one of those ssd+hdd users who prefer manually managing the drives. Recently I discovered some of the older ssd + hdd cache devices(Silverstone made one). I wasn't impressed. However,I could see the Intel cache set-up as being advantageous for me. Why? I have a boot SSD, large storage HDD, and a third SSD. I could still boot from the boot drive, then use the second SSD and HDD together. I like that idea enough to wait for the Z chipset before I ditch the H chipset.
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March 10, 2011 3:55:47 AM

compton, problem with that SilverStone unit was that it didn't have any intelligence built-in--it was simply mapping the first sectors of the hard drive, if what I remember reading a year ago was right...
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March 10, 2011 3:59:27 AM

waiting for Bulldozer...
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March 10, 2011 4:18:39 AM

Excellent Work, Mr Angelini! Now it's my job to make sure the motherboard manufacturers follow through!

-Your Adversarial Colleague
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March 10, 2011 4:51:23 AM

wow ...

I am thinking what is more restricting ... a ZFS supporting OS or the stupid Intel list for SSD caching.

The only impresive part of Sandy Bridge is the single-threaded performance. Everything else is a disaster (chipsets, QuickSync restrictions, price, linux drivers and bugs etc.) or was already available in previous generations.

Waiting on AMD Bulldozer and Llano ... I just hope those 2 won't be similar disasters.
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March 10, 2011 5:38:36 AM

haplo602wow ... I am thinking what is more restricting ... a ZFS supporting OS or the stupid Intel list for SSD caching.The only impresive part of Sandy Bridge is the single-threaded performance. Everything else is a disaster (chipsets, QuickSync restrictions, price, linux drivers and bugs etc.) or was already available in previous generations.Waiting on AMD Bulldozer and Llano ... I just hope those 2 won't be similar disasters.
In regards to Linux, isn't that like saying "Toyotas are junk because they're always dirty"? I mean, Linux is maintained by its "owners".
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Anonymous
March 10, 2011 7:17:11 AM

So would ssd caching work on a raid 0 setup with 2 samsung spinpoint F3's or would this add an additional risky element without much performance gain?...or say a raid 1 where I have backup...would it cache both drives or 1?..Sorry new to this and also waiting for a z68.
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March 10, 2011 7:32:41 AM

tradeshowhoundSo would ssd caching work on a raid 0 setup with 2 samsung spinpoint F3's or would this add an additional risky element without much performance gain?...or say a raid 1 where I have backup...would it cache both drives or 1?..Sorry new to this and also waiting for a z68.


Yes, so long as all members of the array are hard disks.
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March 10, 2011 8:00:39 AM

P67 and Z68 are both incomplete chipsets. You still have to pay extra for virtue if you don't want to swap cable. I'm actually fine with that it's just that going down this path is like selling a modular design. I'm expecting intel's P77 chipset to be missing disk controllers but motherboard manufacturers could opt for marvell, jmicron or others to supplement that shortage. Intel does make some fine processors today, but their chipsets disappoint. But the good news is, maybe one day with the help of motherboard vendors we could pair a AMD chipset (which is believe to be superior) with an Intel processor.
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March 10, 2011 8:29:22 AM

SpadeMP67 and Z68 are both incomplete chipsets. You still have to pay extra for virtue if you don't want to swap cable. I'm actually fine with that it's just that going down this path is like selling a modular design. I'm expecting intel's P77 chipset to be missing disk controllers but motherboard manufacturers could opt for marvell, jmicron or others to supplement that shortage. Intel does make some fine processors today, but their chipsets disappoint. But the good news is, maybe one day with the help of motherboard vendors we could pair a AMD chipset (which is believe to be superior) with an Intel processor.
Chris probably won't say anything, but as a motherboard tester I've found that the Intel features that do work "right", work better. That includes drive controllers, so it really comes down to a choice of a bunch of good features or a few great ones.
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March 10, 2011 8:42:44 AM

I don't understand why cached SSD/HDD is so far from pure SSD. Once something is cached to the SSD shouldn't the performance be nearly identical? Seems like this type of technology needs more work.
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March 10, 2011 8:48:48 AM

Had Intel not imposed such limitations on Sandy Bridge, they'd not need so many motherboard chipsets for a start, plus you can only imagine what a monster it could have been to start off with.
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March 10, 2011 10:05:36 AM

So yeah hooray for intel, ssd caching is just taking performance down (note, this is an option aimed for power user, they are kind of guy who pay 300$ bucks and then choose the worst way to get perf...), quick sync is a unstable restricted piece of crap, transcoding media is a top priority... what about a trim support in raid a array? something that is really needed by power user and not those wanabee features
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March 10, 2011 10:29:42 AM

silverblueHad Intel not imposed such limitations on Sandy Bridge, they'd not need so many motherboard chipsets for a start, plus you can only imagine what a monster it could have been to start off with.
Intel, like most other companies in this business, is known for using feature limitations to push more-expensive platforms.
valuialSo yeah hooray for intel, ssd caching is just taking performance down (note, this is an option aimed for power user, they are kind of guy who pay 300$ bucks and then choose the worst way to get perf...), quick sync is a unstable restricted piece of crap, transcoding media is a top priority... what about a trim support in raid a array? something that is really needed by power user and not those wanabee features
If you have the money for a huge SSD, go for it! But don't Sandforce controllers already have their own built-in garbage collection that practically negates the need for TRIM?
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March 10, 2011 11:20:30 AM

You can get some benefits of SSD caching by doing different RAID setups between a SSD disk and a partition on magnetic disk.
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March 10, 2011 12:00:31 PM

I could see this working out very well for a cad or cam software where your pulling up the same huge files day in and day out off of a storage drive. I will look forward to this for my next workstation.
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March 10, 2011 12:41:11 PM

Useless. Why would you use SSD as caching? Why would you pair your Nvidia card with that useless silicon called HD3000? Looks like Intel is running out of good ideas so they throw all this useless technology, what a waste.
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March 10, 2011 12:43:13 PM

I am waiting for true next generation Intel Chipset and CPU, successor of x58. P75, Z68 LGA1155, just like LGA1156 -> freaking joke for masses.
Also looking to see Bulldozer!
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March 10, 2011 1:22:15 PM

I'm more interested in whether QuickSync works under MythTV in Linux (and whether sound can go over the HDMI cable)...it'd help a lot for HTPC use...
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March 10, 2011 1:27:11 PM

CrashmanIn regards to Linux, isn't that like saying "Toyotas are junk because they're always dirty"? I mean, Linux is maintained by its "owners".


Intel is (or was) one of the best and most reliable Linux supporters. Their graphics were not any good, but the CPUs, chipsets and other things worked perfectly.

With SB the drivers were late and buggy. This is a slip that is not what we are used to from Intel (apart from graphics :-))
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March 10, 2011 1:32:39 PM

Hi Cangelini, thanks for the great reviews, as always.

what about Intel VT-d CPU extensions?

Intel created a lot of confusion on this extensions, personally I bought a 2600 CPU (not a 2600K) because
2600 support VT-d and 2600K not.
I bought this CPU with a P67 since intel stated some months ago that P67 is capable to use VT-d, Asrock and some others manufacturers have also an option on P67 boards to enable VT-d.

Now it seems that Asus is talking about misprint when talking about P67 and VT-d, its not clear if P67 will support VT-d or what chipset will support it, probably Z68?

Can you enlight us by asking to intel rep please?
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March 10, 2011 2:01:40 PM

Is it possible to split an SSD so that part serves as a boot drive (e.g. just 25 GB or so), and the remainder serves as an SSD cache for a normal HDD? This would solve the problem of the slow boot speed with the SSD cache drive approach, while affording the benefits of dynamically-allocated cache space for program and data files. With Intel Matrix Storage, you can use part of each of several drives to form a RAID array, and use the remaining part for a different array - possibly with a different type. Can that type of thing be done with Intel RST and an SSD for both boot drive and caching?
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March 10, 2011 2:15:21 PM

Here's a question: Which chipsets will support 2 - PCIe x16 2.0 Slots, with 16 lanes x 16 lanes for SLI/XFire?

I see a lot of 8x8s, but what about 16x16?
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March 10, 2011 2:16:45 PM

Quote:
We didn’t see any real improvement in boot times


WHY DON'T YOU PUT THAT DATA IN YOUR ARTICLES? Very few of your readers have any clue what the results from your test software mean, but everybody understands a stopwatch.
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March 10, 2011 2:24:38 PM

um... maybe it is just me, but wouldn't the average user get more noticeable performance by putting the OS with a few select programs on the SSD, and then your lesser used programs on a separate drive? I mean, it is not like you are tied to a single drive for installed programs. Or in a business environment, perhaps use it as a separate temp/working drive for large files, or rendering. I would imagine both of those scenarios would work better, and be a lot simpler than this new technology.

Besides, in annother 2-3 years SSDs will be cheap enough for even me to buy, so why complicate things, or delay a buy, when you can buy something simple now, and upgrade for something simple and much faster a year or 2 down the road?
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March 10, 2011 2:33:35 PM

Totally sticking to my AMD tricore for another year. All this fusion of Z68 + Virtu (Do I have to pay for Virtu?) + where do I hook up my monitor? + separate windows for mediaencoding?? = gonna play some PS3 games for another year.
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March 10, 2011 2:41:25 PM

I have a question.

I dual-boot 32 and 64 bit Win7. Since I have 8gb of RAM, i use gaviotte ramdisk for a 4gb ramdisk (on the 32 bit OS) that houses the swap-file and temp folders. I'm just dreaming of the possible combination of a ramdisk plus this caching. To clarify, OS on one disk, and either having all the apps/games on that same drive with the OS or having a 2nd drive dedicated to apps/games, and choosing to cache either the single drive housing OS and apps or caching a 2nd drive config that has all the apps/games... (After a proofread i figured somebody would think i be dumber than i am, and meant caching the ramdisk hehe)

I don't know what benchmarks would reveal the advantage, if any, but can you maybe play around with it?

My next build will have atleast 16gb ram so i can put up a 4gb ramdisk on the 64-bit machine as well. I'm salivating, but then again, your web browser and word can only open so fast hehehe...

I use video/photo/audio editing or reencoding type softwares, WinRAR for backing up large folders (4gb and up), very rarely some gaming, and soon to be playing around with heavy-duty encryption software.
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March 10, 2011 2:49:56 PM

MasterMaceHere's a question: Which chipsets will support 2 - PCIe x16 2.0 Slots, with 16 lanes x 16 lanes for SLI/XFire?I see a lot of 8x8s, but what about 16x16?
From Intel, just the X58. Intel is replacing that one later this year.

But if you're looking for graphics bandwidth, you can get by with an NF200 PCIe bridge on any LGA 1155 supporting chipset, because the NF200 has a repeater function that sends the same 16 lanes from the CPU to both graphics cards simultaneously.
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March 10, 2011 2:53:18 PM

I like the sound of this Virtu setup.
Unlike the comments in the article, I would opt for the energy saving config (connect display to Motherboard) so that my discrete GPU(s) could power down.
The power needs of high end GPU's is only going in one direction, so even if there was a little performance hit it would be nice to not have to drive a big gaming GPU when you're only web browsing.
I've used that type of setup with Nvidia's 'Hybrid SLI' and I really liked it.
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a b å Intel
March 10, 2011 3:06:11 PM

End of June is longer than I wanted to wait, but if I wait for Bulldozer, it will have given Intel time to settle down their chipset issues, mobo makers time to integrate features, and otherwise provide justification for choosing Sandy Bridge, which quite frankly I find missing right now. Even my lowly unlocked 740BE is handling my apps and games without issues.
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March 10, 2011 3:09:10 PM

Well as impressive as SB is, I'm kind of glad to be missing out on this first outing. In a couple years hopefully they'll have quick sync native on all motherboards. As for SSD caching, that is awesome. But being a person with an SSD already, I guess it's not useful for me. Although it would probably still be cool to have a portion of the SSD available for caching.
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March 10, 2011 3:13:15 PM

I have to disagree with the decision to use Enhanced mode instead of Maximized. From my understanding of the SSD caching it is a NON-VOLATILE solution and therefore would not pose any more risk of data loss then if you were to run an SSD by itself. I would hope that this review gets updated with the setup in Maximized mode as it seems that there would be some more gains to be realized in overall performance.
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March 10, 2011 3:37:50 PM

TeraMediaIs it possible to split an SSD so that part serves as a boot drive (e.g. just 25 GB or so), and the remainder serves as an SSD cache for a normal HDD? This would solve the problem of the slow boot speed with the SSD cache drive approach, while affording the benefits of dynamically-allocated cache space for program and data files. With Intel Matrix Storage, you can use part of each of several drives to form a RAID array, and use the remaining part for a different array - possibly with a different type. Can that type of thing be done with Intel RST and an SSD for both boot drive and caching?


I'm pretty sure that's exactly why you have the option of using the entire SSD or just a portion for caching during the setup. This would mean you could use a portion of your larger and faster X25-M for caching AND as a boot drive.
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March 10, 2011 3:49:26 PM

itlnstlnefI have to disagree with the decision to use Enhanced mode instead of Maximized. From my understanding of the SSD caching it is a NON-VOLATILE solution and therefore would not pose any more risk of data loss then if you were to run an SSD by itself. I would hope that this review gets updated with the setup in Maximized mode as it seems that there would be some more gains to be realized in overall performance.

I have to agree, why would you be at any more risk of losing data in Maximized mode if all the data is non-volatile? If your system loses power, the data is no more at risk than it would be if your SSD was your OS drive.

It would be cool to see how one of the Intel SLC drives performs as a cache device.
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March 10, 2011 3:53:37 PM

installed xp on a 4gb ssd,with some trimming it takes up 800MB. Adding to that some basic programs, and one serious program which is 1,2GB in size, and my XP is very happily cruising below 2,7GB on a 4GB SSD!

Windows 7 32 bit home edition with no xp legacy support fits nicely within 5GB on an 8GB disk.

If you per se need to have the ultimate edition with legacy support, install ms office, and some vantage benchmarks,as well as several games, I can understand you'll need more than a 40GB SSD drive.
32GB is the bare minimum for normal users. A 40-64GB is perfect for most.
Need more space?
Learn to keep your computer clean and in order!
Documents,video's, and audio files can all go on an external HD if necessary.
For the not-so-multimedia-fanatics, a simple 8 GB SD card can host almost anything they need, and costs next to nothing.

I don't get these guys that say they NEED a 128GB SSD for just running windows! It's just a stupendously stupid claim,and just shows you know very little of computers!
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March 10, 2011 3:58:39 PM

Same reasoning you would run a dedicated physics card with your Nvidia or AMD card, for more performance. You have the graphics on chip not being used, might as well make use of it.
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March 10, 2011 4:04:02 PM

also, the caching seems to be only active AFTER booting the OS, since the drivers need to load first.
Most users will want their OS to start up fast,as that is one of the most time consuming processes on a computer.
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March 10, 2011 4:14:25 PM

ProDigit10also, the caching seems to be only active AFTER booting the OS, since the drivers need to load first.Most users will want their OS to start up fast,as that is one of the most time consuming processes on a computer.



Technically the OS needs to load the driver in order to boot, so Caching benefit would start right from the moment the OS begins to load (i.e. Starting Windows logo)
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March 10, 2011 4:52:44 PM

Just run 40 or 80Gb SSD with your Windows in it and you don't need any stupid caching.
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Anonymous
March 10, 2011 5:00:48 PM

So, could you (and would there be any increased performance) run 2 7200rpm drives in RAID 0 array and have a small SSD for caching? Or would the RAID 0 performance be good enough to preclude the SSD cache?
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March 10, 2011 5:03:42 PM

Finally, the real 1155 platform will emerge in May. I'll wait.
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March 10, 2011 5:18:36 PM

cadderWHY DON'T YOU PUT THAT DATA IN YOUR ARTICLES? Very few of your readers have any clue what the results from your test software mean, but everybody understands a stopwatch.


Hi,
It's in the story :) 
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March 10, 2011 5:45:26 PM

So, will you be able to use the Integrated GPU on the CPU with a discrete video card???
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March 10, 2011 5:52:00 PM

ern88So, will you be able to use the Integrated GPU on the CPU with a discrete video card???


Yes. If the discrete card is native, the integrated graphics handle Quick Sync. If the integrated graphics is native, the discrete graphics gets "virtualized."

In no situation do you use the integrated graphics for 3D--unless you run without Virtu entirely. The whole point is that the add-in card is much better than anything Intel can do.
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March 10, 2011 6:21:25 PM

I think I will wait for some more reveiws on this . I am looking forward
to seeing a 2011 chipset reveiw.
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March 10, 2011 6:40:40 PM

To SSD cache or to RAMDisk, that is the question... Do desktops need this virtu(e)? ;-)
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