With the introduction of the Z68 chipset, Intel added a few new features – one of them being Smart Response Technology. SRT allows users to add a solid state drive to be used as a read/write cache for their mechanical HDD(s). Intel allows for up to 64 GB of space to be allocated as a cache. This space is used to store recently completed reads and writes. Items in the cache will perform similarly to an SSD-only setup. Once the cache becomes full, the oldest stored action is replaced. Intel asserts that large reads and writes (e.g. file transfers, virus scans, etc.) are ignored in order to keep the most useful items in the cache. As a quick performance benchmark, boot times can be reduced from ~50 sec. on a mechanical HDD, to ~30 or so via SRT.
To complement this functionality, Intel is releasing the SSD 311 Series. This SATA-3Gb/s uses SLC not MLC NAND which equates to improved write speeds and greater longevity, but is available only in 20GB capacities. One benefit of sticking to the 311 is the fact that SLC will not fragment as quickly as MLC, while being randomly written to and read from. Nevertheless, all SSD+HDD combos are supported by SRT, not just those involving the 311. The 311 should retail for approximately $110 (remember SLC is much more expensive than MLC).
The setup allows for two different modes: Enhanced, and Maximized. Enhanced immediately writes data back to the mechanical HDD, meaning it is most beneficial during reads. Maximized writes back gradually, which benefits performance the most, but could potentially result in data loss, were the SSD to fail before writing back the data.
In my opinion, this technology is quite valuable, and will have even more potential once it is implemented in other chipsets. One major advantage is simplicity for the end-user. Many users would prefer to not have to manually manage what is saved to each drive, worry about space issues, etc. Also, it seems this would benefit gamers a good deal, since games can eat up quite a bit of space if you have to allow for room for their full installation size on a SSD. SRT may be more reasonable, at least given the current price of high-capacity SSDs.
So, when would you use each drive setup – a standalone HDD, a HDD + SSD boot drive combo, a standalone SSD, a HDD + SRT SSD combo?
Also, what drive and what capacity would you pair with a SRT setup, the 311 or a different drive?
A likely comparison/competitor that comes to mind when discussing this functionality is the hybrid SSD setup offered by drives such as Seagate’s Momentus XT series. What are the advantages to each?
Which mode would you use (Enhanced/Maximized)?
Would you consider buying a SSD with a capacity larger than 64GB (the max cache supported) to use the remainder as a separate drive letter? This would ensure that the items in the remaining space would never be kicked out of the cache.
What features/functionality would you like see in future driver updates?
Given that SSD Caching is software based, why would Intel have chosen to only enable it in the Z68 and spurn early adopters?
Do you expect this to be adopted in other chipsets in the future? More Info
From what I've seen it's still too slow to be useful. Also, I see that they are addressing the limited writing capabilities of SSDs but those of us who don't want to burn through our writes will probably not go this route either.