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Intel Smart Response Technology - Technical question

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August 7, 2011 1:22:44 AM

Newb here, I've done plenty of minor upgrades to computers in the past, but never a full on build. Hopefully this won't bore too many people, but I've been researching this way too much not to share. I've really put a lot of thought and careful planning into this build, mostly because while I knew the basics about a build, the devil is in the details. I think I've put together a decent system, but you can't judge that if you don't know what I'm building the system for......

It's my wife's new computer. No, she's not a gamer, she's currently plodding along on a 2004 vintage laptop, it's been upgraded to max out it's memory, replaced the battery a few times, and of course had hard drives replaced. It's time she had something with some horsepower. Now, that said, it's not that she needs anything massive, the idea here is to get enough under the hood that it continues to do the job for the longest period possible, and then have room for upgrades to get some more years out of it. Hard to say, but I'm hoping 10 years isn't out of the question. She has a rather massive audio book collection, and runs conversions on various files to get them at her preferred bit-rate and format, currently the conversions take about an hour apiece, the poor laptop runs it's CPU fan pretty hard at times, keeping the dust out of it is a challenge.

So, here's my list of parts, mostly in the order that I selected them.....

Intel Core i5-2500K Processor 3.3GHz 6 MB Cache Socket LGA1155

SilverStone LC13B-E Aluminum/Steel ATX Media Center/HTPC Case

ASUS P8Z68-V PRO LGA 1155 SATA 6Gbps USB 3.0 Supported Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2400 Motherboard

Crucial 8GB Kit (4GBx2), Ballistix 240-pin DIMM, DDR3 PC3-12800 memory module

Crucial 64GB m4 2.5-inch SATA 6GB/s

Noctua 6 Heatpipe 140mm SSO Bearing Quiet CPU Cooler NH-C12P SE14

PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II 650W High Performance SLI CrossFire ready Power Supply

Western Digital 1.5 TB Caviar Green SATA Intellipower 64 MB

Lite-On LightScribe 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive IHAS424-98

nMEDIAPC ZE-C218 Black Panel 3.5" All-in-one USB Card Reader with USB 3.0 & e-SATA Ports

SILVERSTONE SDP08 3.5 to 2 X 2.5-Inch Bay Converter

AeroCool EasyWatch - Fan speed controller with alarm

Windows 7 Professional SP1 64bit (Full) System Builder DVD 1 Pack - Microsoft Software; CD-ROM

Cooler Master BladeMaster 80mm PWM High Air Flow Silent Case Fan R4-BM8S-30PK-R0
Cooler Master BladeMaster 92mm PWM High Air Flow Silent Case Fan R4-BM9S-28PK-R0
Cooler Master Excalibur 120mm PWM Case Fan - Barometric Ball Bearing R4-EXBB-20PK-R0

Now, here's my logic and thoughts on the parts.... please feel free to make suggestions, I haven't actually clicked "buy" any anything but the Crucial parts yet.

I started by selecting the processor. At first I kinda liked the idea of the AMD Fusion A8 unit, while the graphics was nice, the processor power was pretty low compared to Intel's offerings, I quickly came to the conclusion that a Sandy-bridge processor, with thoughts that an Ivy-bridge processor could be used somewhere down the road, made sense. The i5-2500k as you know is unlocked, and has the slightly more powerful HD3000 graphics engine. I'd go for the i7-2600k, but that's another $100, and I was trying to maintain a budget of $1000, which I missed anyway. I figure if I'm going to replace the processor before the end of the life cycle of the PC, why spend that much more now. Perhaps I should drop down to an i3-2120 ?

The motherboard follows of course, and the Intel Z68 chipset sure has a lot to offer the Sandy Bridge processors, since I'm buying from scratch, I don't really have any old parts I have to use, and the built in overclocking seems a good match. I stepped up the model to the Asus V-Pro board primarily for the extra eSATA and USB3.0 headers, as well as the extra pair of SATA III connectors on the motherboard. I don't have specific plans, but having a couple eSATA ports and a quartet of USB3.0 ports just made sense for the extra $30, since I likely can't buy a card later for less than $30. It was a close call with other brands, but Asus seemed to be a safe choice. I can't imagine when 32GB of RAM won't be enough, but that day will come.

The case I selected is actually for a HTPC, Silverstone. I never heard of that brand before, but I was pleasantly surprised at the apparent quality, and wide range of options. I spent hours trying to find the perfect case at a reasonable price. The LC13-E got the nod, under $100, plenty of room for drives, dual optical drives, dual empty 3.5 bays, and room for lots of fans if and when required. Also room for quite a few hard drives, which as I'll get to, will be part of the package. She didn't like the unit being under the desk, and we always end up with our monitors elevated 6" off the desk to get better ergonomics, so it makes sense to me to put a desktop form factor under the monitor, then everything is right there, especially with all the front panel connections it has, we won't have to reach around to the back all that often.

I'm not planning to install the stock CPU cooler that comes with the i5. I found the lack of simple spec data that measures what will actually work for a heat sink frustrating. It's a 95w chip, why can't I just find a 95w heat sink ? I know, it's not that simple, but I sure wish it was. Thankfully sites like Toms Hardware test stuff for us, though every site seems to come up with different results. That heat sink looked like it would work for my current i5, and what ever the Ivy Bridge unit might put out in the future. The Noctua NH-C12P SE14 got the nod, but the Cooler Master GeminII S was on my short list. I also liked the Silverstone NT06, but performance seemed lacking. I also liked the NT01-E because I could blow the hot air directly at the case exhaust fans, but it too seemed to lack actual cooling performance. The 135 mm height limit wasn't impossible to work with, but an extra 30mm sure would have been nice.

The power supply I expected to be a simple pick, it too was a bit more complicated, so many recommended lists, many of which are old and out of date, but I think I found a decent one that will have power headroom for the future, and the right balance of connections to match the motherboard. I was hoping for modular to keep the case tidy, but again trying to keep the price down, I settled on the PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II 650W. I don't want this thing to be a power hog, it will likely not get turned off very often. I couldn't really find any of the "green" units that came recommended, or didn't cost quite a bit more. I'm lucky that the case is set up such that the PSU draws in outside air, and exhausts it out as well, instead of drawing in hot case air, even if that does help air changes in the case.

As for the title of the thread, that's where the real question is for me. I would like to take advantage of the ISRT, hence the SSD (and the price tag for this rig now pushing $1200). I plan to set up the SSD with two partitions if required, about 32GB for the OS, and 32GB for the ISRT, since both need about 20GB minimum. We currently have a Synology Disk Station with a pair of 1.5TB drives in a Raid 1 config where she stores all the audio books and other files, since her laptop has a meager 160GB drive. I've seen enough hard drive failures in my time to not want to deal with the loss of that much data, especially purchased materials. Obviously the computer needs more than a 64gb drive, and I was going to stick the a 1.5 TB drive in, set up the ISRT and call it a day. But then I got to thinking about data reliability, and thought if I stuck all 3 drives (3 x 1.5TB) into the PC itself, since it can support Raid 5, she'd have the same total 3TB capacity, but with better data protection in place.

So here's the real question. Can I put three drives into a Raid 5 config, and use the ISRT on that volume, or is it limited to a single disk ? I looked through the manual with the motherboard, but it's vague, and shows you have a drop down to select a single volume, but says "disk" in the text.

The other stuff I'm adding includes a card reader (it wasn't easy finding what appears to be a quality card reader), and a temp monitoring display, and keep both in the 3.5" bays. The nMEDIAPC line seems to be the best option, since they list Windows 7 and have updated with extras like eSATA and USB3.0, having those available on the front should be convenient in the future. The temp monitoring is mostly because I like to see what's going on. I don't like realizing the CPU is over heating because you notice the noise of the fan trying to cool it, these things seldom happen all at once, with proper temperature monitoring, you'd know what's going on much earlier, and of course since over clocking a bit is probably in my near future, temperature monitoring is a must. I know many of these things can be monitored by software, but the external will be easier for me to watch while the wife is using the rig, she doesn't tend to keep track of the details like temps.

Lastly you'll see a few extra fans on the list, I selected what looks to be decent PWM fans to install, I'm hoping that all the fans will run at the lowest settings and keep things cool with little noise, and the PWM fans can be plugged direct into the motherboard for full control, another thing I liked about the Asus Z68V-Pro board. 6 fan connections, 3 are 3 pin, and 3 are 4 pin, with 2 CPU fans and one case fan being modulated by the board, the others are fixed speed, but only 21 db if you believe Silverstone. The AeroCool EasyWatch fan controller is strictly for monitoring temperatures, and if I can pick up the tach signal I'll plug that in too, but it won't control the fans, the MoBo will. If anyone knows of a 3.5 inch bay device that shows 3 temps simultaneously, I've love to see it, especially if it doesn't break the bank.

The only thing I didn't spend hours researching was the optical drive. I'll save BluRay for another time, right now a DVD burner is more than enough. The LiteOn unit came up highly rated at NewEgg and Amazon both, so I added it to my cart.

I'm leaving off a graphics card for now, but fully expect to add one in the future. It's an easy add, and would likely be a modest unit like the Radeon HD 5670 I have in my own PC, low power use, decent performance at a reasonable price. I don't see ever installing two graphics cards, but it's capable just the same.

So what say you, the collective wisdom of the internet ? Have I hit my target on the build, even if I went a bit high on my budget ? I wanted to be at $1000, I ended at about $1200, but added the SSD unexpectedly to take advantage of the ISRT, and I stepped up the processor and motherboard more than originally expected.

Glen

And if I haven't already bored you enough, my own "rig", though I hesitate to call it that...

Dell Dimension E-521, AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+, 4GB ram, WinXP Pro, dual optical drives, card reader, 750GB main drive, 500GB secondary drive, XFX Radeon HD 5670, I had to replace the heat sink when I upgraded from the 3800+ CPU and managed to source some Dell parts that fit into the Dell only shroud. I added a couple of 3 speed fans at the back to pull a bit more air, and it runs idle in the 30's, and tops out in the low 50's.

Yea, I know, it's time for mine too, but I'll get a bit more from it before I go through this all again. I'll very likely build a similar PC as my wife's, but perhaps with a decent graphics card and I won't need nearly as much drive space. The last time I had a PC built to order, memory was $100 per MEG, and the 65mb hard drive was considered large, and sadly it cost 3x what this one will.

August 7, 2011 9:11:37 AM

Quote:
So here's the real question. Can I put three drives into a Raid 5 config, and use the ISRT on that volume, or is it limited to a single disk ? I looked through the manual with the motherboard, but it's vague, and shows you have a drop down to select a single volume, but says "disk" in the text.


I pretty sure you can't migrate the Raid 1 on the Synology Disk Station to Raid 5 on the Intel storage controller. you would have to back up the data and start a raid 5 from scratch, the copy the data onto the raid 5.



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August 7, 2011 11:42:46 AM

jerreddredd said:
I pretty sure you can't migrate the Raid 1 on the Synology Disk Station to Raid 5 on the Intel storage controller. you would have to back up the data and start a raid 5 from scratch, the copy the data onto the raid 5.



I assumed the same thing. Not on my list of bits is a 2TB drive that I'll move all the data to, then install the three 1.5 TB drives into the new computer and set up in a Raid 5, then I can move the data back.

After looking at the MoBo manual again, here's how I think I have to set it up:

First assemble the computer (minus the three 1.5TB drives to avoid possible windows setup issues), set up the BIOS, install Windoze onto the SSD, install the three 1.5TB drives, configure into Raid 5, move all the data onto the Raid volume, then implement the ISRT. Since ISRT has little benefit to write operations, why put 1.5TB through the ISRT.

The new question is.... is that the correct order, and do I need to partition the SSD prior to Windows install, or does the ISRT make it's own space on the existing partition as the BIOS screen shots imply? I'd rather not partition it if I don't have to, perhaps giving me flexibility is the size of the split later if desired.

Secondary question.... is a Raid, 5 a Raid 5 ? I could put the extra 1.5TB hard drive into the Synology Disk Station now, and configure into Raid 5 without loss of data. But can I move the 3x1.5 Raid 5 set into the PC and just tell the BIOS that it's a Raid 5 and it will preserve all the data ? I kinda doubt it, but since I have the open space in the Disk Station, and I could back up the data anyway, and try it.

Glen
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August 7, 2011 8:18:50 PM

Farnster said:
I assumed the same thing. Not on my list of bits is a 2TB drive that I'll move all the data to, then install the three 1.5 TB drives into the new computer and set up in a Raid 5, then I can move the data back.

After looking at the MoBo manual again, here's how I think I have to set it up:

First assemble the computer (minus the three 1.5TB drives to avoid possible windows setup issues), set up the BIOS, install Windoze onto the SSD, install the three 1.5TB drives, configure into Raid 5, move all the data onto the Raid volume, then implement the ISRT. Since ISRT has little benefit to write operations, why put 1.5TB through the ISRT.

The new question is.... is that the correct order, and do I need to partition the SSD prior to Windows install, or does the ISRT make it's own space on the existing partition as the BIOS screen shots imply? I'd rather not partition it if I don't have to, perhaps giving me flexibility is the size of the split later if desired.

Secondary question.... is a Raid, 5 a Raid 5 ? I could put the extra 1.5TB hard drive into the Synology Disk Station now, and configure into Raid 5 without loss of data. But can I move the 3x1.5 Raid 5 set into the PC and just tell the BIOS that it's a Raid 5 and it will preserve all the data ? I kinda doubt it, but since I have the open space in the Disk Station, and I could back up the data anyway, and try it.

Glen




frankly, I would ditch the ISRT all together. just use the SSD as your boot/APS drive. for you wife's stated uses it just doesn't make a lot of sense.

that would be a no on the disk station RAID 5, it most likely wipe every thing, unless you user manual shows a raid migration procedure.

food for thought: if the Synology Disk Station fails (or your MB RAID Controller) and you are set up in RAID 5, your data is lost until you get a compatible replacement. if it is just set in RAID 1 and the Station fails. the data can be easily recovered using a docking station or just by plugging one of the drives into a SATA port on your computer. this possible because the data is just mirrored on the drives and not striped across them like in RAID 5. this being said, I would just stick with RAID 1. I have all my wife's photo's on mirrored drives and then back up on a usb drive in the fire save and one at her mother's house. she an photographer and avid scrapbooker. she is paranoid about loosing her picks. she getting a fireproof 2TB drive soon as another backup.

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August 8, 2011 2:45:33 AM

The more I read about this technology, the more I realize how inconsistent the information is. It seems many of the reviews are getting old, and these things change. I found some reviews that said the system could only be used on a single drive, not a Raid array, but other reviews indicating it can be, and some of Intel's own documentation indicates it can be applied to a raid array.

The thing that I've seen come up is that the SSD has to be blank when you implement SRT, leading me to believe that installing the operating system on half of the SSD won't work, unless perhaps you create two logical drives for the system to work with, but to date I've not found one person who's considered or implemented that method.

One review indicated that it made no difference in boot up time, one of the things I was hoping to improve using the SSD, it would be a shame to install the SSD as the SRT device, and still have slow boot-up times. It would also be a shame to use the SSD just for the OS and not use the SRT at all.

Also, it just came to mind that the Raid array I'd be setting up are all SATA 3GB/s, only the SSD would be on SATA 6GB/s. I have 4 of each ports available, but two of the existing drives I'd be re-purposing are 3GB/s drives already, and green ones at that. If it does indeed stockpile frequently used files, it should make a huge difference in read speeds, though write speeds won't improve much if I don't use the Enhanced mode, which risks data if the power goes out (which seems silly since the spinning drive would have the same issue, but with less info buffered, less might be lost).

And while this is the primary hang up point in my build at the moment, I'm still interested in what everyone thinks of the hardware I've chosen. If anyone sees anything that looks out of place, please say something. I'd hate to install a crappy CPU cooler or power supply. I think I've selected good stuff that should last, I just don't know if it's a balanced system. I know for many here the graphics performance is a high priority, but this build isn't really about that, but I still want a good system as we're going to have to live with it for a while. I'm also likely to build myself one in a year or so when money allows or I find another need for this PC. The one thing I don't think I mentioned was why I selected Win7 Pro, it's the 16GB ram limit in Win7Home versions, since this board can support 32GB, I don't want to have to be installing a new OS just to max out the memory, especially given all the complexity it's going to have with the Raid array, SSD and SRT implementation.
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August 8, 2011 9:48:09 AM

Quote:
Also, it just came to mind that the Raid array I'd be setting up are all SATA 3GB/s, only the SSD would be on SATA 6GB/s. I have 4 of each ports available, but two of the existing drives I'd be re-purposing are 3GB/s drives already, and green ones at that. If it does indeed stockpile frequently used files, it should make a huge difference in read speeds, though write speeds won't improve much if I don't use the Enhanced mode, which risks data if the power goes out (which seems silly since the spinning drive would have the same issue, but with less info buffered, less might be lost).


Buy a UPS

Quote:
And while this is the primary hang up point in my build at the moment, I'm still interested in what everyone thinks of the hardware I've chosen. If anyone sees anything that looks out of place, please say something. I'd hate to install a crappy CPU cooler or power supply. I think I've selected good stuff that should last, I just don't know if it's a balanced system. I know for many here the graphics performance is a high priority, but this build isn't really about that, but I still want a good system as we're going to have to live with it for a while. I'm also likely to build myself one in a year or so when money allows or I find another need for this PC. The one thing I don't think I mentioned was why I selected Win7 Pro, it's the 16GB ram limit in Win7Home versions, since this board can support 32GB, I don't want to have to be installing a new OS just to max out the memory, especially given all the complexity it's going to have with the Raid array, SSD and SRT implementation.

nothing wrong with the part, they are all quallity. the PSU maybe a little overkill. I would opt for a Silverstone PSU with short cable set (500w has plenty of power for the build)

Silverstone short cable set:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
SILVERSTONE Strider Plus ST50F-P 500W
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Also, just because you can doesn't mean you should. Just because the MB supports 32GB doesn't mean you should populate it. most people will never even use 8GB's.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ram-memory-upgrade,...
even if you want to eliminate swap file usage. 16GB is enough. So stay with WIN7 Home Premium and save some money.

you also might want to post the SRT question in one of the other forums for more knowledgeable help.
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