Intel Z68 Express Chipset Preview: SSD Caching And Quick Sync

Benchmark Results: PCMark Vantage, Boot-Up, And File Copy

The performance of an SSD and a hard drive serve as the ceiling and floor in PCMark’s overall HDD suite. You’ll notice, though, that the first run on the cached configurations is actually slowest of all. However, it takes just one repetition of PCMark to demonstrate the gains made possible using the technology. And given a cache of up to 64 GB, there’s a strong chance that the information you access most often will end up resident on the SSD.

I didn’t graph out every single sub-test from the HDD suite, since they all demonstrate a similar trend. Basically, you get performance slightly lower than a baseline hard drive-only run at first, as the system writes to both SSD and HDD. Then, subsequent accesses come from the SSD, facilitating significantly better performance.

The Maximized cache setting makes its most pronounced difference in the Vista startup benchmark. But we maintain that it’s not worth risking data loss to use the write-back setting.

Read performance from Intel’s X25-V is one of its strengths, and we see the App Loading test push the upper limits of what this SSD can do on its own. Naturally, the first run with caching enabled doesn’t give us any performance benefit, but by the second run through Vantage, we see a pretty solid performance increase.

The effect of caching on boot-up is, unfortunately, pretty minimal. The bare SSD is the benchmark to beat—everything else is roughly equivalent to a Seagate Barracuda XT on its own.

Intel’s documentation claims that caching helps read and write performance. But in Enhanced mode, you’re writing to the cache and hard drive simultaneously, so you’ll really only ever realize improved read performance.

It doesn’t help that the budget-oriented SSDs that’ll be used for caching aren’t the fastest. Intel’s X25-V boasts 170 MB/s reads, but its sustained sequential writes are a paltry 35 MB/s. The Barracuda’s maximum outside-diameter data rate of 138 MB/s gives it a distinct advantage.

That advantage plays out in our file copy benchmark, where we copy a 7.79 GB folder full of files containing the World of Warcraft game to the same drive. This happens fastest on the Barracuda. Incidentally, when we move the folder over to a configuration consisting only of the X25-V, the copy operation takes significantly longer.

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  • James296
    interesting read
    2
  • aliened
    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
    0
  • compton
    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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  • cangelini
    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...
    0
  • masterofevil22
    waiting for Bulldozer...
    4
  • Crashman
    Excellent Work, Mr Angelini! Now it's my job to make sure the motherboard manufacturers follow through!

    -Your Adversarial Colleague
    0
  • haplo602
    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.
    -1
  • Crashman
    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".
    0
  • Anonymous
    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.
    0
  • cangelini
    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.
    0
  • SpadeM
    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.
    1
  • Crashman
    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.
    0
  • wribbs
    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.
    0
  • silverblue
    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.
    1
  • valuial
    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
    1
  • Crashman
    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?
    1
  • marraco
    You can get some benefits of SSD caching by doing different RAID setups between a SSD disk and a partition on magnetic disk.
    0
  • mrmotion
    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.
    0
  • lradunovic77
    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.
    -2
  • lradunovic77
    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!
    0