When friends and family come to us for system building recommendations, we hit them hard and fast with enough information to make their heads pop. One of our most ardent suggestions is to mix solid-state and magnetic storage, installing performance-critical apps on the SSD (we’re fond of the 120 GB capacity point) and using the hard drive for everything else. Truly, that's the right way to balance performance and storage space at the best possible price.
SSDs are still expensive, though. And for many folks, the prospect of a big solid-state drive and an additional 1 or 2 TB disk is just too pricey.
Back in May, we reviewed Intel’s Z68 Express chipset, which included a feature called Smart Response Technology that employed a small SLC-based SSD as a transparent caching device. Algorithms in Intel's driver track data usage and cache the most frequently-read information on the 20 GB drive. The next time it's requested, the system pulls it from the SSD, rather than disk. Consequently, read operations have the potential to speed up quite a bit.
Because data has to stay synchronized between the hard drive and SSD, writes don’t enjoy nearly as much benefit. So, we maintain that independent solid-state and magnetic drives are still the way to get the most predictable from your storage subsystem.
If an 80 GB or larger SSD is out of your budget range, though (remember you still need an additional hard drive to go with it), or if you simply don't want to manually manage where data lives on your system, caching through Smart Response Technology is a perfectly viable way to improve performance beyond what you'd see from a hard drive on its own.
We've had plenty of time to play with the technology since our original review in May (and before that, our preview back in March). Now we have a quartet of Z68-based platforms to give away to lucky Tom's Hardware readers, compliments of Intel.
If you've been planning a Sandy Bridge-based build, this could be your lucky day.
4 x Intel Core i5-2500K processors (the -2500K won our coveted Recommended Buy award back in January when Sandy Bridge first launched).
4 x Intel DZ68DB Z68 Express-based motherboards
4 x Intel 20 GB SSD 311 drives, based on SLC NAND flash
Four randomly-picked winners will get one CPU, one motherboard, and one SSD of their own. Twenty additional runners-up will receive two cases of Talking Rain SPARKLING Ice water to last you until the weather cools down a bit.
Here's what you need to do:
- Read the rules
- Fill out our SurveyGizmo entry form
- Wait for us to announce the winners