So, what about real numbers? At first we checked out the performance of our Smart Response array in both available modes: Enhanced and Maximized, using a simple synthetic CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 test. Smart Response array was built using Intel SSD 311 caching drive and a conventional Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 with 320 GB storage capacity. For comparison purposes we performed the same tests with Intel Smart Response technology disabled, where we only used a single Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 HDD or one OCZ Vertex 2 SSD with 120 GB storage capacity.
The results illustrated all the major features of Intel Smart Response Technology very clearly. Enabled caching raises the read speed to the SSD level, while the write speed increases only when we enable caching write-back.
At the same time it is important to understand that the results of the synthetic CrystalDiskMark test do not represent the whole situation fully. This test uses five test runs to generate the final score. Therefore, Smart Response cache gets successfully filled after the first run and after that the test is actually checking the performance of the caching SSD, which already contains all the necessary data. And the results on the graphs are the average of four test runs with SSD-caching and one “trial” run when all the data is taken from the HDD and then transferred to the cache.
Therefore, the use of synthetic benchmarks for Intel Smart Response testing is not very illustrative. The results will depend on the fact whether the benchmark executed completely random data requests or repeats the same route over and over again. So, we decided to also use some tests that measure the actual performance in real applications. In this case we compared the results obtained after the first “trial” run, when the performance of Intel Smart Response is practically the same as that in a system with a single HHD without any additional caching.
PCMark 7 test shows most definitely that Intel Smart Response plays its role very well. By adding a fast SSD cache, the system equipped with a traditional HDD really speeds up to the level of a platform with a large solid-state drive in it.
Besides the results of the disk benchmarks we also ran a few tests from the SYSmark 2007 suite. This suite gives us a better idea of the overall platform performance, which can be observed in real applications and tasks.
The results speak for themselves. Replacing a HDD with an SSD is a good way of speeding up your system. This measure improves the system responsiveness, load programs faster and opens files quicker. However, you may achieve a similar effect by enabling Intel Smart Response. At least you will be able to speed up access to frequently used programs and files, which in the end will translate into the same positive experience for the user.
At the same time it is important to understand that 20 GB of the disk cache space offered by Intel is quite enough to successfully speed up the average mainstream system. However, if you constantly work with a large number of diverse programs and apps, we would strongly recommend using a larger SSD than Intel SSD 311.