ASRock supports Smart Response caching on X79

When Intel introduced its ultra-high-end LGA2011 desktop platform last November, the associated X79 chipset was a bit of a disappointment. We were expecting loads of additional Serial ATA and SAS ports; instead, we got the same combination of two 6Gbps and four 3Gbps SATA ports used by Intel’s mainstream chipsets. The X79 also lacked support for Intel’s Smart Response Technology SSD caching scheme, a feature that had been available on the Z68 chipset for quite some time, and one that’s currently supported by several other 7-series chipsets.

In the year since the X79’s release, the chip has failed to grow additional I/O ports. (Those ports have popped up in the server-oriented C606 chipset, which some motherboard makers are deploying on high-end desktop boards.) However, it seems to have finally inherited support for Smart Response caching. ASRock is claiming to be the first motherboard maker to support SRT on an X79 motherboard. With a firmware update from ASRock and the latest drivers from Intel, the X79 Extreme11 should allow folks to configure their SSD as a cache for mechanical storage.

The release notes for Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology drivers mention support for SRT on X79, and they’re available for anyone to download, making ASRock’s “world’s first” claim seem a little bit dubious. The drivers have been available since last month, so perhaps there’s something to the required firmware update. We’ve asked Intel to confirm whether firmware tweaks are necessary for SRT to work on X79 and whether its own DX79SR motherboard now supports the SSD caching scheme. The other big-name motherboard makers have also been pinged about their offerings. We’ll update this post with additional details as they come in.

Comments closed
    • Prototyped
    • 7 years ago

    Presumably the firmware update is so you can boot off a SRT set. After all, the RST drivers are only going to kick in once the bootloader, Windows kernel and boot drivers (including the RST drivers themselves) have been loaded off the drives by the firmware. Which would need an update to understand the SRT drive set.

    Same reason why motherboard RAID involves driver support (to allow Windows to understand the on-disk RAID format) along side firmware support (to allow the firmware and bootloader to access the RAID format at boot time). There is no RAID controller or IOP on most enthusiast boards, it’s just firmware + drivers.

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    i would have preferred ssd RAID TRIM support that other x7x boards already have. its too bad the x79 is being neglected.

      • Ryu Connor
      • 7 years ago

      Intel says RAID TRIM support is coming to the RSTe drivers.

    • Game_boy
    • 7 years ago

    This isn’t a TR article. Where’s the comparison to Apple’s Fusion Drive?

    • Walkintarget
    • 7 years ago

    And its about time the X79 offered what the Z68 has had for years. I own a Gigabyte Z68 iSSD board with a built in mSATA slot and included Intel ‘Larsen Creek’ 20GB SSD used as SRT.
    Keep in mind this was bought when 60GB SSDs were still $120 and up, and the setup of this board offered the best bang for the buck and did not limit my boot partition to a measly 60-96GB partition.

    I paired the SRT with 2 WD 1TB Blacks in RAID0, and if the program I open is in the SRT cache, it runs nearly as quickly as an SSD. I also have a nice fat 200GB C: drive that won’t fill up easily.

      • tootercomputer
      • 7 years ago

      It will be interesting to see where SRT goes. I use it (60G Mushkin SSD caching a single 1TB Black Caviar) on an ASRock z68 system I built last spring with a SB i5, and in daily use, it runs much like my Lynfield system with a 120G SSD OS drive. But I suspect as SSDs get bigger and cheaper, SRT will be a technology that drops out. But in the meantime, it is a nice feature. I h ave had absolutely no problems for, what, 6 months now.

        • swaaye
        • 7 years ago

        SRT is essentially a homebrew hybrid HDD and I think we’re going to see more hybrid HDDs in the future. I think this may make SSDs superfluous for most people. Even the current Seagate Momentus XT drives are surprisingly fast.

        I have a 128GB SSD in use as both OS drive and a 20GB SRT cache partition caching a HDD. It took some effort to set this up but it works very well. It’s nice to use that extra SSD capacity since my OS+Programs setup only uses about 1/3 of it.

          • Waco
          • 7 years ago

          In my experience the SRT tech works a LOT better than a drive-level cache. The OS knows a lot more about your data patterns than a blind drive which allows SRT to provide better caching.

            • swaaye
            • 7 years ago

            How do you know the OS has a part in the caching? Is that documented somewhere?

            From what I’ve read, SRT is caching logical block addresses, the same as how the Flash in a Momentus XT works. SRT has major advantages though. Any somewhat recent SSD is much faster than the single SLC chip in the M-XT, and the SRT cache is 20 or 64GB whereas M-XT is 4 or 8 GB. You don’t get massive bandwidth from a M-XT, but it still offers a SSD-like experience for typical PC use.

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