When I found out about this concept initially through an ad, and more recently reminded by a post in the forums, I decided I would give this a try. On paper it seemed like a technology that blends the benefits of the Z68 chipset without the need for re-installing the OS and without being forced into using that awful Intel rapid storage driver. With that said, let see if the results lived up to both the hype as well as my expectations.
The card is nicely packaged and the quality of the build is very good. It comes with two decent Sata cables and a driver disk. When I plugged the card in and attached drives, everything was detected right away with no problems. The card itself is automatically recognized by the default windows driver so any drives attached to it will recognized on boot and in Windows.
Once you install the hardware in a PCI Express slot and attach the cables, all that is left is to install the software. Although the card and drives are detected, to configure the caching you must install their software. Once you open the application for the first time you are prompted with a creation wizard to configure the card and drives. You basically have two modes, Safe and Capacity. The safe mode (essentially a mirror) does not effect the data on the mechanical drive and the capacity mode is like a raid stripe and joins the SSD with the spindle drive. Safe mode allows the SSD to be removed and/or replaced at any time without effecting the data, and the capacity mode will destroy your data if the SSD is removed. Overall a very easy and straightforward installation. To get the most performance out of it you actually have to specify the folders you want to cache which is something I did not like.
Alright so lets cut to chase. The first test is the Sata 3 Western Digital 2T FAEX (Sata 3 Black Caviar) drive by itself which was already installed in this system and contained a bunch of data. As you can see the drive is very very fast on its own.
For the SSD, I used an old OCZ Agility 120 Gig that I had kicking around for the test. To establish a baseline, here are the results as a standalone drive before being attached to the Hybrid Card. The results are pretty impressive for a gen 1 SSD.
Now for the actual test. As you see from the test with the hybrid card installed and the spindle and SSD attached, the performance curve changes quite a bit. The write speeds cut in half, but the read speeds increase significantly. Now I will caveat this by saying that these test where run out of the box. The software is designed so that you can optionally select which folders are cached. This does bring the speed up a bit, however I did not consider that as if I were going to run it that way, why bother with this Hybrid card at all and just run the native SSD. My expectations was that it would act as a true cache and not force me to select which folders I wanted the extra speed from. This is not necessarily a real bad idea just not what I wanted.
The bottom line is that although this technology looks good on paper, for my needs it does not seem to be nearly as effective as the Z68 solutions and most certainly not as a standalone SSD. As a matter of fact it was downright disappointing. If you have a very slow drive it may help quite a bit especially in an area where read speeds are critical. For me, this card did not live up to my expectations at all and I will be sending it back and wait for something different.