The engineers responsible for Intel's Core Duo processor and Centrino Duo platform are a bit frustrated.  Years of hard work leading up to the platform's launch in early January was first plagued by the problem of availability.  Core Duo and Centrino Duo notebooks are still not widely available, and that will continue to be the case at least for another week or two.  Outside of availability, another even more troubling problem crept up - could it be that the Core Duo platform had a bug that significantly reduced battery life when paired with any USB 2.0 device?  The folks at Tom's Hardware originally uncovered the issue, when they noted that battery life on their ASUS Core Duo notebook dropped dramatically after merely connecting an external USB 2.0 device. 

How much more frustrating could things get?  After spending years of work on a new mobile CPU and platform, your customers still really can't buy them and the one thing that everyone remembers about them is that they have some sort of a bug that reduces battery life.  When you've spent a good deal of your design time trying to increase battery life, having a reputation of decreasing it before notebooks are widely available has to be a tough pill to swallow. 

However, the case isn't as open and shut as that; the original test data indicated that this was primarily a Core Duo problem, while Microsoft insists that the problem should affect all notebooks.  The other issue is that, until last week, every single Core Duo platform that we could get our hands on was pre-production.  There's also the question of whether or not the problem is caused by the actual USB device used.  And finally, amongst all of this debate and finger pointing, a temporary solution actually existed, just begging to be tested. 

We set out on investigating this issue immediately after it was discovered, but soon found out that it was a lot more complicated than we thought upon first glance.  We've spent almost the past two weeks performing non-stop battery life testing on five notebooks with up to 4 different USB devices, testing theories, trying to pinpoint exactly what causes this problem and testing Microsoft's fix.  What follows is the process that we went through in our labs when faced with this strange bug.

Starting at the Beginning
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, February 13, 2006 - link

    It's not a refusal to test, we're simply not sent any for review :) My next article will be a look at Core Duo vs. Turion performance on the desktop, but I'm still working on securing notebook review units. I would like to see if this issue does impact AMD systems as well, and to what degree.

    After the Core Duo vs. Turion piece, if we still haven't gotten a Turion notebook in house I'll just buy one for this comparison.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • havokprod - Monday, February 13, 2006 - link

    Does this problem surface with SP1?? Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, February 13, 2006 - link

    Microsoft has supposedly known about this since at least July 2005. WTF? Why hasn't this been fixed yet? Reply
  • scavio - Monday, February 13, 2006 - link

    It must have been difficult to mention and actually link to Tom's, I'm glad to see professionalism still lives.

    Very nice job on the article, it looks as though you guys went the extra mile and actually did the work to try figure out what was going on. I read the Tom's article a couple of weeks ago and although they uncovered an important issue they seemed to think they could try to get to the bottom of it with phone calls rather than getting their hands dirty and taking the time to test things themselves.
    Reply
  • hergieburbur - Tuesday, February 14, 2006 - link

    While the technical aspects of this article are intriging, I think there is too much editorial opinion added on top of that.

    I think the main reason they post the link to Toms is to dispute the claim Tom's supposedly made that this was a Core Duo issue. That is not what the original article stated, though several times in this article there are thinly veiled allusions to that supposed claim.

    I think that tech sites should spend a little more time focusing on themselves and the products they review, and a little less trying to show how they are better than the rest. That goes for all sites. You work speaks for itself.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, February 14, 2006 - link

    The reason for linking the THG article was to avoid taking credit for a discovery that I did not make. They were the first to stumble upon the issue and it was their article that inspired a deeper investigation, which eventually resulted in this article.

    The point of this article wasn't to show how we were somehow better, but to address the mischaracterization of the problem. The THG results show a tremendous penalty on their Core Duo notebook due to the issue but a relatively small penalty on their Sonoma platform; this article was designed to explain why that was and hopefully clear up the very common misconception that this is predominantly a Core Duo problem.

    The problem is that lots of people linked to that first article, and a very large number of those links incorrectly referred to the problem as a Core Duo issue based on the results that were originally presented. In reality, this problem appears to be nothing more than a Microsoft issue that impacts both Core Duo and Pentium M systems (I'm trying to figure out if it impacts Turion systems as well) but it was grossly mischaracterized in its public acception. I don't really care whose fault that is (personally I believe it's the fault of those who linked to the original article without thoroughly reading it), but I do care that the right information gets out there, which is what this article was designed to do.

    I learned long ago that the best you can do is to put your best foot forward and let the reader decide on their own how they feel about you. I'm not trying to shape anyone's view of another site through my work, I'm just trying to get the most accurate information out there.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, February 13, 2006 - link

    That's why Tomshardware sucks and Anandtech doesn't. That and other things *cough*bias *cough*.

    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, February 13, 2006 - link

    Be nice guys, if it weren't for the original THG article it would've taken much longer for this investigation to even happen. I just wanted to make sure that the bug was properly characertized and even more importantly, I want to actually see a fully functional fix from Microsoft that works even out of standby.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Zebo - Monday, February 13, 2006 - link

    Careful back in the day TOMs revealed many of intels buggy hardware (i820, MTH, crashing dualcores ...) Reply
  • bupkus - Monday, February 13, 2006 - link

    Look, I just read the intro and the conclusion, and I don't even own a laptop, but...
    [see subject], I do have an external hard drive and plans to get a laptop.
    Reply

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