Final Words

When Intel launched its fifth revision to Centrino, we were left mostly disappointed.  It was the most lackluster Centrino launch we had seen since the brand's inception and it almost seemed like a platform that was released for the sake of coming out with something new every year.  The sole feature we had high hopes for was Intel's Turbo Memory, but we were left sorely disappointed when we couldn't even find a use for it.

Some OEMs have publicly lashed out at Turbo Memory, stating that it basically does nothing for the user experience, which for the most part echos our findings internally.  The most recent data we've put together shows that Turbo Memory can have a positive impact on battery life, however the tests that show the impact aren't as easy to come by.  And honestly, savings of 8 minutes when watching a movie aren't impressive enough given the additional cost of adding Turbo Memory to a notebook (expected to be at least $100 USD). 

The best results we have seen however show promise for Turbo Memory; greater than 10% increases in battery life, resulting in an extra 20 minutes of active use time are nothing to scoff at.  The problem is how often and likely these scenarios are to occur vs. SYSMark-esque situations where Turbo Memory does nothing for battery life. 

Based on our usage, we'd expect to conservatively see 5 - 10% increases in battery life on average for normal usage, including simply watching a movie.  The improvement is there, but it's not as dramatic as we'd like to see.  Today's investigation sheds a little more light on what Intel's Turbo Memory can do, and clearly it has potential. 

There are two vectors Intel can scale along in order to improve the effectiveness of Turbo Memory: size and software.  The size vector is simple; the larger the ReadyDrive cache, the more data you can put it in, and thus the longer the hard disk can remain asleep.  The software vector may end up falling into Microsoft's lap more than Intel's, but the idea is this: the more aggressive the prefetchers are that populate Turbo Memory, the more likely you are to gain power and performance benefits. 

Sony has publicly stated that at the last minute, Microsoft removed code from Windows Vista that would more intelligently populate the ReadyDrive partition in an attempt to get Vista out on time.  Whether or not this is true is up for debate, but clearly there's room for improvement here.  Vista's SuperFetch works quite intelligently and it would seem that tighter coupling (assuming some already exists today) between SuperFetch and Turbo Memory could yield even more positive benefits. 

On the desktop the benefits are even less clear, since shaving a couple of watts off of the total system power isn't as big of a deal.  There are potential performance implications, but we suspect that the ReadyDrive flash size needs to be increased dramatically and be far more aggressive in prefetching to generate real interest. 

We leave today with a more hopeful outlook for Intel's Turbo Memory, but it's clear that the technology is in its infancy.  We stand by our original conclusion with regards to the Santa Rosa platform, as it isn't one that you absolutely need to upgrade to, it is barely evolutionary by Intel's own standards.  Turbo Memory could be nice to have, but your mileage may vary.  We'd suggest waiting for the second revision of the technology, hopefully by the next Centrino launch in 2008 we will see larger flash sizes and more software optimizations for the technology.

What About ReadyBoost?
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  • Alyx - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    It seems readyboost only helps with subsequent reads rather than the initial read, so it makes no sense as to why it would help in the case of watching a movie because the data is never repeated. I guess it just keeps the drive from idling because its farther between reads.

    I think this would help a lot for students, when I sit in class for an hour or two taking notes I'm only using one program so theoretically it would never have to access the hard drive for the whole class time. If a student had classes back to back without a way to charge (which is often the case) this technology could make a noticeable difference.
    Reply
  • BigLan - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    It could help with movies if it's used as a read-ahead cache. Once the OS sees that the movie file has been read, it loads the whole of the movie into flash (or as much as would fit.)

    Also, if you're working in class with just word (or onenote) open, your hard drive should be pretty inactive anyway. Once the program is loaded into ram then the drive isn't read from. If you have an autosave feature turned on then that would hit the HD, but having the file on an external flash drive would get around that anyway.
    Reply
  • xanderman - Saturday, November 07, 2009 - link

    I have a 4GB Turbo Memory card installed, $65.
    I think the article could use a little update to reflect on the availability of faster and larger Turbo Memory cards at lower prices, to examine their overall effectiveness in this (newer?) format and pricing.
    I don't know if there was any performance boost, never did any benchmarks and all I've been doing is setting up this new computer, then install i-ram and continue customizations.
    I can tell you, however, that the installation was easy, one reboot, so the article is definitely way off in regards to installation, OUTDATED and UNRELIABLE.
    Glad I never beleived them n the first place and bought the card despite their opinion.
    Reply
  • casket - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    "However, adding 1GB of actual RAM won't improve battery life at all, and in fact it should reduce it slightly."
    -- What are the power requirements of Flash vs. Ram vs. Hard Drive?

    I would have liked to have seen Anand test the power benchmarks on the additional 1 GB ram as well.
    Reply
  • burnley - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    Wouldn't it be cool if the manufacturers could load safe drivers on something like this so when your mum gets a virus and you have to reload everything you don't have to either hunt for the driver disk, or hunt for the drivers online, just access them from an internal read-only drive?
    On-board network is great unless you don't have the motherboard driver disk and a fresh boot, then that loverly external USB flash drive is a godsend.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    Isn't that the point of these "hidden" hard drive partitions that so many computers have these days? Reply
  • burnley - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    Unless the hard drive fails, or you want to upgrade it, etc. Also that is only applicable on pre-built machines.
    A simple flash device with drivers could be put on add-in cards like graphics, etc.

    Only an idea...
    Reply
  • xsilver - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Obviously adding another GB of memory is more expensive than adding ReadyBoost, and in this case ReadyBoost can give you close to the same performance as adding the extra memory.


    quote:

    dditional cost of adding Turbo Memory to a notebook (expected to be at least $100 USD).

    1gb of ram can be had for a lot less than $100
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    ReadyBoost capable USB Flash sticks are available for something like $15 for 1GB, $24 for 2GB, or a whopping $40 for 4GB. Turbo Memory modules on the other hand are not merely a USB device that you plug in, so they currently cost more. Of course, there seems to be a healthy price premium for the technology right now....

    Adding a 1GB ReadyBoost device is cheap and easy. Adding 1GB of Turbo Memory seems pointless as it will cost more than 1GB of actual RAM. However, adding 1GB of actual RAM won't improve battery life at all, and in fact it should reduce it slightly. So, you're paying $100 for slightly improved performance along with potentially better battery life.
    Reply
  • BigLan - Thursday, June 21, 2007 - link

    It seems like an extra $100 for this stuff would be better spent on an extra battery for your laptop which would double the battery life (though you have to switch them out and recharge them.) You could probably also afford a 1 gig flash drive for readyboost. Reply

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