Over a month ago Intel finally unveiled its fifth and most recent update to the Centrino platform, codenamed Santa Rosa. 

Architecturally, Santa Rosa didn't offer much over its predecessor, Napa.  The new platform bumped the FSB frequency to 800MHz, as well as introduced a new lower power FSB state (400MHz) to help keep power consumption in check while raising the peak performance bar.  CPU clock speeds improved slightly due to the higher FSB, the fastest chip going from 2.33GHz to 2.40GHz, but overall performance hasn't been improved noticeably.  Santa Rosa was the second Centrino platform to add 802.11n support, as its predecessor (Napa) was refreshed to include support for the new wireless standard.

The one unique feature that Santa Rosa offered that no other competing mobile platform, Intel or not, could bring to the table was a technology called Turbo Memory.  An on-motherboard flash card, Intel's Turbo Memory is designed to act as another layer in the memory hierarchy, caching data where possible and improving performance/battery life in notebooks.  A version of Turbo Memory will also be released for the desktop, but we're most interested in what it can do for notebooks.


In our Santa Rosa preview we found that Turbo Memory did very little in fact.  Performance didn't improve (in some cases it got worse), we couldn't find any measurable reduction in power consumption and in the end we found absolutely no use for the technology.  Notebook makers echoed our sentiments, with both HP and Sony declining to use Intel's Turbo Memory in their Santa Rosa lineups, but Intel insisted that there was an upside to the technology.

We met with Intel engineers to understand a bit more about Turbo Memory and why we weren't able to see any positive results out of it.  Intel's explanation and the resultant lightbulb that lit in our heads, led to the production of this article.

Understanding Turbo Memory: It isn't as clear as you'd think
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  • casket - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link

    "If you add more memory to laptop, you use more power, emit more heat, etc"
    -- Using this logic... adding ReadyBoost (which is memory) would also use more power, emit more heat, etc...

    The key here is that either readyboost or memory uses less power than a spinning hard drive. I would suspect you get the same power savings with more memory as well.
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link

    I dont know about anyone else, but I am starting to resent Intel using town names of the area I grew up in as a kid. You would think they could be a little more original.
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link


    The only issue with WorldBench is that each test has a reboot before and after it runs, which makes the benchmark less real world since you don't normally reboot your notebook every 6 minutes; that being said, it's still worth a look.

    I'd say that if it reboots every 6 minutes or so to re-run the test, it isn't worth a look and is totally useless as a notebook baterry-life benchmark as it in now ay reflects real-world usage, and all results using it should be discarded. Surely a better benchmark could be found than that. Unfortunately, removing the WorldBench results make Turbo Memory seem next to useless, which is understandable as it is likely to have been mainly the reduced HD activity when rebooting that the Turbo Memory was helping with.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link

    And yet, the mocked up WorldBench 6 test shows a rather impressive 12% increase in battery life. It seems that the startup/shutdown process at the very least gets a decent benefit (in terms of battery life) from Turbo Memory. That indicates that the power savings from putting the hard drive to sleep are definitely tangible.
  • redly1 - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link

    I would like to buy this and test it out with my tablet PC. Anyone know where I can buy one of these mini-PCIe cards?
  • skaaman - Monday, June 25, 2007 - link

    Here is the part# NVCPEMWR001G110

    You can pick them up for under $35
  • BD2003 - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link

    The problem I have with the article is that in general, they are still running benchmarks that do not reflect how an actual user interacts with their laptop, and do not really reflect the benefits that turbo memory/readydrive/readyboost would have.

    PCMark is supposed to give a number as to how fast your computer can run a barrage of application tests - but looping it over and over does not even come close to reflecting an actual usage pattern.

    Now granted, they need a *repeatable* test to have numbers that are comparable, but that does not necessarily speak of the validity of the numbers.

    For the average office laptop, you'll be running outlook, word, excel etc - the amount of data actually being loaded and saved is VERY small vs. large amounts from a benchmark, and in that very common scenario, the drive would rarely have to spin up, and the battery savings would probably be much closer to the ideal of 30 mins than what their benches showed.

    I do agree with them on their final conclusion - 1gb is just not enough for more than basic office tasks. In order for this to really take off, to be able to cache an entire movie, they're going to need cache on the order of 4gb. Then I think it'll really make a difference battery/performance wise.

    And they really, really need to fix the driver issues.
  • BikeDude - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link

    If the movie is 4GB, a 1GB cache means (ideally) you will spin up the hard drive four times to load the next GB. I doubt you'll see much benefit from a 4GB cache in such a scenario.

    That said, the test didn't do any read ahead tests. All the descriptions so far seem to say the technology caches stuff already read. I.e. if streaming a movie from the hard disk there's nothing that will suck it all into a cache... (grrrr, this reminds me that my Hauppague TV tuner streams everything to a 7MB file which it then plays back -- works fine as long as I don't hit the same drive with heavy IO)
  • sorr - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link

    i'd just use another Gigabyte of memory i.e, 2 GB in total and hybrid drive for now, then after 2~3 years just use the SSD when it comes down in price and goes up in capacity
  • SilthDraeth - Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - link

    Page 4 mentions Windows XP. I thought I read the article, but maybe I am missing something. I thought it was purely for Vista, but XP is mentioned several times.

    Please explain, because I am confused. Thanks.

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