Wireless networking support has always been a key ingredient to the Centrino mix, dating back to its introduction four years ago. With Santa Rosa, Intel made its 4965AGN PCIe wireless solution a part of the Centrino platform. The 802.11n wireless solution isn't anything revolutionary as we've seen other N solutions used in notebooks, although Intel is confident that its solution has better range and sensitivity than its competitors. We're working on confirming Intel's claims but have not been able to do so given limited time with our Santa Rosa platform. There's a clear improvement compared to Intel's 802.11g solution used in the previous generation Centrino platform, but that is to be expected.

Intel has put marketing dollars behind its 802.11n wireless solution with the Connect with Centrino campaign. The idea is that if you see this logo on any 802.11n product, specifically wireless routers and access points, that they have been specifically tested with Intel's 802.11n solution and should work just fine. While the problems with 802.11n components aren't nearly as bad as they were when the first .n solutions arrived, the extra peace of mind never hurts.

Hello Mr. Robson:

Intel's Robson technology has been an integral part of Santa Rosa, but one we've been skeptical about for quite some time. Robson, which is known as Intel Turbo Memory, is 1GB of NAND Flash and a flash controller on a mini PCIe card bundled as an optional part of Intel's Santa Rosa Centrino platform.

Intel Turbo Memory is designed for use with Windows Vista, in particular it is designed to accelerate disk operations through the use of Vista ReadyBoost, ReadyDrive and SuperFetch.

We covered ReadyBoost and SuperFetch in our Vista Performance Guide; ReadyBoost uses NAND Flash primarily in the form of USB flash drives to cache the system pagefile. The idea being that instead of swapping to/from disk when you run out of memory, you can use relatively quick to access NAND flash to hopefully improve performance. By nature, ReadyBoost makes the biggest difference on systems configured with less memory than they actually need. As we found in our tests, ReadyBoost made a difference in performance but only in very memory limited situations, and often times the performance improvement wasn't enough to make the system any more usable in those situations. With Intel Turbo Memory, 512MB of the 1GB of memory on the mini PCIe card is reserved for ReadyBoost - the remaining is used for ReadyDrive and SuperFetch.

While ReadyBoost is designed for systems that have less memory than they need, SuperFetch is useful if you have more memory than you need. SuperFetch is Vista's intelligent prefetching that looks at application usage and pulls frequently used data into main memory to improve things like application launch time.

ReadyDrive is the only element of Windows Vista that we have yet to test because it requires the use of either technology like Intel's Turbo Memory or Hybrid Hard Drives. ReadyDrive uses half of Intel's Turbo Memory (512MB) as a cache for disk I/O, much as a CPU's L2 cache works to cache frequently used data from main memory. With frequently used data stored in Intel's flash memory, the main hard drive can power down thus saving power, and performance could be improved given the relatively low latency access of flash memory.

Intel's Turbo Memory is enabled through BIOS and driver support. Once installed, the driver allows Intel's flash to interface directly with Vista's ReadyBoost, ReadyDrive and SuperFetch mechanisms - telling the OS to write directly to it instead of waiting for an external USB device. With tight BIOS and driver integration, Intel claims that prefetching can happen immediately upon power up which should in theory reduce system startup time from a completely off state.

Vista can also do some neat things with Turbo Memory thanks to the fact that the flash is internal to the system and stands no chance of being removed while the system is running. When a notebook goes into hibernate mode, data is written from main memory to disk and the system is eventually powered off. With Turbo Memory, the system can write the system state to Intel's flash and recover directly from it instead of waiting for the disk to spin up and pulling the data that way. In theory, Turbo Memory will not only reduce boot time but also the amount of time it takes to go into and come out of hibernate mode.

Santa Rosa CPU and Chipset Turbo Memory Testing


View All Comments

  • Lord Evermore - Saturday, May 12, 2007 - link

    Mobile sockets are just oh so cute!

    Just what we needed. A nice new proprietary memory card that you can only get from an OEM included in a system. What actual interface type does it use? Can the amount of the flash that's reserved for ReadyBoost or ReadyDrive be changed? Seems kind of stupid if not, a total waste of half the flash you paid for. Even with 1GB completely available, in some cases that will be useless for speeding up hibernation since it might not be enough to store the system state.

    For that matter, if you've got the money to be buying the flash, which is guaranteed to be more expensive than a 1GB flash thumbdrive, wouldn't you be buying with enough memory to start with, and possibly also getting a hybrid hard drive that already had flash (possibly more than just a piddly 1GB)? Really I still just don't see a point other than to sell more flash memory. Put more DRAM into the drives, they need it. With enough memory in the system, you already have a disk cache in memory that can be used for the often-needed data, which is faster than even the Flash. One of the big things with Vista is how it always seems to be using so much memory, and this is exactly the reason.

    IS 802.11n ever actually going to be finalized? Or have they contracted beta-fever from software developers? And dang, that laptop maker is serious about keeping that wireless card in place.

  • coolme - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    The intel turbo memory module uses PCI express x1 interface.

    The major thing about flash is that it's non-volatile meaning that it can be used for boot-up and/or hibernation sequences.
  • jediknight - Thursday, May 10, 2007 - link

    There were really three things I wondered about this platform:
    1) Performance of robson
    2) Performance of GMA X3000
    3) Battery life improvements

    None of which were answered in this one.

    I second the suggestion to hold off on reviews until you have something to really.. review.
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, May 10, 2007 - link

    The power consumption figures are certainly interesting. The only difference between two systems is the video cards and the CPU, and I doubt the Geforce 8600M consumes less idle power than the Radeon X1600. The power consumption figures indicate there may be a battery life increase of 25-30%. Reply
  • rexian96 - Thursday, May 10, 2007 - link

    Many questions posted above & none answered. Well, I'll add mine. Are these new T7300 processors compatible with current socket 479? Did I miss it or the article never talked about it. Reply
  • Freddo - Thursday, May 10, 2007 - link

    On the second page; "Despite the minor changes to the CPU, Intel has introduced a new socket pinout with Santa Rosa, meaning that these new Merom chips won't work in older platforms and vice versa." Reply
  • TA152H - Thursday, May 10, 2007 - link

    What a worthless review.

    Why even bother with it? If Intel is too arrogant to provide something worthwhile, why do them the favor of reviewing their item. Am I missing something here? They send an item with two big changes - a new IGP and a new solid state memory that is supposed to be the greatest thing since Cheddar Cheese, and neither can be reviewed properly. It's either the height of audacity or stupidity, and I don't think they're stupid. My guess is they just want press for their items without having to reveal too much, assuming there is anything rational about it. I don't get it.

    I wouldn't do them the favor of even reviewing stuff like this. They get exposure, albeit not particularly positive, and they give essentially nothing. If they want to play weird games, let them play it alone. Sending something like this is just arrogant.
  • mongoosesRawesome - Thursday, May 10, 2007 - link

    How does linux support the Robson technology? Does it see half the memory as part of the hard drive? Reply
  • solipsism - Thursday, May 10, 2007 - link

    Is it 8GB or are we stuck with the same 4GB limitation as in the 945PM chipset?
  • solipsism - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    It's still a 4GB maximum

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