June 4, 2007 10:59 AM PDT

HP says no to Intel's Turbo Memory

Hewlett-Packard will not include Intel's Turbo Memory technology in any of its Centrino Pro notebooks, the manufacturer has revealed exclusively to CNET sister site ZDNet UK.

Turbo Memory is an embedded flash memory module, formerly known by its code name Robson. Turbo Memory is designed to take advantage of Windows Vista features like ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive, which improve a notebook's start-up time and performance by boosting the computer's existing RAM. ReadyBoost can already be utilized by inserting a memory card or USB stick into a Vista-based computer, but Turbo Memory is being touted as a way to take advantage of the feature without having to add external media.

Turbo Memory is an optional feature of the Centrino Pro platform which Intel supplies to PC manufacturers and which includes a processor, chipset and wireless combination. Most manufacturers are announcing Centrino Pro notebooks at this week's Computex exhibition in Taipei.

Nearly all of the major notebook vendors--including Acer, Dell and Toshiba--will include Turbo Memory in their new machines.

In contrast, HP claims that Turbo Memory represents poor value and that it limits flexibility. Speaking to ZDNet UK, HP's senior category manager for business notebooks in the U.K. and Ireland, Steven Gales, said the company decided to omit Turbo Memory as a result of internal tests. "We have done quite a bit of research on this [to see] whether there is any true value for our customers, rather than taking what is available and putting it in," he said.

Steve Doddridge, senior notebook technology consultant for HP Personal Systems Group for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), added: "We looked at the baseline system performance of a standard system (with 1GB of RAM) without any Robson or ReadyBoost type of technology added, and we then compared that to the same system with Robson, and the same system but just with an (equivalently sized) SD card or USB stick."

Using Intel's benchmark test for evaluating the performance of Turbo Memory, HP's team did see the improvements in performance that Intel had predicted. However, because 1GB of Turbo Memory is effectively split into two--with one half serving ReadyBoost and the other ReadyDrive--adding a 512MB SD card or a 512MB USB stick to the baseline system resulted in the same improvements.

The greatest improvement came as a result of adding more actual RAM to the system. "We added 1GB of RAM and saw a much higher improvement in performance compared to using any of the ReadyBoost or Robson technology," Doddridge said. He added that: "If you have enough system RAM in the system already, ReadyBoost doesn't give you a lot."

HP's decision was also based on the fact that ReadyBoost can only use one memory source at a time, which means that having Turbo Memory--which comes at a maximum size of 1GB--integrated into a notebook stops the customer from using, for example, a 2GB USB stick to boost the computer's memory.

"You would see an improvement if you increased the amount of memory of the SD card or USB stick you use for ReadyBoost," said Doddridge. "A customer can have more flexibility with an SD card or USB key because they can choose for themselves (when to add it and) pick the price point at which they want to add that technology. We're not forcing them into paying X and being locked into 512MB."

Andre Carvalho, HP's notebook marketing manager for EMEA, also pointed out that a 1GB Turbo Memory module costs about $50 to put into a notebook. A 512MB SD card, which offers more or less the same memory boost, costs around $10.

Intel defended the Turbo Memory technology, telling ZDNet UK that the technology's 1GB cap was based on "engineering choices" and it was up to manufacturers as to whether they wanted to use it.

"The work we have done has shown it has an amount of power saving and performance increase," an Intel representative said.

A representative for the manufacturer Asus, which will manufacture notebooks with Turbo Memory, told ZDNet UK that unspecified "technical issues" had delayed the introduction of Turbo Memory in most manufacturers' notebooks, despite Centrino Pro having been launched almost a month ago.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
EMEA, Intel Centrino, SD card, flexibility, improvement

9 comments

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right decision
I applaud HP's openness in this matter, and I might ad that
I believe their decision is the correct one. While this technology
might have been viable a few years back when flash prices were
high, I believe this is no longer the case. I think this is a case of
both the software (Vista) and the hardware (intel) becoming out
of date before it even hits the store shelfs.
Posted by Randys2cents (81 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Indeed.
AMD and Linux, all the way. Although, as Windows can only run on the cutting edge, and Linux runs on everything (read: doesn't encourage e-waste), we may see slow adoption of some of these features in our community. Still, I must admit I find them unnecessary. Instead of adding another screen and all that, just make sure your OS can come out of hibernation really fast, and go back in quickly as well. Less complicated, wider benefits, all that.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Link Flag
Maybe, maybe not
I know that I was talking with an Intel rep was mentioning that there was one diference between Robson and Readyboost though. Vista will not use Readboost during bootup because it is not fixed media. As the Intel rep joked, "Imagine if you had a portion of your OS on removable media and you accidentally disconnected it?" Can you imagine the BSOD?

Robson on the other hand works in bootup as well as during regular operations. Furthermore, you also have to compare the relative speed of the Turbo Memory module to the typical flash drive. One thing that is neat is that you can preload a certain amount of the OS in non-volatile memory. Normally a good chunk of the boot time is copying close to a gig worth of dlls into RAM. With a typical HDD reading at about 60MB/sec it is going to take almost 20 seconds just to read all of that stuff. If you could have most of that stuff preloaded imagine the load times. That being said for general operations you wouldn't benefit too much.

Most typical operations wouldn't benefit too much provided that you had sufficient RAM. Once you have things cached up there would be little benefit to the TurboMemory.

I can understand not putting it on typical machines, but I think that on some of the higher end machines you would want to put this at least as an option.

Furthermore, this story seems questionable. I had an HP rep noted that they were going to release a 20" laptop in third quarter this year that would have eSATA, a Radeon HD, TurboMemory, and the Santa Rose chipset. This story may only relate to the European models. The article does not mention whether this was the US or the European division. I know that HP has different models in the US versus Europe. Anyone too familiar with HP's stuff knows that. Therefore, this story may have ZERO relavance to the US reader of this article. Just my 2c.
Posted by BigGuns149 (790 comments )
Link Flag
Bad Choice
Joe consumer looks at two laptops with the same configuration one with Turbo Memory and one without. If the pricepoint is close, they will pick the one with Turbo Memory because no one is going to inform them at the sales counter that they won`t be able to use there own memory card later that would give them more performance.

HP's laptops, none having turbo memory will be looked at by the consumer as inferior. Luckily for HP common sense dictates that Turbo Memory will die a certain death quickly but still it will hurt HP's bottom line and they might even have to change there decision.
Posted by georgescott (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
new exciting name change
I agree. Of course HP always has the option of a cool name change.
For example: The new HP NITRO. This would even the playing field
for joe consumer. You can come up with a dozen other names that
would also do the trick.
Posted by Randys2cents (81 comments )
Link Flag
Great Decision, HP!
HP is right on the mark with this decision. Intel's turbo memory is another case of the Intel Marketing machine trying to cram questional technology down the throats of consumers by wrapping it up in the Intel Brand. Kudos to HP for not following on this one like so many lemmings, er, I mean PC manufacturers in the industry.
Posted by GeoffJohansen (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Good Move HP. Just because it's intel...
doesn't make it the right decision, ie;RAMBUS, Pentium4 NetBurst, Itanium over an integrated 32/64 bit x86 chip (until AMD was selling the heck out of them). Just because Intel says it's great that doesn't mean it's worth the extra dollars. I'd much rather spend my money on system RAM than "readyboost". "driveboost" will be shipping with most drives so why increase the base cost of a system just because Intel says it should. Only the likes of Dell fall for that because they are still Intel's lapdogs.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I applaud HP's move and am glad to have recently purchased a Pavilion notebook as I use my 2 gb flash drive for ReadyBoost, works great!
Posted by Exult (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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