HP rejects Intel's Turbo Memory

Company says its notebooks will not include Intel's flash memory module, claiming users would do better to increase their RAM or use external media.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor
HP will not include Intel's Turbo Memory technology in any of its Centrino Pro notebooks, the manufacturer has revealed exclusively to ZDNet.co.uk.

Turbo Memory is an embedded flash memory module, formerly known by its codename "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.

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

But, in contrast, HP claims that Turbo Memory represents poor value for money and that it limits flexibility. Speaking to ZDNet.co.uk, HP's senior category manager for business notebooks in the UK 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 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, adding 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 (£25) to put into a notebook. A 512MB SD card, which offers more or less the same memory boost, costs around $10 (£5).

Intel defended the Turbo Memory technology, telling ZDNet.co.uk that the technology's 1GB cap was based on "engineering choices" and it was up to manufacturers 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 spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the manufacturer Asus, which will manufacture notebooks with Turbo Memory, told ZDNet.co.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.

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