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Inside the new MBP: Intel's Santa Rosa processor

Arguably the most significant upgrade in the the new MacBook Pros announced yesterday is the inclusion of the new Mobile 965 chipset (a.k.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

Arguably the most significant upgrade in the the new MacBook Pros announced yesterday is the inclusion of the new Mobile 965 chipset (a.k.a."Santa Rosa") from Intel. The new chip (whose marketing name is Centrino Pro) has a number of features over the previous silicon:

  • Improved graphics
  • Better wireless with support for the draft version of 802.11n wireless networking
  • Better battery life
  • Turbo memory that supplements the standard hard drive with NAND flash for faster booting.
  • Automated security and IT management features that will allow corporate system administrators to repair and protect employees' notebooks remotely, inspecting faulty PCs or adding software patches over wireless links.

While the improved battery life is something to get excited about, sadly it doesn't appear that Apple is taking advantage of two of the most significant benefits of the new chip: Turbo memory and Automated security.

Intel's Turbo Memory (a.k.a. Robson NAND Flash caching) embeds flash memory onto the motherboard to allow for up to twice as fast boot times, speed improvements for frequently accessed files and better battery performance. However, some OEMs are beginning to doubt the effectiveness of the technology. CNet's David Meyer posted a piece ("HP says no to Intel's Turbo Memory") that questions its effectiveness:

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." ... 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."

Could Apple do it better? With Leopard perhaps?

And what about the automated security features being touted on the Intel Centrino Pro Web site?

Now available for the first time in notebooks, Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT) provides new levels of security to your notebooks with an advanced combination of software technology and hardware-based features:

  • Quarantine infected notebooks
  • Protect against many classes of malicious attacks
  • Block incoming threats proactively
  • Ensure that critical applications are always up and running

Let's hope that Apple has implemented some of the new chip technology in Santa Rosa when we see the "feature complete" demo of Leopard at WWDC next week.

An excellent article with lots of other information on the Intel Santa Rosa processor can be found at TrustedReviews.com.

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