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New Technologies in Real Life

In fact, the new mobile Santa Rosa platform compared with the previous Centrino Duo (Napa Refresh) version doesn’t look like a significant step forward. Especially, if we look at the notebooks that do not use integrated graphics but external graphics accelerators (like the models we picked). It is true, at first glance they only acquired increased CPU bus frequency and draft WiFi 802.11n support.

However, if we take a closer look at these solutions, we will see that Santa Rosa platform boasts a few other things that may boost its performance. They are a new Intel Turbo Memory component and Intel Dynamic Acceleration technology, which is none other but “legalized” overclocking tool. So, before we move on to complex testing of our participating platforms, let’s see what these new technologies have to offer in real applications.

Intel Turbo Memory

The technology looks pretty attractive and it is expected to increase the general performance and the battery life of the system thanks to HDD reads and writes caching. In other words, Turbo Memory becomes an alternative to Flash drives with ReadyBoost technology and hybrid hard drives with ReadyDrive support.

One of our test notebooks, Lenovo Thinkpad T61 was equipped with a 1GB Turbo Memory module, so we had a great opportunity to check out this technology in practical experiments.

Despite common sense, Turbo Memory module doesn’t show itself in the system as any type of storage device. That is why you can only use it as intended – namely as a disk cache. You will need to install a special driver built into Intel Matrix Storage Manager.

Turbo Memory control panel doesn’t offer too many settings options: it can only enable and disable corresponding devices.

We tested the performance of our test notebook with enabled and disabled ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive technologies in SYSMark 2007 test that emulates different real work scenarios.

 

Turbo Memory Off

Turbo Memory On

Overall

100

97

E-Learning

112

107

 Video Creation

80

78

Productivity

99

95

3D

113

111

Strange as it might seem, but the tests results showed the general system performance dropping because of the Intel Turbo Memory module. Although this result can be explained quite logically. NAND Flash memory used in Turbo Module does have low access time but features lower bandwidth than most contemporary hard drives. Especially, than the Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 with 7200rpm spindle rotation speed and 8MB buffer that is installed into our test notebook platform. That might actually be the reason why Intel Turbo Memory technology is not that efficient in real applications.

However, this module may still speed up the system in a few situations. Namely, it helps speed up the OS booting and applications loading and reduce the time the system needs to quit Hibernate state. The table below shows the time measurements we obtained for all these operations:

 

Turbo Memory Off

Turbo Memory On

Windows Vista booting

77 sec

73 sec

Quit Hybernate

23 sec

21 sec

Microsoft Office Word 2007 loading

13 sec

11 sec

Microsoft Office Excel 2007 loading

8 sec

6 sec

Adobe Photoshop CS2 loading

15 sec

13 sec

The improvement is not very dramatic, but it is noticeable. The results of these tests indicate that Turbo Module does have some positive effect on the system performance after all.

The battery life in case Turbo Module is involved also increases. The results obtained in MobileMark 2007 that measures the notebook battery life under various types of workload prove it clearly. The table below shows our results obtained in common applications, during DVD viewing and reading.

 

Turbo Memory Off

Turbo Memory On

Productivity Battery Life

176 min

176 min

DVD Battery Life

130 min

138 min

Reader Battery Life

185 min

197 min

Of course, Turbo Module again does have some positive effect. Although the improvement is not always noticeable, and unfortunately, is not very impressive. The maximum improvement we have detected equaled 12 minutes during text reading.

However, when we get the most complex scenario emulating the user’s work in various applications, there is no battery life improvement whatsoever: the Turbo Module technology appears absolutely useless in this case. This can be explained by the fact that the advantages of Turbo Module technology come from its ability to disable the system hard disk drive during long-term idling. That is why the advantages of the disk flash-cache only pay off only when the HDD is accessed rarely and irregularly.

By the way, Intel recommends reducing the HDD spindle halt time to the minimum possible value of 1 minute when testing its Turbo Module technology. We, however, performed the tests with default settings when the HDD shuts down after 5 minutes of idling.

So, it turns out that it is pretty hard to draw any definite conclusions about the efficiency of the Turbo Module technology for Centrino Duo platform. Although OS boot-up and applications loading do occur faster and the battery life does increase during certain types of work, the advantages are hardly dramatic. Especially, since the overall performance of the mobile system may reduce a little in this case. So, I would characterize this technology as pretty arguable at this time.

 
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