HP says no to Intel's Turbo Memory

Company calls new flash memory module a poor value and says it limits flexibility.

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.

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