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Intel's TurboMemory (aka Robson): Taking Another Look

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Apr 12, 2001
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Apple's recently upgraded MacBook Pro lineup features many new or upgraded features, but one feature many expected that is not present is Intel's TurboMemory (aka Robson NAND Flash Caching).

For review, Intel's TurboMemory is a technology that embeds flash memory onto a motherboard to allow for theoretically twice as fast boot times and speed improvements to frequently used files/applications as well as increased battery life.

However, TurboMemory's effectiveness has come into doubt recently, with benchmarks showing little to no performance improvement (1, 2). As such, HP today announced that it will not be including the technology on any of its Centrino Pro notebooks. From ZDNet:

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."

One of the key upgrades today was a boost to 2GB of RAM standard across the MacBook Pro line.

While it is premature to categorically say that Apple is not going to use TurboMemory in any of its machines, the speculation that had surrounded Apple's use of the technology may be less grounded than initially thought.
 

DMann

macrumors 601
Jan 13, 2002
4,001
0
10023
Turbo Memory

Although this hybrid could potentially offer speed improvements.... I'm looking forward the the 'Thin' notebooks with pure flash storage :)
 

andiwm2003

macrumors 601
Mar 29, 2004
4,346
406
Boston, MA
my guess is that apple knows how nand flash prices will develop over the next year;)

and that means they know that everybody who needs long battery life and a fast HD can buy a 128GB solid state disk for $250-$300 with much better performance than robson. robson is dead.
 

Zwhaler

macrumors 604
Jun 10, 2006
6,905
1,256
Hey, we got a free RAM upgrade in the base MBP, so be happy. Don't worry people, move along.
 

Salasm

macrumors regular
Feb 1, 2006
165
0
surrounded by mods
TurboMemory's effectiveness has come into doubt recently, with benchmarks showing little to no performance improvement

for review, given the details, what is the point of this story, since the point of debate has already been answered. in essence, we've essentially come full circle, as pointed out in the story.

in addition, what happened to pop the cherry dude's post? to further comment, it was the highlight of this, otherwise non story, thread.
 

retroneo

macrumors 6502a
Apr 22, 2005
720
92
I'm sure it would have required Leopard anyway, which is delayed. Hence no Turbo memory.

Plus Apple will be an early adopter of Solid State Drives - no adopting Turbo Memory will make the jump from HDD to SSD more striking too.

By the time Leopard is out, Solid State Drives won't be far from being rolled out in the laptops so Turbo Memory will be skipped entirely.

A little bit of a shame though, it could help with the super slow 4200rpm 200GB and 250GB drives they offer.
 

GFLPraxis

macrumors 604
Mar 17, 2004
7,115
418
I'm curious, though, if the relatively minor performance gains could just be because Windows and other current OS's haven't been written to use it...

If Leopard was programmed specifically to know how to cache itself for rapid boot times, might the performance gains actually be significant?
 

Emrtr4

macrumors regular
Feb 6, 2006
186
0
I am slightly dissapointed by the lack of Turbo memory, but I am really waiting for a few more upgrades before abonding my 2003 1.5ghz 2 gigs memory powerboook G4. Hopefully by the time I purchase my new MBP (8-12 months) I will be able to get at least a 64 gig Flash solid state drive for less than $500, maybe by this time next year 128 gigs for less than $500 (which is very possible.)
 

007bond4321

macrumors member
May 9, 2007
82
0
So, has there been any word yet on how much faster the new MBP's boot? :eek:

Ya - My understanding is that Turbo Memory really helped with boot times. Only like 256mb cut boot times in half. The current chip is 1gb.

IHMO Intel kinda missed the boat with Robson. They should have pushed it to market a year ago. (I know, no OS support, expensive flash memory, etc. perhaps in a PCMCIA/Expresscard format?) I still would've liked to see it in the new MBP, but it won't stop me from getting one.
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,546
1,196
I never reboot. Macs can actually sleep and wake :)

Fast caching of common files sounds great, but what I REALLY want flash storage for is INSTEAD of the HD. No moving parts, longer battery life. I'd pay a lot for that. (Which is good, because that ain't cheap yet.) Ultraportable with flash storage please! :)
 

asterizk

macrumors member
Oct 24, 2003
96
5
Sarasota, Florida
If Leopard was programmed specifically to know how to cache itself for rapid boot times, might the performance gains actually be significant?

If people actually shut down their laptops, maybe... but honestly, I like just closing the lid and letting it go to sleep. Then again, if this tech could enable a hibernate mode it would definitely be worthwhile...
 

maxp1

macrumors regular
Feb 12, 2005
204
0
I guess put it on the list of things that sound like good ideas but actually aren't. Like jumping your skateboard off that two story roof.

Man, technology-wise it sure does sound good though. Oh well.
 

ely

macrumors newbie
Oct 26, 2006
15
0
Can't recall exactly what Robson encompassed, but wouldn't it be almost as beneficial to stick an Expresscard flash drive in there? Or is it more than just fast access to persistent data? Wouldn't benefit OS X so much until it's optimized, but Vista should pick up on it.
 

Anonymous Freak

macrumors 603
Dec 12, 2002
5,358
729
Cascadia
One of the flaws is that this technology is hard to test. Partly because Vista's implementation has a lot of randomness and 'learning' involved.

For example, I have a 2 GB RAM MacBook Pro. When I run Vista without a flash drive plugged in, it is plenty fast. If I plug in a 4 GB flash drive, and enable "Ready Boost", I see a small speed increase in application launch times. If I leave the flash drive plugged in for hours, and close and re-launch the same application repeatedly during that time (Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer are the three I saw the most use,) the app launch times go down each time. Eventually, Word loads nearly instantaneously. And it's not 100% plain-old caching, either, because this speedy loading survives a reboot, which normal drive caching wouldn't.

It takes a while for the OS to figure out what SHOULD be put on this extra bit of flash memory, and speed up the system. Unfortunately, it's also the kind of thing that's hard to get easily repeatable benchmarks from.
 

daschor

macrumors newbie
Nov 5, 2006
29
0
Apple ahead of the curve

Glad to see such a complete update to the MacBook Pro. Very tempting, but I'll wait until my PowerBook is a little more out of date.

Flash memory prices and capacity are improving at an exponential rate, so I expect that Apple saw little value in the interim solution offered by Robson. If the article is correct, Apple did everyone a favor by simply adding RAM to the standard config instead of spending money on fancy new doohickeys.

Flash based notebooks will not be a big hit until the capacity issue is fully equalized. As soon as a 256GB flash chip arrives, expect Apple to jump ship on hard drives in portables. From that point forward the capacity and power consumption of flash will never be threatened by platter-based media again.

Sudden Motion Sensor, you will be missed. Or maybe they can leave that in just for fun? :D
 

macinfojunkie

macrumors regular
Jun 4, 2005
248
0
Ya - My understanding is that Turbo Memory really helped with boot times. Only like 256mb cut boot times in half. The current chip is 1gb.

IHMO Intel kinda missed the boat with Robson. They should have pushed it to market a year ago. (I know, no OS support, expensive flash memory, etc. perhaps in a PCMCIA/Expresscard format?) I still would've liked to see it in the new MBP, but it won't stop me from getting one.

I'm sorry to say, but it sounds to me as if you are saying that your sailboat might have been fast enough to win the Americas Cup, but you were unlucky enough not have sailed through the Doldrums. The fact of the matter is that no computer manufacturer, be they Apple, Dell, HP, Sony or whatever are going to include a technology that incurs a high cost of manufacture but delivered a low level of value add to the the product - and in Apple's case eats into their high margins. "End Users" understand faster prox, faster FSB, More/Faster RAM, Larger Ram/faster GPUs. Robson just did not - it seems to me - bring enough to the table to justify the expense.

/mij.
 

rlreif

macrumors regular
Jul 13, 2003
142
0
Vancouver
I never reboot. Macs can actually sleep and wake :)

Fast caching of common files sounds great, but what I REALLY want flash storage for is INSTEAD of the HD. No moving parts, longer battery life. I'd pay a lot for that. (Which is good, because that ain't cheap yet.) Ultraportable with flash storage please! :)

so would one of those lexar expresscard ssd's do this?
is it the same thing that windows vista can do with these?
and can os x do that? or if not will leopard be able to?
id love to put one of those cards in my mbp, if it can do anything... maybe wait for leopard, and by then they will have 32gb or more...
 

kcmac

macrumors 6502
May 22, 2002
462
1
Who boots their laptop regularly? Only time I do it is after an upgrade that requires it. Open from sleep is instantaneous!

I am interested in what anyone knows about image quality on the LED screen. Is it better, brighter, etc? Is matte or glossy better? I do like the glossy on my son's MacBook.

How good is this new video card?

I think I would get the low end 15" and upgrade the hard drive.
 

localoid

macrumors 68020
Feb 20, 2007
2,447
1,737
America's Third World
One of the flaws is that this technology is hard to test. Partly because Vista's implementation has a lot of randomness and 'learning' involved.

For example, I have a 2 GB RAM MacBook Pro. When I run Vista without a flash drive plugged in, it is plenty fast. If I plug in a 4 GB flash drive, and enable "Ready Boost", I see a small speed increase in application launch times. If I leave the flash drive plugged in for hours, and close and re-launch the same application repeatedly during that time (Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer are the three I saw the most use,) the app launch times go down each time. Eventually, Word loads nearly instantaneously. And it's not 100% plain-old caching, either, because this speedy loading survives a reboot, which normal drive caching wouldn't.

It takes a while for the OS to figure out what SHOULD be put on this extra bit of flash memory, and speed up the system. Unfortunately, it's also the kind of thing that's hard to get easily repeatable benchmarks from.

Even the best of today's USB Flash drives run as slow as a clogged drain. Robson isn't operating from a slow USB port. It's an apple vs. an orange.
 
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