Everything is getting faster, the news tells us that everyday. Processors are flying, however hard disk drives are still very sluggish in comparison and we haven’t seen any real performance gains in 5 years. Drives have gotten larger in capacity but the disk is still spinning at the same rate of 7200 rpm or 10,000 on average. The widening gap between processor performance and hard drives now means your real world results could very well be gated by the hard drive. If you bought that special of the week chances are the corners were cut with a lower performing hard drive which can make a noticeable difference in pc performance tests and in actual daily use.
Microsoft Vista has a new feature to help with the gap called ready boost but we haven’t seen a benefit in terms of performance and don’t believe it is worth the hassle to deploy. There is also an issue that many USB memory sticks will not meet the demand of ready boost so it fails to configure and load. This is not a microsoft issue but an issue of the USB memory stick manufacturers using slow chips. We have seen very wide differences in USB memory stick performance.
Another interesting scenario to help with these issues is hybrid drives but manufacturers are reluctant to put much into this because INTEL has created a “Turbo Memory” model that will be supported by laptop and other motherboard manufacturers. This promises to over come the USB issue limited to 480mbit on the buss with PCix performance of 1000mbit. The memory will also be designed for the high write demand whereas USB drives by design are really intended to be light weight data storage.
Unlike USB flash drives the INTEL turbo memory should give a battery life kick to notebooks as the throughput is optimized and will reduce the demand on the hard drive. This has several pluses in that the hard drive works less, creates less heat means the fans work less and you have a triple play for improved battery life without losing performance. In fact you should experience a boost compared with systems not utilizing INTEL turbo memory capable systems. Most newer laptops will have a mini-PCI slot ready for your Turbo Memory.