Print 19 comment(s) - last by ShapeGSX.. on Jun 10 at 9:40 AM

NAND shows up again

Intel is just months away from releasing Core 2 Duo processors for its mobile platform, but it is already showcasing mobile technology which won’t ship until the first quarter of 2007. When the upcoming Merom processor is refreshed next year, it will also debut with a new chipset, Crestline. With Crestline comes Robson technology. As DailyTech has discussed in previous articles, notebooks featuring Robson technology will have varying amounts of non-volatile NAND flash memory on the motherboard to help speed along the usual mundane operations in Windows Vista.

At Computex, Intel displayed two Dell laptops at its booth running an Adobe Photoshop script: one with Robson technology and one without. Unfortunately for DailyTech, at the moment we decided to play around with the demo machines on Thursday, the laptop with Robson technology failed to complete the tests after much prodding by us. The laptop without Robson technology, on the other hand was able to complete the demo without incident. It likely wasn’t a hardware issue, but more likely a software related issue caused by an overzealous Computex attendee deleting a file or two necessary to run the demo from the Windows desktop.

So even though we weren’t able to see the performance benefits first-hand, we are optimistic that the performance benefits will be quite appreciable once the technology hits store shelves. The built-in cache will allow notebooks to access system files faster and save power at the same time. What is not known though at this point is how the technology will complement notebooks with hybrid hard drives. Hybrid hard drives, like the one recently announced by Seagate, also place a stash of non-volatile NAND flash memory onboard to help with system performance in Windows Vista.

It’s interesting that all of these solutions with non-volatile NAND flash memory are starting to appear around the same time. Not only do we have Robson and hybrid disk/NAND drives, but we also have drives like Samsung’s 32GB Flash-SSD and PQI’s 64GB Flash-SSD drives. NAND flash memory makers must be very happy indeed over what will transpire for the next few years as far as sales are concerned.

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Let's SEE it
By peternelson on 6/9/2006 2:36:08 PM , Rating: 2

For Robson on laptops, and also the desktop equivalent, I am led to believe the flash module is REMOVABLE ie DISPOSABLE (because heavy use will kill it by excessive writes).

I am interested in the interface between the flash module and the main board.

SO please take some pics of the flash module and how it connects into the machine ASAP.

RE: Let's SEE it
By TomZ on 6/9/2006 2:59:19 PM , Rating: 2
Robson does not define a NAND flash card interface. My guess is the flash chips will be soldered to the main board. I don't understand your concern about flash write cycles - I don't see how Robson will wear out a NAND flash. Robson speeds boot and application load time by storing code in flash instead of on the HDD. I can't see that configuration changing millions of times during the lifetime of a particular laptop or desktop computer.

RE: Let's SEE it
By ShapeGSX on 6/9/2006 3:01:36 PM , Rating: 2
If you only cache data that doesn't change very often or at all (like most OS files), it should last a very long time. I don't see a need for it to be removable.

If you want to cache files that are going to change often, just use RAM for that.

The idea behind flash caching is that it is persistent so that you can get much increased performance on boot up, and the cache won't have to be re-loaded after a power-down.

RE: Let's SEE it
By Master Kenobi on 6/9/2006 3:14:35 PM , Rating: 2
Well said. Apple did this back in the day, and might still do it now, not sure. But there were several chips on the mainboard that held a good amount of the OS, this enabled really fast boot times, but also sucked because it was impossible to upgrade the OS (was actually very difficult, but impossible for the vast majority). I guess it could flash onto the NAND, all the files windows needs to use, kernel, services, etc.. etc..., might even be able to load drivers onto it, and just update the files whenever you load a service pack, or driver update, that would give you a nice long lifespan, and some blazing speeds....

RE: Let's SEE it
By TomZ on 6/9/2006 3:17:55 PM , Rating: 2
Back before hard drives, all home computers booted from ROMs and stored their "OS" in ROMs, e.g., Apple, Commodore, Atari, etc. So really this is not a very revolutionary idea, is it?

RE: Let's SEE it
By bupkus on 6/9/2006 5:51:00 PM , Rating: 2
So what about Linux users or peeps with some alternate OS, like those who would like to run Apple's OS on their new Dell laptop?

RE: Let's SEE it
By TomZ on 6/9/2006 6:04:45 PM , Rating: 2
Linux: Open up your text editor and start crackin' out the code!

Apple: When "Steve" decides we are worthy, then we shall get that feature.

RE: Let's SEE it
By peternelson on 6/10/2006 4:40:28 AM , Rating: 2

Well, that would be fine if the flash just stored UNCHANGING files. However, when you save stuff, how is the flash going to know it is or isn't a file that will change a lot? It can't.

Unless you have a new drive/partition, just for the OS. Even then that changes eg registry writes.

The original news of Robson and its desktop equivalent CLEARLY said it was something plugged into the board, NOT soldered onto it.

You would not want to write off a perfectly good laptop simply because of a flash memory failure.

RE: Let's SEE it
By ShapeGSX on 6/10/2006 9:40:46 AM , Rating: 2
If the file has a date that is a month or more old and you are still reading it, chances are that it doesn't change often. Pretty simple.

There are other ways of analyzing it, though.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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