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January 11, 2009

Filed under: tech»lenovo

Not So Turbo

My Thinkpad laptop has a component in it that's called Intel Turbo Memory. It's a chunk of non-volatile flash RAM that's supposed to act as a cache for the hard drive, speeding up access and lowering energy use. And it is the single biggest cause of instability on the entire machine.

When I first got the laptop, it had conflicts with the Thinkpad's active protection system, which parks the hard drive when it detects movement. So moving the T61--not something unheard of when using a mobile system--would make everything stall out as the hard drive simply refused to unprotect itself. After a few revisions, Intel and Lenovo said they had a better version. Now it didn't hang during movement--but it didn't always sleep properly, and for some reason it would wake up at 1am to reboot itself. I'm pretty sure that this was the Turbo Memory's fault, since everything ran fine after disabling it. I could be wrong, though.

Every couple of months, Intel would drop a new driver, and I'd install it to see if I could get the benefits they promised me. It's never worked. The most recent version behaves fine unless I plug the laptop back into the dock, at which point it bluescreens.

For most people, this would probably be acceptable, since most people probably don't buy docking stations for their personal laptops. But I got used to multiple screens at the Bank, and I love the dock. It's the best part of owning a business-class laptop--being able to just slot it in and instantly get multiple displays and all of my USB gear enabled, that's a real timesaver. So anything that even thinks about interfering with docking doesn't last long on my system. I didn't just uninstall the drivers this time, I also disabled the hardware in the Device Manager, and I've got no plans to re-enable it.

Now, I've got no solutions, and really no grand observations to make here, although Anandtech's findings of almost no battery life increase do make me feel both better and worse simultaneously (because I've clearly been ripped off, but at least I'm not missing out on anything). I am amazed that something so blatantly snake oil made its way into a very expensive, high-end laptop, but that's capitalism for you. It's not like I'm really that upset, though--the problem's been easy to solve, and while I'm technically out $50 for the RAM, that's pretty insignificant compared to the rest of the sticker price. I'm just griping.

But while I don't have a lot of daily readers here, I do get a fair amount of very targeted traffic on niche issues like this. So I just thought I'd put this out there, in case anyone else is looking for a Thinkpad and wondering if the outlay's worth it for the Turbo Memory: it's not. Unless you really like turning things off. In that case, knock yourself out.

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