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Asus A7S – Santa Rosa - First Look


Asus A7S - Santa Rosa - First Look

So after much hype and noise, Santa Rosa notebooks have finally arrived and we have two examples here in the office to look at. Riyad is casting his gaze over a Samsung, while I have in front of me a large beastie from Asus - the A7S – a large desktop replacement entertainment machine.

As a platform launch though it has to be said though that if it were a squib it would be a slightly wet one. Let me explain.

If you’ve read our coverage of Santa Rosa, you know that it promises quite a few improvements and new technologies over the very successful Napa platform. To summarise, what it offers is a refreshed Core 2 Duo that ups the Front-Side bus to 800MHz and includes some new power saving modes in order to eek out more precious power from your notebook battery. Chief of these is Dynamic Front Side Bus (FSB) Switching that reduces the clock of the FSB when full power isn’t needed. The CPU itself also has some new smart Deeper Sleep modes so it can save power when parts of the CPU aren’t being used. Next is Enhanced Dynamic Acceleration Technology, which essentially means ‘smart’ over-clocking of one of the CPU’s two cores. Whenever the CPU detects a single threaded application and the second core is in an idle state it increases the clock of the other core to boost performance while lowering the voltage of the idle core, all the while keeping the CPU within its official Thermal Design Power (TDP) rating. Think of it as ‘kosher overclocking’.

You’ve also got integrated Active Management Technology, imported over from servers, creating the new Centrino Pro platform and as it’s now on notebooks, it works over wireless too. Speaking of Wireless, Santa Rosa now integrates 802.11n, or at least the draft version of it, which will provide a healthy boost over 54g in terms of real world throughput. If you go wired you now get a Gigabit Ethernet port, which makes sense now that wireless speeds have gone up. The graphics core of the Intel’s 965 Express graphics has been improved in the guise of the GMA X3100, for Vista Aero support and improved video quality. Finally, we have my favourite part of the new platform; Intel Turbo Memory – which is a cache of NAND flash memory integrated onto the motherboard that’s designed to sit between the relatively slow hard disk and main memory, which should provide a very significant performance benefit.

So with all this juicy tech to get excited about, we were quite excited to see new machines Asus and Samsung coming through our doors. So why the damp squibness? The thing is, it turns out from the Asus and Samsung notebooks that we have here that Santa Rosa isn’t necessarily being released as an entire platform at once. To get straight to the nub of the matter, this Asus turns out not to have the Turbo Memory chip integrated, which meant we are still not able to see firsthand its benefits.

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