Phoenix’s 1-Second Instant Boot Bios Really Works

phoenix-iBig foot. The Loch Ness Monster. The Chupacabra. Instant-on notebooks. We’ve heard a lot about them, but never seen one in the wild. While we have seen light, fast-booting Linuxes like Phoenix Hyperspace and Splashtop, none of them is exactly instant. Even with the boot-speed improvements in Windows 7, we always find ourselves waiting a good 45 to 50 seconds on even the fastest SSD-based notebooks we’ve tested.

One big reason why no operating system can really boot instantly is that the BIOS itself take anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds of turning on devices (the hard drive, CPU, ports, controllers, etc) before it even lets the operating system start loading off of the hard drive or SSD. So even if Windows could load immediately, you would still have to wait quite a while for it.

Enter Phoenix’s new Instant Boot BIOS. It cuts down the post time to roughly one second. Phoenix’s Chief Scientist Steve Jones explained that the new BIOS uses UEFI technology (a new kind of BIOS platform) to power on several system devices simultaneously and to run only those processes which are absolutely necessary to hand control over to the OS.

We had a chance to view Instant Boot in action on a Lenovo T400s, which was equipped with a high-speed SSD. About one second after hitting the power button, we saw the hard drive light flickering and noticed that Windows had already started loading. Because this system had a high-speed SSD and the Windows install didn’t have a lot of exra drivers or crapware, Windows 7 itself took only 10 seconds to get us to a desktop.

We have video of the boot up process below so you can see what we saw. Just don’t blame us if you drool on  your keyboard.


[flq:ea928931bf0e4695993ad165dc17cc7e]

Jones showed us a report from Microsoft Velocity, a performance logging tool, that indicated the BIOS took 1.37 seconds to hand over control to the OS. He told us that further optimizations for individual notebooks could even lower that time.

Clearly, there are some caveats. The Instant Boot BIOS only helps you get to the OS; it’s not going to make a slow-loading OS become fast. And the Windows 7 install we saw was not running Aero so who knows if that might add a little to the boot process.

However, we can’t help but be incredibly impressed. Phoenix has removed the BIOS bottleneck from the boot process and really put the ball into the OEM’s court. A system will load as fast as its operating system, and runtime software will let it. And even if 11 seconds is not quite Big Foot, it’s an extremely hairy animal!

Jones told us that it is offering Instant Boot functionality to its OEM partners, who will be able to use it in new notebooks or even, quite possibly, offer it as a BIOS upgrade to some existing systems. He could not tell us what vendors, if any, have already signed on to use this technology in their systems.

We’re left to wonder whether OEMs who adopt this Instant Boot technology will charge a premium for it. If so, would you pay extra for faster boot times? Or would you choose a notebook that had this feature over one that did not?



AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. derek Says:

    Your poll seems a bit disingenuous. “All things being equal”,
    including price? (You don’t really define “things”) Well, who
    wouldn’t get the instant boot then? Should be 100% in that case. The
    “I’d pay extra” doesn’t imply any particular cost. In my case I’d pay
    a small amount extra, but this poll question includes the entire range
    of one cent to $100+.

  2. Scott Says:

    Dang That’s Fast!

  3. Elvis Presley Says:

    How do I go into the BIOS to change the settings? If you make it too fast, there’s no time to hit the DEL key to enter the BIOS setup screen.

  4. mICHAEL Says:

    wOW THATS FAST HOW CAN GET THAT ON MY XP

  5. D Says:

    Elvis, good one!

  6. Adam Says:

    I think its fantastic but how does one get into the bios in order to change a setting? You can’t hit the DEL key fast enough can you? You have to be able to set your boot device. Unless you can hold down the DEL key while its booting to get to that screen. i would love to see this on a gaming desktop with an SSD. Imagine booting and being ready to play a game in 11 seconds. i would pay an extra $20 for the feature if I could still easily access the Bios.

  7. Ethanne Says:

    I have an Asus EeePc 1000H, i find the POST to be fast (1-2 seconds i think, it doesn’t even show up on the screen) the Windows XP loading logo shows up almost instantly upon hitting the power button. I don’t know if its an updated BIOS. Hitting DEL or any key shows the POST/Brand screen. Unfortunately its not an SSD so its the OS that takes a lot of boot time.

  8. Xaijin Says:

    They can probably make a button you hold down to enter bios options. Like say hold down the del key and then power on to enter the bios.

  9. yootzee Says:

    Hate to burst any bubbles (especially Phoenix’s), but Apple has been using EFI on their Intel platforms since 2006.

  10. wildone Says:

    …But my macbook with 7200rpm drive takes a minute to get to workable desktop – so this UEFI implementation is amazing. Hope Apple could use it………….

  11. KH Says:

    Yootzee, hate to burst your bubble, but hardly anyone uses Apple stuff.

  12. yootzee Says:

    wildone, “Hope Apple could use it……” Apple already uses it. UEFI comes from Unified EFI, which was created by Intel, and is now managed by a consortium of (Unified) different manufactures.

    Sure, my macbook’s start up time w/a 7200rpm drive takes about 45 seconds as well. But almost all of that time being taken up by the kernel loading (how much of your time is a gray Apple screen with a spinning wheel). But the time that EFI actually takes is a couple of seconds With a stripped down version of osx on an SSD like was being used by Phoenix with a stripped down version of Windows how long would it take?

    KH, don’t worry sunshine, you haven’t (burst my bubble). But all that bitterness is going to eat you up. Lighten up, It’s a discussion of computers and an operating systems, not an insult of your mother.

    I agree, Apple doesn’t have a big share of the computer market. But I do find it ironic that other hardware and software manufactures find the need to copy many of their innovations, which may not be that bad if they didn’t do end up with a substandard copy.

    I use both Apple and Windows (and also Solaris and Ubuntu). I like and dislike all of them. So, I my intention is not to start a flaming back and forth, unlike KH.

    The point of my original post was to examine the hype by Phoenix that this “new kind of bios” (which is not a bios), is not a new and wasn’t created by Phoenix (and dry your eyes KH, it wasn’t created by Apple either), that’s all. And yes, I think its cool, and hope to see it on more systems, unlike the Apple platform, which “hardley anyone uses”.

  13. kikoanis Says:

    I have some doubts about this. First Windows 7 did not show up the usual starting boot screen (the one with four flags flying around) and it seems to me as if it was in hibernate or suspended (sleep) state

    Am I wrong?

  14. manfat Says:

    Try holding F8 while booting your Mac and at type -v [return] at the boot prompt to boot in verbose mode. You may also just be able to hold the ‘v’ key on your keyboard while booting. This should show you exactly what is loading and how long each kernel extension takes. Then try loading in Safe Mode using the -x option (or hold the ‘x’ or ‘shift’ keys) and see how much quicker it is when you don’t load so many drivers. For XP users, try using NLite to strip all the crap out of your system (down to around 16 minimal running processes) you will find a perfectly usable operating system that installs to an SSD in under 5 minutes, runs in about 40MB RAM and absolutely flies until you fill it with internet crap like virus checkers…

  15. manfat Says:

    oh I forgot to add, many years ago I had a Cyrix CPU based Windows 98 system that booted from cold start to usable desktop in under 10 seconds. The bloat with modern systems is inexcusable. I want real instant-on, using sensible RAM-to-disk during standby with slow progressive hibernation that shuts down all but minimal services, perhaps in some kind of minimal micro-environment. If we can have a full internet browsing operating system in the size of a BIOS ROM file (like Splashtop) then something like backing that up in RAM with battery power as an always-on option is surely the way forward? I would happily have a rechargable laptop battery for my desktop motherboard if it means my system (and casual internet browsing) was guaranteed to be available instantly but mostly ‘shut down’ into proper standby mode the rest of the time.

  16. john Says:

    ok guys frist mac’s are for the dumbie you click it works not personal put great for olds people pc’s are for people who love to make them there own and that mean’s getting to boot faster i would pay more to get that put let’s make it clear my t7400 HP STARTS IN 32 SECONDS AND SHUTS DOWN IN 6 SECONDS so i’ll challege any mac any day and i run 50gigs of programes NOT pix or songs.
    stuff like photoshop cold fushion cad and others put it nice to see things moving forward

  17. Chen Xiao-Long Says:

    Does anyone know when this is going to be released for Dell laptops, specifically this Dell Studios? I know some HP laptops already have this. It would be really nice to have.

  18. may tinh xach tay Says:

    I have some doubts about this. First Windows 7 did not show up the usual starting boot screen (the one with four flags flying around) and it seems to me as if it was in hibernate or suspended (sleep) state

  19. Elijah Lynn Says:

    Avram,

    Great article plus video.

    Can you do a follow up article on this letting us know which motherboards and/or laptops have this technology in them? I would really like to get an Intel/Corsair SSD in one of these laptops with 1 second BIOS and run Ubuntu 10.10.

    Thanks,

    Elijah

  20. Avram Piltch Says:

    Sadly, nothing has come of Phoenix’s technology since I saw the demo in 2009. That said, I plan to do a follow-up on where boot times / post times stand today.

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