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Conclusion

Intel Core i5-661: Clarkdale Rings The Death Knell Of Core 2
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So as we draw our entry-level epic to a close, it’s time to reflect on what we’ve just seen and—almost as important—what we haven’t seen yet. Intel sent one processor over to represent the Clarkdale lineup: the Core i5-661. Up near the top of the Clarkdale stack, i5-661 gives us the quickest graphics core, clocked at 900 MHz. It runs at 3.33 GHz and Turbos up to 3.6 GHz.

But it also costs $200. Lots of stuff costs $200. In fact, every one of the processors in our test lineup approaches the $200 mark—and there were some definite favorites. In the threaded applications, Intel’s Core i5-750 was perhaps the strongest contender. Don’t forget AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition—another powerful option.

Intel admits that its Core i5-661 will probably be a relatively low-volume part for SIs who prefer integrated graphics as a means to minimize total system power consumption. The merits of this approach are reflected in an efficiency story from Patrick going live tomorrow, where we see integration playing a huge role in improving the performance per watt of power used. The company expects Lynnfield to continue serving as its volume driver in the enthusiast space. But with that said, we've seen some early numbers from Intel with the Core i3-530, and the results aren't really that far off of the Core i5-661 in threaded applications, once you take away the benefit Turbo Boost gives to the higher-priced model.

Is there any reason to buy Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad processors now that Clarkdale is here, front and center? Core 2 Quad: sure—it still shows fairly well, and might make a reasonable upgrade if you don’t want to replace your LGA 775 motherboard. Core 2 Duo: no, not really. Though the Core i5-661 is also a dual-core CPU, its use of Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost makes it superior in both parallelized and single-threaded applications. The Core 2 Duo E8500 did win a couple of tests against Clarkdale, but when it lost, it lost big.

Unfortunately, Intel did not send any of its lower-cost models, which would have invariably had to stand up against lower-clocked quad-core contenders from AMD. No worries there. Once the CPUs are available at retail, you can be sure we’ll grab a couple and run some tests of our own to see how Clarkdale-based Core i3s do battle once you take away Turbo Boost.

Until then, we’re left with a positive impression of Clarkdale as the engine in a business platform, specifically. The Core i5-661 we tested—which could easily be substituted for the i5-660 at the same price point—completely eclipses the Core 2 Duo E8500 and solidly rivals some of the fastest Core 2 Quads. Our opinion is reinforced by Intel’s limiting the H55 and H57 chipsets to a single graphics card. Moreover, the company’s simultaneous launch of the Q57 platform gives the channel AMT 6.0 for out-of-band management. Business, business, business.

Clarkdale also shows promise in the home theater. Support for hardware accelerated Blu-ray playback, multi-channel LPCM output, and lossless bitstreaming of high-def audio formats leaves very little else to be desired from a media-oriented platform, so long as you don’t intend to game on it. Not having to buy a discrete Radeon HD 5000-series graphics card means we’ll be seeing remarkably powerful mini-ITX platforms with 73W Clarkdale CPUs taking care of processing and graphics in one compact (affordable) package.

What about the enthusiast? At least at the upper range of the mainstream segment, Core i5-750 and Phenom II X4 965 rule the roost. P55 is still going to be your platform of choice, too.  But does that mean we’re counting out a Clarkdale/P55 combination? Not at all. Once the motherboard vendors start releasing BIOS updates that solidify Clarkdale support on P55 platforms with discrete graphics, we’ll revisit the matchup with a mind to overclocking. We’re curious to see if brute-force overclocking will allow the 32nm Hyper-Threaded Core i5 to overcome the i5-750’s four cores. After all, 4.5 GHz on air isn’t half-bad.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    gkay09 , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    ^ Many more reasons to buy AMD Phenoms II X4 in the mid-range segment...
    Only drawback with the AMD CPUs is the power consumption, that I feel can be brought down with slight undervolting...
  • 11 Hide
    dtemple , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    I'm looking to upgrade from my Athlon X2 @ 2.7GHz because I do more with the computer now than I did before - sometimes I'll play a game while my TV tuner is recording from my cable signal, and having more cores would help these multiple tasks run more smoothly.
    I was waiting until the Clarkdale-based i5 launched, thinking it would be a quad-core that was more competitively priced against the Phenom II X4, but it looks like a Phenom II X4 is my only option to get more cores for less money.
    The only good news coming out of this launch is that LGA1156 is not changing for the Clarkdale chips, so it looks to be the most future-proof platform to upgrade to, if one was so inclined. I'm personally going with a Phenom II since I can get one without changing motherboards. This is one of the more disappointing launches in the last year or so.
  • 10 Hide
    Zoonie , January 4, 2010 3:15 AM
    Well... I think that takes care of the dreaded "But can it play Crysis?" question regarding its GMA :D  :p  :p 
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    Zoonie , January 4, 2010 3:15 AM
    Well... I think that takes care of the dreaded "But can it play Crysis?" question regarding its GMA :D  :p  :p 
  • -1 Hide
    xc0mmiex , January 4, 2010 3:20 AM
    Video on page 1 not working ... "This is a private video..."
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 4, 2010 3:20 AM
    can i ask why you teased us at the end with the 4.5ghz OC but didn't include them in the benchmarks? =[ i'm guessing most of use at tom's like to OC... it could be the difference that gets us to buy the i5 661 over the phenom II
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , January 4, 2010 3:21 AM
    xc0mmiexVideo on page 1 not working ... "This is a private video..."


    Fixed! Had to keep it private pre-launch :) 
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 4, 2010 3:26 AM
    I really like the improvements Larrabee brought about....not! I do like the fact they are making progress but they really need to skip ahead a few generations or buy out some other company to design a GPU for themselves.
  • 14 Hide
    gkay09 , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    ^ Many more reasons to buy AMD Phenoms II X4 in the mid-range segment...
    Only drawback with the AMD CPUs is the power consumption, that I feel can be brought down with slight undervolting...
  • 11 Hide
    dtemple , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    I'm looking to upgrade from my Athlon X2 @ 2.7GHz because I do more with the computer now than I did before - sometimes I'll play a game while my TV tuner is recording from my cable signal, and having more cores would help these multiple tasks run more smoothly.
    I was waiting until the Clarkdale-based i5 launched, thinking it would be a quad-core that was more competitively priced against the Phenom II X4, but it looks like a Phenom II X4 is my only option to get more cores for less money.
    The only good news coming out of this launch is that LGA1156 is not changing for the Clarkdale chips, so it looks to be the most future-proof platform to upgrade to, if one was so inclined. I'm personally going with a Phenom II since I can get one without changing motherboards. This is one of the more disappointing launches in the last year or so.
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    eklipz330can i ask why you teased us at the end with the 4.5ghz OC but didn't include them in the benchmarks? =[ i'm guessing most of use at tom's like to OC... it could be the difference that gets us to buy the i5 661 over the phenom II


    We have another overclocking piece planned--I wanted to get a Core i3, at least, to include :) 
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 4, 2010 3:30 AM
    I would love to see what GTA IV would do do the dual cores in gaming! I do know that its a bear of a game on the CPU and it would truly show off if hyperthreading could actually make a major difference.
  • 0 Hide
    maximus20895 , January 4, 2010 4:26 AM
    Great video once again! Thanks for this and the review itself. Very informative. I really liked the graph on the first page too :) 
  • 0 Hide
    WINTERLORD , January 4, 2010 5:03 AM
    good touch on the world of warcraft fraps. although not very playable on high settings is good to know what speeds it actualy gets
  • 2 Hide
    noob2222 , January 4, 2010 5:11 AM
    Would be nice to know if this thing can handle blue ray playback, as some of these would probably be sold as a HTPC. Ya, they put features for it, but does it play or not?

    Last preview I read showed it doing fine in windowed mode, but blowing chunks at full screen playback, dropping to 15fps and lower.
  • 3 Hide
    dupaman , January 4, 2010 5:25 AM
    Idle power in the 70s for an IGP-based system is a huge failure not a win, though using an 1100W PSU probably deserves a lot of the blame. Systems built on the 780G, 730i, G4x, etc. (similar to this test platform, but use a more appropriate PSU) idle in the 40s.
  • 1 Hide
    shubham1401 , January 4, 2010 6:22 AM
    Nice dual....
    E8500 was beaten badly...

    Wud really like to see what these chips can do once overclocked.
  • 6 Hide
    thejerk , January 4, 2010 7:08 AM
    Where are the H55 and H57 motherboards priced? So what if the processor is $200 if the motherboard is going to be another $200 on top of it, like P55. I'm not an AMD fanboi, but for less than $300, you can get excellent computing power. Platform cost is where AMD rules, currently.
  • 0 Hide
    Stardude82 , January 4, 2010 7:17 AM
    Very meh at their price points with disappointing idle consumption. Intel is just biding time until AMD's 32 nm process is ready. No reason why they couldn't have a 4 GHz stock chip, load power proves it.

    If you use a E8600 with integrated G45 graphics, I bet you that power consumption will be lower that the 661 (integrated). This GPU-on-package is all just a marketing ploy.

    I really wish you had benchmarks for the low end chips though I doubt IT managers will be running out to replace their fleets of E7500's.
  • -6 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , January 4, 2010 7:22 AM
    same as the p55 but less room for Gpu's.... and newer h55,h57 onboard gpu.... well I guess if you really want to get over all the unneeded jargon and you dont really have a budget just skip this and go X58..... regardless.... even if you have a little extra money to spare and you ARE on a budget, save on the 2nd GPU,monitor, or RAM and get an X58 now!

  • 1 Hide
    mau1wurf1977 , January 4, 2010 8:12 AM
    I think there is a big mistake in the gaming benchmarks...

    Wolfdale is a awesome gaming chip. Its a first to me that the Core 2 Quad is faster in Crysis and all the other games vs. Wolfdale...

    Are you sure it was running at full speed?
  • -6 Hide
    mau1wurf1977 , January 4, 2010 8:12 AM
    I think there is a big mistake in the gaming benchmarks...

    Wolfdale is a awesome gaming chip. Its a first to me that the Core 2 Quad is faster in Crysis and all the other games vs. Wolfdale...

    Are you sure it was running at full speed?
  • -6 Hide
    mau1wurf1977 , January 4, 2010 8:20 AM
    That Yorkfield is 2.66 GHz! No chance in hell it beats the E8500 in gaming...

    I hope this is just a mistake...

    E.g. in Crysis 1920 x 1200 with (breace yourself) 8x AA! No way in hell are these scores correct.

    Did you test the E8500 with a slower video card?
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