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New Drivers And Great Home Theater Features

Intel Core i5-661: Clarkdale Rings The Death Knell Of Core 2
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Software

One area where Intel has put in significant work is its graphics driver interface. More than anything, the redesign simply modernizes the look and feel, going from a boring business to sleek home desktop motif. The company enables custom resolution settings, but aside from that, not much else is changed.

Old drivers...Old drivers...

...new drivers...new drivers

Intel HD Graphics In The Home Theater

Most of Intel’s efforts in improving its integrated graphics core are directed at the home theater experience—a field on which the company actually stands a chance. The G45 chipset already put Intel on the map by enabling multi-channel LPCM audio output over HDMI and supporting accelerated MPEG-2, H.264, and VC-1 (the trio of Blu-ray codecs) decoding.

But Clarkdale’s HD Graphics core goes a few steps further by offering dual video decode streams for picture-in-picture, dual simultaneous HDMI outputs (though we haven’t yet seen any motherboards exposing this yet), DisplayPort audio (also recently enabled on ATI’s Radeon HD 5000-series discrete boards), and lossless Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreaming to compatible stereo receivers.

Intel also makes it a point to mention that its HD Graphics core supports xvYCC, a color space used to expand the overall color gamut beyond RGB and YCbCr. This likely isn’t worth touting right now, though. After all, this is one of those features requiring support from every component in the chain—from source to output—and it is not supported by the Blu-ray format. Rather, it’d be one of those additions to home video taken with AVCHD-compatible camcorders. Windows 7 also supports xvYCC, and we've asked Microsoft about the possible ramifications of hardware support for this on the desktop and in games (we'll update when a response comes through).

Update: As promised, we've received word back from Microsoft on the issue of xvYCC in Windows and gaming. In essence, the Windows 7 desktop does not currently make use of xvYCC directly, although full-screen games certainly can. The use of this in games is recommended by the Games for Windows Technical Requirements in the Showcase Appendix as S.6 Support High Color. The new WDDM 1.1 driver WHQL tests include more robust testing of these High Color display modes, and almost all DirectX 10.x/11-era and most DirectX 9 Shader Model 2.0/3.0-era discrete video cards already have >8-bit DACs, so most users (certainly most, if not all, hardcore gamers) already have at least part of the High Color display hardware support.

PowerDVD, passing compressed TrueHD to our receiverPowerDVD, passing compressed TrueHD to our receiver

The receiver, receiving loud and clearThe receiver, receiving loud and clear

The most accessible feature for most home theater enthusiasts is probably going to be the ability to bitstream high-def audio formats. Intel gave us a beta build of CyberLink’s PowerDVD 9 Ultra with preliminary support for H55/H57’s protected audio/video path, enabled through the chipset’s Manageability Engine. We’ve had bad luck with Onkyo’s TX-SR507 in the past, so we fired up our 24-bit/96 kHz test disc with a bit of trepidation. But the hardware/software combination worked like a charm and the receiver was able to decode the TrueHD signal without a problem…well, almost. We did run into an issue where the system would lock up completely after four or five minutes of playback.

A couple of months back, I noted that companies like Asus and Auzentech were in trouble with their HTPC-oriented soundcards, designed specifically to enable bitstreaming. ATI’s Radeon HD 5750 and 5770 made the same technology available as a value-add. Now you can get that functionality from a simple motherboard upgrade.

Of course, if you don’t have a receiver able to decode either high-def format, you can also set PowerDVD to decode the signal itself and Intel’s chipset will still output multi-channel linear PCM to your receiver. You’ll only get 16-bit/48 kHz sound, but in truth, most Blu-ray movies employ 16-bit sound anyway.

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  • 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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