We wanted to see how the Core i3-550 would perform relative to its often-recommended stable mate, the Core i5-750. Let’s look at the raw numbers:
Right off the bat, the Core i3-550 shows dismally compared to the Core i5-750 when it comes to application speed. While our knee-jerk instinct is to call the Core i3-550 a poor choice compared to the core i5-750, there are a couple of ways to interpret these results.
Consider the $115 Core i3-540 and a single $190 GeForce GTX 460 1 GB (or the Radeon HD 6850 for that matter). This makes for a cheap startup combo, and the LGA 1156 interface leaves the buyer with the option to upgrade to a Core i5-700-series CPU in the future, to a second graphics card for SLI/CrossFire gaming, or both (depending on the motherboard).
In fact, while the Core i3-550 might be the bottleneck when it comes to gaming, the CPU bottleneck still does not prevent fluid frame rates. Frankly, our game selection is a little too CPU-restricted, and we’ll be switching it up to more challenging titles in our next SBM. In any case, the new Core i3-550 system slightly beats the Core i5-750 setup on average at 1920x1080 as the summary chart shows.
In the final analysis, we can recommend the Core i3-500 series as a good budget/starter CPU with enough overclocking potential to deliver stock Core i5- 700-class performance. But the real gem here would have been the LGA 1156 platform, allowing for an upgrade to the Core i5-700 (or even Core i7-800) CPU family in the future. It's unfortunate, then, that the Sandy Bridge launch in two weeks will see LGA 1156 kneecapped by Intel in favor of LGA 1155.
The only question left is how will this $1000 enthusiast system stand against the other PCs in this month’s series? For that, you’ll have to wait for Thomas Soderstrom's final comparison article to find out.