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

Benchmark Results: Synthetics

The performance of Intel’s Core i5-661 in PCMark Vantage is going to depend on whether you use the processor with its integrated graphics core or add a discrete card, like our Radeon HD 5850. In the case of the former, performance lags due to the on-package GPU’s modest specifications. But if you’re going with an add-in board, we actually see the i5-661 jump in front of all competitors in the Overall suite score.

Good numbers trail off in the Memories suite, which is more dependent of graphics performance for GPU-accelerated image manipulation. Thus, it’s little surprise that the on-package logic comes up way short. Core i5-750 is our winner here, and the Core 2 Duo E8500 at 3.16 GHz ends up in second place.

The Lynnfield-based i5-750 takes first again in TV and Movies, but is bested by the Clarkdale-based i5-661 in the Productivity test. Most surprising, perhaps, is that in all four of these synthetic benchmark tests, Intel’s dual-core Core i5-661 is able to displace the company’s quad-core Q9400 priced right in the same league. Might it be time to forsake the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quads altogether, now that Clarkdale is upon us? The real-world tests will have to tell that tale.

The charts say it all in 3DMark Vantage. Starting from the bottom, the CPU suite clearly favors threading and Intel’s Core i5-750 takes a first-place finish, followed by AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition. Although it’s a dual-core chip, the Core i5-661’s Hyper-Threading capabilities gives it enough horsepower to trounce the only other dual-core processor in our comparison and come up just behind the quad-core Q9400.

Futuremark’s GPU suite places all of the contenders fairly close to each other, with the exception of Intel’s integrated GMA HD core, which falls flat on its face. In turn, this causes that configuration’s 3DMark Vantage overall score to tank. The Core i5-661 loses to the Core 2 Quad Q9400, Phenom II X4 965, and Core i5-750 when the Overall suite results are tabulated.

The benefits of four cores are apparent in the Drystone iSSE4.2 test, as Intel’s Core i5-750 takes a commanding lead, followed by the Core 2 Quad Q9400. The Whetstone test favors AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition, followed by Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q9400.

AMD’s Phenom II X4 wins both multimedia tests, followed by the Core i5-750 and Core 2 Quad Q9400, each of which takes second place in one of the tests. The Clarkdale-based Core i5-661 bests the Core 2 Duo E8500 in the two multimedia-oriented metrics.

The Core i5-750’s true integrated memory controller gives it a marked advantage against the Core i5-661’s, which sits on the 45nm graphics die and not the 32nm processor die. In fact, Intel’s newest design falls to AMD’s dual-channel integrated memory controller. The good news is that Clarkdale is an upgrade from the Core 2 Duo and Quad processors, which relied on an MCH-based controller connected via front side bus.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • Zoonie
    Well... I think that takes care of the dreaded "But can it play Crysis?" question regarding its GMA :D :P :P
  • xc0mmiex
    Video on page 1 not working ... "This is a private video..."
  • eklipz330
    can i ask why you teased us at the end with the 4.5ghz OC but didn't include them in the benchmarks? =
  • cangelini
    xc0mmiexVideo on page 1 not working ... "This is a private video..."
    Fixed! Had to keep it private pre-launch :)
  • 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.
  • gkay09
    ^ 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...
  • dtemple
    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.
  • cangelini
    eklipz330can i ask why you teased us at the end with the 4.5ghz OC but didn't include them in the benchmarks? =
    We have another overclocking piece planned--I wanted to get a Core i3, at least, to include :)
  • 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.
  • maximus20895
    Great video once again! Thanks for this and the review itself. Very informative. I really liked the graph on the first page too :)