Clarkdale's Efficiency: Core i5-661 Versus Core 2, Athlon II, And Phenom II


This article looked at the power consumption and efficiency of Intel’s new mainstream dual-core processors, the Core i3 and Core i5 for LGA 1156. All of them now integrate a new graphics unit called HD Graphics, regardless of whether you want it or use it. The graphics core delivers decent performance, but it certainly can’t beat any discrete graphics solution above the ultra-low budget level. The new processors are extremely strong when it comes to encrypting or decrypting AES (we’ll have another article dealing with this), but they also outperform both Core 2 Duo and today’s dual-core AMD offerings in every benchmark.

Processor and system power consumption have decreased significantly. Low power requirements that were only within range for high-efficiency, low-performance solutions can now be reached with mainstream components. Last but not least, Intel has again implemented Turbo Boost, which accelerates one or both cores to up to 3.73 GHz under peak load conditions (3.6 GHz in the case of our Core i5-661) as long as the speed boost fits into the processor’s thermal power envelope. The only weaknesses we found were that this principle doesn’t apply to graphics (save for mobile Core i5 solutions) and Intel’s pricing remains well above AMD’s offerings.

It almost seems like nothing can rain on Intel’s parade. The introduction of the Nehalem architecture with Core i7 on LGA 1366 secured the high-end for Intel. Core 2 Duo has been expensive but dominant in the mainstream, and the recently-introduced LGA 1156 platform will be taking care of today’s and future systems in between the budget and upper-mainstream. Intel’s new Core i5 and i3 processors must be a nightmare for AMD, which continues to lose ground in the mainstream. Intel dominates performance, and it clearly rules power efficiency now. The only factor left in AMD’s hand is price and effective value, but this won’t last forever without some major changes.

If anyone has good suggestions for AMD, now would be the time to make them. What do you think of efficiency? Where do you think AMD should improve to get back into the game?