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Core i5-661 And MSI H57M-ED65

Maximum Efficiency: Build A 25W Performance PC Using Core i5

Still fresh out of Intel's starting blocks, the Clarkdale-based 32nm dual-core CPU with an on-package 45nm graphics/memory controller has made quite a good impression with regard to performance. The family from which the -661 hails remains controversial though, mainly because of its steep pricing. AMD offers much better value per dollar, and the direct comparison of AMD's existing dual-core CPUs against Intel’s new ones was perceived as largely unfair. We’ll be following up with more articles and value comparisons of AMD and Intel in the following weeks.

You will find comprehensive coverage on the Core i5 dual-core and the H55 platform in the following articles:

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

Clarkdale Efficiency: Core i5-661 Versus Core 2

Efficiency Exploration: Perfect Overclocking For Core i5 Clarkdale

AES-NI Performance Analyzed; Limited To 32nm Core i5 CPUs

We again used the Core i5-661 here, since it is the premium graphics-focused flagship in the i5 lineup, running the IGP at 900 MHz instead of the 733 MHz found on all other Core i5 and Core i3 models. The result is a TDP of 87W, rather than 73W (although we found that the processor typically doesn’t get too close to its maximum thermal ratings). Yet the CPU, combined with MSI’s H57M-ED65 motherboard was low enough on power to reach the 25W idle limit we desired.

The H57M-EG65 is a mainstream H57 motherboard in microATX format. Important enthusiast features include a dynamic eight-phase voltage regulator, a massive heatpipe, twin x16 PCI Express slots (though remember, Clarkdale-based processors cannot divide their 16 PCIe lanes on an H55/57 motherboard), unofficial DDR3 support up to 2,133 MT/s, RAID 5 support, and MSI’s overclocking assistant, OC Genie. MSI exposes HDMI, DVI, and D-Sub display outputs, as well as an eSATA port for external high-speed storage devices.

Still, we missed the ability to reduce component voltages in the board's BIOS. This would be necessary to reduce power consumption at stock speeds. Half a year ago, we reduced the core voltage on AMD and Intel systems and achieved impressive power savings. The same could be done on the modern Clarkdale-based chips as well. Nevertheless, we took the easier path of using MSI’s ControlCenter to reduce the processor voltage.

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  • 1 Hide
    mi1ez , 23 February 2010 15:25
    Interesting article. good work on getting down so low, would love to see it with the SSD regardless of price (and by your own admission the CPU itself is overpriced anyway)
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 23 February 2010 19:04
    "For average users, it becomes relevant if you want to go for a low noise system, or if you intend to pair high performance with the lowest possible acoustic footprint."

    Why not also if a user wishes to reduce energy consumption for whatever reason, up to and including reducing CO2 emissions?


  • 3 Hide
    raotor , 24 February 2010 15:48
    I've found that the best trick to saving power during idle time is flicking that thing called the power switch to the "off" position!
  • 3 Hide
    raotor , 24 February 2010 15:49
    I've found that the best trick to saving power during idle time is flicking that thing called the power switch to the "off" position!
  • 3 Hide
    rdhir , 24 February 2010 17:43
    Would be nice to see such a comparison with one of the "Pico PSUs" for miniITX systems. They can be used in systems like this assuming cable lengths allow. They will supply up to 120W depending on model and power brick used. Most boards I believe will work with only a 20 pin power supply and you can easily buy a molex to P4 adapter.

    As this uses a 12V PSU and converts all the voltages it should be fairly efficient as this is the new trend for efficient ATX powersupplies eg Seasonic X series.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 24 February 2010 19:59
    It seems a bit strange to me that an article based on low power consumption would involve the clarkedale CPU with the highest TDP of all of them.

    But, I guess that's where the performance per watt section comes in.
  • 0 Hide
    kyzar , 24 February 2010 20:43
    Would be interesting to see how low an AMD system would go and then do a comparison of how long both systems would have to run idle to recoup the extra cost of the Intel system.

    I'm looking to rebuild my linux server at home - which has to be on 24/7 (it's an email and web server amongst many other roles), but spends much time idle. My natural inclination would be a dual-core AMD build, but the I5 does give some impressive numbers...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 25 February 2010 05:19
    I had a system which consumed 65 Watts at idle, and the only additional was a really huge passive CPU cooler, and that I have left the case open :) 

    that small PSU with that small evil fan looks really bad to me, I had once trouble with it, and really I lost my fate in that kind of PSU
  • 0 Hide
    andybird123 , 25 February 2010 16:13
    so in the first paragraph you talk about reducing power without sacrificing performance, and then you install a 5400rpm hard disk... hmmm
  • 1 Hide
    bv90andy , 27 February 2010 07:01
    In google shop this thing would cost ~660$ 430$... why would I buy such an expensive PC to keep it on idle? pretty useless
  • 2 Hide
    HedRat , 2 March 2010 22:47
    I was interested in the article at first, but must agree with some of the other comments. Not "compromising on performance"? No dedicated graphics card, prepared to switch to single-channel on the RAM and then suddenly cost is a factor when considering a SSD drive - why don't you just buy the Atom PC???!!!

    The article needed a clearer focus.
  • 0 Hide
    NickTulett , 4 March 2010 18:40
    Anyone working from home in a cold climate is going to replace the lost heat from the PC by turning up the thermostat (or knitting a jumper), so it's swings and roundabouts on the environmental front.

    As for me, I have a web and mail server (among other things) running on a 5W Sheevaplug that cost less than a ton to buy - so 25W and 300 quid isn't that tempting.
  • 0 Hide
    Mitche01 , 4 March 2010 20:40
    I know THG prefers uATX or DTX but i still like mini-itx for lower power PCing. Cost of Mini-itx mobos with embedded C7 processors is V tempting. even better if using an intel ATOM processor.
  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 4 March 2010 21:10
    I know THG prefers uATX or DTX but i still like mini-itx for lower power PCing. Cost of Mini-itx mobos with embedded C7 processors is V tempting. even better if using an intel ATOM processor.

    Forget Atom, the Zotac mITX boards for LGA1156 are the way forward! Ultimate modding machines!
  • 0 Hide
    Mitche01 , 4 March 2010 22:46
    While I agree the Zotec 1156 and even 775 Mobos are good, the LGA1156 is still going to use a lot of power 73W is minimum for i3, i5 or i7 CPUs. The Atom N330 dual core 1.66Ghz has a TDP of 8W! Even if you go for the low power like this article states you still cant beat 8W!
  • 1 Hide
    mi1ez , 5 March 2010 16:06
    Yeah, if I were to do mITX, I wouldn't be looking at power, more at modding a PC to fit inside something ridiculous!
  • 0 Hide
    col musstard , 22 March 2010 23:01
    im liking the bus speed and the core speed at .888v