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

Intel Core i5-661: Clarkdale Rings The Death Knell Of Core 2
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Four months ago, I called Intel’s Lynnfield design the company’s mainstream magnum opus. The Core i5-750, specifically, rose to the top of our test lab’s pile of processors as a solid performer, overclocker, and overall value at less than $200.

But is $200 really a mainstream price point? Aren’t there plenty of models (especially in AMD’s own lineup) that touch the $150 and $100 levels, yet still serve up a solid computing experience? I’ll simultaneously stick by my Core i5-750 recommendation while recognizing that yes, there is a lot to like about cheaper Core 2 Quads, Phenom II X3/X4s, and $100 Athlon II X4s.

This is the segment Intel is targeting with its first 32nm desktop CPUs, members of the Westmere generation and code-named Clarkdale. Totaling six new desktop models initially, the first Clarkdale-based processors will span price points from $113 to $284.

And, believe it or not, it lunges into this aggressive segment with exclusively dual-core models. Hard to imagine, right? In an era when $99 buys you a quad-core Athlon II X4 620 running at 2.6 GHz, Intel is looking to peddle a family of dual-core chips.

The story isn’t that simple, though. With AMD, what you see is what you get. Its flagship, the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition, runs at 3.4 GHz all of the time. It uses up to 125W. And its four cores are arranged in a monolithic manner, each with 512KB of L2 cache, and all four sharing 6MB of L3. Intel’s new Clarkdale chips are dual-core, yes. But they also feature Hyper-Threading, Turbo Boost, a shared 4MB L3 cache, and a separate 45nm component on the same package, complicating the performance picture for a number of reasons that we’ll soon explain. ¡Ay, caramba!

Intel’s Naming: What Does It Even Mean?

Before we break into the specifics of Clarkdale, let’s talk about the models Intel is launching. The six desktop processors include four Core i5s and two Core i3s. There’s also a seventh CPU, the Pentium G6950, which Intel’s press deck doesn’t discuss, but we know is an option for the resellers.


Now, just to summarize/boggle your enthusiast minds:

There’s the Core i7 for LGA 1366. There’s the Core i7 for LGA 1156. There’s Core i5 for LGA 1156, based on Lynnfield. There’s Core i5 for LGA 1156 based on Clarkdale. There’s Core i3 based on Clarkdale. There’s Pentium based on Clarkdale. And there’s Pentium based on Wolfdale. Damn. What a mess.

Somewhere, on someone’s whiteboard, this naming convention looked like a great way to simplify purchasing decisions for end-users who can’t tell a Pentium from a podium, and simply want to buy a pre-configured system from a tier-one. But the power users building their own boxes are presented with a mess of names and numbers that mean absolutely nothing on their own. The best we can do is give you a nice big reference chart to check back on any time you want a little insight on the madness that is Intel’s Core ix lineup.

Intel's Retail Nehalem/Westmere Lineup For Q1/2010
Model
Code Name
Clock
Max. Turbo
HT
Cores/Threads
Power
Price
Core i7-975 Extreme
Bloomfield
3.33 GHz
3.6 GHz
Yes
4/8
130W
$999
Core i7-950
Bloomfield
3.06 GHz
3.33 GHz
Yes
4/8
130W
$562
Core i7-920
Bloomfield
2.66 GHz
2.93 GHz
Yes
4/8
130W
$284
Core i7-870
Lynnfield
2.93 GHz
3.6 GHz
Yes
4/8
95W
$562
Core i7-860
Lynnfield
2.8 GHz
3.46 GHz
Yes
4/8
95W
$284
Core i5-750
Lynnfield
2.66 GHz
3.2 GHz
No
4/4
95W
$196
Core i5-670
Clarkdale
3.46 GHz
3.73 GHz
Yes
2/4
73W
$284
Core i5-661
Clarkdale3.33 GHz
3.6 GHz
Yes
2/4
87W
$196
Core i5-660
Clarkdale3.33 GHz
3.6 GHz
Yes
2/4
73W
$196
Core i5-650
Clarkdale3.2 GHz
3.46 GHz
Yes
2/4
73W
$176
Core i3-540
Clarkdale3.06 GHz
N/A
Yes
2/4
73W
$133
Core i3-530
Clarkdale2.93 GHz
N/A
Yes
2/4
73W
$133
Pentium G6950
Clarkdale2.8 GHz
N/A
No
2/2
73W
-
Display 3 Comments.
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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 4 January 2010 19:46
    It could be a silly question, but what if i would like to use one of those new CPUs on P55 motherboard, but I don't have a discrete graphic card in my system. Where do I plug in the vga/dvi cable? ;]
  • 1 Hide
    mi1ez , 4 January 2010 20:40
    You will need a discrete card to use a P55 motherboard regardless of the CPU present.
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , 6 January 2010 01:32
    Quote:
    Not having to buy a discrete Radeon HD 5000-series graphics card means we’ll be seeing remarkably powerful mini-ITX platforms with 73W Clarkdale CPUs taking care of processing and graphics in one compact (affordable) package.


    What makes it worse for Intel I think, is AMD's longevity: a lot of budget AMD systems including those intended for HTPC use, are already capable of being upgraded to the similar performance levels - and without breaking the bank. For example an AM3 (AM2+ compatible), Athlon II paired with a 780G/785G chipset. Even a low-power Sempron could be an option, thanks to the 7xx series chipsets picking up the tab in terms of solid HD hardware acceleration, stream processing and even half-decent gaming.

    Other than that these new it's seem to offer decent performance and good overclocking, despite the limited number of cores. Wouldn't mind seeing the core cranked up a bit ;)