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Intel Westmere 32nm Launch & Clarkdale Core i5-661 CPU Review

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Intel Westmere 32nm Launch
& Clarkdale Core i5-661 CPU Review






Outside of those with bank accounts that could be featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and famous, most people can’t afford the best of the best. We all know i7 quad core processors have the capability of running eight threads but with their accompanying X58 motherboards, this high-end solution is out of reach of the vast majority of buyers. The Lynnfield processors meanwhile were placed so the higher-end 860 and 870 LGA1156 products brushed into the Bloomfield pricing spectrum as befitted their performance. However, a combination of the i5 750 and a lower-end P55 motherboard represented the Nehalem architecture’s first foray into the mid-level pricing category and this week marks Intel’s final push into much more affordable territory with their Westmere derivative.

This Westmere series of CPUs will be broken up into two distinct categories like every other Intel chip has been for the last few years: a mobile part code-named Arrandale and a desktop series called Clarkdale. Upon first glance, Westmere is nothing more than a 32nm die shrink of the Nehalem architecture but as this article goes on, you will see that there is much more to it than just that. Not only do these new Westmere chips integrate a discrete GPU onto the CPU package but they also allow technologies which have been previously reserved for higher-end products to filter down so they are within everyone’s reach. That means certain models will be graced with Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost which were long missing from the entry-level market. This will go hand in hand with a new series of H and Q series LGA 1156 motherboards that are set to be released within the same timeframe.

One of the main selling points of the Westmere architecture is not only its price points but also the fact that it puts high-end graphics capabilities in the hands of the average consumer. While many of us will automatically think of the ATI HD 5000 series and NVIDIA GTX 200 series when talking about upper echelon graphics processing, try to step back and remember what entry level systems used to look like: an anemic Intel GMA accelerator that could barely play high quality YouTube videos much less play games. Meanwhile, the roll of the PC is evolving as the people’s knowledge base expands and everyone’s grandmother seems to have a Facebook profile. This means more and more consumers are doing digital editing in some form (photos, video, etc.) and enjoying casual PC gaming (be it flash games or basic games) without high-end system needs. This is where the new DX10-capable integrated Intel HD Graphics comes into play. It is supposed to offer not only the ability to use the applications most casual gamers are looking at but will also feature HD decoding abilities previously unheard of at this price point.

While we will be looking at the mobile Arrandale chip closer weeks, this article will concentrate on the desktop-destined Clarkdale chips and all they have to offer. Considering Intel will be releasing the i5-670, i5-661, i5-660, i5-650, i3-540, i3-530 and a Pentium-series CPU at the same time, things could get interesting. However, there is one thing to remember here and now: these are LGA 1156 processors which means they are compatible with P55, H57, H55 and Q57 motherboards but the integrated GPU will only work with the H and Q series of boards.

Intel is betting that now is the time you will be upgrading your older system since with i7, i5 and now i3 series of processors, they are able to deliver great performance and high efficiency across every price point. The likely thing is that a new Clarkdale-based system will be more efficient and better performing than a much higher-priced one from less than two years ago. But is it right for you? Read on.


 

MAC

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Clarkdale - Pentium G6xxx, Core i3-5xx, Core i5-6xx

Clarkdale - Pentium G6000 Series, Core i3-500 Series, Core i5-600 Series


Unlike with the Lynnfield launch where chips and motherboards were being sold weeks before the media embargo ended, Clarkdale has been kept relatively under wraps. Yes, engineering samples found their way into the hands of overclockers and a lot of information has already been leaked, but at least now we can finally reveal (or least confirm) everything you have wanted to know about the new Clarkdale processor family, consisting of the Pentium G6000 series, the i3-500 series, and the i5-600 series.

First and foremost, let's talk about the naming scheme since this was arguably the most controversial aspect of the Lynnfield series and it gets <u>much</u> worse with Clarkdale since dual-core/four-thread models have now been added to mix.

Intel have chosen their Core i3/5/7 naming scheme to help highlight the number of threads and specific technologies that each processors series supports. Simply put, Core i7 models are eight-thread processors which feature both Hyper-Threading (HT) and Turbo Boost technology. The Core i5 models are four-thread processors with Turbo Boost. The Core i5 series will now be particularly confusing to consumers though, since it is comprised of the 4-core/4-thread i5-700 series and the brand new 2-core/4-thread i5-600 series. Then we have the Core i3-500 series models, which are 2-core/4-thread processors but without Turbo Boost. Lastly, we have Pentium G6000 series, which will be dual-core processors without Turbo Boost or Hyper-Threading.

Within this mishmash of models there are now different core counts, different thread counts, different clock speeds, different Turbo Boost capabilities, different memory interfaces, different manufacturing processes, different IGPs (or none at all), etc. Goodluck Mr. and Mrs. Consumer, you are going to need it. Thankfully, Clarkdale does share Lynnfield's LGA1156 socket, so that is one area of familiarity.

Still confused? Well the tables below should help provide greater insight about the various Clarkdale variants.

Specifications


At the moment, the only G6000 series that we are aware of is the G6950, although even lower-end models are almost a certainty. The G6950 is really quite different from the other Clarkdale variants since it is the only that does not feature Hyper-Threading (HT), and thus can only process two threads at a time. Unlike all the other Clarkdale variants, this model is also the only one with a cut-down L3 cache. Furthermore, it also features a slightly slower DDR3-1066 dual-memory memory interface and IGP core clock speeds. On the plus side, it should feature a sub-$100 price tag, which would make it a terrific replacement for the $110-120 Core 2 Duo E7400 2.8Ghz dual-core processor, especially when you consider the integrated graphics processor (IGP).

The i5-500 models are a healthy step-up from the aforementioned G6950. For starters, although they lack Turbo Boost, they do support Hyper-Threading, making them the very first dual-core/four-thread processors on the market. They also come with a full 4MB of L3 cache and dual-channel DDR3-1333 memory interface like the higher-end i5-600 series. Perhaps most importantly though, they have an IGP that is clocked at 733Mhz, which is a full 37% higher than the G6000 series. At $113 and $133 respectively, the i3-530 and i3-540 are priced quite aggressively and will obviously prove to be the dominant sellers in the Clarkdale family. It's clear that Intel is aiming these two models at AMD's very popular budget-oriented Athlon II X4 series. However, can a dual-core/four-thread design really compete with a proper four-core processor? Keep reading to find out.


As you can see, the four initial Core i5-600 series launch models are nearly identical. They all feature Hyper-Threading, Turbo Boost, 4MB of L3 cache, and a dual-channel DDR3-1333 memory interface. However, the i5-661 does distinguish itself from its twin i5-660, and all other Clarkdales, with a higher clocked IGP and proportionally higher TDP. Speaking of thermal design power (TDP), the 73W figure is not too shabby when you consider that this chip consists of both a 32nm CPU die and 45nm GPU die in one package. For comparisons sake, the quad-core Lynnfield and Bloomfield models come in at 95W and 130W respectively.

While the purpose and price points of the Pentium G6950 and Core i3-500 series are easy to understand and explain, things get a little more complicated with the i5-600 series. Not only do these new i5 processors infringe upon a model designation that was previously reserved for a quad-core model -the i5-750- but so do their prices. At $196 USD, the i5-660 and i5-661 models are priced exactly the same as the quad-core Core i5-750. Are the higher clock speeds and integrated graphics processors enough to warrant these relatively high price points? The benchmarks will shed light on that question.

The i5-670's price tag defies logic, but Intel always prices the highest-end model in each family above what most would consider reasonable. The i5-650 could potentially be a sweet spot for your average joe consumer, but that $43/30% price premium over the i3-540 is daunting for a mere 4% higher clock speed (up to 13% with Turbo Boost).
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Packaging & Chips

Packaging & Chips


We can expect Clarkdale chips to ship in the same packaging design that was unveiled with Lynnfield. The Pentium G6000 series will obviously have its Pentium logo.


Clarkdale vs. Lynnfield vs. Bloomfield Coolers - Click on image to enlarge

For Clarkdale, Intel has re-used the tiny & puny stock cooler that they had included with Lynnfield. It is a typical Intel design, featuring an aluminium body with an integrated copper core, and push-pins as the mounting system. This cooler was downright mediocre at cooling Lynnfield under heavy load, but perhaps it will be a little better with the cooler running Clarkdale chips. As you can see, there is a huge size difference between the Clarkdale/Lynnfield cooler and the one that ships with Bloomfield Core i7-900 series processors. We will definitely be testing to see how well this cooler manages to cool our i5-661 with both the CPU and GPU at full load.


i5-661 on the left, i5-661 vs. i7-870 on the right - Click on image to enlarge

If you mistake this chip for a Lynnfield-based one, we don't blame you. Externally, Clarkdale and Lynnfield are absolutely identical. This is not a big surprise though, as they do both use the same LGA1156 package. Needless to say that our chip is an engineering sample, and thus the stepping code is different from what you will find in the retail channel. The core itself is identical though.


i5-661 on the left, i5-661 vs. i7-870 on the left - Click on image to enlarge

As per the LGA1156 socket name, those are 1156 contact points, a decrease from the LGA1366 Core i7 900 series, but still a huge increase from the 775 that are found on all Core 2 models. The layout of the micro SMD resistors is very interesting because it mimics the layout of the actual core, which you can see on the next page.


Bloomfield / Lynnfield / Clarkdale / Core 2 Duo / Phenom II - Click on images to enlarge

When placed side-by-side, you can clearly see how much smaller the Clarkdale chip is compared to the Bloomfield. Why is the Bloomfield's LGA1366 package so big? Well, it was designed with future headroom in mind, specifically larger six-core and maybe even eight-core dies. It is also worth noting that the Clarkdale chip is actually exactly the same size as the venerable Core 2 Duo/Quad.


Don't expect to ever see the stock clock frequency with Turbo Boost enabled - Click on image to enlarge

As usual, the CPU core speed is derived by a multiplier times bus speed formula. Since the FSB is no longer present, the bus speed in question is the base clock (BCLK), which has a stock frequency of 133MHz. As mentioned above, although our chip is an engineering sample it is manufactured with the final retail stepping, so it will perform the same as the chips you will be able to buy in the retail channel.

On Bloomfield and Lynnfield, the integrated memory controller (IMC) and the L3 cache operate on a seperate frequency called the Uncore clock (NB frequency in CPU-Z), which is derived by the uncore multiplier times the BCLK. However, the IMC is not part of the the CPU die on Clarkdale, it is integrated into the GPU die. The L3 cache remains part of the CPU though. On our i5-661 sample the integrated memory controller was running at 1600Mhz (12X), while the L3 cache was operating 2400Mhz (18X). The QPI frequency was set to 6384Mhz (48X).

Now let’s take an in-depth look at the Westmere microarchitecture (aka 32nm Nehalem) upon which these Clarkdale processors are based.
 

MAC

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Westmere Microarchitecture - Clarkdale Edition

Westmere Microarchitecture - Clarkdale Edition




In 2007, Intel unveiled the Tick-Tock Model as a demonstration of the company's dedication towards continued rapid technological innovation. The "tick" is a shrinking of the previous architecture manufacturing process (65nm --> 45nm --> 32nm) and the "tock" is a new architecture. First launched in November 2008 with the Bloomfield Core i7-900 series, the Nehalem microarchitecture saw its second variant launched in September 2009; the Lynnfield Core i5-700 series & i7-800 series. Lynnfield was nothing radically new, it merely used Nehalem's modular design to integrate the PCI-Express controller into the CPU die.

Today, with this 2010 launch, we finally have the "tick" to 2008's "tock". Westmere shrinks the Nehalem architecture down to 32nm, which is basically a 41% smaller manufacturing process than 45nm. This is important because manufacturing cores on a smaller process allows for cooler running chips, better power efficiency, higher frequency scaling, more cores on a CPU package, and most importantly it allows for Nehalem-based parts to be introduced at lower priced points, which is what Clarkdale is all about.

Enthusiasts needn't worry though since Clarkdale is just a budget-friendly introduction to Westmere, we will be seeing proper 32nm quad-core and six-core Gulftown chips sooner than you might think. Further down the road, the brand new Sandy Bridge microarchitecture will also be manufactured on this new 32nm high-k + metal gate transistor technology.


Clarkdale naked - Click on image to enlarge


The integrated graphics processor (IGP) that is found on Clarkdale chips is not part of the Westmere microarchitecture, so we will take a look at it in another section. What we are interested in is the smaller of the two dies, which is the 32nm dual-core CPU itself. Clarkdale's core design is unique, hence the Clarkdale Edition sub-title since no other Westmere-based processors will be similar to this variant.


Lynnfield die on the left, Clarkdale die on the right - Not to scale


Despite being based on the same microarchitecture, the Clarkdale and Lynnfield dies are quite different. One would reasonably expect Clarkdale to simply be half of a Lynnfield, but the situation is a little bit more complicated than that. While the basic blocks of the die are effectively identical, Clarkdale does away with the integrated memory controller and the PCI-Express controller, which have been relocated to the Ironlake Graphics Memory Controller Hub (GMCH), ie: the 45nm die on the CPU package which also contains the IGP. This not only makes the Clarkdale CPU die easier and cheaper to manufacture, but it also gives the IGP direct access to the system memory and PCI-E controller for low latency communication. What effect this will have on the CPU's access to the system memory will be explored in the memory bandwidth section.

In quantifiable terms, Clarkdale's CPU die size is a tiny 81mm². By comparison, Lynnfield comes in at 296mm², Bloomfield measures 263mm², and the Core 2 Quad "Yorkfield" die is 214mm². That itty-bitty little CPU die is packed with 383 million transistors, which is fairly amazing when you compare it to Lynnfield's 774 million transistors and Bloomfield's 731 million transistors. It is not entirely a fair comparison though since the Clarkdale CPU die does lack the aforementioned integrated memory controller, PCI-E controller, and has half the L3 cache. Nevertheless, the advantages of the new 32nm manufacturing process are evident.

Now many of you are probably looking at the die pictures and saying "It is pretty but what am I looking at exactly?". A valid question, so let's take a look at the Clarkdale CPU core layout:


We are a few PhD's away from being able to critique the core layout, but just admire how simple this die is compared to Lynnfield's.


Part of the reason that Intel is able to add and remove parts so easily is because the Nehalem architecture is dynamically scalable, and it was designed with modularity in mind. What this means is that Intel can custom create processors based on the needs of the market without having to go design a brand new chip from scratch. They can add or remove cores, L3 cache, memory channels, memory controllers, power management features, and even integrated graphics. Therefore, Intel have the ability to add new blocks to the core without having to go to the drawing board and redesigning the whole layout. Basically, they are only limited by how much stuff they can actually fit on one CPU package. Think of it as a multi-million dollar Lego set.


If you are unfamiliar with the features and technology present in Nehalem-based processors, or simply want a more in-depth explanation as to what Intel have done to Clarkdale's CPU die, the following section should interest you.
 

MAC

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Westmere Microarchitecture - Clarkdale Edition pt.2

Westmere Microarchitecture - Clarkdale Edition pt.2



Despite sharing significant roots with the original P6 microarchitecture that was debuted in the Pentium Pro in 1995, and being fundamentally derived from 'Penryn', the Nehalem microarchitecture represented one of the most significant overhauls ever. Intel's engineers added significant performance-oriented features, like an integrated memory controller, a superior system interconnect, a multi-level shared cache, all the while enhancing the chip's power efficiency capabilities.

With Lynnfield, Intel kept what made the current Bloomfield chips great, while removing the aspects that really only catered to the Server/Workstation segment, such as the triple-channel memory interface and the QuickPath Interconnect (QPI). They also worked extensively to improve the power efficiency of this new processor family, while significantly increasing performance in most consumer-oriented applications thanks to very aggressive Turbo Boost capabilities. Furthermore, by integrating the PCIe controller onto the processor itself, Intel were able to do away with the northbridge and create a 2-chip platform, which helprf reduce motherboard prices and overall power consumption.

So what have Intel added to these new Westmere-Clarkdale processors? Nothing, really. In fact, in order to get the new integrated graphics processor to perform as well as possible Intel have had to relocate some bits and pieces away from Clarkdale's CPU die, and they omitted some features from certain models due to product segmentation considerations. All of these changes are exclusive to these Clarkdale variants, and are unlikely to be found in other Westmere-based models.


  • Integrated Memory Controller (IMC)

i7-870 on the left, i5-661 on the right - Dude, where's my IMC?


As discussed on the previous page, Intel have removed the integrated memory controller from the Clarkdale CPU die onto the Ironlake Graphics Memory Controller Hub (GMCH), ie: the die containing the integrated graphics processor (IGP). This might seem like a drastic change considering the fact that it's one of the most important features of the Nehalem microarchitecture but it was necessary in order to achieve optimal performance from the integrated graphics processor. The IGP doesn't have its own memory, thus it must use system memory. The latency penalty from having to access the system memory through the processor's memory controller would have caused a significant peformance hit. Obviously this design change is at the detriment to the CPU's memory access needs, but as we established in our original Bloomfield article, Nehalem-based chips aren't really bandwidth-limited in most consumer apps, even in single-channel mode. The CPU connects to the GMCH using the fast QPI interface so bandwidth should be less of a problem than latency.

  • Integrated PCIe Controller

Lynnfield was the very first processor to have the PCI-Express controller integrated into the processor itself. On Clarkdale, as with the IMC, the integrated PCI-Express has been moved from from the CPU die to the Ironlake GMCH die. This obviously provides the IGP with a very low latency link to the PCI-Express bus. This integrated memory controller has 16 PCI-E 2.0 lanes and supports a single PCI-E x16 slot.


  • SSE4.2 & AES-NI

Building upon Penryn's implementation of SSE4.1, which was focused on improving video encoding, image/video editing, faster 3D game physics, etc...the Nehalem architecture adds 7 new instrutions, namely Accelerated String and Text New Instructions (STTNI) and Application Targeted Acceleration (ATA), which focus on faster XML parsing, faster search and pattern matching, and other cryptic processor functions.

A brand new addition to the Westmere core are the Advanced Encrytion Standard New Instructions (AES-NI). There are 6 new instructions designed to accelerate tasks that use the AES algorithm, such as whole disk encryption/decryption, internet security, VoIP, etc. Baiscally, this essentially allows the processor to do real-time high-security encryption/decryption with little to no effect on system performance.


  • Hyper-Threading


Although omitted from the lowly Pentium G6000 series, all Clarkdale Core i3 & i5 series chips support Hyper-Threading (HT). With HT enabled, a processor with two physical cores is viewed by the operating system as having four logical cores. A core usually processes the pieces of the different threads one after another, however an HT-enabled core can process two threads in a simultaneous manner. While Hyper-Threading did not perform particularly well on the Pentium 4, Nehalem's architecture was designed to remove many of the processing bottlenecks that had previously crippled feature. Depending on the workload, and how effectively multi-threaded an application is, the performance increases can be 20% or higher.


  • Power Control Unit (PCU)


Nehalem’s Power Control Unit (PCU) is a very capable power management feature that uses an on-chip micro-controller to actively manage the power and performance of the entire processor with the help of numerous integrated power sensors. The PCU can dynamically alter the voltage and frequency of the CPU cores to lower power consumption or provide performance boost in conjunction with the Turbo Mode feature. Also, thanks to a development know as Power Gates, idle cores can be completely shut down and placed in a C6 sleep mode while other cores continue working. This is noteworthy because C6 mode had previously only been featured on mobile processors.


  • Turbo Mode


Turbo Boost automatically overclocks the processor based on the workload demand, if there is enough thermal headroom left (ie: if your CPU if running cool enough). Lynnfield's aggressive Turbo Boost implementation was highly touted as one of its best features, but things have been scaled back a bit with Clarkdale. First and foremost, the Pentium G6000 series and Core i3 models do not feature Turbo Boost at all.

While Lynnfield models can Turbo Boost by up to 5 multipliers, the Core i5-600 series processors have only 2 additional speed bins, which is to say that they have two higher multipliers that they can use under certain scenarios. For example, if you are using a single or dual-threaded application, the PCU will down-clock or shut down one of the cores, thereby freeing up power and lowering heat output, allowing for an "overclock" on the one loaded core by two speed bins. If an application is triple or quad-threaded and the processor is not running too hot, the PCU will overclock all the loaded cores up by one speed bin. For those who are curious, the Clarkdale's IGP does not feature a Turbo Boost-like feature, but the mobile Arrandale platform does.
 

MAC

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Intel HD Graphics Integrated GPU

Intel HD Graphics Integrated GPU


As we have already established, Clarkdale processors feature an integrated graphics processor (IGP) built right on the CPU package; the brand new Intel HD Graphics. These are the very first processors to feature the fusion CPU + GPU design concept that AMD first talked about oh so many years ago. The graphics unit is not integrated into the CPU core itself though. It is part of a seperate 45nm die called the Ironlake Graphics Memory Controller Hub (GMCH), which is displayed below.


As you can see, the graphics core, memory memory controller, and the PCI-E controller are all tightly integrated into one package. This was designed to give the GMA HD integrated graphics processor optimal access to the system memory and a low latency link the the PCI-Express bus.



As detailed previously, the Pentium G6950 has a 533Mhz IGP, the Core i3-500 series and Core i5-6x0 series have a 733Mhz IGP, and the Core i5-661 has a 900Mhz IGP. This is not a huge increase from the 800Mhz GMA X4500HD found on the G45 chipset, nor are the two extra 'executions units' a particularly notable change. However, the fact that the IGP has been relocated to the CPU package and given better access to the system resources should help distinguish itself from its not-so-well-received predecessors.



On the multimedia front this a very promising IGP though. It supports full hardawre decode acceleration for H.264/AVC, VC-1 and MPEG-2 formats. It can decode two Blu-ray streams at once. It can upscale DVD and enhance the image quality via post processing. It supports lossless Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats. And when you want to output, you have a choice of DisplayPort, DVI, dual HDMI, and VGA.
 
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MAC

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Intel H55 Express Chipset Examined

H55 Express Chipset Examined



When the Lynnfield platform was launched, we saw the first new 'Ibex Peak' 5-series chipset, the P55 Express. However, the Ibex Peak family also consists of the H55, H57, and Q57 chipsets. Unlike all previous Intel chipsets which featured both a northbridge and a southbridge (eg. X58 Express + ICH10R), the Ibex Peak are one-chip solutions. As such, Intel have come up with the new designation of Platform Controller Hub (PCH). Intel has managed to transition to a one-chip design since all LGA1156 processors have a memory controller and PCI-Express controller built into the CPU package, therefore rending the northbridge obsolete.

The model we are particularly interested in today is the H55 Express. Unlike the P55 Express, this chipset does not natively support dual PCI-Express 2.0 x8 slots for CrossFire and SLI but some manufacturers can add in a second slot for 8x / 8x though at an added expense to the end user. On the plus side, the H55 is one of three chipsets (H55, H57, Q57) that supports the Flexible Display Interface (FDI). This interface allows the IGP in the Clarkdale processor to channel its graphics data to the display controller in the H55 PCH, which can then be outputted via DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, or the venerable VGA.

On the connectivity front, the H55 supports up to 12 USB 2.0 ports, 6 PCI-E x1 slots, 4 legacy PCI slots, and 6 SATA II ports. This is 2 less USB ports and PCI-E x1 slots than the other four Ibex Peak models. It also features one Gigabit LAN port and HD Audio Technology.

Meanwhile, the PCH communicates to the CPU via the Direct Media Interface (DMI), a 2 GB/s point-to-point connection, which is roughly equivalent to a PCI-E x4 1.0 link. By the way, the DMI is by no means new, it has long been used as the link between the northbridge and southbridge.

Like all modern Intel chipsets, the H55 PCH is manufactured on the 65nm process and it has a low default voltage of 1.0V. As a result of this low voltage, and the simple fact that the H55 does not actually do much, it does run quite cool. It is also tiny. The H55 package size is just 27mm x 27mm, and the actual die is a minuscule 8mm x 8mm as revealed below:


Remember, this chip is manufactured on the old 65nm process. Can you imagine how small it would be if it were manufactured with the 32nm processor? It would be so small that Intel would integrate it into the CPU die, which is exactly what will be done with the upcoming Sandy Bridge microarchitecture.
 

MAC

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Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology


For this review, we have prepared four different test setups, representing all the popular platforms at the moment, as well as most of the best-selling processors. As much as possible, the four test setups feature identical components, memory timings, drivers, etc. Aside from manually selecting memory frequencies and timings, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.


Intel Core i5 "Clarkdale" Test Setup​


Intel Core i5 & Core i7 "Lynnfield" Test Setup​



Intel Core i7 "Bloomfield" Test Setup​



Intel Core 2 Test Setup​



AMD Phenom II AM3 Test Setup​



For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a defragment and a reboot.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks were applied to Windows Vista and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • Sidebar – Disabled
  • UAC – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan - High Performance
  • NVIDIA PhysX – Disabled
  • V-Sync – Off

D) Programs and games are then installed & updated followed by another defragment.

E) Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three times after a clean reboot for every iteration of the benchmark unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged. If they were any clearly anomalous results, the 3-loop run was repeated. If they remained, we mentioned it in the individual benchmark write-up.

Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • 3DMark06 Professional v1.1.0
  • 3DMark Vantage Professional Edition v1.0.1
  • Cinebench R10 64-bit
  • Crysis v1.21
  • Far Cry 1.02
  • HyperPi 0.99b
  • High Definition Experience and Performance Ratings Test 2009 (HDxPRT 2009) (Adobe Elements 7.0/QuickTime Player/iTunes 8.0.1/Sorenson Squeeze/PowerDVD 8/DiVX engine)
  • Lame Front-End 1.0
  • Lavalys Everest Ultimate v5.02.1834 Beta
  • PCMark Vantage Advanced 64-Bit Edition (1.0.0.0)
  • Photoshop CS4 Extended (64-bit)
  • ScienceMark 2.0 Build 21MAR05
  • SiSoft Sandra Professional 2009.9.15.124
  • Street Fighter 4 Demo
  • Supreme Commander v1.1.3280
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
  • WinRAR 3.8.0
  • World in Conflict v1.010
  • x264 HD Benchmark v1.0

That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 

MAC

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Feature Test: Hyper-Threading (HT)

Feature Test: Hyper-Threading (HT)



How two becomes four.

The Nehalem microarchitecture brought forth the return of Hyper-Threading (HT), which is a feature that was first implemented on the Pentium 4 "Northwood" processors with mediocre results. Thankfully, as we demonstrated in our Bloomfield Core i7 review, this new microarchitecture has really been designed to take advantage of HT's multi-threading performance benefits.

Aside from the lower-end Pentium G6950, all six Clarkdale models feature Hyper-Threading, and Intel is really betting that this a feature that will distinguish these chips from traditional dual-core processors. So is Hyper-Threading's increased multi-threading performance really apparent on Clarkdale? Let's find out with a small selection of multi-threaded applications:

<table align="center" table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="735px"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="130"><b></b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="180"><b>Intel Core i5-661 - HT Off</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="180"><b>Intel Core i5-661 - HT On</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="180"><b>Performance Difference</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>Cinebench R10 64-bit: xCPU</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">9190</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">11061</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+20%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>WinRAR 3.8.0 Compression</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">287 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">255 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+12.5%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>x264 HD Benchmark</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">11.27 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">14.25 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+26%</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>3DMark Vantage: CPU Score</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">7354</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">10136</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+38%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>Far Cry 2</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">70.11 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">82.19 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+17%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>World in Conflict</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">41 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">46 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+12%</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>Street Fighter 4</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">184.58 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">192.46 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+4%</td></tr>
</tr></table>

Admittedly our sample size is small, but the results speak for themselves. In highly multi-threaded applications, HT can make a significant difference, speeding up a real-life workloads by 12% to 24%.

As you can see in Far Cry 2, World in Conflict, Street Fighter 4, there are benefits to be had in games since most multi-threaded engines recognize up to four-threads. Multi-threaded games have definitely become more prominent, and we are approaching the point were a simple dual-core processor simply won't cut it anymore.
 

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Feature Test: Intel Turbo Boost

Feature Test: Intel Turbo Boost



3.33Ghz Core i5-661 Turbo'ing up to 3.59Ghz

For those of you who skipped the microarchitecture section, let's recap what Turbo Boost is.

Turbo Mode is an feature that automatically unlocks additional speed bins (multipliers) and allows the processor to self-overclock based on thermal conditions and workload. For example, if the Power Control Unit (PCU) senses that one core is active and the other is in an idle state, it will use the unused power and thermal headroom to overclock that single active core to ensure superior single-threaded performance. Conversely, if you are running a multi-threaded application, the PCU will measure the thermal headroom and if the processor is running cool enough it will overclock both cores. On the Core i5-600 series chips, Turbo Mode can provide a 266Mhz speed boost in single or dual-threaded workloads and 133Mhz in triple or quad-threaded applications.

Although the results will be fairly self-evident, let's check out the performance gains that Turbo Mode provides on our Core i5-661 model. As per the above, thermal conditions permitting, it will run at 3.59GHz for single or dual-threaded workloads and 3.46Ghz triple or quad-threaded applications.

<table align="center" table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="735px"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="130"><b></b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="180"><b>Intel Core i5-661<br>Turbo Boost Off</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="180"><b>Intel Core i5-661<br>Turbo Boost On</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="180"><b>Performance Difference</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>Cinebench R10 64-bit: Single Thread</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">4384</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">4666</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+6%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>Cinebench R10 64-bit: Multi-Thread</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">10505</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">11061</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+5%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>HDxPRT</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">183</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">190</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+4%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>Lame Front-End</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">160 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">146 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+9.5%</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>Photoshop CS4 64-bit</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">224.5 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">212.2 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+6%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>SuperPi 32M</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">738.582 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">702.639 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+5%</td><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>WinRAR 3.8.0 Compression</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">260 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">255 secs.</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+2%</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>x264 HD Benchmark</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">13.82 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">14.25 FPS</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+3%</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>3DMark Vantage: CPU Score</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">9631</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">10136</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+5%</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100"><b>Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">103 Score</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">107 Score</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+4%</td></tr></table>

As you can see, there are some marginal performance improvements in multi-threaded applications, and some more noticeable speeds boosts in single-threaded applications like Lame Front-End and SuperPI. Some people consider the Turbo Mode feature a mere gimmick, and perhaps it is for enthusiast users who overclock, but who can criticize a free and automatic 133-266Mhz speed boost?

Now when you combine Turbo Boost with Hyper-Threading, you have two technologies that can work together to create some very noticeable performance improvements. Will this allow a dual-core processor to compete with native quad-core models? Let's find out with some real benchmarks.
 
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