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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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Nov 8, 2006
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IGP Gaming Benchmarks

IGP Gaming Benchmarks



In order to get an idea of how the new Intel HD Graphics IGP performs we decided to compare it to a few modern IGPs that are on the market today, namely the ATI HD 4200, Intel GMA X4500, and NVIDIA GeForce 9400. Just for fun, we also included the latest low-end discrete GPUs from ATI and NVIDIA in the form of a Radeon HD 4350 512MB and a GeForce 210 512MB, which will be tested on the Clarkdale platform itself.

Keep in mind that the Core i5-661 processor that we are using features the most high-end variant of the Intel HD GPU. It is clocked in at 900Mhz compared to 733Mhz for the other i3-500 series and i5-600 series models.

Although all the IGPs and GPUs are DirectX 10 capable, we decided to stick with good old DirectX 9, since otherwise performance would be a little too lackluster. Nevertheless, we aren't going to be testing some graphically lax 'casual' games, instead we are putting these graphical solutions through the ringer with some demanding benchmarking apps, first-person shooters, and real-time strategy games.

Futuremark 3DMark06


3DMark06 v1.1.0
Graphic Settings: Default
Resolution: 1280X1024

Test: Specific CPU Score and Full Run 3Dmarks
Comparison: Generated Score

The Futuremark 3DMark series has been a part of the backbone in computer and hardware reviews since its conception. The trend continues today as 3DMark06 provides consumers with a solid synthetic benchmark geared for performance and comparison in the 3D gaming realm. This remains one of the most sought after statistics, as well as an excellent tool for accurate CPU comparison, and it will undoubtedly be used for years to come.



Well for starters, we can say that Intel have made huge strides over their previous generation IGP. In fact, the new Intel solution manages to go neck & neck with the GeForce 9400 IGP, which is effectively the desktop version of NVIDIA's popular ION chipset. The two discrete GPUs do outperform the new GMA HD IGP, but not by much considering their $40-50 price tag.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage


3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
Graphic Settings: Entry Preset
Resolution: 1024X768

Test: Specific CPU Score and Full Run 3Dmarks
Comparison: Generated Score

3DMark Vantage is the follow-up to the highly successful 3DMark06. It uses DirectX 10 exclusively so if you are running Windows XP, you can forget about this benchmark. Along with being a very capable graphics card testing application, it also has very heavily multi-threaded CPU tests, such Physics Simulation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which makes it a good all-around gaming benchmark.



In 3DMark Vantage the situation is reversed, with the Intel GMA HD IGP taking the lead by a healthy margin. For some reason AMD's popular 785G/HD 4200 IGP failed to load Vantage with the Catalyst 9.12 WHQL drivers.


Crysis


Crysis v1.21
Resolution: 1280x1024
Anti Aliasing: 0
Quality Settings: Low
Global Settings: DX9 / 64-Bit

Test 1: Sphere benchmark - autotest demo
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

Still one of the most hardware intensive game on the market today, Crysis has been chosen for its obvious ability to be able to showcase the differences between platforms and to showcase just how far one will need to go in the quest for maximum performance. The game also features the renowned CryEngine, the power behind the incredible graphics, which is expected to be foundation of future titles.



Alas, we are still years away from being able to play Crysis on an IGP at a decent resolution. Nevertheless, the GMA HD IGP did put up some decent middle of the road numbers.


Far Cry 2


Far Cry 2 1.02
Resolution: 1280x1024
Anti Aliasing: 0
Quality Settings: Low
Global Settings: DX9 Enabled

Test 1: Ranch Long Demo
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

Far Cry 2 is the hot new new first-person shooter from Ubisoft's Montreal studio, and the first game to utilize the new visually stunning Dunia Engine, which will undoubtedly be used by numerous future games. Using the included Benchmarking Tool, we ran the Long Ranch demo in DX9 mode at 1280x1024 with all settings set to low.



Once again the Intel GMA HD IGP lags behind the NVIDIA GeForce 9400 IGP, but not by much.


Left 4 Dead


Left 4 Dead (Latest Update)
Resolution: 1280x1024
Filtering: 0X AA / 0X AF
Graphic Settings: Low
Shader Detail: Low
Test 1: HWC Custom Timedemo
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

Left 4 Dead is the latest disorienting, fast-paced zombie apocalypse mega-hit from Valve. L4D uses the latest version of the Source engine with enhancements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation. We tested at 1280x1024 with in-game details set to low. For benching, we used a pre-recorded 20 minute timedemo taken on the No Mercy campaign during The Apartments mission.



Finally, the GMA HD IGP distinguishes itself by outperforming all the other IGPs. It's still a fair bit behind the lowest-end discrete GPUs, but at least it managed to play Left 4 Dead at a steady 30FPS.


World in Conflict


World in Conflict v1.010
Resolution: 1280x1024
Anti-Aliasing: 0X
Anisotropic Filtering: 0X
Graphic Settings: Low
Test 1: Built-in Benchmark
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

One of the detailed and most visually stunning real-time tactical games in recent history, World in Conflict remains a staple in our gaming lineup . For this test we used the in-game benchmarking tool.



Once again the GMA HD IGP performs worse than the discrete GPUs and the GeForce 9400 IGP, but it does continue to outclass the highly touted Radeon HD 4200 found the in the AMD 785G chipset.

Overall, Intel have managed to create one of the better IGPs on the market, but not by much, especially when you consider that our Core i5-661 model is clocked 23% than all the other Clarkdale Core i3 and i5 processors. The GMA HD IGP is perfectly capable of playing casual games like World of Warcraft and the SIMS at reasonable resolutions and with detail settings set to their lower options. Frankly though, if you fancy yourself any type of gamer, buy a discrete card. IGPs are for business computers and HTPCs, which is why we are going to test and compare the high definition video decoding capabilities of this integrated graphics processor.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
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1,141
Location
Montreal
IGP HD Video Decoding

IGP HD Video Decoding



In order to test the high definition video decoding capabilities of the Intel GMA HD IGP we loaded up CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra 9.0.2320 and played high definition 1080p media with three different types of HD codecs, namely VC-1, H.264/AVC, and WMW HD. Hardware acceleration was enabled in PowerDVD to take advantage of the accelerated decoding capabilities of our IGPs and GPUs.

Chapter 24 of the Batman Begins Blu-ray DVD was our source for VC-1.
Chapter 8 of the Transformers Blu-ray DVD was our source for H.264/AVC.
The entire clip of [URL="http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/musicandvideo/hdvideo/contentshowcase.aspx]The Living Sea (IMAX)[/URL] was our source for WMW HD.

What we are looking for is the lowest possible CPU utilization.


As you can see the Intel GMA HD IGP proved supremely capable at handling 1080p HD content. Clearly, the full hardware accelerated decoding of HD formats is working quite well. Yes, the ATI Radeon HD 4200 and NVIDIA GeForce 9400 achieved even lower CPU utilization results, but you have to give credit where its due. Intel's new solution is miles ahead of the GMA X4500 found in the G41 and G43 chipsets.

We would have liked to show you some transcoding figures as well, since Intel announced that the GMA HD IGP will have GPGPU capabilities, but that capability is not quite ready yet. We will have that for you in a future article.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,141
Location
Montreal
Power Consumption / Temperature Testing

Power Consumption / Temperature Testing




Power Consumption



For this section, every energy saving feature was enabled in the respective BIOSes and the Windows Vista power plan was changed from High Performance to Balanced.

For our idle test, we let the system idle for 15 minutes and measured the peak wattage through our UPM EM100 power meter.

For our CPU load test, we ran Prime 95 In-place large FFTs on all available threads for 15 minutes, measuring the peak wattage via the UPM EM100 power meter.

For our overall system load test, we ran Prime 95 In-place large FFTs on all available threads for 15 minutes, while simultaneously loading the GPU with OCCT v3.1.0 GPU:OCCT stress test at [email protected] in full screen mode.


As you can see, even with a discrete GPU, the Clarkdale/H55 platform achieves some very impressive power consumption numbers. While the idle figures are not much better than what we saw with Lynnfield, the performance per watt that you are getting when compared to the Pentium Dual-Core and Core 2 Duo setups is hugely improved.

What's really impressive though is what happens you only use the IGP...


Check out those idle numbers, 35W! That's unbelievably low and this is where this new platform excels. It is absolutely ideal for an HTPC or simply a business machine this is left on 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The system would likely pay for itself over its lifespan when you consider the energy savings compared to an older Pentium 4 or Athlon X2 system.

As you can see, when the IGP is fully loaded it does push the power consumption above that of the low-end discrete GPUs. However, OCCT GPU stress test creates a type of load that you will never encounter in any real-life circumstance.


Temperature Testing



For the temperature testing, we used both the stock Intel Clarkdale CPU cooler and a Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme (TRUE). The ambient temperature was 20°C/68°F.

Idle CPU + Idle IGP: The system was left to idle for 15 minutes.
Idle GPU + Load IGP: OCCT v3.1.0 GPU stress test was run at 1680x1050 for 15 minutes.
Load CPU + Idle IGP: Prime 95 In-place large FFTs was run for 15 minutes.
Load CPU + Load IGP: Prime 95 In-place large FFTs and OCCT v3.1.0 GPU stress test were run for 15 minutes.


We used Real Temp 3.50 RC6 Beta to collect these temperature figures, and if the results are correct the i5-661's cool running nature is simply betrayed by the mediocre stock cooler that Intel bundles with their new mainstream chips. Having said that, with a high-end CPU cooler like the TRUE the temperatures were extremely low, a testament to the new 32nm process. We believe that passive cooling might definitely be a possibility with Clarkdale, at least in systems with decent case airflow. It was particularly interesting to see how little the IGP affects overall CPU temperatures, even when under the full load of OCCT's GPU stress test.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,141
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results



While we were absolutely excited to overclock our very first 32nm processor, we ran into troubles right off the bat. First and foremost, the Intel-provided DH55TC motherboard had absolutely zero overclocking options. Then we tried throwing it in a Gigabyte P55 motherboard, and it worked, but we hit a concrete block at 156Mhz BCLK. No amount of tweaking or voltage could get us past this level. The fact that we couldn't change CPU multipliers probably didn't help either. So at the end of the day, this is the best we could do with our Core i5-661. This is BIOS or motherboard limited though, no doubt about it.


Thankfully, our resident hardware overclocker 3oh6 had quite a bit better luck with his Core i5-660, an EVGA P55 Classified 200 motherboard, and a healthy dose of liquid nitrogen (LN2). You had better cover your keyboard, you will start drooling.

SuperPI 1MB @ 6.57Ghz




SuperPI 32MB @ 6.52Ghz



Not too shabby eh? And this is an engineering sample. Imagine what will be achieved once a few cherry chips are located and exploited.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,141
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


After hearing AMD talk for years about the Fusion CPU + GPU concept being the future of computing, it's a bit surprising that Intel is the first one out of the gate with a product to market. However, we will take it any way we can get it.

Mind you, it was easy to be cynical about Clarkdale before even getting our hands on it, since a dual-core/four-thread processor design had never been attempted before and Intel is not exactly known for their top-notch IGPs. However, what we have here is a superbly executed product. Yes, the IGP is not particularly better than the contemporary low end stand alone solutions from AMD or NVIDIA, but it does work very well. It is more than capable for casual gaming purposes, and it has excellent high definition video decoding and ouput capabilities. What's more, Intel have promised to unveil some GPGPU capabilities for this IGP, which should greatly speed up video transcoding as well.

CPU wise, Intel have a real gem on their hands. Throughout our benchmarking session, we had to remind ourselves that this was not in fact a quad-core processor, but a mere four-thread capable dual-core chip. The high core clocks speed, Turbo Boost, and Hyper-Threading really combine to create a processor that performs exceedingly well across the board. Only in the most multi-threaded workloads did our Core i5-661 begin to stumble against the native quad-core chips.

Since we like the performance that we saw, the solid multimedia capabilities of the GMA HD Graphics IGP, and the very impressive energy efficiency of the platform, we wouldn't hesitate to recommend Clarkdale for a business computer, a Home Theater PC (HTPC), or even a casual gaming system. However, we aren't too fond of the price points for the i5-600 series models, especially since the i5-660 and i5-661 overlap with the i5-750, an overall faster quad-core chip. Therefore, it's the i3-500 series models that get our most vigorous recommendation. The omission of Turbo Boost and a slightly slower IGP are not elements that will compromise overall performance in the workloads that this type of system is likely to see. Likewise, casual overclockers would be well advised to look at the i3-500 series as well, particularly the i3-540 with its 23X multiplier. Our overclocking endeavours might not have started off great, but Intel's 32nm process has opened up a lot of overclocking potential.

What will be particularly interesting to see is how well motherboard manufacturers embrace Intel's new pricing philosophy and filter it down to their products. If pricing is too high (trust us, some of the boards we have seen carry scary-high prices for this market segment), many customers will write off the platform as a whole and just go with an entry-level P55 or AMD solution with a lower end dedicated GPU. However, when taken at face value, the H57, H55 and Q57 series have a ton of potential and can elevate the platform in many ways. We have a number of products from the various manufacturers in our labs and so far, things are looking good from almost every angle. Customers now have a clear upgrade path with LGA 1156 processors where they can buy an i3 now and bring things to the next level sometime in the future without having to make the jump to the high-end 1366 platform.

With Clarkdale, Intel have given us a glimpse at what the future of processor design will be like. i5-600 series aside, these are well priced products and they compete very well with anything the competition has to offer. Now we can't wait to see what AMD can do with their Fusion design....whenever it is released.


<table align="center"><tr><td valign="bottom"><img src="http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/imagehosting/240486eb8252c5e5.png" alt="Dam Innovative!"></td><td valign="bottom"><img src="http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/imagehosting/240463923aca1f6b.jpg" alt="Dam Good!"></td></tr></table>


 
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