Intel Core i5 661 Reviewccokeman - January 3, 2010
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Most of the Intel processors I have looked at in the past were geared more towards the enthusiast, but this offering from Intel is geared straight at the mainstream user. As more and more personal computers reach the point that they need an upgrade, there has to be a valid reason to throw the old reliable to the side and step up to the latest and greatest technologies. Sure, increased performance is one reason, but the performance is only part of the equation. Speeding up applications and taking advantage of the latest technologies with the newest operating systems is another way to make the experience that much more enjoyable and efficient. By having the ability to do more at the same time means less time in front of the magic box so you can spend that time saved on another project or spend that time with the family watching the latest Blu-ray release on your High Def television.
To make these things a reality, Intel is releasing their new for 2010 Core series processors and five new chipsets to provide that enhanced the user's experience. Today I will be looking at the Intel Core i5 661 processor and Intel DH55TC motherboard combination. The Core i5 661 processor is not just a dual core processor, but has included under the the heatspreader an integrated graphics core built on a 45nm High-k process with 12 execution cores and a clock speed of 900Mhz and sports Intel's 3rd generation Unified Shader Architecture. The processor side of the chip is built on Intel's 32nm second generation High-k process and sports a 3.33GHz clock speed with 4MB of L3 Smart Cache. The processors makes use of Intel technologies such as Turbo Boost technology to increase the processor speed up to 3.6GHz dynamically, based on the load and current being used. Hyperthreading is used to increase the amount of threads the processor can access simultaneously so in essence you have a dual core that acts like a quad core. The 2010 Core series processors are designed to take advantage of the optimizations in Windows 7 such as support for Intel's Clear Video playback and High Color support for a more vibrant picture. Let's see how the latest processor performs.
The Intel Core i5 661 Clarksdale processor is a deviation from what has been done in the past when it comes to an integrated graphics solution. In the past, there has been a graphics chip on the motherboard with the CPU as its own entity. This is not the case anymore with the introduction of the Core i5 661 processor and its family. This chip is based on both Intel's 32nm High-k second generation manufacturing process for the processor with a 45nm High-k process used for the integrated graphics processor. This puts the processor core, graphics core and integrated memory controller all in one package. The Clarksdale processor package is based on the Nehalem micro-architecture and is capable of running in the 30 to 40 watt range at idle with a TDP of 87 watts. This CPU in this package is rated to run at 3.33GHz and makes use of Intel's Turbo boost technology, employs Hyperthreading to increase the amount of work that can be done, uses 4MB of Intel Smart Cache that is shared and dynamically allocated based on the needs of the cores. AES-NI is a new set of six instructions that help accelerate data encryption and decryption. The graphics core is based on Intel's 3rd generation Unified Shader Architecture to run at 900MHz and includes 12 execution units and can use a maximum of 1.7 GB of video memory. All this and it still fits in the socket 1156 package. The Intel promotional shot shows the cores after the heatspreader is removed.
The heatsink that ships with the Core i5 661 is, for all intents and purposes, the same as the one shipped with the i5 750 as seen back in September. It is smaller in stature than the stock Intel cooling solutions used in the past, but is adequate for a processor with four actual cores - a dual core with Hyperthreading and an integrated GPU should be fine. Left to right, you have the socket 775, socket 1366 and the socket 1156 heatsink.
The H55 chipset is just one of five chipsets being introduced to take advantage of the capabilities of the 17 new processors in the 2010 Core family. Looking at the block diagram below you can see the introduction of the FDI or Flexible Display Interface between the processor and H55 chipset that contains two independent channels that allow graphics data to be transported between the processor and H55 Express chipset.
The package of the Core i5 661 and an H55 equipped motherboard looks like it can be a winner for the mainstream, let's see if that proves true in the testing.