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Intel Core i5 661 Review

ccokeman    -   January 3, 2010
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Conclusion:

The Core i5 661 and DH55TC motherboard proved to be a potent combination when tested in its environment. Even in the testing used here at OCC, it delivered decent results by comparison. If you are thinking of using the on-chip GPU as your primary graphics adapter for today's latest enthusiast games, think again. The 12 execution units and 900Mhz clock speed just don't have the chops for running these games, even with the settings toned way down. The one exception to this statement I found was Left 4 Dead, which I was able to play up to 1680x1050 at low settings with no AA or AF. With mainstream games, you should be fine with titles such as WOW or the Sims series. In WOW, with the settings turned down from the defaults in the WOW control panel, I was able to push out 70 to 80 FPS while strolling through my first incursion into the World of Warcraft. When I added a discrete GPU to the system, the 3.33GHz clock speed helped in the gaming, depending on the resolution. If the family moves up to playing more advanced games than WOW, Bejeweled or the Sims, then a discrete card will pay dividends with increased gaming performance.

Overclocking the processor on the Intel board was a pretty easy since the only options available to manually adjust the performance was the bclock speed. Even so, this processor was able to run up to a 3.85GHz clock speed by increasing the bclock speed to 153Mhz with a 25 clock multiplier. This gave me only about a 400Mhz increase over the 3.46Ghz speeds I was seeing when using Intel's Turbo Boost option. But is this really a bad thing, when this board and processor will most likely be used in a small tower system in an office or home? Not really - it's not designed for that so I can't really complain about it when my expectations were lowered. The one thing I can talk about is that since the memory voltage is non-adjustable, you need to make sure you have memory modules that will run at the DDR3 specification of 1.5V. Do yourself a favor and follow the memory QVL.

When tested as an HTPC, the Intel Core i5 661 processor has the muscle to deliver flawless Blu-ray playback and sound, by way of the integrated graphics processor and applications ready to take advantage of the Clarksdale processor (such as Power DVD or Arcsoft's Total Media Theater 3). This alone has sold me on the idea of building a lower cost HTPC for the home. GPU acceleration has become one of the latest catch phrases over the past year and now big blue has thrown its hands into the waters with support from a who's who list of software companies all offering support for this series of processors, for both the desktop and mobile markets. Designed for the mainstream market this combination of chipset and CPU/GPU should do well to enhance the computing experience.

The Core i5 661 will be released with a $196 dollar price point, while the DH55TC should have a street price of around $100 (even though Intel does not provide exact figures). If you are building a Home Theater PC or just a system for use by the whole family, you cannot go wrong with this processor and motherboard combination. Low power usage, Blu-ray decoding, Support for Dolby* True HD and DTS* sound, GPU accelerated applications all make this setup a bargain for the mainstream.

Pros:

  • 32nm
  • Built in GPU
  • Price
  • Great Blue Ray play back
  • Applications ready to take advantage of the IGP
  • Low power consumption
  • Windows 7 enhancements

Cons:

  • DH55TC - Make sure you follow the memory QVL
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