Intel Core i5 661 Review

ccokeman - 2009-09-01 18:12:49 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 3, 2010
Price: $196

Introduction:

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.

Closer Look:

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.


 

Closer Look:

When you launch a new processor, there needs to be a platform available its use. With the Core i5 661, there is the DH55TC (Tom Cove) motherboard that should hit the street with a price tag close to $100. This motherboard supports the latest 32nm Core i5 processors, as well as the already available socket 1156 Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3 processors and is built upon the Intel H55 chipset. Where the H55 differs from the P55 is that the H55 provides an additional connection to the processor via the FDI, or Flexible display interface, that allows the use of the Clarksdale processor's on chip 45nm graphics processor. The Tom Cove board is a micro-ATX form factor board for use with mainstream systems with or without a discrete graphics card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The I/O panel contains the connections you would normally see on a motherboard that sported an onboard graphics chip - with the dual link DVI, a single VGA and a HDMI port. The HDMI supports HDMI 1.3 and is capable of bit streaming Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. There is a single PS/2 combination port that can be used with either a mouse or keyboard, a total of six USB 2.0 ports, a single RJ45 10/100 LAN port and the HD audio connections. Even though the on-chip graphics solution is a capable piece of hardware, you have the option of using a discrete video card in the 16x PCIe 2.0 slot, with additional expansion  slots available in the form of a single PCI and two PCIe 1x ports.

 

 

Along the bottom of the motherboard, you have, from the left to right, a 2-pin connector for a speaker, front panel audio, SPDIF, serial connection, and three additional USB headers for a total of twelve High Speed USB 2.0 connections available on the DH55TC.

 

Flipping around to the right hand side of the PCB, you have the front panel connections, CMOS jumper, six SATA 3.0 Gbps ports - two of which (the two red ones) are eSATA ports. Memory support for this board and processor combo is a total of two channels of DDR3 1333 memory, with a total of four slots available. The power connections for the DH55TC are located on the right and top edges and consist of a 24-pin and 4-pin connections.

 

 

The area around the socket is fairly clear and offers little obstruction if you choose to install something other than the stock cooling solution. Chances are most of these motherboards will end up in mainstream towers with the stock cooling solution, which should prove more than adequate with Intel's power saving technologies. The H55 chipset is covered with a small, aluminum-finned heatsink to provide cooling for this device.

 

 

The DH55TC looks to be a pretty capable board that would be right at home as an all-in-one HTPC solution, when coupled with Intel's new processors with on-chip graphics, to offer a stunning visual and audio experience.

Closer Look:

To go along with the new CPU/GPU, Intel has an updated graphics control panel that offers a new look and is easier to use. The first section is labeled Display and options for setting the Resolution, Color Depth, Refresh Rate, setting up Multiple Displays, adjusting the color settings, setting up and using Custom Resolutions and configuring the position of the image on the screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 3D tab allows you to globally set the visual quality setting from Performance to Quality, much like you would find in the basic control panels from ATI and Nvidia.  Additionally, you can forego the global setting and use four sliders to adjust the Texture Quality, Anisotropic Filtering, Vertex Processing and Vertical Sync settings. The Media section offers Color Enhancement, Image Enhancement and Image Scaling tabs.

 

 

 

The Power tab section will prove beneficial for Notebook users in setting up a power plan to achieve either performance or battery life savings. The Options and Support tab has three sub-folders that let you setup Hot Keys for specific actions such as opening the control panel and rotating the display. The Information Center gives information about the processor, GPU, operating system and memory usage by the graphics chip. Help and Support is a series of links to information that may prove helpful in diagnosing problems.

 

 

 

Although this graphics control panel is not as expansive as you find with a discrete video cards, you have enough flexibility to make the changes you need.

Specifications:

Intel® Core™ i5-6X1 Series
Socket
LGA1156
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology
Yes
Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology
Yes
Intel® Smart Cache
4 MB L3 shared
Integrated Memory Controller
 Yes
Number of Memory Channels
2 (DDR3 1333 MHz)
Intel® Graphics Technology
Yes
Graphics Core Frequency
900MHz
Intel® vPro™ Technology
No
Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT-x)
Yes
Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O
(Intel® VT-d)
No
Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT)
No
AES New Instructions (AES-NI)
Yes
Intel® Express Chipset
Intel® 5 Series

Category Features
Features
LGA 775 Processor
+Intel® G45/GM45
New 2010 Intel® Core Processors
+ Intel® 5 Series Chipset
Architecture
Improvements
Unified Shader Architecture
2nd Generation
3rd Generation
Execution Units (EUs)
10 EUs
12 EUs
HW Vertex Processing
Enhanced
Enhanced with clip/cull/setup
Hierarchical Z and Fast Z Clear
No
Yes
Targeted OS Optimizations
Windows Vista/XP
Windows 7/Vista/XP
3D Performance
Core Frequency
Up to 800 MHz
Up to 900 MHz
Maximum Video Memory
Up to 1.7 GB
Up to 1.7 GB
DirectX Support
DX10
DX10
Open GL Support
Open GL 2.0
Open GL 2.1
Shader Model Support
SM 4.0
SM 4.0
Dynamic Frequency
No
Yes (mobile only)
Maximum Resolution
2560 x 1600
2560 x 1600
Dual Simultaneous HDMI1 Support
No
Yes

Features:

Testing:

The only way to know how a processor performs is to run it through a series of benchmarks, using both synthetic and real tasks to make a comparison as to how the processor performs against architectures from the same manufacturer as well as competing manufacturers. Really, this leaves Intel and AMD at this point. To test the Core i5 661 3.33GHz processor, all of the energy saving features as well as performance boosting technologies have been disabled on the motherboard to be able to gain repeatable results. Otherwise, the results would not be a valid form of comparison. Intel's Turbo Boost technology provides a serious clock increase on this CPU that allow it to deliver performance in excess of what is available when the technology is disabled. A comparison will be made against both AMD processors and both the Intel socket 1366 and socket 1156 processors. Once the stock testing is completed, I will overclock the Core i5 661 to see if it gives up any head room. Both stock and overclocked testing will be accomplished on the Intel DH55TC motherboard.

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5 Clarksdale Socket 1156

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1156

 

Testing Setup AMD AM3 CPU's:

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 1366

  

Comparison CPUs:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

After having pretty good luck with the Intel motherboards used on the last two processor launches, I was expecting a little more than what I got. The BIOS options on the Tom Cove board are very limited. Sure, there is a way to bump the bclock speed up, but there are no options to increase voltages or adjust memory timings. Both are serious impediments to overclocking, but when you look at where this motherboard and processor are targeted, there really is not a need to have a BIOS full of overclocking options. Even so, I had to push it to see what could be accomplished with the limited options. The lack of even basic voltage voltage adjustments was the first real problem I ran up against. How so, you ask? Well, with the four sets of memory modules I have, which are rated to run on Core i5 systems, only one would allow the system to run stably at stock settings. Why? All of the modules I have a rated to run at 1.65V. It should not be an issue, but the board set only 1.5V in the BIOS without any possibility to increase it. Again, keep in mind the target for this combo. With the memory problem in check, I disabled the energy saving technologies and started bumping up the bclock in 5MHz increments, with a reboot in between to see if the settings would boot. All was good up to 158Mhz. At this point, I could boot, but blue screen when loading Windows. I backed it down 5 MHz to a bclock of 153 and was stable enough to run Prime95 for 5 hours before bailing on the stability testing. All in all this takes the processor up from an already stout 3.33GHz  to 3.85GHz with nothing more than a bclock increase. It does seem that the graphics core does not see an increase based on the processors bclock speed.

 

 

 

While manually adjusting the BIOS is a way to get your overclock on, Intel has its own way of increasing speed to improve performance with its Turbo Boost Technology. This technology dynamically adjusts the clock speed up to preset limits, in both single and multi-threaded applications - as long as the processor stays within certain parameters that include the current draw of the processor under load. On the Core i5 661 Clarksdale processor, the maximum clock speed you can see using the Turbo Boost Technology is 3.6GHz. In my testing, the maximum I saw was 3.46Ghz in both single and multi-threaded applications. How do you know how fast the processor is running without opening an application like CPUz or Everest? Intel has a handy little tool that comes in the form of a "Gadget" that is used on the Windows Sidebar called, surprisingly enough, the Turbo Boost Technology Monitor. This little tool does exactly what is says it does and will allow you to see just how much extra performance your Core i5 or i7 processor is delivering. Just to see how it worked I ran both the single and multiple CPU tests in Cinebech 10.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. PCMark Vantage Professional
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10
  9. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds. Additionally, I will use the built in benchmark as a comparison.

 

ZIP:

 

Lower is Better

 

RAR:

 

Lower is Better

 

In Apophysis, the i5 661 delivered results close to those of the i7 965, while delivering comparable results in the WinRAR testing.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB MIcrosoft Excel speadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower Is Better

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.

Higher Is Better

 

PCMark Vantage x64 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.

 

The Excel Big Number Crunch test has the i5 661 performing better than all of the AMD offerings, but still below the level of the Intel quadcore processors. POV Ray has the 661 ahead of the AMD dual and triple core processors. The i5 661, again, out performs all of the AMD offerings in this comparison in PC Mark Vantage.


 

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

The i5 661 and DH55TC combo has the next-to-lowest memory bandwidth and highest latency, while showing a low inter-core latency.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

Higher is Better!

 

CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

The results in Sciencemark show the i5 661 performing below the AMD quadcore processors and ahead of all the Intel chips, save the I7 965. In the Cinebench testing, the i5 661 delivers the highest performance by virtue of the higher clock speed. In the multi CPU results, the two cores with Hyperthreading deliver results comparable to the quadcore AMD 955 and 965. HD Tune results are somewhat of a mixed bag, with lower burst speeds but a higher average read.

Testing:

One of the strong suites of the Core i5 661 Clarksdale processor is its high definition playback and GPU computing capabilities. With the Clarksdales built in 45nm graphics processor, you have the ability to use the GPU to complete tasks that in the past were exclusively in the domain of the CPU - such as video editing, converting media to different formats, and processing images. The massive parallel computing power of the GPU is starting to be used for many things that the mainstream user does on a day-to-day basis. This makes the use of the computer more efficient by dropping the time it takes to complete tasks. One of the things I was curious about specifically was the Blu-ray playback capabilities. After setting up the applications that show off this capability (Cyberlink Power DVD 9 and Arcsoft Total Media Theater Platinum), I blocked out a few evenings to see just how well the playback capabilities were by watching some newer titles like District 9, Star Trek and Inglorious Bastards. To say I was impressed is an understatement. The picture was crisp and clear with no distortion, jumps, or jitters. This was an improvement over my current setup that includes a DVD player hooked to the television and surround sound system. CPU usage for the testing averaged just under 3% when the GPU was doing the work and peaked at almost 30% when the GPU was not used. This is a serious reduction in processor usage by using the GPU. The two main discrete card manufacturers have been able to do this and it is now good to see the mainstream users will get this benefit, without having to shell out good money for an additional bit of hardware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaming is something we all do. From the little ones playing an online flash game, all the way up to the hardcore gamers. As you can guess, the Clarksdale i5 661 is aimed at the mainstream user (Family) that uses the computer for for all the every day tasks. Gaming is not its strong suite, but it does have the ability do some gaming. Flash based games and casual games like Bejeweled are games that the Clarksdale can handle with ease. When you move up the gaming ladder to the mainstream titles, you have games like the Sims and World of Warcraft that are still playable. As much as I didn't want to, I had to see what WOW was all about and was able to play World of Warcraft at an easy 70 to 80 FPS while strolling around the world with a few encounters with creatures intent on causing mayhem. I never did find my Night Elf Mohawk... I also played a few titles I have with mixed success. Left 4 Dead was playable with reduced quality settings all the way up to 1680x1050, where I averaged 30 FPS on the Blood Harvest map. Not too shabby! Past that, Bioshock was not playable at any resolution, so that's where I left the testing.

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km squared of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

The processor clock speed seems to deliver more of a benefit than the amount of cores available.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way, there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The i5 661 performs about the same as the rest of the comparison processors. Overclocking on the DH55TC did not show a real benefit in this game.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dual core i5 661 compares favorably performance-wise to the quadcore processors and even delivers a higher FPS at the top end.

Testing:

Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

The 3.3GHz clock speed provides a performance margin above the other processors.

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion, you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across all three resolutions, having a quadcore processor does not create an advantage. The dualcore i5 661 delivers performance similar to all of the other processors.

Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks, since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The higher clock speed on the i5 661 did not help it in Fallout 3.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters, and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left 4 Dead is a game that can be playable at just about any resolution. The dualcore 661 keeps up with its quadcore brethren. I could even get the IGP to play through this game at 1680x1050 with a cool 30 FPS, with the settings toned down to the low end of the spectrum. Not casual gaming, but at least it can be done.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark 06 does not fit the casual gaming criteria, but it is a way to see where the IGP performs in this popular test. At the 3.33GHz clock speed with the discrete GPU installed, the scores are less than the quadcore CPUs but still above those of the Athlon II's.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Intel IGP was only run at the Entry level on this test. By comparison, it does not score well when compared to the discrete card used in the gaming tests. However, that is not really what this graphics core was designed to do. Its strengths are on the computing side. With the discrete card, the Core i5 661 compares favorably with the quadcore AMD chips.

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:

Cons: