Core i5-661 performance

Intel Clarkdale: Integrated graphics benchmarks plus SMT and Turbo performance

Intel's Clarkdale processors have recently hit the markets. PC Games Hardware tests a Core i5-661 to check the performance of the integrated Intel GMA as well as the effect of SMT and the Turbo Mode.
Intel Clarkdale
Intel Clarkdale [Source: view picture gallery]
The Clarkdale processors are the first in Intel's lineup that have an integrated graphics unit, the so-called Graphics Media Accelerator or GMA. This unit is produced in a 45 nanometer process, while the processor chip itself is a 32 nanometer product. Besides the graphics chip, which requires a new chipset (Intel H55, H57 or Q57) to function, the Clarkdale also offers SMT and the Turbo Mode, two features that are supposed to increase the performance of the processor. PC Games Hardware tests the Core i5-661 to check both, the GMA as well as the performance impact of SMT and Turbo Mode.

Intel Clarkdale
Intel Clarkdale [Source: view picture gallery]
Core i5-661: SMT and Turbo Mode
Due to Hyper-Threading (HT), or as Intel calls it simultaneous multithreading (SMT), the Core i5-661 can virtually double its two cores and thus has four operational threads. To benefit from this advantage a PC should have Windows 7 installed since the operating system offers the SMT Parking feature that provides a better distribution of available recourses. Unfortunately there are games like World of Warcraft that don't cooperate correctly with the feature and thus run slower. But in games that are benefit from multiple cores, like Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery, the performance advantage is obvious.

The Turbo Mode on the other hand can deliver minimal benefits only - but this isn't surprising. If there are only two cores the occasion that they have no task to handle and run in idle more is a lot rarer than it is if four cores are available since almost any modern application, from the operating system to games, can use two cores. Therefore the TDP budget of the dual-core doesn't offer a margin as big as a quad-core. Furthermore the maximal frequency of the Clarkdale's Turbo Mode is lower than the one possible for the Lynnfield processors: While some Lynnfields can increase the multiplier by up to five points (Core i7-860: 2.93 GHz default and up to 3.6 GHz on Turbo Mode), the Clarkdale can get two point boost only.

Intel Clarkdale: GPU and CPU on a single device
Intel Clarkdale: GPU and CPU on a single device [Source: view picture gallery]
Core i5-661: Intel GMA Gaming Performance
The integrated graphics unit of the Clarkdale supports DirectX 10 and runs at, depending on the CPU, 533 to 900 MHz. The GMA HD of the Core i5-661 is clocked to 900 MHz and thus offers the highest frequency of the current product array. The most common clock speed of the integrated graphics units is 733 MHz - only in one case it is set to 533 MHz. For the graphics unit 128 MiByte RAM are shared from the system memory. Given the specifications it isn't surprising that the Clarkdale's GMA HD isn't a performance miracle, even when the games are running at minimal details.

The Clarkdale is a good processor for systems that are intended to be fast but energy efficient and don't need a lot of graphics power. The GMA HD is good enough for casual gaming or watching Blu-Ray movies. Combined with a fast, dedicated graphics card the Clarkdale is a foundation for a good gaming machine. But all the advantages are countered by the high price of the processors - at the moment the new CPUs are just too expensive.

Author: Kristoffer Keipp (Feb 04, 2010)

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