Intel Core i5 661 Review: Now With Built-In Graphics
18 March 2010
Conclusion: However unlike previous Core i5/i7 launches where AMD had little to no answer to Intel, the green camp is better equipped to fight at the mainstream and budget levels. For the most part, the Core i5 661 is slower than the 3.0GHz Phenom II X4 945 processor, which has a two core advantage. With pricing set at $196 for the Core i5 661, it is more expensive than the Phenom II X4 945 ( $166 ).
Summary: Most items we get in for review are pretty linear and have a clear-cut target audience. This makes our job easier as reviewers and your job easier as the consumer. Some products, however, like the new 32nm Core i3 and i5 chips, fall somewhere outside of this category which can complicate things a bit.
First, let's cover what this chip isn't. As-is (without a discrete graphics card), this chip isn't for anyone who is even remotely interested in modern 3D gaming.
Conclusion: Even at its arguably inflated price, the Core i5-661 represents the sweet spot in the Clarkdale Core i5 lineup. The Core i5-670 adds fractionally more speed (3.46GHz vs 3.33GHz) and Trusted Execution Technology, but drops iGPU speed from 900MHz to 733MHz...and costs a whopping $100 more than the i5-661. The overclocking headroom in the 32nm process allowed the i5-661 to match or exceed the i5-750 in pure CPU tests.
Pros: Good performance, Turbo Boost technology, Hyper-Threading technology, Integrated GPU provides excellent Windows Aero and HD content performance, 32nm process gives great overclocking headroom, Low power draw (when not overclocked)
Cons: Overpriced for the level of performance provided, Integrated GPU inadequate for even low-end gaming, Requires new motherboard to use integrated GPU, Very high power draw when overclocked, iGPU requires 32M-128M of memory for a frame buffer, Relationship between BCLK and iGPU clock unclear
Summary: Just like at the beginning of review I'll try to start off with good aspects of Clarkdale, or Core i5 661. First of all, innovative integration of the 45nm Northbridge with two 32 nm processor cores in one die is a huge step forward. This enables a smaller platform footprint which is a great thing when building mobile platforms or SFF computers.
Pros: "Northbridge" module integration, New 32 nm process node, Low power consumption and heat output, Exceptional performance for a Dual Core processor, Overclocking potential
Cons: High Price, Memory and PCI-E controller not in processor core, No IGP control on P55 boards, Half of the Clarkdale chip is pure waste for gamers
Excerpt: After testing the Intel i5-661 processor for a month or so, I can definitely see where it will create a market for an affordable and much more simpler computer that will be easy on the wallet. The inclusion of the video processing on the same package as the processor will be a breakthrough technology and I cannot wait to see what this will develop in the future.
Excerpt: The Core i5-661 can't match the similarly priced, quad-core Core i7-750 in speed, but its integrated graphics and simpler chipset make it a good base for inexpensive PCs with better performance than earlier dual-core chips.
Pros: Excellent speed for a dual-core CPU, Decent integrated graphics built-in, Inexpensive
Cons: Requires newest motherboard chipset for graphics support, Confusing model designation
Summary: With a price of $196.00 USD, the Intel Core i5 661 Dual Core Clarkdale Processor with Intel HD Video is a mainstream Processor.
As shown in the technologies section, if you choose to upgrade from a Core 2 Duo processor, you will see a nice boost in performance. The Intel Core i5 performed well in all benchmarks tested and the computing experience was superb.
Pros: Dual Core Performance with Hyper-Threading, Turbo Boost Technology, Optimized for Windows 7, HD Graphics and CPU all in One, Multiple Display Capable, 32nm Processor