It’s about time we got an interesting value processor to review from Intel. I simulated one in our Clarkdale review, but today I’m bringing you a full review of the most interesting dual-core Westmere for the desktop - the Core i3 530.

Priced at $113 (and selling for about $125 on the street) the 530 runs at 2.93GHz and features no turbo modes. It’ll run at 1.33GHz at its lowest frequency, and no faster than 2.93GHz at full load. The missing turbo boost is almost all you sacrifice as the 530 still has a hefty 4MB L3 cache shared between both cores. Each core gets a 256KB 10-cycle L2, just like the i5s and i7s.

The un-core is clocked at 2.13GHz, down from 2.40GHz in the i5. That should hurt performance a bit compared to our simulated i3 in the launch article. Aside from Turbo the other thing you give up with the i3 is AES acceleration. Westmere's AES New Instructions (AES-NI) are disabled on all of the i3s in typical Intel fashion. There has to be some reason for users to opt for a Core i5 instead.

Processor Core Un-core GPU Cores / Threads L3 Cache Max Turbo TDP Price
Intel Core i5-670 3.46GHz 2.40GHz 733MHz 2 / 4 4MB 3.76GHz 73W $284
Intel Core i5-661 3.33GHz 2.40GHz 900MHz 2 / 4 4MB 3.60GHz 87W $196
Intel Core i5-660 3.33GHz 2.40GHz 733MHz 2 / 4 4MB 3.60GHz 73W $196
Intel Core i5-650 3.20GHz 2.40GHz 733MHz 2 / 4 4MB 3.46GHz 73W $176
Intel Core i3-540 3.06GHz 2.13GHz 733MHz 2 / 4 4MB N/A 73W $133
Intel Core i3-530 2.93GHz 2.13GHz 733MHz 2 / 4 4MB N/A 73W $113
Intel Pentium G9650 2.80GHz 2.00GHz 533MHz 2 / 2 3MB N/A 73W $87

 

Sitting next to the 32nm CPU die is a 45nm GPU/memory controller:

Like the majority of the Core i5 processors, the GPU here runs at 733MHz. The exception being our recently reviewed 661 which runs the GPU at 900MHz for those who want that extra bit of mediocre gaming performance.

From Intel the closest competitor is the Core 2 Duo E7600, which runs at 3.06GHz but with a 3MB L2 cache. AMD provides the biggest threat with its Athlon II X4 630 and Phenom II X2 550 BE. The latter isn't on AMD's official price list but you can still find it online today for $99.

In a market full of good alternatives, whether it’s an ultra-cheap quad-core or a solid dual-core, it’s time to find out if there’s any value in the Core i3 530.

Fixes Since Last Time

There were two outstanding issues in our Clarkdale review that needed fixing after CES. First and foremost was power consumption. We incorrectly assumed that Clarkdale's idle power consumption was worse than Lynnfield due to the 45nm on-package chipset. As many of you pointed out, it was an issue with our ASUS H57 motherboard. After CES we switched over to Gigabyte's GA-HS57M-USB3 and the idle power consumption improved considerably. Since then ASUS appears to have fixed the problem but our data for this review was still run with Gigabyte's board.

Unfortunately these sorts of issues aren't rare with any new motherboard/chipset release. Our ASUS H57 board had idle power issues, while our Gigabyte H57 board had overclocking issues. No one seems to get it right on the first try.

The second issue that needs correcting is the system power consumption while playing back an x264 video using integrated graphics. Our AMD numbers were unusually high in our initial review, which we've since corrected:

While playing H.264 encoded video the GPU does all of the heavy lifting and there's no power advantage for Clarkdale to rest on. When watching a movie the AMD system is indistinguishable from our Clarkdale test bed.

We are still running into an issue with MPC-HC and video corruption with DXVA enabled on the 790GX, but haven't been able to fix it yet. Have any of you had issues with video corruption with AMD graphics and the latest stable build of MPC-HC for 64-bit Windows? Or should we chalk it up to being just another day in the AnandTech labs.

The Performance & Power Summary
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  • loucm - Sunday, August 01, 2010 - link

    using the same motherboard gigabyte h55m-ud2h
    i manage to get my i3 530 @ 4GHZ stable with only 1.184 core voltage.
    Reply
  • polarq - Tuesday, August 03, 2010 - link

    Hi, I have a core i3-530 and h55m-ud2h, bought a coolermaster 212 and I'm trying to push the limits :) But with the GPU, in bios there's a possibility to change it from 733mhz, which I did, on 900 - but it still shows 733, both in bios and cpu-z.

    So I can freely input the value, but 733 is still lights up white in bios. Is there any possibility it was locked after it couldnt take 900? Can I unlock it again? I tried CLR_CMOS, load fail safe defaults, but nothing changed. Any advice please?
    Reply
  • Alejo1879 - Wednesday, February 02, 2011 - link

    Need Opinion For Core i3 550
    Hello people, i need some opinions about the intel core i3 550.
    Is this CPU faster than core i3 530, i think so, but in cpubenchmark.com, in the High End CPUs - Updated 1st of February 2011 the core i3 530 is in the top and the i3 550 don't.

    Intel Core i7 995X @ 3.60GHz 10,795
    Intel Core i3 530 @ 2.93GHz 3,546 $124.95*
    AMD Phenom II X4 B40 3,534 NA
    Intel Core i5 655K @ 3.20GHz 3,525 $192.95*
    Intel Core i7 820QM @ 1.73GHz 3,520 $546.00**
    Intel Core2 Extreme @ 2.26GHz 3,518 NA
    Intel Core2 Quad Q9100 @ 2.26GHz 3,428 $385.89**
    Intel Core i7-2620M @ 2.70GHz 3,415 NA
    Intel Core i5 661 @ 3.33GHz 3,295 $209.99*
    Intel Core i3 560 @ 3.33GHz 3,283 $149.99*
    AMD Phenom II X4 910 3,281 $204.19**
    AMD Phenom II X4 B93 3,275 NA
    Intel Core i5 650 @ 3.20GHz 3,120 $182.99*
    Intel Core i5 660 @ 3.33GHz 3,101 $207.99*
    Intel Core i3 550 @ 3.20GHz 3,026 $124.99*

    IS IN FACT THE CORE I3 530 BETTER THAN I3 540, 550 AND EVEN I3 560?
    PLEASE HELP.
    Reply
  • angga - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

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    Reply
  • dayat - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    I like the article you wrote here; it is very informative and useful for the internet users like me. I will come back to read more blog posts on your website and I have bookmarked your website as well
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    Reply
  • sarp - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    Ive i3 530 @2.93

    Ive managed to get it to 4.00GHz with 182 BClk by changing QPI, Graphics and RAM Frequencies accodringly. Sometimes my screen just freezes with a solid color and I have to restart it in order to get to Windows again. Anyway, I want to boost Intel Graphics HD 3000 performance, it's default clock is 733MHz, since Ive changed BClk to 182, to be on the safe side it is 500MHz. I wonder, how much should I increase graphics core voltage in order to get to 900Mhz with 182 BClk?
    Reply

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