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


View All Comments

  • gfredsen - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    I know this borders on thread crapping, but can someone tell me why Fry's is selling the newer 45 Watt AMD cpus and virtually no one else.
    I post this here, because for the price I still believe the AMD solution to be the best for how I use a computer, HTPC and SOHO.
    Add in the price of a MB, DDR3 which I don't have and the Intel i3 still offers me no advantage that I can see.
    I'll pass for now.
  • papapapapapapapababy - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    "From Intel the closest competitor is the Core 2 Duo E7600, which runs at 3.06GHz but with a 3MB L2 cache"

    lol my old retro E6600 runs at 3.2GHz also has 4MB L2 cache, and smokes my 3,2GHZ E7300 in photoshop... intel am fail.
  • smilingcrow - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    If you can't get more than 3.2 from your E7300 sounds like your motherboard = fail. Reply
  • papapapapapapapababy - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    diminishing returns, girl. Reply
  • smilingcrow - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - link

    Hi girl, I don't really need to know your gender and the fact that you aren't very good at over-clocking might reinforce in some peoples’ minds that the fairer sex aren’t so good with tech. Anyway, take a look at the forums at so you can get the best out of that CPU. Reply
  • Fjodor2000 - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Anand, is there any way you could provide reliable measurements for the Core i3-530's Idle Power Consumption when only the IGP is used? One of your earlier articles ("> indicated that it could reach as low as 27.6 W (!), however in that article there were no details on what Clarkdale CPU was used or other details of the system used. Reply
  • - Saturday, January 23, 2010 - link

    Your going to need a mini-ITX board, some Gskill 1.35v memory, a SSD, a pico-PSU (probably with 100w brick) to have any chance of reaching 27.6w idle.

    I know for a fact that Intel used Gskill 1.35v memory (there was an article about it somewhere)and I'm sure they used every trick in the book to get the idle power down that low. I looked on Newegg for a mini-ITX board and couldn't find one so your probably going to have to wait if you want the ultimate power sipping HTPC.
  • smilingcrow - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    The G.Skill Eco RAM (1.35V) has a negligible impact on idle power consumption according to the only review I’m seen which isn’t surprising as a single RAM stick at stock voltage doesn’t consume much to start with. At load the test showed gains of between 3 and 5W.

    I’m not a fan of this site but it’s the only review I could find and probably even they couldn’t screw this up; on second thoughts…">
  • Fjodor2000 - Sunday, January 24, 2010 - link

    I see. It would be really interesting to see if it can be reproduced, and just how low it is possible to get the power consumption using such a system as you described.

    Also, I think it would be interesting to see the Idle Power Consumption with IGP Only, for a more "normal" system. I.e. uATX motherboard (without Idle power issues!), Intel i3-530 CPU, 4 GB RAM, ~1 TB low power HDD, and NO external GFX-card (the review for some reason currently only contains Idle power consumption when used with an external GFX card).

    Anand, do you think it would be possible to run an idle power consumption test for the core i3-530 setup you used, but without an external GFX card? After all, I suppose that will be the common setup for most i3-530 based systems?
  • kwrzesien - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    I just built a 530 system with the Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2H board, Artic Freezer 7, a WD 640 GB Blue, LG BDROM/DVDRW, 4 GB Mushkin (2 x 2GB 1600 C9) RAM with an Antec 380D Green PSU in a P180 mini case (200mm, 120mm fans on low). Terrific build, everything works great except the Freezer is blocking the first DIMM slot so installing a second pair of sticks is going to be a problem.

    Idle power at Win7 desktop, all stock settings, no discrete video card, is 41W! I was expecting ~60W so I'm really surprised, this puts my Core i7 920 to shame - but that is also my 'everything' box. I highly recommend this entire setup except maybe the Freezer - it is just too bulky in the fan cage. Don't go bigger on the PSU unless you need more than one 6-pin PEG connector or are installing 4+ hard drives. Next build (ordering today) will be the same with an SSD and 1TB Green drive...

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