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

  • kwrzesien - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    When is that Gigabyte board going to be available? I've already bought two 530's from Microcenter for $99 each and one GA-H55M-U2H board from Newegg to go into Antec P180's. I'm really hoping to get the USB3 ports and triple-power USB that is on the -USB3 model. It's been announced since mid-December and is only Gigabytes website but absolutely no signs of it in e-tail yet. Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link


    We'll ask about this first thing Monday morning and get back to you with an answer if possible.

  • kwrzesien - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link


    Thanks for looking into this! Still no sign on NewEgg as of this morning. I need to order by tomorrow to get my friend's build out, maybe I should just look for USB3.0 PCIe cards...

  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - link


    I'll paste the response I got back from GB this morning:

    We have 4 H57/H55 models on the NA marketing currently. The model name and selling price of Newegg are listed below:

    "H57M-USB3: $10+ up than H55M-USB3, wait for posting from Newegg.

    H55M-USB3: $109.99,">

    H55M-UD2H: $104.99,">

    H55M-S2H: $89.99,">


    Hope this helps!

  • kwrzesien - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - link


    THANKS! Really I just couldn't wait so I ordered another UD2H and a $40 USB3 card, the second build can get upgraded with USB3 later. Looks like the H57M-USB3 would be a better price overall but then you do loose two USB2 ports from the back panel - I hope they include a 2-port slot adapter on the USB3 model because they sure don't in the UD2H model, which already has 2 internal USB2 headers.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    An AMD motherboard, with a northbridge and IGP is cheaper than an H55 motherboard that has no northbridge. I want to know why, and that should be the #1 question when it comes to i3, and yet you didnt even address this issue. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I mentioned this in an earlier comment. It's the same reason that AMD motherboard prices didn't go down when we moved from the K7 to K8 - chipset prices remained the same.

    The H5x chipsets, despite most of the logic being shifted onto the CPU package, are no cheaper than the previous generation G4x chipsets. Both AMD and Intel have made it very clear that as they integrate more functions onto the CPU, they aren't going to lower chipset prices. Instead, profit margins go up.

    It's a fairly new platform so I'd expect average prices to drop as production ramps up, but that's the main reason the boards aren't any cheaper. I believe you can buy H55 boards for less than $90 on Newegg now, and then there's this ECS board that sells for under $80 (under $70 with MIR) -">

    Take care,
  • tno - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I have a Q9300@3/X48/4890 based system. I'm a pretty average user, and the hardest work my CPU does is the occasional HD encode, and the systems hardest daily toll is gaming on one screen with an HD video on the other. I have not seen any slow down or deficiencies in my system, and don't feel limited in the slightest. I haven't played the newest, most stressful games around, but on the whole, I don't see a big case for making the jump to Nehalem or Clarkdale. Indeed, I feel comfortable sitting on my rig till Sandy Bridge.

    So, am I nuts? Am I missing some hugely compelling reason to make the jump? Is it the efficiency? Or is this tock really not as big a deal as the last tock (Penryn)?

  • Taft12 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    If you're a "pretty average" user, why did you buy a "pretty high end" motherboard and video card if you don't even play new games?? Shoulda gone for something half the price and upgrade twice as often :) Reply
  • tno - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    My wife was on a bunch of away rotations and so I was home alone and bored. That lead to a series of purchases that were in tune with the lifestyle of a guy with time and cash to spend. Then my wife came home and suddenly the time and the cash went away. Don't get me wrong, I love my wife, but it was a fun time and had she been away much longer I'd be cruising with some wicked water cooled i7 rig. Reply

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