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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  • MadMan007 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    The Clarkdale CPUs are that much less efficient, likely because of the off-die but on-package memory controller not to mention only 2 'real' cores. It's more like having a fast-connected Northbridge in a traditional FSB arrangement than the on-die memory controller of Lynnfield. ardocp did their Clarkdale review with set speeds and no Turboboost and Clarkdale needed a lot more clockspeed to equal Lynnfield. That's why the i5-600 CPUs make little sense unless you desparately want the combination of certain features and integrated graphics, they are too close in price to the i5-750. Reply
  • StormyParis - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    95 euros for Gigabyte 13566 UD2H, vs 80 for their 785G. That's 20-25 US dollars. At least, both have DVI and HDMI, contrary to Intel Atom 510 board (what were they thinking ?) Reply
  • Calin - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    I would still prefer integrated graphics from AMD/ATI - but did you saw (or felt) any graphical issues with the integrated graphic from Intel?

    I'm waiting for the next IGP from AMD/ATI, based on what the current competition is, it should be much better than what Intel has now.
    Reply
  • Egowhip69 - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link

    Picked up one of these things... along with a gigabyte ga-h55m-ud2h board.

    Having AWFUL issues with random reboots. Changed the Memory, PSU, HDD, you name it... then I uninstalled the intel graphics and changed the chip to an i5... no problems.

    Just to check, I threw the i3 back in... but no intel drivers... no reboots on a 3 day burn in... added the drivers back... reboot within 45 min.

    Both on Win7 pro 64bit, and Xp pro 32bit.

    Intel's drivers are VERY immature at the moment...
    Reply
  • bupkus - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Anand, does the table showing the results of the 4GHz i3 530 overclock include a graphics overclock as well? Reply
  • Calin - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    The game results with the 4GHz overclock are obtained with a heavy-duty video card, there's no way the integrated graphics would get such results.
    What I'd like to know is - was the integrated graphic chip active during that 4GHz overclock? And how much could one push the i3 with active (eventually downclocked) internal graphic?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Correct. The IGP wasn't running, only the Radeon HD 5870. I haven't tried to figure out the max overclock while pushing both the CPU and the GPU, I'd guess it'd be relatively similar though. The two chips are physically separate, so as long as you can adequately remove the heat of the GPU you should be fine.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • notty22 - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    Your going to catch some flak for deeming this a overall better gaming cpu , in a chart comparing it to a amd 965. Reply
  • nerdtalker - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    The i3 is creeping surprisingly close to the i7 920, too close for my comfort, in fact.

    /goes and overclocks i7 920 even more
    Reply
  • kwrzesien - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    /goes and turns down the thermostat Reply

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