ConclusionWith these new processors, Intel is offering an LGA1156 platform with performance/energy consumption ratios never seen before! The Clarkdales are as fast as the entry level Socket 775 quad cores, but with energy consumption on a par with entry level dual cores! A development we can only salute.
On the other hand we are quite critical of the integration of the northbridge with IGP in the same packing as the processor. At first, this was all going on the same die, but after Intel’s problems with Havendale, it was decided to make two distinct dies for timings reasons. Of course, by distancing the memory controller from the CPU, the CPU is disadvantaged in favour of the IGP, with memory access much slower.
The fact that the Clarkdale is also being rolled out in mobile versions is of course part of the justification for this and on the mobile market this IGP is significant. It won’t have such an impact on the desktop market and it’s regrettable that Intel isn’t also offering simple 32nm dual cores with an integrated memory controller. Indeed, when Intel presented the Nehalem architecture to us in 2007, the accent was put on flexibility which would allow it to address each market specifically! What we have instead is a CPU designed for laptops (and which should be excellent in this domain) that is being rolled out for desktops.
Minimising the number of distinct dies is of course in the interests of Intel. As is minimising the competition, something that has been achieved here by excluding NVIDIA in terms of the IGP. This is especially regrettable when you think that the motherboard design has been simplified while the bill isn’t necessarily that much lighter as Intel is charging as much for the P55/H55/H57 southbridge as it was previously charging for complete chipsets (northbridge + southbridge).
In spite of everything, we’re not turning our noses up at these new Core i3s and i5s. Especially the Core i3s, as Intel is charging too much for turbo mode on the Core i5s (may as well go for a quad core!). The Core i3 530 and 540 give performance levels on a par with an LGA775 quad core for the price of a dual core! This is of course relative.
Indeed in terms of performance, the i3-530 is on a par with the Athlon II X4 620 and the i3-540 on a par with the 630, but at $11 and $14 more! Dual core on one side and quad core on the other of course, but what matters is the price. You could say that there’s an integrated IGP with it… but as not everyone will use the IGP and motherboards with an IGP aren’t more expensive from AMD (on the contrary!), this argument doesn’t hold water. Intel still has a clear advantage in terms of energy consumption however.
While the new Core i5s and Core i3s are good processsors, extending the LGA1156 platform onto LGA775 territory, they could have been better still. The fact that the Clarkdales will be the only 32nm CPUs on LGA1156 makes this even more of a shame: no 32nm quad cores are planned for the platform and we’ll have to “make do” with the 45nm Core i5/i7s. In contrast, happy LGA1366 owners will be able to go for the forthcoming Core i7-980X, a hexacore at $999. LGA1366 32nm quad cores have also been planned but they’ll be limited to the Xeon range. Marketing, marketing…