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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  • a1623363 - Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - link

    Using the same Gigabyte motherboard and same core i3, I could overclock my graphics to 900 mhz only. I pushed to 950 Mhz, but this caused errors. Serious YMMV on overclocking above 900 Mhz, especially to 1200+ !

    Overall, I have to say I am happy with system performance, but very disappointed in the integrated graphics. Here Intel is barely able to match performance of ATI or NVidia from years ago. I have always had an integrated graphics machine, and simply chose to play games on lower settings, but now am having to buy a Radeon HD 4770 as the performance of Intel's solution doesn't allow you to play anything made in recent years. Not to mention that games like Mass Effect 2 don't support Intel or S3 chipsets, even when Intel HD Graphics are above the minimum system requirements in terms of performance.

    I am keeping my system, but if I was buying again today, knowing that the integrated graphics is sub-par, I would take a closer look at AMD plus a third party graphics card.
    Reply
  • partha77 - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    Hi! As a novice in this field, i'ld like to know 3 things regarding intel core i3-530 vis-a-vis intel core 2 duo e7500 -> 1) which one delivers more performance in general? 2) which one has longer functional life span? 3) which one has more future upgradability? Reply
  • crochat - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    It is really strange to me that all reviews I've read about intel processors with integrated graphics always tested system with discrete graphic cards. I don't play games and don't see the use of spending money on a graphic card if an IGP can deliver what I need. I suppose graphic card may have an impact not only on idle power consumption figures, but also on load power consumption figures. I wonder how i3 530 IGP compares with athlon II X4 635 with e.g. 785g. Reply
  • slikazn09 - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    4ghz sounds WHOO! But what temperature does it get up to when pushed to 4ghz? You thoughtfully quoted in yourr final word, about the options set out which is pretty helpful (and i like it:] ), but what about the heat when overclocked?! Reply
  • slikazn09 - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    buying options* - correcting myself from last post. any help would be greatly appreciated :). should i buy a 3rd party cooler to ensure long term stability? Reply
  • piasabird - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    It seems comparing the processor to an E7500 to an I3 would be benneficial. Does the I3 really run faster than an E7500?

    Reply
  • ericore - Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - link

    Hence double the speed.
    Simple math ladies and gents.
    Bandwidth is not a factor in this case.

    If you want to check it out for yourself google: intel ark
    Reply
  • kwrzesien - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - link

    The Gigabyte GA-H57M-USB3 board has just been posted on Newegg:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...
    Reply
  • marraco - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - link

    TomsHardware had unveiled the awful 2D behavior of the most expensive nVidia and ATI card:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/2d-windows-gdi...">http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/2d-windows-gdi...

    They perform slower than integrated chipsets. Sometimes 10X slower.

    I would like to see the same benchmarks on this integrated video
    Reply
  • dgingeri - Monday, January 25, 2010 - link

    This would make an excellent home/ small business server as well. Low idle power consumption, low price, integrated video, and virtualization all combine to make for an excellent platform for 5-10 users for file sharing, web based local apps, and minor SQL server duties.

    I just wonder how it compares to the new AMD chips that came out today in server performance.
    Reply

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