Clarkdale: Intel Core Test i3 540 Processor Review

Intel has officially launched January 3, 2009 its new platform for entry
level with integrated graphics. These new processors G6950 Pentium Dual
Core, Core i3 and i5 Core in socket LGA 1156. Known for some months now
under the codename Clarkdale, these chips have the particularity to
include both a dual core processor (etched in 32 nm) and integrated
graphics (45nm). This is also, by its specifications, very interesting
for home theater use. Indeed, it is the first IGP that supports HD audio
bit-stream as the Radeon HD 5000 (useful if you have an HDMI amp recent
only) and the management of two streams HDCP (for connecting a TV and a
projector for example) . Alongside that, there are obviously a hardware
acceleration for decoding videos with post-processing functions most
accomplished than its predecessor, the Intel G45 ..Could the hands with
the new platform IGP reference to living room PC? It would seem that
yes, it offers all the paper serious advantages compared to the AMD 785G
recently tested. NVIDIA’s side is proposing nothing new chipset for
Intel desktop processor, or for AMD elsewhere.

Clarkdale: Dual-Core

Begin by presenting early processor architecture "Clarkdale, which would
eventually replace the Core 2 Duo (Penryn). These new dual-core
processors are the first to use the etching process 32 nm and are
dedicated to motherboards socket LGA 1156. Even if they work with all
Intel 5 Series (including P55), only the H55 and H57 can benefit from
integrated graphics.

For the launch, Intel has 7 new desktop processors to dual core, grouped
into new families of Intel Pentium, Pentium Core i3 and i5. they are
distinguished by their performance and their functions. The only model
Pentium, the G6950 has 3MB of cache, it is limited to the memory
DDR3-1066 MHz and does not support hyperthreading, while others have 4MB
of cache and hyperthreading to simulate 4 physical cores (only useful
for applications optimized for multithreading). Models of the Core i5
are the only ones to offer TurboBooster technology which increases the
operating frequency of the processor when needed. All these processors
are announced by a TDP of 73 watts reasonable, except for the Core
i5-661 passes to 87 watts. A slight increase is explained by the
frequency slightly higher heart graphics (900 MHz instead of 733 MHz).

IGP: Intel HD Graphics:

Intel enjoys launch processors Clarkdale to inaugurate its new
integrated graphics, called HD Graphics. As you know, it is embedded
within the CPU and 45nm. It is a variation of the GMA X4500 HD (Intel
G45) slightly improved, but still provides its share of novelty in terms
of audio / video processing. Intel is also mainly in media before the
side of the chip rather than new devices or 3D performance. Thus, HD
Graphics offers some big news, yet never implemented within an IGP, or
booked up when the latest generation of graphics cards:

  • Complete
    hardware decoding of HD formats, the most common MPEG-4/AVC, VC-1,
    MPEG-2 (like the last IGP / GPU AMD and NVIDIA)
  • Decoding of 2 video streams (like the last IGP / GPU AMD and NVIDIA)
  • Additional postprocessing filter (even if they are not as numerous
    as those of the IGP / GPU AMD and NVIDIA)
  • Management standards DeepColor and xvYCC compatible for broadcasters
  • Management of 2 outputs and 2 HDMI connections HDCP (a first for an
  • Support of HD audio bitstream (like the Radeon HD 5000)

Regarding the 3D, no arrival of DirecX 11 (Intel confined to DX 10), but
a very slight increase in the number of stream processors (12 against
10 for G45), a frequency slightly higher, shared memory allocated (up to
1.7 GB) and the arrival of the OpenGL 2.1. In short, these improvements
are minor compared to the GMA X4500 HD and performance should be in
line with all recent IGP, ie not sufficient enough to properly play the
latest games and, even in 720p.

New Control Panel:

The control panel display has been completely rethought and redesigned,
it was time. The options are much more numerous than the Intel G45, but
also scattered in more ergonomic in 4 main headings: Screen, 3D, Media
and Power. So we end up with a billboard almost as complete as those
from ATI and NVIDIA but a nicer and better organized by us. Among the
interesting settings, there is the possibility of output 1080p/24,
enable xvYCC (or xvColor) to display a wider color space (especially
interesting for Blu-ray and videos encoded color BT.709). Intel also
offers us, in principle the same as NVIDIA, an option to add custom
resolutions, and then use a resolution of 1080p/48 or 1080p/72.

In options dedicated to video (accessible from the Media section), we
can set the noise reduction, stress (here called sharpness) and the
detection of film mode deinterlacing. An optional automatic
transformation videos 4 / 3 16 / 9 is present, but we were unable to run
(or Media Center with 7 or with MPC-HC in various configurations …).
Options gamma advanced video are missing, it will be satisfied with the
settings for brightness, contrast, hue and saturation to better
calibrate its diffuser.

Dual Display Option:

Intel highlights its new processors with the ability to use 2 monitors
digital HDMI connection (with HDCP support and dual audio). Having one
single motherboard with a single HDMI output, we could not try this
option, but we still plugged 2 Full HD broadcast, the first is our Sony
TV and the second monitor Hanns-G , both 1080p and HDCP compatible. The
TV was connected directly to HDMI, the monitor Hanns-G was also
connected to HDMI, but with a DVI to HDMI on the motherboard. Pleasant
surprise, everything works perfectly on 2 screens have been configured
successfully clone mode, extended desktop, but playing a Blu-ray in
clone mode was displayed on the main screen, and this, with 9 software
PowerDVD, WinDVD 2010 and Total Media Theater 3. We thought it was
possible to view the specifications of the IGP, read the Blu-ray on 2
screens, which would have to have such a television set and a video
projector in clone mode for reading Blu-ray …

This core i3 would have been the first circuit video to support this
feature. But after a few tries, we assure you that the clone mode works
perfectly with the videos other than Blu-ray. Nevertheless, the IGP with
the G45 remains unique in providing management with 2 digital outputs
(read by the DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort), where the AMD 785G and NVIDIA
GeForce 9300/ION confined to a dual digital / analog (ie HDMI / VGA or
DVI / VGA). Last point about the double posting, it is impossible to set
up multiple profiles to switch from one mode to another display (eg
monitor, monitor + TV) unless you use the keyboard shortcut "WINDOWS +
P" Windows 7 or a program like PowerStrip. The Catalyst Control Center
ATI still remains the only "driver" to receive a management profile
perfectly functional and compatible with the keyboard shortcuts (useful
to map the profiles to the keys of a remote control).

HD Videos Decoding:

Hardware acceleration enabled: To
compare the most relevant way possible Core i3 540, we confronted the
couple 785G/Athlon II AMD X2 250. This is the platform that most closely
matches that of our Clarkdale. Indeed, the AMD 785G supports fully
decoding HD streams, the Athlon It is also clocked at 3Ghz and works
with DDR3 memory. .. The results were recorded with Cool’n Quiet for AMD
and SpeedStep (CE1) for Intel. The results obtained are very much in
favor of the Core i3 530 that is applied to only 3% in TotalMedia
Theater while the Athlon is on average 40% load. When hardware
acceleration is supported on 2 processors run at their minimum
frequency, namely 1333 MHz for the Core i3 and 800 Mhz for the Athlon
II. Even in terms of consumption, the Intel platform is better off with a
total consumption of the machine from 55 watts to 65 watts cons
configuration AMD (identical except for the couple processor /
motherboard). The decoder DXVA2 MPC-HC seemed slightly less efficient
since the CPU load was slightly higher (less than 10% anyway) … This
seems to confirm that Intel working closely with Microsoft, ArcSoft,
CyberLink and Corel to offer as they say a very accomplished multimedia
experience, including Windows 7.

Hardware acceleration disabled:
Without hardware acceleration, the Core i3 operates in much the same way
as the Athlon II. This means that the processors running at their
maximum frequency with video H.264 Blu-ray, as they oscillate between
800-3000 MHz respectively (Athlon II) and 1500-3000 MHz (Core i3) for
videos HD MPEG-2 and VC-1. However, even if the behaviors are similar,
the Core i3 still has a good head start on the Athlon in terms of power
and consumption, since the Intel machine was measured at worst to 65
watts to 90 watts cons configuration AMD.

LPCM HDMI bitstream

Intel already proposed with its G45 chipset support LPCM 7.1A 192kHz /
24 bit, so it’s no surprise that we find this feature on the new
processors Clarkdale. But Intel went even further by being the first
foundry to provide support for the HD audio bitstream within an IGP.
This function was previously reserved for ATI HD 5000 and the anecdotal
HDMI 1.3 sound card Asus Xonar HDAV1.3 and Auzentech X-Fi Home Theater
HD. The DTS-HD MA / HRA and Dolby TrueHD / Digital Plus which is found
mainly on the Blu-ray are supported natively in Windows 7. You can also
check it by accessing the tab "Supported Formats" Audio Device "Intel
Audio Display" is the name given to Intel’s audio output to HDMI.

Just as we have had no problems with the format LPCM 5.1 on our
amplifier Yamaha RX-V465 is fully recognized, as the distribution of
audio tracks without converting HD (bitstream / passthrough) gave us a
little more trouble son. Indeed, we began to test this feature since
TotalMedia Theater 3, in vain! Indeed, although the software told us
that the HD audio passthrough passed in, the sound was not returned on
our forums. In subsequent testing WinDVD 9 PowerDVD 2010 and that work
perfectly as we realized it was simply TMT 3 which was not yet fully
operational with the function of Intel. Under WinDVD, you need to
configure anything, everything works right the first time, this is not
the case 9 and PowerDVD TMT3. To activate the bitstream on the software,
you must first launch a Blu-ray, then access to the audio configuration
to select / check the option Support of HD audio / lossless.


It begins with a short test to quickly locate 3DMark06 performance of
the Intel IGP over other integrated graphics chipsets already tested.
According to 3DMark06, the new Intel IGP is better than the AMD 785G,
including salaries SM 3.0. The 3DScore is in turn much more important
because of processor performance. Unfortunately, these scores praise
absolutely does not reflect reality. So we confronted the IGP to real 3D
maps for the game in an environment that is familiar, the benchmark
StreetFighter IV. It is a game DX9 recent, relatively greedy over the
last DX10 games. The figures here are final, the Intel IGP is slightly
less than the AMD 785G without antialiasing. The benchmark SFIV do we
also not allowed to use antialiasing. In view of limited performance, we
have not even tried to test other games more greedy as FarCry 2, Colin
Mc Ray since we are sure they will not run properly.These results
confirm once again that all IGP (without exception) can not comfortably
run the latest games on the market!

Intel Core Test i3-540
Consumption and Temperature:

An Intel platform Clarkdale consumes almost nothing compared to the
power that is capable of delivering. 40 watts at rest is a little more
than an Atom platform / ION, and 15 watts less than a platform based on
AMD Athlon X2 II but much less powerful, thank you burning in 32nm. It
is consistently below 100 watts even under the test power (CPU + GPOU @
100%) of OCCT. Clarkdale These are clearly the new standards in terms of
energy-efficient processors.But that’s not all, since our Core i3 540
does not heat much either. We were unable to measure the temperature of
the IGP for lack of consistent monitoring tools, we still have to
temperatures on the processor cores. They are 25 ° at rest (it’s
ridiculous) and reaches 63 ° after one hour of full load. But the good
news is that these temperatures were recorded with the original heat
sink for Intel, running at only 25% of its maximum speed, ie 1000 rpm.
At this rate we could configure in the BIOS of the MSI card H55M-E33,
the fan is very quiet, a little less than 120 mm models connected to 5
volts of our favorite new case, the Silverstone GD04. Suffice to say
that you have is a relatively powerful CPU for your PC show, which will
be fully cooled Recipient address via the original Intel, and silence is
more if the motherboard has options thermoregulation processor. Other
good news The graphic chip, the second bullet that heats most in a
living room PC, will benefit from the cooling system CPU. 


The year 2010 started strong with the release of the new dual core
processors from Intel, engraved in 32nm and carrying a graphic circuit
very attractive for use in multimedia and media center. Start with the
performance of Core i3 540 which are already largely sufficient for
advanced multimedia use. The processor you can enjoy without constraints
of any video files larger appetites, with disconcerting ease even when
using filters FFDShow intensively. Add to that a circuit graph with the
audio / video is one of the most successful and we believe you get the
best platform to mount a PC fair today. Whether the hardware video
decoding part, management 7.1 and LPCM audio bitstream HD audio, its
video engine ClearVideo HD or the new driver manager, it is difficult to
criticize anything about this new platform Clarkdale . We found out
some gaps, particularly at management drivers (profile management,
advanced display options …), but nothing very dramatic. By cons can
continue to pester the too low performance in 3D which do not always
play in recent games, even in low resolution as 720p. But it is common
for all IGP will therefore essential to invest in a dedicated graphics
card midrange (a HD 5770 seems excellent) to play more comfortably on
your HDTV. 


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