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Intel's dual-core i3, i5, i7 chips official, tested

updated 08:05 am EST, Mon January 4, 2010

Core i3, i5 and i7 fast

Intel today provided full details of the dual-core 32nm processors for both the desktop and notebooks. The largest introduction focuses on the mobile category and includes a near-complete replacement with 11 new chips. Five Core i7 dual-core models make their debut and include one full-power 35W chip, the 2.66GHz i7-620M; it takes advantage of Turbo Boost to clock up to 3.33GHz when only one core is needed, carries 4MB of cache and supports 1.06GHz DDR3 memory.

Two models beneath it, the 2GHz i7-620LM and 2.13GHz i7-640LM, are intended for extra-thin but fast designs like the MacBook Air and consume a lower 25W of power between the graphics and main CPU. They ramp up to 2.8GHz and 2.93GHz respectively and otherwise carry the same features as the 35W processor. Ultra-low voltage equivalents, the 1.06GHz i7-620UM and 1.2GHz i7-640UM, scale up to 2.13GHz and 2.26GHz, consume 18W of energy and are limited to 800MHz DDR3 memory.

Most of the notebook range centers on Core i5 models that range between 2.26GHz (i5-430M) and 2.53GHz (i5-540M) and boost between 2.53GHz and 3.06GHz. Most use 35W of power and are primarily limited by a smaller 3MB of L2 cache. A lone ULV model known as the i5-520UM clocks at 1.06GHz and scales up to 1.86GHz. At the low end, Intel's mobile Core i3 chips disable Turbo Boost and run at 2.13GHz (i3-330M) and 2.26GHz (i3-350M) without changing power or memory use.

At the desktop, just five processors are shipping and include four Core i5 dual-core processors between 3.2GHz (i5-650) and 3.46GHz (i5-670) with scaling from 3.46GHz to 3.73GHz and 4MB of cache. Core i3 involves just the 2.93GHz i3-530 and 3.06GHz i3-540, and these like their mobile equivalents disable Turbo Boost.

Tests of both show significant gains. A benchmark at Anandtech shows that, at the same 2.53GHz clock speed, a mobile Core i5 outpaces a Core 2 Duo between 7 percent and a large 46 percent in processor-intensive tasks. Integrated graphics in particular are now much faster and, in World of Warcraft, jump as much as 129 percent versus the aging GMA 4500, albeit at low resolution and detail. NVIDIA's GeForce 9400M isn't included but has historically run at higher resolution and detail.

Desktop tests are more mixed, and at PC Perspective it's determined that the 3.33GHz Core i5's only clear, uniform improvements are over the 3.16GHz Core 2 Duo. It only sometimes outperforms lower-end Core 2 Quad processors and usually trails behind the quad-core i5 and i7 hardware, suggesting that a greater number of apps now benefit from the extra cores. Integrated graphics also lag significantly behind even low-to-mid range dedicated hardware.

Systems based on both the desktop and notebook processors should be available within the next several days.

by MacNN Staff



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