As of this writing Intel plans to release the Core i5 661 at a $196 price point. This is for 1000 unit lots, but should still give us a price around $200 for the CPU + GPU combo. When you consider the performance of the CPU [and the fact that many H55 and H57 board will retail for about $100] it is a great value. This is even if you need an add-in GPU to balance out your system. Given the scalability of the 661 when overclocked this CPU could even find a home in many "entry-level" enthusiast systems.Conclusion
So what do we think of the Clarkdale? Our experience with the Core i5 661 is very positive indeed. We saw great performance given the fact that the Core i5 661 is only a dual core CPU with Hyper-Threading to allow for four threads per execution cycle. It shows off the just how far Intel’s Nehalem architecture has come and the underlying power it contains. In five of our tests the i5 661 was able to keep pace with other true Quad Core CPUs and even outperform them.
Unfortunately the GPU stuffed inside is limited in its performance. It is amazing for HTPC and mainstream usage, but falls well short of the mark in terms of real gaming. But then again this is a common issue with internal graphics and not one that is limited to Intel and their GMA HD. As a counterpoint to this minor setback the i5 661 has a good price point and allows for you to drop an inexpensive GPU to take up that slack. With the reduction of prices for 57xx series cards and also the lower end 220 and 240GT cards from nVidia the failings of the internal GPU are not that big of a deal in the long term.
All in all Intel has fired off a great opening shot in the war of the 32nm CPU as well as the CPU+GPU war that is coming. AMD’s response needs to come soon and needs to be just as strong. Intel also must consider the possibility that nVidia may soon enter this market; especially if the FTC forces Intel to give nVidia an x86 license. If that happens then Intel may find themselves sitting with a great CPU saddled with an unused 45nm block of silicone and priced higher than it needs to be. But for now Intel will enjoy a lead with the 32nm Clarkdale in more than one category while their ties with the big OEMs like Dell, Gateway and Acer will get them market share and adoption.
For its performance, design and potential we are happy to award the Intel Core i5 661 CPU our Mainstream Innovation Award.
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