by Rob Williams on March 4, 2010 in Processors
When Intel launched its Westmere-based line-up this past January, one of the more interesting models released was the Core i3-530. The big reason was its budget $120 price tag. But if there’s one thing that can make a budget chip interesting, it’s overclocking, and fortunately, there’s huge potential where this chip is concerned.
It goes without saying that power efficiency is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds today, and for good reason. Whether you are trying to save money or the environment – or both – it’s good to know just how much effort certain vendors are putting into their products to help them excel in this area. Both AMD and Intel have worked hard to develop efficient chips, and that’s evident with each new launch. The CPUs are getting faster, and use less power, and hopefully things will stay that way.
To help see what kind of wattage a given processor draws on average, we use a Kill-A-Watt that’s plugged into a power bar that’s in turn plugged into one of the wall sockets, with the test system plugged directly into that. The monitor and other components are plugged into the other socket and is not connected to the Kill-A-Watt. For our system specifications, please refer to our methodology page.
To test, the computer is first boot up and left to sit at idle for five minutes, at which point the current wattage is recorded if stable. To test for full CPU load, LinX is run with 2560MB memory usage for a total of five minutes. During that run, the highest point the wattage reaches on the meter is captured and becomes our “Max Load”.
As it stands, both of the tested Clarkdale chips so far have proven to be the most power-efficient out of anything we’ve ever tested. It’s interesting, though, to note that overall, the power consumption really isn’t that much different between the i3-530 and i5-661, despite there being a rather noticeable speed difference (especially since the i5-661 can take advantage of Turbo). Where power consumption is concerned, Intel has a good hold on things, that’s for certain.
Intel’s Core i3-530 processor is easily one of the more interesting models the company has available right now. The reason simply comes down to the price. It may only be a dual-core, and it may not feature Turbo, but it does at least include HyperThreading technology, thankfully. There are only a few real scenarios where regular users will notice a boost, but it’s definitely appreciated when HyperThreading kicks into gear.
Then there’s of course the integrated graphics processor, which we didn’t touch up on in this review. Compared to the i5-661 IGP, the one found in the i3-530 is clocked just a bit lower, but it still has all of the performance to deliver modest gaming and outstanding HD playback. That latter fact alone makes the i3-530 a very attractive offering for an HTPC, because it may not be the fastest chip out there, but it’s still plenty fast, and very capable where normal HTPC uses are concerned.
Even for casual PC users, the i3-530 has all it takes to deliver a great experience. After all, despite its budget nature, it nears 3.0GHz in clock speed, and is a dual-core. Plus as mentioned, it even features HyperThreading, for improved multi-tasking. It’s certainly a very robust and affordable chip. Not to mention power efficient, as we saw in our graph above.
At $125, the i3-530 is a great value, but as we saw through our results pages, it’s hard to ignore the fact that AMD has many offerings well under this price-point that compete extremely well to Intel’s chip. There are some cases where a chip at about $20 less overtakes it, thanks to their quad-core nature. Where Intel really has the benefit is with applications that can take advantage of HyperThreading, and also heavily math-related scenarios. Not to mention ray tracing, although that seems like kind of a moot point for a model at this price.
For those who don’t mind overclocking, though, the i3-530 can prove to be an absolute bargain. As seen on the previous page, we pushed the lowly chip past 4.0GHz, and for $125, that’s hard to not get excited over. We saw some real gains in our comparisons from stock to overclock, and in its overclocked state, it even performs well against the quad-core Core i5-750.
Even more impressive might be just what it took to hit 4.0GHz+… essentially “not much”. All I had to do was boost the CPU voltage a bit, make sure my memory wasn’t being too overclocked, reboot, and enjoy. It’s the overclocking equivalent of simply pushing that big red “Easy” button. It was just that easy. While AMD may offer some nice models at around the same price-point, there seems to be only one option for the true budget overclocker, and that’s the i3-530.
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