Intel Core i3-540 'Clarkdale' LGA1156 Processor Review

Author: MAC
Date: May 3, 2010
Product Name: Intel Core i3-540 'Clarkdale' LGA1156 Processor
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It has now been four months since the Clarkdale processors have been launched by Intel. During this time, this new processor family has proven very popular among those with smaller computer budgets, those who have casual computing needs, and those who want the most power-efficient processors on the market right now.

Clarkdale's success is no surprise since we lauded its general performance, the solid multimedia capabilities of the GMA HD Graphics IGP, and the very impressive energy efficiency of the platform. We had no qualms highly recommending Clarkdale processors for business computers, Home Theater PCs (HTPC), and even casual gaming systems. Having said that, while we were big proponents of this new platform, we couldn't really throw our full support behind the relatively expensive model that we had reviewed, the Core i5-661, since it had the exact same MSRP as the Core i5-750, a native quad-core processor. We felt that that model's relatively high price point betrayed its budget-oriented roots.

With this in mind, today we are excited to finally be able to bring you a review of what we feel is the best chip in the whole Clarkdale line-up, the Core i3-540. This 32nm dual-core/four-thread model features a 3.07Ghz core clock speed and the only thing that it lacks compared to the Core i5-600 series chips is Turbo Boost. Turbo Boost is a terrific feature to have, but it is certainly not worth the 30%+ price premium that Intel charges for the lowest-end i5-600 series chip.

What really draws us to the i3-540 model is its very affordable $140 price tag and extremely versatile 23X CPU multiplier. Why is this multiplier important? Well most Clarkdale processors can hit around 4.6Ghz with relatively little effort on air cooling. With the aforementioned multiplier all this requires is a 200Mhz base clock (BCLK), which is easily attainable on just about any Intel P55/H55/H57-based motherboard.

As you will see in the coming pages, with the substantial overclocking capabilities of the 32nm core, this little $140 processor can often run roughshod over processors that are significantly more expensive, and at 4.6Ghz it can generally perform neck-and-neck with the $60 more expensive Core i5-750.


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