Intel Core i5-661 – Nehalem for the Mainstream

..:: Westmere Interfaces and Technologies ::..

How does Westmere differ from Bloomfield and Lynnfield in terms of core processor features? Well, Westmere has 4MB of shared L3 cache, whereas the both Bloomfield and Lynnfield have 8MB. Bloomfield and Lynnfield are also available as a quad core, while Westmere is relegated to a dual core solution until Gulftown blazes onto the scene. Like Lynnfield, the integrated memory controller allows for only single and dual channel setups and supports both 1Gb and 2Gb DDR3 DRAM technologies. Bloomfield still holds the crown here with a triple channel solution, again until we see Gulftown. All three utilize both the PCI-Express and DMI interfaces, offer Virtualization, Trusted Execution, Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost. The primary difference remaining is the addition of six new AES instructions, and the PCLMULQDQ instruction.

All seven of these new instructions is geared towards encryption processing. These are all SIMD (Single Instruction Multiple Data) instructions meant for accelerating AES encryption and decryption. Four of the AES-NI instructions handle increasing the performance of the AES processing, while the remaining two support the AES key expansion procedure. The PCLMULQDQ instruction that computes a 128-bit carry-less multiplication of 64-bit operands. This is a standard style calculation among several encryption standards and serves to aid in encryption processing performance. Will these new instructions result in increased encryption performance? Keep reading to find out.

..:: Intel HD Graphics Features ::..

Intel has been in the business of providing chipsets with integrated graphics cores for quite a long time. These graphics cores have never been known for their stellar gaming performance, or feature sets but have been a staple in mainstream systems. With the new Intel HD Graphics enabled processors, we now have the graphics die on the processor package, greatly increasing the potential performance versus a discrete (G)MCH solution. The Intel HD Graphics solution is by no means meant for what we in the enthusiast community would call gaming. Sure it can handle many of the basics and older DX9 games, but anything beyond that and you’ll be needing a discrete solution. What Intel HD Graphics is meant for is the average Joe looking for support of the Aero features of Windows Vista / 7, Blu-Ray playback support, HD streaming media and movies, etc.

In comparison to the prior GMA 4500 Series, the new Intel HD Graphics processors offer Blu-Ray playback with premium audio and dual decode functionality, Deep Color and x.v.Color, 8×8 polyphase DVD upscaling versus 6×6, HD video sharpness, dynamic frequency adjustment for mobile processors and OpenGL 2.1 support. These newly added features offer a substantial upgrade over what is currently offered in desktop and mobile (G)MCHs and over what you will find in Atom based solutions. Intel HD Graphics offers all features needed to create a true home theater or media PC.

..:: H55 Express Chipset Features ::..

The Intel H55 Express Chipset has several features that are common amongst all of the i5 and i7 supporting chipsets. The H55 features the Direct Media Interface (DMI) between the processor and the PCH, as well as the Flexible Display Interface (FDI) for processors like the i5-661 with an integrated graphics die. The processor and FDI support both legacy analog VGA as well as all modern digital connections like HDMI and DVI. The H55 Express Chipset also adds support for an additional 6 PCI Express x1 (or other configuration like 3 x2, 1 x4 and 1 x2, etc.) lanes. It also supports Intel HD Audio, 6 Serial ATA ports, eSATA, a SPI bus for the Intel Management Engine, 10/100/1000 and/or GbE and the customary array of USB 2.0 ports. The block diagram above shows each of these in more detail.