Intel Clarkdale Core i5 Desktop Processor Debuts

Clarkdale Motherboards: Asus, Intel

To test the new Core i5 661, we got our hands on a couple of new motherboards--one from Intel and the other from Asus.



Asus P7H57D-V EVO ATX Motherboard

The board you see pictured here is the Asus P7H57D-V EVO. Like other EVO-branded boards, this one sports a dark PCB, with some aggressive looking heatsinks on the VRM and chipset. It has a hybrid 12 phase power configuration, and the VRM is made up of low RDS (on) MOSFETs, Ferrite core chokes, and 100% Japanese-made, high quality conductive polymer caps. Expansion slots include dual PCI Express x16 slots (@ x8 when both slots are used), three PCI Express x1 slots (one Gen 2, and two Gen 1s), and two standard PCI slots.

Other interesting features of the Asus P7H57D-V EVO include an integrated Asus T.Probe chip which detects and balances power phase loads and temperatures in real-time. According to Asus, T.Probe allows the components in the VRM to run cooler with more even power distribution across phases, which should extend the board's lifespan while offering more stable power output as well.

The Asus P7H57D-V EVO also sports Asus' Turbo V EVO chip for real-time overclocking and tweaking assistance, but manual overclocking is obviously supported as well. Another noteworthy feature of the Asus P7H57D-V EVO in the integration of a Marvell 9123 6G SATA controller. Instead of connecting directly to the PCIe Gen 1 lanes available in the P55 chipset though, the Marvell 6G SATA controller is linked to the chipset via a PLX8613 PCI Express Gen 2 bridge. The PLX8613 connected to the H57 via four Gen 1 PCIe lanes, but links to the Marvell controller via single Gen 2 lane. Although the 500MB/s available with a single Gen 2 PCIe lane is 100MB/s lower than the SATA 6G spec, Asus notes, "The 600MB/s is the theoretical transfer rate. Due to the limitation of current SATA 6Gb/s HDDs, the 500MB/s is quite Enough for the SATA 6Gb/s HDDs." The board also sports a NEC USB 3.0 controller as well, which also connects to the chipset PLX8613 bridge.

A quick glance at the P7H57D-V EVO's backplane reveals all of the connectors we've come to expect from a well-appointed motherboard, in addition to all of the digital display outputs necessary to compliment the Core i5 661, and other Clarkdale-based processors. We should point out, this is the motherboard we used throughout our testing.



Intel DH55TC Micro-ATM Motherboard

Intel also sent over a board based on the H55 chipset, the Micro-ATX DH55TC. The DH55TC is built on a dark colored PCB, with blue and white accents--like many of Intel's recent motherboards. Generally speaking, the layout of the board is good and there are no major components that impinge on any others. The VRM on the board is bare and free of additional cooler, but the H55 chipset gets its own heatsink. While the heatsink on the chipset may appear small, especially in comparison to some other motherboards, we should note that even with this relatively miniscule heatsink, the chipset got just warm to the touch, even after hours of testing.

If you look at the various shots of the DH55TC above, you'll see that it is mostly legacy free, and devoid and any IDE or floppy connectors, but PS2 connector is present. Its backplane is home to an assortment of USB, audio, and Ethernet jacks, in addition to an array of display outputs. It offers support for up to four DIMMs, and expansion slots include one PCI Express x16 slot, two PCIe x1 slots, and a single PCI slot. Of course, all of the features inherent to the H55 express chipset, which we explained on the previous page, are exploited as well.

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