The benchmarking procedure (the list of software and test conditions) is described here. To make the diagrams easier to read, the results are represented in percent (100% stands for the result of the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 in each test). The detailed results in absolute values are provided in this spreadsheet.
The very first results are surprising. As we know, two cores are enough for this group of tests, but clock rate is critical. Then why does the main character lose to the Core i5-750 and Phenom II X4 965? Firstly, Hyper-Threading can be a disadvantage here, we have confirmed that before. Secondly, these applications are also cache-critical, so just 4MB L3 at 2.13 GHz is not enough. Even the boosted core clock rate of 3.6 GHz doesn't help, though it lets the processor fit between the Core 2 Quad Q9505 and Core i5-750 as intended. Besides, the spot is also close to the high-end Phenom X4, meaning the new Core i5 can outperform other processors from AMD. Though this stage of workflow doesn't actually require a high-end CPU. As for the Core 2 Duo E8600, it remains the leader with its high clock rate, lots of cache, and cache clock rate being the same as the core clock rate, unlike other processors.
However, the Core i5-661 isn't that bad for final rendering as well. It performs on a par with the Core 2 Quad Q9300, which isn't the slowest quad-core solution in the market. Though it's not close to "fair" quad-core solutions of the new generation, it doesn't fail like all of the classic dual-core processors. The performance boost of a nearly one third comparing to the highest-end Core 2 Duo with the same clock rate means that the new technology does its job. Though, obviously, Intel has overestimated it, because the processor should have outperform the Q9505 as well. As for AMD, it's still the leader, because it offers the similar performance for about two thirds of the price, or 20% higher performance for the same price.
In relation to low-level CPU characteristics, this group of tests is quite similar to the first one, but with one important exception: these tests do not require too much cache as well as very high cache clock rate. Of course, 512KB per core is still insufficient, so Athlon II X4 loses to the rest. However, 3MB or 4MB of shared is sufficient, so clock rate becomes the critical factor. Since the novelty has the highest clock rate, it naturally wins. The performance difference is not much, but the victory is still important, considering that the Q9505 is the second last due to its 2.83 GHz. This means that all other Core 2 Quad processors will perform on a par with it or even worse.
Another group of tests that is good for promoting the new processors. Thanks to Hyper-Threading and high clock rate, the main character outperforms all of the Core 2 Quad CPUs and even the Phenom II X4 965. It even outperforms the Core i5-750.
Archivers, on the other hand, put the Core i5-661 to shame. Even its high clock rate doesn't help the lack of cache size and clock rate. The Core 2 Duo E8600 remains the leader, since it has just the amount of cores these applications need, as well as high clock rate and 6MB of the full-speed L2 cache. The Phenom II 965 (high clock rate and 6MB L3) and Core i5-750 (high boosted clock rate and 8MB L3) also perform well. As for the Athlon II X4, it traditionally fails here, so the new i5 CPU isn't that bad. Besides, it does catch up with the Core 2 Quad Q9505. In other words, it performs well considering the price and market positioning. This will continue until archiver developers move from dual-threading to true multi-threading. After that, quad-core processors will get a better performance boost than dual-core ones, even despite Hyper-Threading of the latter.
Intel's previous dual-core processors, including higher-end, used to lose this subcompetition to any quad-core solutions. However, Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost have solved the issue, so now the average Core i5 easily fits among quad-core products, though it cannot catch up with the Q9505 (but remember that 2+HT < 4). Thus we can state that developers may now forget about Intel's lower-end and mid-end quad-core CPUs. Even those higher-end do not look as interesting now. The competition with AMD remains painful, but only because of prices. However, the relatively simple 32nm processors have a decent price-cutting potential.
Java is hard to trick. Hyper-Threading and high clock rates are fine, but four cores are still better. As a result, the Core i5-661 cannot even catch up with the Core 2 Quad Q9300. Though in general the goal has been achieved: the main character outperforms at least one Core 2 Quad -- the lower-end Q8200. However, this is just the minimum. As we have mentioned, the Core i5-661 has to outperform the Q9505, which is even further ahead than the "budget" Athlon II X4 630.
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