Intel has trickled down Core i7 processor technology to the new Core i5, forming the heart of this gaming PC from CCL Computers.
For the computer enthusiast, the Intel Core i7 has become the popular choice in high-performance desktop PCs. Processor competitor AMD in turn put forward its revised Phenom II X2 processors, cheekily numbered 920 and 940 for the 2.8GHz and 3.0GHz versions. It can't have been coincidence that Intel's first Core i7 processors were numbered 920 and 940.
Well, now its Intel's turn to retaliate. AMD's Phenom II X2 chips may be demonstrably slower than Intel's best Core i7 series CPUs, but at least they have the advantage of being a little cheaper to buy. So Intel has stripped out some power from its i7 CPU, dropped the price to sit closer to the AMD offerings, and named the new chip Core i5.
From CCL Computers we have the Intel i5 Gamer, the first PC we've tested with the new Intel Core i5 processor. As the name would suggest, CCL's system is aimed more toward gaming enthusiasts.
At the advertised price of £649, there is no operating system included - we tested the system with Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit. There is also a slightly cheaper version of the CCL Intel i5 Gamer offered, using an Intel Whitesberg motherboard, for a total price of £599.
As well as the quad-core Intel Core i5 750 CPU, running at its default speed of 2.67GHz, there's 4GB of fast 1333MHz Corsair DDR3 RAM, and an nVidia GeForce GTS 250 graphics card. CCL's choice of graphics card is made by Sparkle and fitted with 512MB of video RAM. While this graphics solution is far from bleeding-edge in gaming cards, it does offer relatively high-end performance at a more modest mid-range price.
The CCL Intel i5 Gamer is built around a Cooler Master case and takes a 650W power supply from Silverpower, a unit that bears an 80plus Bronze award for power efficiency. Overall system build quality is satisfactory and quite typical for a budget performance-oriented PC - although it doesn't quite have the flimsy feel of many Windows PCs we see in the test centre.
Inside, layout is tidy and cabling is neatly dressed. As well as the usual PSU, CPU and GPU fans, extra cooling fans have also been fitted to the rear and side panels. Consequently the system remains cool within, even if overall noise is higher than we'd like.
Thanks to the Asus P55D motherboard, eight USB ports are available at the rear, along with FireWire, Toslink optical digital audio and six mini jacks for analogue multi-channel audio. On the case's front are two more USB and another full-size FireWire port.
As for performance, in the CCL Intel i5 Gamer we found a system that sits comfortably among machines running the Intel Core i7 920 (2.66GHz), and the older Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 and E8600 chips (3.16GHz and 3.33GHz respectively).
In the WorldBench 6 Gold benchmark test, the CCL Intel i5 Gamer scored 126 points, around the same overall score as Intel's 3+ GHz dual-core chips, and around ten points behind the fastest Intel 920 systems.
But it also rates about ten points in front of many AMD Phenom II X2 systems, and roughly level with the fastest of that breed, the AMD Phenom II X2 550 BE, clocked at 3.1GHz.
In our gaming tests, the CCL Intel i5 Gamer hit an average of 173 frames per second in the venerable FEAR test, while Crysis gave us 67fps in the ‘Low' test (1024x768, DirectX 9, high-quality rendering), and 21fps in the ‘High' test (1680x1050, DirectX 10, very-high-quality rendering).
Mains power consumption, by the standards of fire-breathing gaming machines, was relatively modest, at 95W with an idle system, rising to a 223W peak when maximally stressed by gameplay.
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