Intel Core i3-530 review

Price when reviewed

The Core i3-530 is the most lightweight and affordable of Intel’s new 32nm Westmere CPUs for the desktop. Based on the Clarkdale desktop design, it fits into the familiar LGA 1156 socket, and (like all Westmere CPUs) incorporates two physical processor cores, allowing it to present four cores to the OS via Hyper-Threading.

Intel Core i3-530 review

See further details of Intel’s new Westmere CPUs

This economical specification, coupled with the reduced transistor size, translates to strikingly low power demands: our test system, sitting idle at a Windows 7 desktop, drew a minuscule 32W, peaking at just 75W under 100% CPU load. Mobile Arrandale models aren’t yet available to test, but Intel promises their power drain will be even lower, helping prolong battery life.

With its core clock speed of 2.93GHz the Core i3-530 scored 1.58 in our benchmarks — a respectable performance, on a par with a Core 2 Quad Q8400. There’s no Turbo Mode here, though, as found in the Core i5 and Core i7 ranges, to provide an extra lift to single-threaded applications.

Predictably, the on-chip Intel HD Graphics engine isn’t the most powerful GPU in the world: the focus is on media playback rather than gaming, with dedicated hardware for Blu-ray decoding (including picture-in-picture), visual enhancements and Dolby True HD and DTS-HD 7.1 audio.

Still, you do get DirectX 10 support, and in our tests we were even able to play Crysis at an almost-bearable 23fps — albeit at 1,024 x 768 with Low detail settings.

With a slated launch price of around £80 exc VAT, the Core i3-530 is hardly expensive, but in terms of bang per buck it merely matches AMD’s triple-core Phenom II X3 720.

And while AM3 motherboards can be had for as little as £30, boards based on Intel’s new H55 chipset – required to make use of the onboard GPU – start at around £70.

Still, when it comes to power efficiency the i3 leaves AMD standing, and looks set to come in a good £40 below the cheapest Core i5.

And with the 32nm process yielding more CPUs per wafer than ever before, there’s huge scope for future price cuts. As and when those arrive, Core i3 could be an ideal choice for a lightweight home PC, a media centre or even – given Westmere’s hardware-accelerated AES encryption – a business desktop.


Cores (number of)2
L2 cache size (total)0.5MB
L3 cache size (total)4MB
Thermal design power73W
Fab process32nm
Virtualisation featuresyes

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score1.58

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