Intel Core i5 540M review

Intel's CPU-GPU fusion chip goes mobile

Intel Core i5 540M
Intel's CPU-GPU fusion processors finally find their feet

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Intel's cpu-gpu fusion processors finally find their feet

If that wasn't impressive enough, our early testing indicates that Intel has manged to deliver this massive increase in performance for pretty much the same power consumption.

On the one hand, that means you can go with a full-power Arrandale chip as reviewed here and enjoy quad-core class performance for the same sort of battery life you get with today's high performance Core 2 laptops.

Or you can plump for one of the new low-voltage Arrandale processors and enjoy performance similar to a high end Core 2 laptop but with much improved battery life. You can find a full listing of all the new Arrandale-based CPU models here

Gaming-friendly graphics?

As for the integrated graphics core, it's a big improvement over previous efforts. Typically it delivers a doubling of frames rates in most games.

Problem is, double of something awful is still pretty mediocre. This new core still struggles to cope with even older games such as Call of Duty 4, for example. It' simply not viable for gaming.

There's better news, however, on the 2D video decode front. On paper, Intel has raised its game to near level pegging with AMD and Nvidia, thanks to full hardware support for the full gambit of modern HD codecs, including VC-1, AVC and MPEG2.

Our early testing suggests Intel has done a decent job with its 2D video acceleration of locally stored content.

For now, however, there's one key question that remains unanswered. Will it get the job done for streaming online Flash video? In theory, it should do. Moreover, Adobe recently released a beta version of the Flash player with GPU acceleration support.

But currently it's only optimised for NVIDIA graphics. Until the final version is released, we'll have to wait and see just how good a job Intel has done.

Confusing branding

All of which means Intel's new mobile machines have just one major weakness, branding. Hard to believe, but with the release of these new mobile processors, Intel's new branding scheme has become even more catastrophically confusing than before.

The labels Core i3, i5 and i7 have literally ceased to bear any relationship to the actual hardware you are buying.

For the record, we've therefore officially given up trying to understand what any of it means or attempting to explain the logic of it. Because there is none. We can only assume Intel is hoping for a similar effect on its customers. The better to confuse the crap out of them to the point of blind panic buying, presumably.

But that doesn't spoil what is still a fantastic new mobile processor family. A wide range of laptops based on the new Core i3, i5 and i7 Mobile chips are already available from the usual suspects including Dell, Toshiba, Sony and the rest.

Countless more will appear in the coming months. If you're in the market for a new portable, be it big, small or anywhere in between, Intel's new mobile processors should be right at the top of your list.


Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.