As mentioned earlier, naming conventions don't always translate into measurable performance improvements. Intel's Core i3-540 is a 3.06GHz dual-core CPU, and a member of the company's Clarkdale line of chips. Released four months after Lynnfield (the family of the Core i7-870), Clarkdale is based on a 32-nanometer production process, versus Lynnfield's 45-nanometer design.

The $145 Core i3-540 lacks Turbo Boost, so the chip can't run faster than 3.06GHz. Despite this limitation, and the chip's 4MB of L3 cache, it still tops the performance of Intel's Core i5-750 CPU by 8.5 percent on World­­Bench 6. (The quad-core i5-750 does do 25 percent better on Cinebench, the multicore-optimised processor benchmark, however.)

The Core i3-540 is really geared for users who aren't enthusiasts, not only does it yield formidable dual-core performance, but it also comes with a GPU core that is packed right alongside the CPU. This sandwich of performance and integrated graphics could cost you a new motherboard, though, because the widely used P55 chipset doesn't support the Core i3-540's GPU core. Look to Q57, H55, or H57 chipsets instead.

OUR VERDICT

Confusion lurks within Intel's Core processor lineup. Case in point: The Core i3-540 beats the general performance of the otherwise higher-class Core i5-750!