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Overclocking: Get The Performance Of A Core i5 From Core i3

Overclocking: Get The Performance Of A Core i5 From Core i3
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Intel’s $115 Core i3-530 doesn't include Turbo Boost technology and it doesn't boast hardware-based AES-NI, but it overclocks like a fiend. We benchmarked this dual-core, HT-equipped chip at 4.4 GHz and determined the most power-efficient overclock.

Intel’s 32 nm processor generation undoubtedly has a lot of potential. The quad-core models usually reach 4+ GHz, and the dual-cores can go much further. Therefore, we decided to test the cheapest Core i3 offering, the Core i3-530, and see what this entry-level desktop processor has in stock for you.

What’s In a Name?

This is actually a good question. Although Intel's product portfolio appears to be straightforward—the Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 families appear to be laid out logically enough—Intel created a number of caveats you'll need to be able to navigate.

The Core i3 models, for example, are dual-core chips, and they don’t come with all of the features found on more expensive CPUs. This is entry-level hardware to be sure, and there are only two SKUs available, the Core i3-530 at 2.93 GHz and the Core i3-540 at 3.06 GHz.

The Core i5 is available either with two cores (600-series) or four cores (700-series). All Core i5 processors support Turbo Boost functionality, but only the dual-core versions accelerate AES encryption and decryption, and come equipped with Hyper-Threading. Be careful with the mobile Core i5 lineup—not all of these chips support AES-NI. The quad-core Core i5-750 is a 45 nm part, while all dual-core models are manufactured at 32 nm. And beware the Core i5-750S, since this low-power version is less efficient than the regular product.

And then there's Core i7. The 800-series drops into the processor interface as all of the aforementioned CPUs, namely LGA 1156. These support Hyper-Threading, but not AES acceleration. The flagship model i7-980X features six cores and is manufactured at 32 nm, while the rest of the 900-series features four cores and a 45 nm process. All 900-series CPUs employ the LGA 1366 interface.

Back to Basics

Let’s get back to some important facts: Intel processors are almost universally more expensive than AMD’s, but most offer significant overclocking headroom. In fact, many processors, including the Core i5 dual-cores and the i5-750 quad-core, deliver better performance per watt at reasonable overclocked frequencies than at their respective stock speed. Therefore, we decided to purchase the cheapest Core i3 available to see how fast it can go and find its most efficient clock speed.

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  • 18 Hide
    ytoledano , May 14, 2010 10:22 AM
    The most impressive part, IMO, is the low idle power consumption. I don't care if the CPU drains my power socket during the 0.5% of the time it's at 100% load as long as it doesn't hog too much power at idle.
  • 18 Hide
    Gedoe_ , May 14, 2010 11:41 AM
    Will this work with cheaper mobos as well? Having a budget CPU and a expensive mobo makes little sense by my book.
  • 12 Hide
    banthracis , May 14, 2010 9:43 PM
    Doesn't the use of a $280 MOBO completely negate the $80 savings of buying a cheaper CPU and then some?

    I question the validity of any value conclusions from this article.
Other Comments
  • 6 Hide
    AZRAELCRUZ , May 14, 2010 9:41 AM
    nice article
  • 18 Hide
    ytoledano , May 14, 2010 10:22 AM
    The most impressive part, IMO, is the low idle power consumption. I don't care if the CPU drains my power socket during the 0.5% of the time it's at 100% load as long as it doesn't hog too much power at idle.
  • 0 Hide
    ratbert , May 14, 2010 10:57 AM
    Always like these reviews, and glad they finally did this cpu. I bought this and a MSI board when these first came out for $200 on a combo deal, and it is a great little o'clocker. I am running at 3.8ghz and idle at 74 watts (MSI's boards are more energy efficient). I had to add .10V for stability. Runs rings around my C2D E8400 at 3.8.
  • 0 Hide
    idisarmu , May 14, 2010 11:18 AM
    ArticleWe took the board from a 133 MHz base clock all the way past 200 MHz. In earlier overclocking tests, we learned that this board can actually go higher, so we know that the processor is acting as our frequency, not the motherboard.


    I think you meant to type "bottleneck" not frequency.
  • 18 Hide
    Gedoe_ , May 14, 2010 11:41 AM
    Will this work with cheaper mobos as well? Having a budget CPU and a expensive mobo makes little sense by my book.
  • 8 Hide
    Onus , May 14, 2010 11:41 AM
    Can similar results be obtained on a mid-range mobo, i.e. can those on a budget hope to achieve similar results?
  • -6 Hide
    andrewcutter , May 14, 2010 12:18 PM
    just a quick question..
    if 530 when overclocked performs and drinks power similar to other chips like 750 and 661, leaving aside the fact that it is cheap which will last longer before giving way.
    A overcloacked 530 or stock 661 or 750
  • 2 Hide
    cib24 , May 14, 2010 12:52 PM
    Great article, can't wait to see an overclocking efficiency test with the AMD X6 CPUs.
  • -5 Hide
    manitoublack , May 14, 2010 2:01 PM
    so you could in essence power this rig with an old 200W PSU.

    Not bad
  • -1 Hide
    scooterlibby , May 14, 2010 3:51 PM
    Would have really liked to have seen how this pumped dual compared to a similarly OC'd Core 2 Duo.
  • 4 Hide
    abhishekk89 , May 14, 2010 4:31 PM
    i'd like to see how much of overclocking this chip is capable of with ordinary motherboards sub $130 H55 motherboards
  • 0 Hide
    icerock , May 14, 2010 5:11 PM
    very nice article, but what about overclocking on stock cooler ? because i've heard that it could reach almost 4Ghz using the stock heatsink/fan.
  • 4 Hide
    jerreece , May 14, 2010 5:13 PM
    Now let's see those charts with the i5-750 @ 4Ghz compared to those OC'd i3's. :)  Just to keep things in perspective.
  • 2 Hide
    fernandogmd , May 14, 2010 6:04 PM
    This article oc´s the i3 with premium mobo and fan, wich rises the costs very close to a i5-750 with stock fan and a cheap mobo wich as we have just seen is almost the same in performance, but you have 2 more cores. It would be interesting if you can get the same oc with a more common (cheap) mobo and the stock cooler
  • 2 Hide
    strongdc , May 14, 2010 7:16 PM
    Nice article. Shows the immense potential of i3. But one more thing I would like to know is what were the temperatures like?? I live in Delhi, India and the ambient temperatures easily go over 40C in summers. Would I be able to get that kind of overclocking here??
  • -4 Hide
    notty22 , May 14, 2010 7:29 PM
    X3's don't get anywhere near 4.4, lol
    The phenomII's can hit 4.0
    The Athlons top out at 3.6~ Check out the reviews with the new c3 stepping 440's. Heres a suicide run, and try doing that with cheap m/b like others are suggesting would be a good idea ? lol. An o/c needs to pick a quality m/b. Nothing new here.
    =====================

  • 12 Hide
    banthracis , May 14, 2010 9:43 PM
    Doesn't the use of a $280 MOBO completely negate the $80 savings of buying a cheaper CPU and then some?

    I question the validity of any value conclusions from this article.
  • 1 Hide
    burnley14 , May 14, 2010 11:00 PM
    Is the stock cooler capable of properly handling the 3.33GHz overclock? Or is an aftermarket cooler necessary?
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , May 14, 2010 11:53 PM
    i agree with these other people. A comparison of these processors (all the ones you've dialed in efficiency on) is in order. and a core 2 of similar level should be compared with this i3 processor as well. and use a budget motherboard with a budget cpu next time!
  • -1 Hide
    ratbert , May 14, 2010 11:56 PM
    icerockvery nice article, but what about overclocking on stock cooler ? because i've heard that it could reach almost 4Ghz using the stock heatsink/fan.

    I have a $100 H55 MSI H55M-E33 and it overclocks great. Running at 3.8ghz at 74 watts idle power. I agree this chip is not worth spending $200+ on a mb so I did not. I got going for $300 with cpu, mb, and memory.
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