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Test Settings

Is Intel's Core i3-530 Fast Enough For Performance Gaming?
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Test-System Configuration
CPUAMD Phenom II X3 720 Triple Core
2.80 GHz, 1.5MB L2 / 6MB L3 Cache
Intel Core i3-530 Dual Core
2.93 GHz, 512KB L2 / 4MB L3 Cache
CPU O/C3.67 GHz at 262 x14, 1.472V4.31 GHz at 196 x22, 1.296V
MotherboardGigabyte 890GPA-UD3H, 890GX/SB850
BIOS F4 (03/08/2010)
Gigabyte P55-UD3R, P55 Express PCH
BIOS F6 (02/11/2010)
CPU CoolerScythe Mugen 2 Revision BScythe Mugen 2 Revision B
RAMCrucial CT2KIT25664BA1339 (4GB)
DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24
Crucial CT2KIT25664BA1339 (4GB)
DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24
RAM O/CDDR3-1400 CAS 7-7-7-16DDR3-1568 CAS 8-8-8-18
GraphicsSapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB
725 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB
725 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
Hard DriveWD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300GB
10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cache
WD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300GB
10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD AudioIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Modular
ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80-PLUS Gold
Corsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Modular
ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80-PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsATI Catalyst 10.2ATI Catalyst 10.2
ChipsetATI Catalyst 10.2Intel INF 9.1.1.1020


Though our main configurations are listed above, we also added AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 and Intel’s Core i7-870 to today’s charts to see how the above configurations compared to the CPU limits of our motherboards.


With these processors initially installed at stock settings, we increased the data rate of our memory to DDR3-1600 at CAS 8-8-8-18 and 1.60V to represent the performance parity of higher-priced platforms. This should be fair for comparing the low-cost overclocks as well, since the speed-versus-timings equation is nearly identical.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Campaign, Act III, Second Sun (45 sec. FRAPS)
Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: Very High Details, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Details, 4x AA
Dirt 2 DemoIn-game benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: Ultra High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.XPatch 1.02, DirectX 10.1, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of PripyatS.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of Pripyat Benchmark version
Test Set 1: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, 4x MSAA
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
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Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , April 5, 2010 7:34 AM
    Looks like some gamers will not have to spend as much money for a new cpu.
  • 22 Hide
    Kelavarus , April 5, 2010 8:06 AM
    Aye, I'd go with testing GTA IV. None of these titles are all that CPU intensive, get something that takes a lot of processing as well.

    I also don't get the argument with if someone has a 'super high end GPU why would they look at an i3 processor.' Just because they spent a lot of money on one place doesn't mean they WANT to spend it elsewhere. I'm sure there's plenty of penny-pinching enthusiasts who are looking at top performance for lowest dollar. I know I'm one.
  • 21 Hide
    shin0bi272 , April 5, 2010 6:45 AM
    all similar fps results usually means one of two things... either youre gpu limited or those results are accurate (meaning you didnt ever become cpu limited ... which I thought was the point of this review). Please redo the test with a 5970 to see if the rankings change. Plus if youre saving money on your cpu you can spend it on the gpu ;) 
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    Dekasav , April 5, 2010 6:18 AM
    Excellently done. Thanks a lot THG!
  • 14 Hide
    andy5174 , April 5, 2010 6:20 AM
    It should also take GTA IV (which is CPU intensive game and can utilize four cores) into consideration, although most games don't behave similar today. In addition, I would expect more and more to-be-released games to be able to utilize the full potential of quads.
  • 6 Hide
    andy5174 , April 5, 2010 6:30 AM
    However, I do admit that i3's performance is really impressive!
  • 21 Hide
    shin0bi272 , April 5, 2010 6:45 AM
    all similar fps results usually means one of two things... either youre gpu limited or those results are accurate (meaning you didnt ever become cpu limited ... which I thought was the point of this review). Please redo the test with a 5970 to see if the rankings change. Plus if youre saving money on your cpu you can spend it on the gpu ;) 
  • 3 Hide
    dapneym , April 5, 2010 6:56 AM
    On the "Is Overclocking Needed" I think you forgot a few fours. A voltage of 1.72 would probably fry the processor quite quickly. You had it right later one with 1.472, but it shocked a me a bit at first to see such a high number, haha.
  • 20 Hide
    tortnotes , April 5, 2010 6:59 AM
    shin0bi272, correct me if I'm wrong, but the point of this article was to see how much the CPU really matters when paired with a reasonable single GPU. I think the result--that it doesn't much matter--is pretty good to know.
    If a super high end GPU was used, it wouldn't be relevant to gamers looking at CPU performance.

    For me personally though.... I'll stick with my i7. Beats any i3 at mental ray rendering any day.
  • 0 Hide
    shubham1401 , April 5, 2010 7:21 AM
    ^Yeah!!

    If the user has money for Super high end GPU why would he look at an i3 processor?
  • 25 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , April 5, 2010 7:34 AM
    Looks like some gamers will not have to spend as much money for a new cpu.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , April 5, 2010 7:41 AM
    I wonder who will buy such an exclusive separated Graphics card with the core-i3 processor. cause most of the core-i3 buyers don't want to waste money on a separated GPU.others will just keep their core-2(specially quad series) processor because they're better than core-i3 processors(According to 3D-Mark Result).
  • 12 Hide
    amdfangirl , April 5, 2010 8:04 AM
    Great article.

    We need more articles like this! A million better than a standard review.
  • 22 Hide
    Kelavarus , April 5, 2010 8:06 AM
    Aye, I'd go with testing GTA IV. None of these titles are all that CPU intensive, get something that takes a lot of processing as well.

    I also don't get the argument with if someone has a 'super high end GPU why would they look at an i3 processor.' Just because they spent a lot of money on one place doesn't mean they WANT to spend it elsewhere. I'm sure there's plenty of penny-pinching enthusiasts who are looking at top performance for lowest dollar. I know I'm one.
  • 5 Hide
    gti88 , April 5, 2010 8:06 AM
    The good thing is, that you can go for the 100$ MB and cheap cooler, and still, you'll have excellent gaming experience.
  • 1 Hide
    SpadeM , April 5, 2010 8:15 AM
    I agree with andy5174 and Kelavarus. GTA IV and RTS games would have been a good addition to the benchmark since they put a lot more emphasis on CPU performance then these shooters.

    Plus, the difference between amd and intel was in the ".x" margin which is negligible so what i've learned is that this articles tries to make a point but fails to do so.
  • 0 Hide
    masterjaw , April 5, 2010 8:24 AM
    Nice article in general. Splendid performance especially on power consumption. I hope you also added the Athlon II chips in the line for a more broader comparison among low-cost chips.
  • 16 Hide
    th_at , April 5, 2010 8:26 AM
    So once again, a 3 Ghz Dual Core CPU (100$) and a Radeon 5850 (300$) manage to play to just about every game perfectly at up to 1920x1200 (and mostly beyond) with HQ image settings. And why wouldn't it, when every developer with half a brain will make sure their games run on the XBOX 360 and thus froze system specs in 2006.
    Why is that never stressed more in regular CPU/GPU tests, where the focus is usually on 300$ CPUs and 500$ GPUs and their Pyrrhic victories of producing meaninglessly high framerates that only framerate morons (everything below 50 fps stutters) and insects care about?
  • 6 Hide
    vaughn2k , April 5, 2010 8:39 AM
    yup this is spicy...

    off topic - its nice to see that the Phenom 965 can beat the Core i7 870 which is around $120 more.
  • 5 Hide
    izliecies , April 5, 2010 8:50 AM
    andy5174It should also take GTA IV (which is CPU intensive game and can utilize four cores) into consideration, although most games don't behave similar today. In addition, I would expect more and more to-be-released games to be able to utilize the full potential of quads.

    I totally agree. Reviewers should include GTA IV when benchmarking CPUs.
  • 2 Hide
    hundredislandsboy , April 5, 2010 9:17 AM
    Very useful article, especially for gamers or an budget who opt to spend mosre on the GPU and then be forced to shop for a low cost CPU.

    Interesting to see charts (only hi-rez, max AA) where the 5850 IS the bottleneck and the low cost CPU waits for the 5850.

    This article would have been perfect if there was one more line or bar added beneath the 2560 X 1600, one more test where they plug in the 5970 to remove the bottleneck and then see if the CPU beoomes the bottleneck at the high resolution.
  • 0 Hide
    abhishekk89 , April 5, 2010 9:21 AM
    if ur sole purpose is just gaming i'd go for a dual core... but since i do a lot more than just gaming quad's my way..
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , April 5, 2010 9:24 AM
    HundredIslandsBoyVery useful article, especially for gamers or an budget who opt to spend mosre on the GPU and then be forced to shop for a low cost CPU. Interesting to see charts (only hi-rez, max AA) where the 5850 IS the bottleneck and the low cost CPU waits for the 5850.This article would have been perfect if there was one more line or bar added beneath the 2560 X 1600, one more test where they plug in the 5970 to remove the bottleneck and then see if the CPU beoomes the bottleneck at the high resolution.


    The article is more for the mid-budget gamer who wants the high-end gaming experience but can't afford everything associated with it. It even mentions the CPU bottleneck with CrossFire that's found in several SBM articles, and that would include the two slightly-underclocked 5870's in CrossFire that make up the 5970.
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