AMD FX-4170 Vs. Intel Core i3-3220: Which ~$125 CPU Should You Buy?

Test System And Benchmarks

We're using the same memory and storage subsystem on both platforms in order to normalize as many variables as possible. In addition to the Core i3-3220 and FX-4170, we're also including Intel's Core i5-3550 in our benchmark results. This gives us a reference point in order to gauge how these $125 budget-oriented CPUs measure up to a $200 model.


Socket AM3+
LGA 1155
CPU
AMD FX-4170 (Zambezi), 4.2 GHz Base Clock Rate, 4.3 GHz Turbo CoreIntel Core i3-3220 (Ivy Bridge), 3.3 GHz, Hyper-Threading enabled
Motherboard
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5
Socket AM3+, Chipset: AMD 990FX
ASRock Fatal1ty P67 Performance
LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express PCH
Networking
On-Board Gigabit LAN controller
Memory
Corsair Vengeance, 2 x 4 GB, 1866 MT/s, CL 9-9-9-34-2T
Graphics
AMD Radeon HD 7970
925 MHz GPU, 3 GB GDDR5 at 1375 MHz
Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar Black 750 GB
7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
Power
ePower EP-1200E10-T2 1200 W
ATX12V, EPS12V
Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 x64, Service Pack 1, KB2645594 and KB2646060 installed
DirectX
DirectX 11
Graphics Drivers
AMD Catalyst 12.8
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Operation Swordbreaker" 60-Second Fraps Run
Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF), 1920x1080
DiRT Showdown
Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml, Modified to two laps and no competing cars
Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA, 1920x1080
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.4.27, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps
DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled, 1920x1080
StarCraft IICustom map "Tom's Hardware Guide", 60 seconds Fraps
Ultra Details, Extreme Quality, 1920x1080
Metro 2033
Full Game, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" Scene
DX 11, High Preset, 4x MSAA, 4x AF, PhysX/DOF Disabled, 1920x1080
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 12.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
SiSoftware Sandra 2012Version 2011.10.17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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184 comments
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    Top Comments
  • At $125, they should have included the FX-6100. That's $120 on Newegg, plus an additional $15 off on sale.
    29
  • Damn it AMD, I really want you to pull a rabbit out of your cake hole and do well.
    26
  • Nice review as always. Nothing really too surprising but I guess it was quite necessary to compare the 2 CPUs at the same price point (not everybody prefers Intel). If Piledriver pulls through (I hope it does), then maybe AMD will have the slight edge at performance per dollar against the i3 Ivy Bridge
    21
  • Other Comments
  • Nice review as always. Nothing really too surprising but I guess it was quite necessary to compare the 2 CPUs at the same price point (not everybody prefers Intel). If Piledriver pulls through (I hope it does), then maybe AMD will have the slight edge at performance per dollar against the i3 Ivy Bridge
    21
  • At $125, they should have included the FX-6100. That's $120 on Newegg, plus an additional $15 off on sale.
    29
  • Nothing too surprising I suppose. AMD is looking to cut 20% of it's workforce and I think I know why. Performance is hit or miss and at twice the power of Intel's offerings. Intel is getting close to competing with ARM with their mainstream lineup and AMD's dual module is still at 125W. What's wrong here?

    Hope Piledriver is all that it promises and more.
    4
  • Damn it AMD, I really want you to pull a rabbit out of your cake hole and do well.
    26
  • This hurts. I've been an AMD fan for a long time and I was really excited for Bulldozer. However, after seeing the lackluster performance, I put off upgrading until Piledriver. I'm not so sure about Piledriver now, though, and I think it might be time to throw in the towel and finally buy an Intel chip for once.
    14
  • One thing in the review's last page's title really piqued me

    "...but Tomorrow Shows More Promise for AMD".

    Tomorrow...as in ... Oct 16, 2012 or is it only figurative?
    16
  • Hope Vishera changes this - a $125 chip that can beat i3 at stock (apps & games) and can ALSO be overclocked would be a great thing for budget enthusiasts, who right now are stuck with either locked Intel CPU or not-so-great-performing AMD CPU. Power numbers still don't look good. Probably due to the 32nm process (and also due to architectural differences I suppose). Is Vishera 32nm or 22? Fingers crossed for healthy competition :)
    10
  • jerm1027At $125, they should have included the FX-6100. That's $120 on Newegg, plus an additional $15 off on sale.


    At 3.3 GHz, the 6100 doesn't fare well. It's easily out-gamed by the FX-4170, and only gets a bit of a break in highly threaded apps.
    18
  • Why not compare with Trinity? It has higher performance, lower power and modern chipset
    -5
  • @user32123, i guess it's because that's already done
    16
  • Looking at those slow the softwae developer adopting multi-threaded app, it seems it is clear that i3 is the clear winner.
    -3
  • Would have love to have seen a phenom II in there too.

    In my opinion, if you are on a budget, the FX4170 can be a decent cpu, it is $10 cheaper than the i3, it isn't much but might be able to give you a slightly bigger budget on graphics. Its not a complete wash either. The power consumption might be high but nothing a desktop can't handle, would be more expensive for people who pay more for power but generally in north america, power is pretty cheap.
    15
  • As an Intel fanboy and a ex-AMD fan, this article was both enjoyable and depressing, since AMD is just losing the CPU game.
    -5
  • I seriously squealed when I saw this article on the front page. These kinds of articles make really excited. I'm looking forward to (really anxious for) the Vishera review. Will now read... :lol:
    10
  • abhijitkalyane said:
    Is Vishera 32nm or 22?
    I forgot where I read it, but I believe it's still 32nm... Oh wait... Maybe that's just Trinity. I may've actually been hoping Vishera were 28nm or something. I hate it when my memory fails me. Anyway...

    21257 said:
    jerm1027At $125, they should have included the FX-6100. That's $120 on Newegg, plus an additional $15 off on sale.
    At 3.3 GHz, the 6100 doesn't fare well. It's easily out-gamed by the FX-4170, and only gets a bit of a break in highly threaded apps.

    Does that mean the FX-4170 and 6100 really share the same MSRP? Because I was thinking that it may just be a Newegg (shop-specific) price thing (possibly a sale/discount).
    I don't think it would've been a bad idea to have it around if that were the case (though I don't mean to impose more work on you guys). It might've been something to see what relative application performance score it would've gotten compared to the i5, as well as how much it performs less compared to the FX-4170. (I imagine by not so much since a lot of the games were GPU-limited already.) :)
    0
  • I buy whatever CPU and GPU will do the best at the time I decide to upgrade...

    NO fanboi here....

    My current AMD powered laptop plays Skyrim reasonably, something that would have easily required another $100 to do with an Intel laptop at the time of upgrade.

    Next time? Whatever has the best numbers will be what I buy... (I always wait to see if a chipset or CPU/GPU is plagued with problems before I buy - usually 3-6 months after they hit market)

    Brand loyalty is something companies try to instill in consumers, and nowadays it has no place in a consumer's choice of hardware or software.

    Buy what will do the things you NEED to do... forget about joining the war one way or the other.

    If more people would buy what is on top instead of supporting only one company, more companies would have to innovate and improve their products more substantially.
    16
  • churfyo guy who wrote this is dumb. look at what he says, 'significant' fps advantage in some game or another. the difference was 10 fps and not just any fps. the fps from 55 to 65 is nothing on a 60hz monitor that can only play 60 fps, basically. intel biased guy who wrote this needs to drink a cup of reality.


    A: 10 frames is significant. It's 16.6%
    B: This is about benchmark performance, not whether you'll notice the drop in frames or not.

    However, I will note that if your display is 60hz, and the game you're playing has vsync, then that small 5 frame difference between the game running at 55 fps and the display's 60hz actually changes to a HUGE frame drop, because the FPS will drop to 30 to stay in sync with the display.
    9
  • They should've included the Phenom II X4 965 BE just for comparison's sake. Its $90 as well.
    13
  • I built my PC with the 2120, should I get the 3220 instead?
    0
  • I wish they included overclocked results... but those power consumption figures...

    Not something you'd like with Australian electricity prices.
    6