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Haswell, Unlocked, For $75

Intel Pentium G3258 CPU Review: Haswell, Unlocked, For $75
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The Pentium G3258, at 3.2 GHz, is a fairly slow CPU. Two cores, 3 MB of shared L3 cache, no Hyper-Threading—those specifications are indeed Pentium-class. But it’s the unlocked clock multiplier that makes Intel’s 20th anniversary Pentium something special.

And let’s face it: nobody’s going to buy the G3258 and leave it at 3.2 GHz. Enthusiasts are going to take it and crank it up beyond 4 GHz.  

Before now, it was hard to go wrong with AMD’s Athlon X4 750K. Devotees of Don’s Best Gaming CPUs For The Money column know that’s where his recommendations begin. But you can almost scratch everything under the $200 mark by tuning this processor up to 4.5 GHz.

The Pentium isn’t perfect. Threaded workloads are going to punish its two cores. I find myself wishing this was a K-series Core i3 instead, if only for the addition of Hyper-Threading. But then it’d also probably sell for $50 more, at least. Down at $75, Intel is clearly gunning for that unlocked Athlon X4, which sells $5 higher. It’s only unfortunate that you’ll want to pair the Pentium with a Z97- or Z87-based motherboard for overclocking. Right there, you’re looking at a $20 or $30 premium over nice A88X-based platforms.

Update: A number of readers brought up overclocking with H-series chipsets. It appears that certain boards, equipped with older microcode, will allow tuning of unlocked CPUs (against Intel's wishes). This capability is being treated as experimental, but could help bring down the cost of a Pentium-equipped platform versus pricier Z97-based options.

Although the Pentium gets kicked around in a few of our benchmarks, it does beat the Athlon in every game we test—sometimes by a lot. As a value-oriented gaming processor, this thing is just awesome. I’d love to see what Paul Henningsen could do with it in our System Builder Marathon, where he'd pick a more suitable graphics complement than the Titan I used to alleviate graphics bottlenecks. Powering a quiet, lightly-tuned home theater PC, it’d be right as rain. And although I wouldn’t want to rely on the G3258’s on-die HD Graphics engine, the chip’s Quick Sync technology is a real boon if you’re watching or converting video content.

For as long as Intel insisted on making enthusiasts pay a premium for K-series Core i5 and i7s, AMD had the market cornered on budget-friendly overclocking. The Pentium G3258 is a watershed moment for the company, though. It’s giving power users access to a powerful and efficient architecture, along with the freedom to tweak it, all at an inclusionary price point. The Pentium G3258 typifies what our Tom’s Hardware Smart Buy award is all about.

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  • 24 Hide
    Smallfilou , June 17, 2014 1:38 AM
    What if "the fool" who bought that Pentium G and Z97 did so expecting to swap the processor in one year or two for a broadwell, once he got the cash? That would make him a very wise fool indeed... I'd say!

    Because of course buying a pentium G and fitting it with a 150USD board and 50USD cooler does not make sens by itself ,but you have a 100% future-compatible system that can be upgraded very very easily...
  • 16 Hide
    Smallfilou , June 17, 2014 1:49 AM
    Quote:
    Could get a Q9550 for that price on Ebay nice try Intel, but that would kick the crap out of that weak Pentium it's reasonably on par with the i5. Way too damn expensive for what it is in reality.


    No, sorry. That is not true. Check this article:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ivy-bridge-wolfdale-yorkfield-comparison,3487-10.html

    You should overclock your Q9550 to get performance that barely comes close to an ivy-bridge I3 on games and lightly threaded workloads (and it gets stomped by any i5 on any workload)... I personally have an OC'd QX9650 and am not even close. I believe if I change to that Pentium G, and overclock it as well, that would still be an upgrade...
  • 14 Hide
    envy14tpe , June 17, 2014 12:43 AM
    It's always great seeing the full potential of technology but I'd rather see the Pentium on a mobo somebody would really buy and see how overclocking on a budget would be...more realistic.
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    Heironious , June 17, 2014 12:37 AM
    Article title says its $75, the picture used says its $3 more than the i3. 75 and it's a deal otherwise no point in paying 3 bucks more for it rather than the i3.
  • 8 Hide
    Heironious , June 17, 2014 12:38 AM
    And just like that, the pictures change the price and I look like a fool.
  • 14 Hide
    envy14tpe , June 17, 2014 12:43 AM
    It's always great seeing the full potential of technology but I'd rather see the Pentium on a mobo somebody would really buy and see how overclocking on a budget would be...more realistic.
  • 13 Hide
    tea urchin , June 17, 2014 12:44 AM
    Having looked, the fool would build a cheap pc with that chip and a z97 board, and the wise man would use the i3 and an h81 board. Similar priced systems..
  • 8 Hide
    silverblue , June 17, 2014 1:13 AM
    AMD really needs a new model featuring Steamroller cores and a disabled GPU, say, a 770K. It wouldn't change the gaming scores all that much, but various benchmarks would definitely improve. As it is, the G3258 is a nice processor, but it won't go for that $75 to begin with.
  • 24 Hide
    Smallfilou , June 17, 2014 1:38 AM
    What if "the fool" who bought that Pentium G and Z97 did so expecting to swap the processor in one year or two for a broadwell, once he got the cash? That would make him a very wise fool indeed... I'd say!

    Because of course buying a pentium G and fitting it with a 150USD board and 50USD cooler does not make sens by itself ,but you have a 100% future-compatible system that can be upgraded very very easily...
  • 1 Hide
    dark_wizzie , June 17, 2014 1:46 AM
    Hyperthreading is typically considered to be bad for Chess. It increases inefficiencies in search and although you get a larger kilonodes per second which looks nice as a benchmark score, you are actually lowering the strength of the engine. So when I look at Fritz benchmarks on PC sites I take them with a grain of salt.
  • 0 Hide
    lunyone , June 17, 2014 1:49 AM
    I'd probably look at something like this for this kind of CPU:

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

    CPU: Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor ($74.99 @ Newegg)
    CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($30.99 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ASRock Z87 Pro3 ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($90.00 @ Newegg)
    Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($75.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($52.92 @ Amazon)
    Video Card: XFX Radeon R9 280 3GB Double Dissipation Video Card ($209.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case ($49.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: XFX 550W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($44.99 @ NCIX US)
    Total: $629.86
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-06-17 04:48 EDT-0400
  • 16 Hide
    Smallfilou , June 17, 2014 1:49 AM
    Quote:
    Could get a Q9550 for that price on Ebay nice try Intel, but that would kick the crap out of that weak Pentium it's reasonably on par with the i5. Way too damn expensive for what it is in reality.


    No, sorry. That is not true. Check this article:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ivy-bridge-wolfdale-yorkfield-comparison,3487-10.html

    You should overclock your Q9550 to get performance that barely comes close to an ivy-bridge I3 on games and lightly threaded workloads (and it gets stomped by any i5 on any workload)... I personally have an OC'd QX9650 and am not even close. I believe if I change to that Pentium G, and overclock it as well, that would still be an upgrade...
  • 5 Hide
    Memnarchon , June 17, 2014 1:50 AM
    Quote:
    Having looked, the fool would build a cheap pc with that chip and a z97 board, and the wise man would use the i3 and an h81 board. Similar priced systems..


    Yeah that would be better unless Intel decides to let o/c on Pentium with other chipsets like H97.

    Leaked BIOS Enables Pentium Anniversary Edition OC on Some MSI H97 Boards
    MSI H97 PC MATE ATX LGA1150 Motherboard $88.99

    So if this happens and intel decide to let even lower mobo chipsets to do o/c only for pentiums it would be nice to pair $60 mobo, $75 CPU and a $25-30 CM 212 EVO or plus, to a total of ~$160 for a o/c ready system.
  • 4 Hide
    wtfxxxgp , June 17, 2014 2:11 AM
    Smallfilou - I totally agree with you. Some people tend to forget that when you're working on a budget you need to make choices. The smart choice is to get a decent mobo now that Intel has finally provided the right CPU for enthusiasts. I honestly think this is exceptional value for money. A decent mobo is very important in any event. I don't get why anyone would hate on this Pentium...it looks like a gem of a performer when o/c'd.
  • -9 Hide
    lunyone , June 17, 2014 2:15 AM
    I'd probably look at something like this for this kind of CPU:

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

    CPU: Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor ($74.99 @ Newegg)
    CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($30.99 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ASRock Z87 Pro3 ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($90.00 @ Newegg)
    Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($75.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($52.92 @ Amazon)
    Video Card: XFX Radeon R9 280 3GB Double Dissipation Video Card ($209.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case ($49.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: XFX 550W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($44.99 @ NCIX US)
    Total: $629.86
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-06-17 04:48 EDT-0400
  • -4 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , June 17, 2014 3:01 AM
    Nice chip ^^^to badyou need a "Z" Mobo, those extra 30$ could go into a more potent GPU :) 
  • 6 Hide
    Achoo22 , June 17, 2014 3:09 AM
    [quote=tea urchin ]Having looked, the fool would build a cheap pc with that chip and a z97 board, and the wise man would use the i3 and an h81 board. Similar priced systems.. [/quote]
    As you say, the price difference is negligible. The performance difference is also fairly small, and both platforms leave lots of headroom for future upgrades. I am under the impression that any motherboard that can house this new Pentium can also run a blazing-fast i7. The article, unfortunately, doesn't mention that the AMD solution can't even run a FX chip. For someone looking to just get into an inexpensive PC with an eye towards future upgrades, the Intel solution is dramatically more attractive.
  • 2 Hide
    blackmagnum , June 17, 2014 3:27 AM
    Your dad's Pentium was never like this!
  • -1 Hide
    Novuake , June 17, 2014 3:28 AM
    Wow this was unexpected.

    Compelling CPU, unfortunately your still stuck with buying a mildly overpriced Z-series board.
    Now if this CPU had Iris or Iris Pro, then it would be MUCH MUCH more compelling.

    Anyway I can see this being a good buy for an enthusiast that isn't quite making it to get an I5 or I7 at their price point but needs a machine performing decently NOW and wants to overclock, he can then upgrade to and I7 or I5 at a later date.

  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , June 17, 2014 3:35 AM
    Quote:
    [quote=tea urchin ]Having looked, the fool would build a cheap pc with that chip and a z97 board, and the wise man would use the i3 and an h81 board. Similar priced systems..

    As you say, the price difference is negligible. The performance difference is also fairly small, and both platforms leave lots of headroom for future upgrades. I am under the impression that any motherboard that can house this new Pentium can also run a blazing-fast i7. The article, unfortunately, doesn't mention that the AMD solution can't even run a FX chip. For someone looking to just get into an inexpensive PC with an eye towards future upgrades, the Intel solution is dramatically more attractive.[/quote]
    The point is rather moot as you probably wouldn't upgrade from a Kaveri-based APU to a Piledriver-based CPU, and FX in its current form is dead anyway.
  • 4 Hide
    mapesdhs , June 17, 2014 4:01 AM
    knowom writes:
    > Could get a Q9550 for that price on Ebay ...

    An i7 870 on P55 would be a better buy than a Q9550. 870s dropped below
    50 UKP on ebay UK this week. Never mind S775, my 870/P55 setup was faster
    than a friend's X58/930 system for gaming (lower latency with P55, and some
    boards do have x16/x16 CF/SLI).

    Ian.

  • 3 Hide
    Onus , June 17, 2014 4:12 AM
    I'll need to go over the charts some more, but it looks to me like i3+H87 (or H81) is going to beat G3258+cooler+Z97.

    I would expect a round of price drops from AMD over this; otherwise they're done in the gaming market.
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