If Trinity Showed Up Today...
If you haven’t already read my preview of AMD’s next-gen APUs, the conclusion is at least worth checking out (I'd like to think the whole thing is a decent read, but the ending is probably most informative).
Beyond the impressions I came away with in that story, I can now add that Sandy Bridge-based Core i3s fare about as well as I expected them to. The Core i3-2100 does well in single-threaded x86 metrics, where its efficient architecture simply muscles past AMD’s best effort with the Piledriver design. There aren't many, though, and I imagine they'll only get more rare and less meaningful over time.
A majority of our threaded tests—particularly the ones that emphasize integer-heavy code—go in AMD’s favor. It’ll take more than a dual-core 3.1 GHz chip to get Intel ahead in those benchmarks. Maybe the $125 Core i3-2120 is a better choice, or the $150 Core i3-2130.
Whichever Core i3-2xx0 CPU you pick, you’re stuck with HD Graphics 2000, and that’s a real bummer. Sandy Bridge’s low-end graphics engine can hardly be recommended for any low-resolution, low-quality gaming environment. And any time you want to step up to HD Graphics 3000, it’s an extra $25 or $35 dollars. Even then, you’re not getting a phenomenal upgrade.
Ivy Bridge-based Core i3s will help Intel’s case with regard to x86 performance. However, it’s not yet clear if any of them will include HD Graphics 4000. Should the company choose to keep its higher-end implementation a differentiating feature for Core i7 CPUs, you’ll see the more entry-level parts limited to HD Graphics 2500. That’d just be bad news for Intel.
We’ll see what happens, though. Every indication still points to channel availability of desktop-oriented Trinity-based APUs late this year, and a lot can happen between now and then.