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Is Intel's Core i3-530 Fast Enough For Performance Gaming?

Is Overclocking Needed?

We didn’t know how much of an impact overclocking these processors would have on game performance, but we certainly thought we’d find at least some improvement. The big question would be how much money should be spent on that effort. Pondering options priced between zero and infinity, we decided to go with nothing more than an oversized CPU cooler.

Also known as the Mugen-2 Revision B, Scythe’s $40 SCMG-2100 placed very high in our recent LGA 1156 Performance Cooler Comparison, while also listing Socket AM3 among its extensive collection of supported motherboard types.

Our RAM already supports the speed changes required to match processor settings, so it was time to start tuning.

Though most of our AMD Phenom II processors can easily reach clock speeds from 3.8 to 4.0 GHz, this particular early-revision X3 720 proved particularly troublesome. After determining that it wouldn’t even reach 3.70 GHz, we decided to ignore the fact that this is an unlocked “Black Edition” processor and instead use overclocking methods that represent a broader user base. HyperTransport link and northbridge multipliers can be adjusted with any AMD processor, and using the 8x settings allowed us to increase the reference clock to 262 MHz.

The CPU core needed 1.472V to remain stable at 3.67 GHz and full CPU load (this voltage was reached with a BIOS setting of 1.475V). A cooler this big wasn’t really a requirement, as the CPU temperature never passed 50 degrees Celsius under full load. Memory speed was adjusted to DDR3-1400 at 1.60V and CAS 7-7-7-16.

Using a smaller 32nm die process, Intel’s Core i3-530 proves itself a far more viable overclocker. A mere 1.30V CPU core setting in BIOS is enough to allow a 4.31 GHz final clock speed, with full-load temperatures in the mid-40 degree Celsius range at the resulting 1.296V reading.

Pushing Intel’s CPU base clock also increases its memory data rate, and we chose CAS 8-8-8-18 at DDR3-1568 to closely match the speed-versus-timings configuration of the AMD system.