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.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Dekasav
    Excellently done. Thanks a lot THG!
  • andy5174
    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.
  • andy5174
    However, I do admit that i3's performance is really impressive!
  • shin0bi272
    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 ;)
  • dapneym
    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.
  • tortnotes
    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.
  • shubham1401

    If the user has money for Super high end GPU why would he look at an i3 processor?
  • JohnnyLucky
    Looks like some gamers will not have to spend as much money for a new cpu.
  • 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).
  • amdfangirl
    Great article.

    We need more articles like this! A million better than a standard review.