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

Test Settings

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Test-System Configuration
CPUAMD Phenom II X3 720 Triple Core 2.80 GHz, 1.5MB L2 / 6MB L3 CacheIntel Core i3-530 Dual Core 2.93 GHz, 512KB L2 / 4MB L3 Cache
CPU O/C3.67 GHz at 262 x14, 1.472V4.31 GHz at 196 x22, 1.296V
MotherboardGigabyte 890GPA-UD3H, 890GX/SB850 BIOS F4 (03/08/2010)Gigabyte P55-UD3R, P55 Express PCH BIOS F6 (02/11/2010)
CPU CoolerScythe Mugen 2 Revision BScythe Mugen 2 Revision B
RAMCrucial CT2KIT25664BA1339 (4GB) DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24Crucial CT2KIT25664BA1339 (4GB) DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24
RAM O/CDDR3-1400 CAS 7-7-7-16DDR3-1568 CAS 8-8-8-18
GraphicsSapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB 725 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB 725 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
Hard DriveWD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300GB 10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cacheWD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300GB 10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD AudioIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit NetworkingIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Modular ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80-PLUS GoldCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Modular ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80-PLUS Gold
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsATI Catalyst 10.2ATI Catalyst 10.2
ChipsetATI Catalyst 10.2Intel INF

Though our main configurations are listed above, we also added AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 and Intel’s Core i7-870 to today’s charts to see how the above configurations compared to the CPU limits of our motherboards.

With these processors initially installed at stock settings, we increased the data rate of our memory to DDR3-1600 at CAS 8-8-8-18 and 1.60V to represent the performance parity of higher-priced platforms. This should be fair for comparing the low-cost overclocks as well, since the speed-versus-timings equation is nearly identical.

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Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Campaign, Act III, Second Sun (45 sec. FRAPS) Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: Very High Details, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Details, 4x AA
Dirt 2 DemoIn-game benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Ultra High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.XPatch 1.02, DirectX 10.1, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of PripyatS.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of Pripyat Benchmark version Test Set 1: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, 4x MSAA
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
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.