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

Opening The CPU Bottleneck

What does it mean to run face-first into a bottleneck? When we talk about bottlenecks here on Tom's Hardware, we're usually referring to a single component that's preventing the rest of a PC from reaching its full performance potential in any given benchmark. For games, that component is usually either the CPU or graphics card, depending on how much performance the other part provides.

Our System Builder Marathon machines often expose CPU limits when multiple graphics processors are combined, but most gamers begin their builds with only a single GPU. Among these, AMD’s $320 Radeon HD 5850 represents the highest performance most gamers will want to spend money on. The argument, of course, is that as you start shopping for more expensive alternatives, like a $700 Radeon HD 5970, consoles start looking a lot more attractive.

With our best bang-for-the-buck graphics card fairly well defined, the question becomes: how much CPU do we need to milk the last ounce of performance from this pixel-spewing beast? Would a dual-core CPU do the job or, given that today’s games are ever-more multi-threaded, would a triple- or even quadruple-core processor be needed? How much could overclocking help? Must we spend all of the money saved on the CPU to purchase a big cooler? Knowing that all of the subsequent questions must be addressed to completely answer the first, we gathered our Intel and AMD processor samples and began testing.

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.