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AMD FX-4170 Vs. Intel Core i3-3220: Which ~$125 CPU Should You Buy?

Test System And Benchmarks

We're using the same memory and storage subsystem on both platforms in order to normalize as many variables as possible. In addition to the Core i3-3220 and FX-4170, we're also including Intel's Core i5-3550 in our benchmark results. This gives us a reference point in order to gauge how these $125 budget-oriented CPUs measure up to a $200 model.

Socket AM3+LGA 1155
CPUAMD FX-4170 (Zambezi), 4.2 GHz Base Clock Rate, 4.3 GHz Turbo CoreIntel Core i3-3220 (Ivy Bridge), 3.3 GHz, Hyper-Threading enabled
MotherboardGigabyte 990FXA-UD5Socket AM3+, Chipset: AMD 990FXASRock Fatal1ty P67 Performance LGA 1155, Intel P67 Express PCH
NetworkingOn-Board Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryCorsair Vengeance, 2 x 4 GB, 1866 MT/s, CL 9-9-9-34-2T
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 7970925 MHz GPU, 3 GB GDDR5 at 1375 MHz
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 750 GB 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
PowerePower EP-1200E10-T2 1200 W ATX12V, EPS12V
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 x64, Service Pack 1, KB2645594 and KB2646060 installed
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriversAMD Catalyst 12.8
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Operation Swordbreaker" 60-Second Fraps Run Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF), 1920x1080
DiRT ShowdownRun with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml, Modified to two laps and no competing cars Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA, 1920x1080
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.4.27, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled, 1920x1080
StarCraft IICustom map "Tom's Hardware Guide", 60 seconds Fraps Ultra Details, Extreme Quality, 1920x1080
Metro 2033Full Game, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" SceneDX 11, High Preset, 4x MSAA, 4x AF, PhysX/DOF Disabled, 1920x1080
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 12.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (650 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (650 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (650 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
SiSoftware Sandra 2012Version 2011.10.17.80, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • EzioAs
    Nice review as always. Nothing really too surprising but I guess it was quite necessary to compare the 2 CPUs at the same price point (not everybody prefers Intel). If Piledriver pulls through (I hope it does), then maybe AMD will have the slight edge at performance per dollar against the i3 Ivy Bridge
    Reply
  • jerm1027
    At $125, they should have included the FX-6100. That's $120 on Newegg, plus an additional $15 off on sale.
    Reply
  • Soma42
    Nothing too surprising I suppose. AMD is looking to cut 20% of it's workforce and I think I know why. Performance is hit or miss and at twice the power of Intel's offerings. Intel is getting close to competing with ARM with their mainstream lineup and AMD's dual module is still at 125W. What's wrong here?

    Hope Piledriver is all that it promises and more.
    Reply
  • joytech22
    Damn it AMD, I really want you to pull a rabbit out of your cake hole and do well.
    Reply
  • theabsinthehare
    This hurts. I've been an AMD fan for a long time and I was really excited for Bulldozer. However, after seeing the lackluster performance, I put off upgrading until Piledriver. I'm not so sure about Piledriver now, though, and I think it might be time to throw in the towel and finally buy an Intel chip for once.
    Reply
  • abitoms
    One thing in the review's last page's title really piqued me

    "...but Tomorrow Shows More Promise for AMD".

    Tomorrow...as in ... Oct 16, 2012 or is it only figurative?
    Reply
  • abhijitkalyane
    Hope Vishera changes this - a $125 chip that can beat i3 at stock (apps & games) and can ALSO be overclocked would be a great thing for budget enthusiasts, who right now are stuck with either locked Intel CPU or not-so-great-performing AMD CPU. Power numbers still don't look good. Probably due to the 32nm process (and also due to architectural differences I suppose). Is Vishera 32nm or 22? Fingers crossed for healthy competition :)
    Reply
  • cleeve
    jerm1027At $125, they should have included the FX-6100. That's $120 on Newegg, plus an additional $15 off on sale.
    At 3.3 GHz, the 6100 doesn't fare well. It's easily out-gamed by the FX-4170, and only gets a bit of a break in highly threaded apps.
    Reply
  • user32123
    Why not compare with Trinity? It has higher performance, lower power and modern chipset
    Reply
  • abitoms
    @user32123, i guess it's because that's already done
    Reply