The Core i3-8100 offers a surprisingly balanced performance profile, particularly in light of Intel's recommended price. We did measure a few slow-downs compared to the previous-gen Core i3-7100, but those were expected since Coffee Lake generally delivers more cores at slightly lower clock rates. Aside from those single-threaded outliers, Core i3-8100 is an impressive step forward that redefines what we expect from Intel's mainstream portfolio.
In the chart below, we plotted gaming performance with both average frame rates and a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times (a good indicator of smoothness), which we then converted into an FPS measurement. We're also presenting price-to-performance charts that get split up to include CPUs-only and extra platform costs. For the models that don't come with a bundled cooler, we add an extra $25 for a basic heat sink. We also add $20 if overclocking requires a more expensive motherboard (as is the case for Z370).
Intel's Core i3-8100 punches above its price class during our gaming tests. Even an overclocked Ryzen 3 1300X can't match it. But the differences we observed would likely shrink if you swapped out our GeForce GTX 1080 for a more graphics-bound card like GeForce GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 480.
Most of our application benchmarks favored the Core i3-8100, though its lead over Ryzen 3 was typically pretty small. Overclocking helped AMD's CPUs on more than one occasion, but again, the margins were usually pretty slim. Overall, the Core i3-8100 offers solid application performance in a diverse range of workloads.
The Core i3-8100 is currently available online for ~$121. That's just $5 over Intel's recommended price, slotting in between AMD's Ryzen 3 1300X and 1200. Enthusiasts should be happy with two times the physical cores compared to Kaby Lake-based Core i3s. However, we still haven't seen the low-cost motherboards that'll eventually help value-minded builders capitalize on Core i3's allure. The cheapest Z-series motherboards cost ~$120, which isn't a smart pairing for this class of processor. We expect Intel's absentee B-series motherboards to be slightly more expensive than AMD's equivalents. However, Core i3-8100's performance advantage might offset the premium. We'll know more once those cheaper boards surface.
It'd be great to see an unlocked version of the -8100. For now, this model is surprisingly nimble at its stock settings. Overclockers may want to go for a Core i3-8350K or an AMD Ryzen CPU instead. Of course, we're looking forward to B-series motherboards that'll make the Core i3-8100 an even more attractive option.
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