Intel Core i3-8100 CPU Review

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Final Analysis

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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Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

Paul Alcorn is the Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech for Tom's Hardware US. He also writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage, and enterprise hardware.

  • Dark Lord of Tech
    Great CPU for the $$$!
  • shrapnel_indie
    It's impressive.... and makes a harder sell on the Ryzen 1200 and 1300X.
  • InvalidError
    Still missing affordable motherboards...
  • JQB45
    When are the lower cost "B" and I assume "H" series motherboards supposed to arrive?
  • MCMunroe
    Why does the little green button to buy the product always have a wildly higher price than the assumptions made in the article?

    Just a glaring sign that the articles value comparison is off, in real life.
  • marcelo_vidal
    I don't see the point of this review? This get the UPDATE ? Bios UPDATE Microcode Update ? Where is the meltdown TRAIN ?
  • JQB45
    Tesetilaro - Passmark benchmark results comparing the i3-8100, i5-4570 and the i5-3570.
  • ghettogamer
    $100 upwards for a motherboard ,g4560 is still the budget king!
  • John Philips
    Does it comes with the Meltdown and Spectre improvements?
  • Martell1977
    I have to agree, knowing that these reviews can take some time, I'm curious (as the others) if these tests include the S&M fixes?

    The performance loss might change the results here significantly. I know it's a lot of work, but I think we need new benchmarks for pretty much all Intel's new models. The current numbers are no longer accurate. Maybe retest some of AMD's to see if there is much, if any effect on their performance as well.