Intel Core i3-8100 CPU Review

Intel's Coffee Lake architecture represents the company's biggest generational improvement in more than a decade. Specifically, though, its Core i3 models benefit most. In the past, Core i3 chips wielded two Hyper-Threaded cores. But Coffee Lake-based i3s sport four physical cores. On paper, that makes them roughly equivalent to Kaby Lake-based Core i5s at lower prices.

The improvement was badly needed. AMD's Ryzen 3 1300X and 1200 offered unlocked ratio multipliers and twice as many cores as previous-gen Core i3s, earning our unabashed praise. Intel tries leveling the playing field with Coffee Lake. In response, AMD slashed prices on its Ryzen 5 and 7 CPUs.

But the Core i3-8100 competes at a price point where AMD might not be able to get much more aggressive. All Ryzen processors utilize the same eight-core die, so there is a fixed manufacturing cost, even for the four-core Ryzen 3 models.

Although Intel only sells two Coffee Lake-based Cores i3s for now, there's a $60 chasm between the Core i3-8100 and unlocked Core i3-8350K. And that K-series chip isn't a typical Core i3. It doesn't come with a bundled cooler, it requires a pricey Z-series motherboard for overclocking, and it only costs a few dollars less than the six-core Core i5-8400. Naturally, we recommend stepping up to the higher-performance CPU.

Core i3-8100, on the other hand, fits neatly into the familiar mainstream pricing structure and is a good complement for the B-series motherboards due to arrive early this year. Selling for $121 online, it's Intel's only real competition against Ryzen 3 1300X and 1200.

The Core i3-8100

Intel's entire Coffee Lake line-up operates at lower base frequencies than its Kaby Lake chips due to the prevalence of extra cores. For the Core i7/i5 families, Intel offsets those conservative clock rates with higher Turbo Boost bins. But Core i3-8100 doesn't benefit from Turbo Boost. That means you get a static frequency, regardless of how many cores are active. So, the -8100's 3.6 GHz ceiling could yield lower performance in lightly-threaded workloads compared to the 3.9 GHz Core i3-7100.

Of course, four physical cores should also translate to a big speed-up in heavily-threaded tasks favoring Core i3-8100. Extra cores naturally use more power, so Core i3-8100 carries a 65W TDP versus Core i3-7100's 51W rating.

The i3's cores come with 1.5MB of cache each, adding up to 6MB of L3 across the die. Core i3-8350K boasts 2MB of L3 cache per core, for a total of 8MB. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 3 models sport 8MB of L3 cache as well. As we've seen, though, in real-world applications, cache latency and throughput can drag down the advantage of higher capacity. Our benchmarks will sort out the winners. 

Coffee Lake-based Core i3s support the same DDR4-2400 transfer rate as Kaby Lake models, while Core i5s and i7s now accommodate up to DDR4-2666. The Core i3-8100 includes UHD Graphics 630 on-die, which is essentially the same as Kaby Lake's integrated graphics engine. This gives Intel an advantage over AMD's Ryzen processors if you aren't planning on using a discrete GPU.

Intel lists the Core i3-8100 at $117, which matches the Kaby Lake-based Core i3-7100. Coffee Lake pricing has improved alongside availability, and we're now seeing this chip online for ~$121. It naturally does battle, then, with AMD's $130 Ryzen 3 1300X and $110 Ryzen 3 1200. Let's see how they stack up.

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  • 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.

    https://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare.php?cmp[]=3103&cmp[]=1896&cmp[]=827
  • 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.
  • IIIRattleHeadIII
    @JOHN PHILIPS
    they need a new architecture design to be secure against the Meltdown and Specter exploits... this is just a cut i7 8700k without hyper-threading and boost clocks.
  • none12345
    Does this review contain the meltdown and spectre patches/bios updates?
  • darcotech
    So here you see why competition is important and why AMD is important.

    If AMD didn't come up with great CPUs, Intel would still i3 with 2 cores/ 4 threads.

    Now, you are basically getting i5s for the price of i3s.

    Thanks to AMD. And if you can, maybe you should support AMD by buying their products.

    I can not congratulate Intel, as they could come up with this kind of CPU years ago, but they wouldn't. Actually, this product proves they do not care about their customers. Not to mention changing sockets all the time.

    If you like being milked, go for Intel, if not go for AMD.
  • InvalidError
    1652322 said:
    Does it comes with the Meltdown and Spectre improvements?

    It takes 2-3 years to design a new chip. Intel was notified about them around June 2017 while Cannonlake's design has been complete for over a year already (launch held back by on-going fab delays), which means that the first chips immune (or at least less susceptible) to the issues won't be launching until 2019. That's going to be Icelake at the earliest.
  • Dark Lord of Tech
    125865 said:
    Still missing affordable motherboards...


    Coming soon. :)
  • larkspur
    35719 said:
    If you like being milked, go for Intel, if not go for AMD.

    It's more like: "If you like being milked then choose a CPU based on its brand-name. If not, choose the best-performing CPU for your intended usage and budget based on research."
  • AlistairAB
    276663 said:
    Great CPU for the $$$!


    Ryzen 2200G coming out in a few weeks. Same CPU performance with double the iGPU performance for less money, $99. And it works with a $50 motherboard. This CPU is a big improvement from last year's i3 but still too little too late. Already got plans to make 3 computers using the 2200G.
  • Dark Lord of Tech
    1666740 said:
    276663 said:
    Great CPU for the $$$!
    Ryzen 2200G coming out in a few weeks. Same CPU performance with double the iGPU performance for less money, $99. And it works with a $50 motherboard. This CPU is a big improvement from last year's i3 but still too little too late. Already got plans to make 3 computers using the 2200G.


    I'm an Intel only builder , but does seem promising.
  • AlistairAB
    276663 said:
    1666740 said:
    276663 said:
    Great CPU for the $$$!
    Ryzen 2200G coming out in a few weeks. Same CPU performance with double the iGPU performance for less money, $99. And it works with a $50 motherboard. This CPU is a big improvement from last year's i3 but still too little too late. Already got plans to make 3 computers using the 2200G.
    I'm an Intel only builder , but does seem promising.


    I used to build Intel only too, but the integrated graphics are really poor with Intel. Was enjoying the 50 percent yearly improvements, then nothing since Haswell unfortunately. The new Ryzen 2200G is so good as it will not be a cut down 8 core, it is a native 4 core, higher clocks and lower cost to manufacture.
  • PaulAlcorn
    2631818 said:
    I don't see the point of this review? This get the UPDATE ? Bios UPDATE Microcode Update ? Where is the meltdown TRAIN ?


    This is a totally valid concern.

    We are working on an article that will cover the current state of patches and the performance impact with i3/R3, i5/R5, i7/R7, and HEDT processors. This is a priority item.

    However, the patches are still new, and as we've already seen, the patches are causing unexpected reboots on some systems. That means there will be patches for the patches (heh) soon. Also, we are to the understanding that these initial patches are of the emergency variety, and that more refined patches are en route. Unfortunately, the ETA is unknown.

    We are in contact with all the relevant players, including Intel/AMD and motherboard vendors, to assess the situation and determine when and where it makes sense to begin en-masse retesting of our test pools. As you can imagine, this is an undertaking, but the situation is fluid and we aren’t sure if the patches are final. That could lead to a lot of wasted effort.

    The Meltdown/Spectre patches are totally uncharted territory -- I can't think of a comparable situation with this much of a far-ranging impact. We definitely have every intention of including post-patch performance in our reviews as soon as it is reasonably possible. The testing for this article began before the patches were announced, so it does not reflect post-patch performance.
  • InvalidError
    1920539 said:
    The testing for this article began before the patches were announced, so it does not reflect post-patch performance.

    Since exploiting meltdown/spectre effectively require that your system's security already be compromised by malware or remote code execution, I suspect many people will be choosing not to apply patches and simply be more careful about avoiding questionable websites and downloads. I know that's the option I'm favoring for myself. The "beta" emergency patch and updates will hopefully be long gone by the time I manually initiate Windows Update again.
  • silverblue
    Not to nitpick, but the Ryzen 5 1500X has been reduced by $15. It makes little difference to the pricing charts, though.

    Also, I'm concerned that the Ryzen 5 1400 is being outperformed by the lower clocked Ryzen 3 1200 in a few benchmarks. Civ VI AI test - even the stock 1200 beats the overclocked 1400. On the balance of things, a 1400 at 3.9GHz should match the 1500X at 3.9GHz, assuming everything else is equal.
  • PaulAlcorn
    267802 said:
    Not to nitpick, but the Ryzen 5 1500X has been reduced by $15. It makes little difference to the pricing charts, though. Also, I'm concerned that the Ryzen 5 1400 is being outperformed by the lower clocked Ryzen 3 1200 in a few benchmarks. Civ VI AI test - even the stock 1200 beats the overclocked 1400. On the balance of things, a 1400 at 3.9GHz should match the 1500X at 3.9GHz, assuming everything else is equal.


    Yes, the 1400 does seem odd in a few areas. There are a few caveats with that processor, though. It only has 8MB of L3 compared to the 1500X's 16MB, which does have an impact. We also had problems with the 1400's memory OC. It could only run at 2933 MT/s while the 1200 ran at 3200 MT/s.
  • silverblue
    I forgot about the difference in L3 cache, sorry about that. That 1200 really looks good when overclocked.