Is This Even Fair? Budget Ivy Bridge Takes On Core 2 Duo And Quad

Reader requests affect much of the work we do, and we constantly receive email asking for this one: compare Intel's older Wolfdale- and Yorkfield-based designs against today's budget-friendly Ivy Bridge-based processors. Well, you asked, and we deliver.

Budget-oriented hardware doesn’t always receive its fair share of attention. In fact, most of the time, it's pretty difficult to get samples to review from companies like Intel and AMD, which don't want to see their lower-end hardware maligned. Thankfully, many of Intel’s newer Ivy Bridge-based models are fairly affordable, starting at a dirt-cheap $35. So, we stopped into our local Micro Center retail store and bought three CPUs to create today's comparison. And we chose to pit these newest Celeron, Pentium, and Core i3 chips against former favorites that no longer get dusted off for testing.

If you've spent much time reading Tom's Hardware, then you're probably very familiar with Intel's LGA 775 interface. In fact, if you built or bought a PC between 2006 and 2008, it probably sported a Core 2 Duo or Quad CPU that dropped into LGA 775. Perhaps, like me, you constructed a gaming rig to take on 2007's big hit, Crysis. This legendary Chuck Norris of PC games convinced me that my old single-core AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 gaming rig just wasn’t going to cut it any longer. Amidst the dual- versus quad-core debates, I jumped past Intel's Conroe-based Core 2 Duo and went straight to a Core 2 Quad Q6600 (Kentsfield) with a G0 stepping. Tamely overclocked to 3.0 GHz, this CPU is still a fixture in my home, even today.

Not long after, Intel adopted 45 nm manufacturing. Once Wofldale-based processors hit the mainstream scene, it was hard to argue against a highly-overclockable Core 2 Duo E8400 for gaming. On the flip side, many power users preferred the overall performance of newer quad-core models, such as the Yorkfield-based Core 2 Quad Q9550.

Unlike AMD’s Athlon II and Phenom II families, which are still available and show up in our stories, Intel's LGA 775 platform got shoved aside in favor of newer architectures, which became the first-, second-, and third-generation Core processors. Some of our readers noticed the absence of those LGA 775-based CPUs in our tests, though, and we agree that it's time to revisit their performance in a more modern benchmark suite. So, today's story is for anyone holding on to an older Core 2 platform (or anyone who enjoys comparisons to modern offerings five years later).

Wolfdale And Yorkfield Take On Ivy Bridge

Core 2 Duo E8400 and Core 2 Quad Q9550 delivered solid clock rates right out of the box, but they're also best remembered for their substantial overclocking headroom. It was easier to keep two cores cool, so the Duos tended to handle higher voltages better, scaling higher in the process. Chips like ours, based on the E0 stepping, hit frequencies 30 to 50% higher on air cooling. So, we weren’t about to shy away from overclocking in this piece. Of course, we’ve come to expect high efficiency and per-clock performance from Intel’s Ivy Bridge-based processors, but we also know this great performance steered Intel towards locking the multiplier ratios of its lower-end offerings, a slap in the face for many enthusiasts, and a huge blow to gamers on a tight budget. Might high frequencies propel Intel’s old Core 2 architecture up beyond the latest locked-down Ivy Bridge-based chips?

Because this piece centers on data, we’re eager to hit the performance charts. But first we should introduce today’s contenders. Our trio of dual-core chips includes the Celeron G1610, Pentium G2020, and Core 2 Duo E8400. The Core i3-3225, equipped with Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, is the oddball of the bunch, sporting two physical cores capable of addressing two threads each. It goes up against the Core 2 Quad Q9550, armed with four physical cores. As a control, we also include the quad-core Core i5-3570K, a modern enthusiast favorite and the only chip we're testing considered a worthy upgrade to the Core 2 Quad.

Cores / Threads Intel LGA 1155 Interface Intel LGA 775 Interface
2 / 2Intel Celeron G1610 (Ivy Bridge), 22 nm, 2.6 GHz, 2 MB Shared L3, Launched Q1 2013, Box: $42Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 (Wolfdale), 45 nm, 3.0 GHz, 1,333 MT/s FSB, 6 MB L2 Cache, Launched Q1 2008, Box: $179

Intel Pentium G2020 (Ivy Bridge), 22 nm, 2.9 GHz, 3 MB Shared L3, Launched Q1 2013, Box: $64
2 / 4Intel Core i3-3225 (Ivy Bridge), 22 nm, 3.3 GHz, 3 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading, Launched Q4 2012, Box: $134
4 / 4Intel Core i5-3570K (Ivy Bridge), 22 nm, 3.4 GHz (3.8 GHz Turbo), 6 MB Shared L3, Launched Q2 2012, Box: $235Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 (Yorkfield), 45 nm, 2.83 GHz, 1,333 MT/s FSB, 12 MB L2 Cache, Launched Q1 2008, Box: $287

If you want to refresh your knowledge of the architectures we're testing, have a look back at Wolfdale Shrinks Transistors, Grows Core 2 and Intel Core i7-3770K Review: A Small Step Up For Ivy Bridge.

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  • ASHISH65
    Wow! this is the review i am waiting from long time.Really good one for budget gamers.
  • amoralman
    God dammit! Now I feel like I need to change my C2D E8400. >:(
  • DarkSable
    Now this is cool stuff.

    Also, amoralman, did you read this? It's basically assuring you that your C2D is still awesome as a budget processor.
  • Steelwing
    Very nice review! I've got a C2D E6600 (2.4 GHz) and had been considering the Core i5-3570K (or possibly wait for a Haswell i5) and was wondering about the performance differences. My CPU is still good for a lot of apps, but I can definitely see a reason to upgrade.
  • AMD Radeon
    pentium dual core G2020 is the minimum i can recommend to budget gamers. i often listed it in sub 450 gaming PC
  • lpedraja2002
    Excellent article, I'm glad I have a more accurate idea on where I stand based on CPU performance, I'm still using my trusty Q6600, G0 @ 3.2ghz. Its good that Tom's still hasn't forgotten that a lot of enthusiast still are rocking Core 2 architecture lol. I think I can manage until Intel releases their next revolutionary CPU.
  • assasin32
    I been wanting to see one of these for a long time but never thought I get to see it. I just wish they had the good ol e2160, and q6600 thrown into the mix. I have the e2180 OC to 3ghz. It's still chugging along surprisingly enough, I just realized how old the thing was last night after thinking about how long I've had this build and looking up when the main components were produced. Safe to say I got my use out of that $70 cpu, did a 50% OC to it :) and it still had room to go but I wanted to keep the voltage very low.
  • jrharbort
    I've always been curious about how well my own Core 2 Duo P8800 (45nm & 2.66GHz) would stand up against modern ivy bridge offerings. And even though I'm talking about he mobile space, I'm guessing the gains would be comparable to those seen by their desktop counterparts. Each day I'm reminded more and more that I seriously need to move on to a newer system, especially since I work with a lot of media production software. Thanks for the article, it provided some interesting and useful insight.
  • smeezekitty
    Kind of interesting that the old Core 2s beat the I5 in tombrader with TressFX on.
    Also holy crap on 1.45 vcore on the C2D
  • Proximon
    I would not have predicted this. Not to this extent. I hope we can make these broader comparisons across years more frequently after this. I predict this will be a very popular article.
  • Matsushima
    Remember the Pentium Dual-Core E6500K... They should have included that and overclocked it.
  • timaishu
    Wow. This article could have popped up at a better time. Was considering upgrading my ageing E6600 for a higher end supported processor. Was thinking of getting a core 2 extreme QX6800 off ebay for around 130ish. I looked on cpu benchmark and it really isn't that much faster than the Pentium in this article. That is insance considering that cpu cost aroun 1k on release. I am now reconsidering and just holding off on extending my lga775's lifespan and just replacing it with a new platform in the near future.

    I find it shocking that my E6600(which I still hold in high regard, is far far worse than a 50 dollar Celeron. My mind is blown.
  • killabanks
    Great article thanks!
  • sarinaide
    Old processors still have some kick in them. Q9000, Q6600, E8600, Athlon II X4, Phenom II's all still have enough grunt in them to game a little while yet, the quads should be fine for another year or two.
  • CaptainTom
    Tom's, this is the kind of articles we want to see! Not some BS car article, but real comparisons no other website has made...
  • Matsushima
    If you're happy with the performance level that your 5-year-old dualcore gives, there's no need to upgrade or build a new system. I'm happy with this 4-year-old dualcore right now and my Pentium 4 Northwood SINGLE CORE was more than enough for web browsing and some YouTube videos but all that's left now of it is the processor. I miss that boring beige case.

    That said, today's quads have a more efficient and better architecture than those of yesteryear, and the 3570K is a popular choice for enthusiasts.
  • Matsushima
    The 3570K is the new E8400. Less headroom, but the usage and reception are similar.
  • loops
    what no 2500K?

  • ingtar33
    basically, this is saying that the P4m architecture which lead to the core2duo and by extension then the core i series was the pinnacle of cpu innovation.

    intel made all their leaps forward with this architecture, and killed AMD in the process. And has never really moved past it... 6 years on and it still stands toe to toe with the latest and greatest.

    I'm not that surprised really.
  • SteelwingVery nice review! I've got a C2D E6600 (2.4 GHz) and had been considering the Core i5-3570K (or possibly wait for a Haswell i5) and was wondering about the performance differences. My CPU is still good for a lot of apps, but I can definitely see a reason to upgrade.

    i have both and the 3570k is significantly faster than an e6600, i always had problems with the e6600 not being fast enough for my taste, its a night and day difference between the 2
  • Cataclysm_ZA
    Average frame rate data and frame rate over time, but no analysis of frame time variance? Its a good article and my rig probably falls in line with the E8400 at stock, but come on Tom's, you have all the data from FRAPS right there. You can do better than this.
  • Achoo22
    Neat article. I enjoyed reading it, and I'm sure there are a lot of folks thinking about upgrading that valued the information even more than I do.
  • JJ1217
    My old E8400 is still standing strong in my fathers rig. Never hiccuped, although he always complains about how slow his computer is because he still uses an IDE drive..
  • fteoOpty646
    lpedraja2002Excellent article, I'm glad I have a more accurate idea on where I stand based on CPU performance, I'm still using my trusty Q6600, G0 @ 3.2ghz.

    My Q6600 is down clocked to 1.5Ghz to save power and noise/temperature running Ubuntu 12.10. It feels as fast as any modern PC running web stuff and playing videos. In the old Windows days, it was clocked to 3Ghz to get some kick. Still kicking nicely after all these years in a Fatality board with GigE blown off by lightning spike, so using a Wifi module to a home NAS. The board has survived 3 power-supply failures!.