Our Pentium Experiment: Recalibrating For Value
Our first look at Intel’s Pentium G3258 leveraged relatively high-end hardware to extract the CPU’s maximum potential. We pulled a lot of performance data from the chip, we drew a number of conclusions about efficiency based on those observations and power consumption measurements. As a result, the Pentium G3258 received an honor not bestowed upon many processors: it won Tom’s Hardware Smart Buy recognition.
Many of you agreed with our assessment. Others scoffed at the idea of a dual-core CPU in an enthusiast space dominated by four-, six-, and eight-core alternatives. And a curious few asked for a follow-up that swapped our expensive motherboards and aftermarket heat sinks for components you’d be more likely to use with Athlon and Pentium processors.
MSI was more than happy to poll its engineers for their advice on the least-expensive motherboards from both camps still able to tune our two CPUs. We took those products, added factory cooling, and made another run at overclocking. The pair of processors ran significantly hotter—Intel’s Pentium so much so that we needed to pull its clock rate and voltage down a little bit. They performed stably, though, maintaining frequencies in excess of 4 GHz even on diminutive coolers.
Not For Everyone, Obviously
In a pure comparison of performance, price, and value, the Pentium G3258 remains a dominant force.
If you’re forced to buy a high-end Z87 or Z97 motherboard, that becomes a harder case to argue. However, in light of lower-end boards with overclocking-enabled firmware versions (which aren’t supposed to exist, but clearly do), it becomes possible to build a Pentium-based box inexpensively.
Does that mean you should? Depends on what you use your computer for, really. A dual-core CPU does suffer inherent disadvantages in software specifically programmed to take advantage of as many cores as possible. Our suite is loaded with those types of tests, and we saw a few instances where the dual-module Athlon and its four integer units beat out Intel’s Pentium.
In the same vein, while the G3258 consistently registered higher average frame rates than the Athlon in our game tests, it was also struck by frame time variance spikes in a number of titles. Intel’s Core i3 and i5 didn’t demonstrate similar behavior. So, it appears those two cores can’t always keep up.
Then again, you’re spending $115 on a Pentium G3258 and MSI’s H81M-P33. You’ll have a difficult time beating that combination's value, given what it can do. A significantly better experience is going to require a Core i5, and you’ll part ways with more than twice as much money for the motherboard/processor pair.
Go low-budget on your motherboard and lean on a bundled cooler, or spend a little extra for a third-party heat sink—either way you go, Intel’s Pentium G3258 remains a recommended buy thanks to the Haswell architecture. It’s great in a mainstream desktop, and the platform handles productivity apps and games more deftly than you’d expect from a $70 chip in a $45 motherboard.