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Intel Pentium G3258 CPU Review: Haswell, Unlocked, For $75

Haswell, Unlocked, For $75

The Pentium G3258, at 3.2 GHz, is a fairly slow CPU. Two cores, 3 MB of shared L3 cache, no Hyper-Threading—those specifications are indeed Pentium-class. But it’s the unlocked clock multiplier that makes Intel’s 20th anniversary Pentium something special.

And let’s face it: nobody’s going to buy the G3258 and leave it at 3.2 GHz. Enthusiasts are going to take it and crank it up beyond 4 GHz.  

Before now, it was hard to go wrong with AMD’s Athlon X4 750K. Devotees of Don’s Best Gaming CPUs For The Money column know that’s where his recommendations begin. But you can almost scratch everything under the $200 mark by tuning this processor up to 4.5 GHz.

The Pentium isn’t perfect. Threaded workloads are going to punish its two cores. I find myself wishing this was a K-series Core i3 instead, if only for the addition of Hyper-Threading. But then it’d also probably sell for $50 more, at least. Down at $75, Intel is clearly gunning for that unlocked Athlon X4, which sells $5 higher. It’s only unfortunate that you’ll want to pair the Pentium with a Z97- or Z87-based motherboard for overclocking. Right there, you’re looking at a $20 or $30 premium over nice A88X-based platforms.

Update: A number of readers brought up overclocking with H-series chipsets. It appears that certain boards, equipped with older microcode, will allow tuning of unlocked CPUs (against Intel's wishes). This capability is being treated as experimental, but could help bring down the cost of a Pentium-equipped platform versus pricier Z97-based options.

Although the Pentium gets kicked around in a few of our benchmarks, it does beat the Athlon in every game we test—sometimes by a lot. As a value-oriented gaming processor, this thing is just awesome. I’d love to see what Paul Henningsen could do with it in our System Builder Marathon, where he'd pick a more suitable graphics complement than the Titan I used to alleviate graphics bottlenecks. Powering a quiet, lightly-tuned home theater PC, it’d be right as rain. And although I wouldn’t want to rely on the G3258’s on-die HD Graphics engine, the chip’s Quick Sync technology is a real boon if you’re watching or converting video content.

For as long as Intel insisted on making enthusiasts pay a premium for K-series Core i5 and i7s, AMD had the market cornered on budget-friendly overclocking. The Pentium G3258 is a watershed moment for the company, though. It’s giving power users access to a powerful and efficient architecture, along with the freedom to tweak it, all at an inclusionary price point. The Pentium G3258 typifies what our Tom’s Hardware Smart Buy award is all about.

  • Heironious
    Article title says its $75, the picture used says its $3 more than the i3. 75 and it's a deal otherwise no point in paying 3 bucks more for it rather than the i3.
    Reply
  • Heironious
    And just like that, the pictures change the price and I look like a fool.
    Reply
  • envy14tpe
    It's always great seeing the full potential of technology but I'd rather see the Pentium on a mobo somebody would really buy and see how overclocking on a budget would be...more realistic.
    Reply
  • silverblue
    AMD really needs a new model featuring Steamroller cores and a disabled GPU, say, a 770K. It wouldn't change the gaming scores all that much, but various benchmarks would definitely improve. As it is, the G3258 is a nice processor, but it won't go for that $75 to begin with.
    Reply
  • Smallfilou
    What if "the fool" who bought that Pentium G and Z97 did so expecting to swap the processor in one year or two for a broadwell, once he got the cash? That would make him a very wise fool indeed... I'd say!

    Because of course buying a pentium G and fitting it with a 150USD board and 50USD cooler does not make sens by itself ,but you have a 100% future-compatible system that can be upgraded very very easily...
    Reply
  • knowom
    Could get a Q9550 for that price on Ebay nice try Intel, but that would kick the crap out of that weak Pentium it's reasonably on par with the i5. Way too damn expensive for what it is in reality.
    Reply
  • dark_wizzie
    Hyperthreading is typically considered to be bad for Chess. It increases inefficiencies in search and although you get a larger kilonodes per second which looks nice as a benchmark score, you are actually lowering the strength of the engine. So when I look at Fritz benchmarks on PC sites I take them with a grain of salt.
    Reply
  • lunyone
    I'd probably look at something like this for this kind of CPU:

    PCPartPicker?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/p/F7DhmG]PCPartPicker part list / Price?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/p/F7DhmG/by_merchant/]Price breakdown by merchant
    CPU: Intel?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/intel-cpu-bx80646g3258]Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor ($74.99 @ Newegg)
    CPU Cooler: Cooler?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/cooler-master-cpu-cooler-rr212e20pkr2]Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($30.99 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ASRock?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/asrock-motherboard-z87pro3]ASRock Z87 Pro3 ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($90.00 @ Newegg)
    Memory: G.Skill?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/gskill-memory-f31600c9d8gao]G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($75.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Seagate?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/seagate-internal-hard-drive-st1000dm003]Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($52.92 @ Amazon)
    Video Card: XFX?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/xfx-video-card-r9280atdfd]XFX Radeon R9 280 3GB Double Dissipation Video Card ($209.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Corsair?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/corsair-case-200r]Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case ($49.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: XFX?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/xfx-power-supply-p1550sxxb9]XFX 550W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($44.99 @ NCIX US)
    Total: $629.86
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when availableGenerated by PCPartPicker 2014-06-17 04:48 EDT-0400
    Reply
  • Smallfilou
    13521069 said:
    Could get a Q9550 for that price on Ebay nice try Intel, but that would kick the crap out of that weak Pentium it's reasonably on par with the i5. Way too damn expensive for what it is in reality.

    No, sorry. That is not true. Check this article:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ivy-bridge-wolfdale-yorkfield-comparison,3487-10.html
    You should overclock your Q9550 to get performance that barely comes close to an ivy-bridge I3 on games and lightly threaded workloads (and it gets stomped by any i5 on any workload)... I personally have an OC'd QX9650 and am not even close. I believe if I change to that Pentium G, and overclock it as well, that would still be an upgrade...
    Reply
  • Memnarchon
    13520870 said:
    Having looked, the fool would build a cheap pc with that chip and a z97 board, and the wise man would use the i3 and an h81 board. Similar priced systems..

    Yeah that would be better unless Intel decides to let o/c on Pentium with other chipsets like H97.

    Leaked?rel=ugc]http://www.techpowerup.com/202040/leaked-bios-enables-pentium-anniversary-edition-oc-on-some-msi-h97-boards.html]Leaked BIOS Enables Pentium Anniversary Edition OC on Some MSI H97 Boards
    MSI?rel=ugc]http://pcpartpicker.com/part/msi-motherboard-h97pcmate]MSI H97 PC MATE ATX LGA1150 Motherboard $88.99

    So if this happens and intel decide to let even lower mobo chipsets to do o/c only for pentiums it would be nice to pair $60 mobo, $75 CPU and a $25-30 CM 212 EVO or plus, to a total of ~$160 for a o/c ready system.
    Reply