In the face of AMD's impending Ryzen launch, Intel seems resigned to bulking up its low-end offerings to stave off the competition's historically competitive mainstream CPUs. No matter the motivation, Hyper-Threaded Pentiums are a ray of sunshine for budget-conscious builders. The technology facilitates a big boost over Intel's Haswell-based Pentium G3258, which came to be derided for its poor performance in games that expected at least four threads. Although we did notice a performance hit in workloads optimized for AVX extensions, you can use an OpenCL-compatible GPU to augment performance in applications written with heterogeneous computing in mind.
Despite Intel's careful segmentation, the more powerful Pentium family unavoidably takes the shine off of lower-end Core i3s, which cost more and don't always deliver the extra performance to match. But both of the Pentiums we looked at today are still slower than Core i3s, i5s, and i7s in threaded tasks like media encoding and file compression. If you truly need the muscle of a quad-core CPU, don't rely on Hyper-Threading to match Intel's beefier processors.
The Pentium G4620 is a compelling offering, and if integrated graphics fit in with your productivity-oriented plans, HD Graphics 630 is as good as it gets from a Pentium. Expect to pay just under $100 for marginal gains over the Pentium G4560, though. In many tasks, particularly games, a GPU bottleneck masks the gains of a faster, more expensive CPU, so you'll need to gauge the G4620's benefit based on what you're doing and what other components might limit performance.
We picked up the Pentium G4560 for a scant $64 with free shipping. While it's true that we measured lower performance from the G4560 in several games, the nimble chip always landed a few percentage points away in average and minimum frame rate results. Hyper-Threading technology and higher clock rates definitely yield big gains compared to the unlocked Pentium G3258, at times doubling the unlocked CPU's performance. As important, it provided the same smooth frame delivery as Intel's Pentium G4620.
There's little reason to pair a Pentium with a Z270-based motherboard, so you can save some money on something with an H270 or B250 PCH. All told, it should be possible to build a capable platform for a few hundred bucks, leaving more room in your budget for a faster graphics card.
AMD historically does well in the value space, and many believe it'll claw back lost market share with Ryzen. We do expect AMD to be aggressive with its pricing, and the company's chipsets will once again be modernized, so that's a good thing. But we can't deny the Pentium family praise based on what AMD might do. By adding Hyper-Threading to the Pentium series, Intel boosts performance in a way that might even cut into some of its Core i3 sales. Sounds like a win to us.
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