We're starting out with 3DMark 11, concentrating on the Physics (a processor-oriented metric) and Combined (which adds a graphics workload) tests. Because 3DMark employs one thread for each physical and logical core, the Core i3’s Hyper-Threading feature propels it far beyond the dual-core processors. Its higher clock rate also allows it hold off the stock Q9550. But once we remove that advantage through overclocking, the old Core 2 Quad jumps back into the lead.
As expected, our Core i5 control sits unchallenged at the top, benefiting from Ivy Bridge’s great per-clock performance, and Turbo Boost frequencies of 3.6 GHz for all four physical cores.
Sandra 2013 Arithmetic and Cryptography yield the same basic finishing order as 3DMark 11. So far, these synthetic tests give us an early indication of a few battles, just as we hoped. It appears, clock-for-clock, four physical Wolfdale cores have greater performance potential than Core i3’s dual-core/quad-thread design. Not all software is as well-threaded though, so we'll have to see how much Core i3 benefits from the newer platform and far greater memory bandwidth.
The dual-core battle is just as interesting. There’s no doubt that Ivy Bridge offers better per-clock performance. But is 4.0 GHz enough for Core 2 Duo E8400 to surpass the 2.9 GHz Pentium G2020? Meanwhile, there may be a heated battle at the bottom with the Celeron G1610 holding a slight lead over the stock E8400.
Sandra Arithmetic also touts the Core i5's great performance potential, while inclusion of AES-NI support distances the CPU even further in Cryptography.
Intel's Ivy Bridge architecture establishes an enormous advantage in memory bandwidth. Thankfully, the company enables official support for DDR3-1333 all the way down its product line, including Celerons based on the design. In contrast, Sandy Bridge-based 600-series Pentiums and Celerons are limited to DDR3-1066. Our pair of third-generation Core processors provides an additional bandwidth boost thanks to DDR3-1600 XMP memory settings.
Our LGA 775-based platform is limited to DDR2-1066, but we also saw very little additional bandwidth when we tried out a DDR3-capable board. Any performance advantage we observed showed up at more aggressive overclocks, not at the stock CPU or memory frequencies. Most owners of processors this old went the DDR2 route, since it was a lot more affordable than DDR3 back then.