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Closer Look at Core i3-2120 and Core i3-2100

We collected all the key information about junior Sandy Bridge processors in a separate chapter of our review, because it turned out to be really overwhelming. But most importantly, the dual-core Sandy Bridge uses its own semiconductor die, different from those used in Core i5 or Core i7. As a result, Intel managed to lower the price of their Core i3 CPUs quite substantially, which you can clearly see from the following table:

The die used in the new Core i3 is 40% smaller than the semiconductor die in the fully-functional quad-core Sandy Bridge processors. This allows Intel to use these dies for very inexpensive processors, which so far are only available in Core i3 series, but later should also emerge as Pentium and Celeron processors with even more democratic price.

However, the use of a special semiconductor die for Core i3 processors also has a different side to it. Namely, it eliminates all hopes for possibly unlocking the new cores, like can be done with AMD CPUs. Unfortunately, this is not the only thing that may discourage computer enthusiasts from going with Core i3 family. Overclocking also revealed several problems.

LGA1155 Core i5 and Core i7 processors, even those that do not belong to the overclocking-friendly K-series, do allow some limited overclocking anyway. These CPU allow increasing their clock frequency multipliers by a four points above the nominal. At the same time they keep Turbo Boost technology up and running and it additionally increases the multiplier in automatic mode depending on the current load. Core i3 processors do not support Turbo Boost as well as increasing the multiplier above the nominal value. And keeping in mind that LGA1155 platform reacts very negatively to the base clock frequency changes, Core i3-2120 and Core i3-2100 turns out to be fatally unoverclockable and are destined to work only at their declared nominal frequency. And of course, Intel has no plans to roll out any special CPU modifications with unlocked multipliers in this price range. In other words, overclockers won’t be able to do anything with Core i3, so these processors will hardly be of any interest to them.

Those of you, who are still interested in the new Core i3 series processors, can check out the formal specifications of the existing models:

Two cores are coupled with Hyper-Threading technology that presents Core i3 processors as quad-core CPUs to the operating system. The absence of Turbo Boost support is compensated by nominal clock frequency exceeding 3 GHz. In other words, Core i3-2120 and Core i3-2100 do not look that bad after all. Especially, since they also feature a fully-functional Intel HD Graphics 2000 core working at 850-1100 MHz frequency and supporting Quick Sync technology. Lower power consumption is another benefit of having fewer computational cores. The TDP of these processors is set at 65 W instead of 95 W we saw by Core i7 and Core i5.

However, Core i3 CPU series has one more issue. For some reason, these processors do not support AESNI cryptographic instructions, although the newer AVX instructions are there alright. It must be some kind of marketing thing, which is inherited from older Core i3 processors on Clarkdale design.

But compared against the previous generation, the new Core i3 processors allow more flexible DDR3 SDRAM clocking. You can set the memory frequency not only to its default values, but also to much higher ones, including DDR3-1600, DDR3-1866, DDR3-21330, etc. However, the value of this feature is totally diminished by the overclocking-unfriendliness of the new processors.

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