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4th Generation Intel Core i3 in Detail

With the release of the 32nm Sandy Bridge processors, Intel introduced a clear and consistent nomenclature of its CPU families. The Core i5 and Core i7 series included chips with four cores or more while the Core i3 series only consisted of dual-core products. These dual-core CPUs support Hyper-Threading, so the OS identifies them as quad-core ones. The i3 series lacked the auto-overclock feature Turbo Boost and didn’t support the AES cryptographic instructions.

The Core i3 specifications didn’t change much after its transition from the Sandy Bridge to the 22nm Ivy Bridge design. Its key features remained intact; the clock rates and the L2 cache didn't grow up much. We had expected the same lack of progress in the 22nm Haswell-based Core i3 products but Intel has come up with a few surprises. The basics are the same: the new Core i3 CPUs have two cores and support Hyper-Threading. Their clock rates haven’t changed much, either, but the amount of L3 cache memory is 4 instead of 3 megabytes now. Any instruction-related limitations have been removed altogether, so they support the AES and AVX2 instruction sets.

Thus, Intel’s dual-core Haswell-based CPUs for the LGA1150 platform have got closer to the Core i5 series, even though Hyper-Threading cannot really make up for two physical computing cores. The Core i3 products are much more affordable. The senior dual-core Haswell-based model is more than $30 cheaper than the junior quad-core processor with the same microarchitecture. This might be expected as the 22nm semiconductor die employed in the newest Core i3 chips is much smaller than the full-featured Haswell die: 130 vs. 177 sq. mm.

Now let’s take a closer look at the three models the Haswell-based Core i3 series currently consists of: Core i3-4340, Core i3-4330 and Core i3-4130.

The Core i3-4340 is the senior dual-core Haswell model. Working at 3.6 GHz, it is a mere 100 MHz faster than the senior Core i3 model of the Ivy Bridge generation. So the performance growth ensured by the i3-4340 is largely due to the improvements brought about by the Haswell microarchitecture. We know it amounts to 5 or 10% but the mentioned 33% increase in the amount of L3 cache must be taken into account, too. The larger cache has higher associativity, though. It used to be 12-way but now is 16-way associative, which means that it has become more efficient in terms of data hits but has higher read latencies. So, the positive effect of the larger cache is not obvious.

What is undoubtedly a positive improvement, the new CPU supports not only the new 256-bit vector instructions AVX2/FMA3 but also the AES-NI instructions which used to be blocked in the earlier Core i3 CPUs for marketing reasons.

Then, the new Core i3 series, including the i3-4340 model, features Intel’s 7th generation integrated graphics core GT2 with 20 execution devices. Like in the Haswell-based Core i5 and Core i7, this HD Graphics 4600 core is rather fast at 1150 MHz and supports Intel Quick Sync. We can remind you that GT2-class graphics was only implemented in specific dual-core Ivy Bridge products, namely in the Core i3-3225 and Core i3-3245.

The i3-4340 has a TDP of 54 watts, which is 1 watt less than the TDP of the previous Core i3 processors. In other words, Intel suggests that the transition of the dual-core CPUs to the Haswell microarchitecture doesn’t lead to an increase in their heat dissipation and power consumption as is the case with the quad-core CPUs.

The Core i3-4330 is a less advanced version of the Core i3-4340 which has the same capabilities. The two products are comparably priced, differing by a mere $10. That’s the price of the 100MHz difference in clock rate which is set at 3.5 GHz for the i3-4330 (the same as the clock rate of the senior dual-core Ivy Bridge model, Core i3-3250).

The rest of the specs of the Core i3-4340 and Core i3-4330 are identical. We mean the 4MB L3 cache, instruction sets, and 1150MHz HD Graphics 4600.

The Core i3-4130 is different from its cousins, even though it is a dual-core Haswell, too. The difference is reflected in its model name even. The number 4130 suggests that it is inferior to the i3-4340 and i3-4330 in more respects than just its clock rate, which is 3.4 GHz. It has only 3 megabytes of L3 cache, just like the Core i3 for the LGA1155 platform.

The Core i3-4130 is substantially cheaper than its senior cousins because the reduced amount of cache is not the only difference. Although it does support Hyper-Threading, vector and cryptographic instructions and other Core i3 features, it has a less advanced graphics core. The latter formally belongs to the GT2 class too, but it is called Intel HD Graphics 4400 and has lower performance with only 16 execution devices. It has the same clock rate of 1150 MHz as in the other new CPUs and supports Intel Quick Sync.

The smaller L3 cache and the simpler integrated graphics don’t affect the TDP of the i3-4130. Like the other new Core i3 processors, it has a TDP of 54 watts.

The following table sums up the specs of the Haswell-based Core i3 products:

Winding up the descriptive part of this review, we want to remind you that the LGA1150 Core i3 processors, just like their predecessors, are not meant for enthusiasts. They have a locked frequency multiplier and cannot be overclocked. You can overclock system memory and their integrated graphics core, though.

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