As usual, we use the Bapco SYSmark 2012 suite to estimate performance in general-purpose tasks. It emulates a user working in popular office and digital content creation and processing applications. The idea behind this test is fairly simple: it produces a single score indicative of the computer’s average performance across different applications. After the launch of Windows 8, SYSmark 2012 got updated to version 1.5, so we use that adapted version for our tests.
The new Haswell-based Core i3 CPUs are considerably faster than their Ivy Bridge predecessors. The i3-4340 is 17% ahead of the i3-3250, which is more than the performance gap between the quad-core CPUs of the Haswell and Ivy Bridge designs. SYSmark 2012 doesn't seem to notice the larger cache of the new i3-4340 and i3-4330, though. The i3-4130 with its 3MB L3 cache is a mere 3% behind the i3-4330 with 4MB L3 cache - this may easily be due to the 100MHz difference in their clock rates.
The progressive architecture of the new CPUs is confirmed by one more fact. The senior Haswell-based Core i3 CPUs are on average faster than the junior Ivy Bridge Core i5. Thus, the newest breed of Core i3 processors seem to be perfect for midrange computers. They offer the best price/performance ratio at everyday loads, at least according to SYSmark 2012.
Now let’s take a closer look at the performance scores SYSmark 2012 generates in different usage scenarios. The Office Productivity scenario emulates typical office tasks, such as text editing, spreadsheets, email and web-surfing. This scenario uses the following applications: ABBYY FineReader Pro 10.0, Adobe Acrobat Pro 9, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Microsoft Excel 2010, Microsoft Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft Outlook 2010, Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, Microsoft Word 2010 and WinZip Pro 14.5.
The Media Creation scenario emulates the creation of a video clip out of prepared materials (digital images and videos) using popular tools from Adobe: Photoshop CS5 Extended, Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5.
Web Development is a scenario emulating website authoring. It uses the following applications: Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, Adobe Dreamweaver CS5, Mozilla Firefox 3.6.8 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 10.
The Data/Financial Analysis scenario is devoted to statistical and market analysis by means of Microsoft Excel 2010.
The 3D Modeling scenario is about creating 3D models and rendering static and dynamic scenes using Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended, Autodesk 3ds Max 2011, Autodesk AutoCAD 2011 and Google SketchUp Pro 8.
The last scenario, System Management, creates backups and installs software and updates. It involves several different versions of Mozilla Firefox Installer and WinZip Pro 14.5.
Frankly speaking, the highs and lows of the Haswell-based Core i3 processors were obvious even before the tests. The improvements in their microarchitecture help them perform well as long as there is no multithreaded load. But when the CPU is required to execute several instruction threads concurrently, they are inferior to the Core i5 series (even to the previous Ivy Bridge generation) as well as to AMD’s solutions with more than four cores. Thus, the dual-core Haswell is perfect for office and system applications but cannot compete against the Core i5 at processing financial data, at final rendering and web content authoring.
The transition to the newer microarchitecture hasn’t changed anything in the market positioning of the Core i3 series. They are still an excellent choice for home and office but cannot be recommended for professionals. A dual-core CPU today is an entry-level solution that is far inferior to modern quad-core CPUs in heavy applications.
Now let’s check out the dual-core Haswell-based CPUs in specific applications, starting from games.