The recently launched Core i3 processors from the 3000 series based on dual-core semiconductor dies with Ivy Bridge microarchitecture turned out to be not particularly exciting. Frankly speaking, these processors are not very much different from their predecessors in practical terms, and as for the few innovations that they have, we have already seen them before in other Ivy Bridge processors.
The new Core i3 have two computational cores, support Hyper-Threading and work at 3.4 GHz frequencies, just like the Core i3 processors with the 2000 series. Therefore, the performance improvement of the new processors results solely from the microarchitectural improvements, which are not very significant, as we all know. As a result, the performance difference between Core i3 processors on Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge microarchitectures is only 5%.
In other words, new Core i3 processors do not disturb Intel’s processor hierarchy in any way. The LGA 1155 Core i5 with either microarchitecture inside are noticeably faster than Core i3, which is reflected by their price. The new Core i3 CPUs cost the same as the old members of this family, i.e. considerably less than Core i5, which is a simple translation of their performance into terms familiar to any user.
The introduction of Ivy bridge design into dual-core Core i3 processors didn’t create internal competition with Core i5, but made the new Intel products look really impressive compared with the competition from AMD within the same price range. Our tests showed that in general purpose applications only six-core (!) AMD FX processors can actually successfully compete against the new dual-core Core i3. And this can only be the case in those tasks where the load can be effectively split into parallel threads, such as final rendering and HD video processing. As we see, Intel manages to retain the leadership in the mainstream price segment even without a significant performance improvement.
However, it would be unfair to say that Ivy Bridge microarchitecture didn’t bring any noticeable improvements to the new Core i3 processors. It did, though not to their computational performance aspect, but rather to their power consumption and heat dissipation. The TDP of the new Core i3 CPUs has officially become 10 W lower than that of the previous generation models. In reality, new processors allow building highly energy-efficient systems taking about 15 W off the power consumption of platforms built with previous generation dual-core Intel CPUs.
Moreover, just like their higher-end brothers, Intel Core i3 processors from the 3000 series acquired faster graphics cores with richer functionality. There is even a model with Intel’s best HD Graphics 4000 core – Core i3-3225. Since besides the support of all contemporary API it also boasts dramatically better 3D performance, we can recommend this processor for most integrated systems, especially if one of the common uses will be video transcoding with Quick Sync technology.
As a result, there is only one thing that we wish were different: Core i3 processors are not fit for enthusiasts. You can only overclock their graphics core, but the performance level in the nominal mode, though more than sufficient for many tasks, will hardly satisfy the advanced users’ cravings. So, dedicated explorers and enthusiasts who are looking for the lowest cost solutions out there, will still have to stay with various AMD CPUs, which do not limit overclocking and may often offer faster and more interesting integrated graphics.