Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/8232/overclockable-pentium-anniversary-edition-review-the-intel-pentium-g3258-ae
Overclockable Pentium Anniversary Edition Review: The Intel Pentium G3258by Ian Cutress on July 14, 2014 10:00 AM EST
Many industries, both inside and outside of technology, are versed in the terminology ‘cheap and cheerful’. When enthusiasts were overclocking their CPUs at the turn of the century, this was the case – taking a low cost part, such as the Celeron 300A, and adjusting one or two settings to make it run as fast as a Pentium III 450 MHz. This gave a +50% frequency boost at the lower price point, as long as one could manage the heat output. The Pentium Anniversary Edition is a small nod back to those days, and to celebrate the 20+ years of Pentium branding, Intel is now releasing a $75 overclockable dual core Haswell-derived CPU.
The Pentium G3258, or Pentium-AE / Pentium-K
Since the initial announcement from Intel regarding the release of its newest low-cost overclocking processor since Clarkdale (2009/2010), a variety of names have been suggested. Here at AnandTech, I hypothesized that Intel would continue the K naming scheme for overclocking processors, and call this new part the Pentium G3420-K, or Pentium-K for short. However, to tie in with the Anniversary Edition theme, I have since heard from two separate Intel employees at industry events call the model ‘Pentium-AE’ for short, or the ‘Pentium G3258’ as the official name. In order to remain consistent with the naming, we will use the Pentium-AE or Pentium G3258; however other sources may use other monikers.
Intel’s mainstream product line starts with Celeron processors, with the name indicating dual core parts without hyperthreading, but with 2MB of L3 cache and DDR3-1333 MHz memory support. Pentium parts are similar to Celeron, with 3MB of L3 cache but can come with either DDR3-1333 or DDR3-1600 memory support. i3 processors are next, which feature hyperthreading and 4 MB of L3 cache, then i5 which are quad core, no hyperthreading but 6 MB of L3, then i7 which are quad core with hyperthreading and 8 MB of L3. There are also IGP adjustments through the line:
|Intel Haswell Desktop CPU Classifications|
|L3 Cache||2 MB||3 MB||4 MB||6 MB||8 MB|
|L3 Cache / Core||1 MB||1.5 MB||2 MB||1.5 MB||2 MB|
|L3 Cache / Thread||1 MB||1.5 MB||1 MB||1.5 MB||1 MB|
|AVX / AES-NI||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The Pentium G3258 falls on the lower end of the Pentium bracket. The frequency is high, at 3.2 GHz and matching the G3420, but it comes with only DDR3-1333 support (signified by the G32xx rather than G34xx naming). While this usually does not matter much for overclockers who will likely overclock the memory as well, it does have an effect due to the binning process. Enthusiasts already know that CPUs with DDR3-1600 support can use memory kits above 2666 MHz, but the use of DDR3-1333 on the Pentium-AE CPU may be limiting. It should, theoretically, mean that Intel has a lot more CPUs from the production line that fit into this category.
The aim of Pentium-AE can be considered two fold. As part of the overclocking community, the ‘cheap and cheerful’ mentality is what got a lot of us started in the first place – can we get top end CPU performance without paying top-end prices? With the CPUs being cheap, they could almost be considered disposable, allowing even ‘casual extreme overclockers’ (as much as that phrasing sounds weird) to try lots of processors and compete in a fun category.
The second part of the equation is aimed at gaming. One of the big reasons for growth in the PC industry of late is down to gaming, and the popularity of titles such as League of Legends or DOTA2, among others. These titles typically do not need the latest and greatest, and with the presence of pre-overclocked gaming systems from system integrators based on the Pentium-AE processor, parents who buy systems for their enthusiastic children might be able to start at these lower price points. The added benefit here is that Intel may end up encouraging these individuals to invest in a higher performance machine as they age and can afford it themselves.
There have been several concerns since the original Pentium-AE announcement however. Aside from the low core count which may restrict frame rates, the low amount of L3 cache and lower-speed DRAM memory support have both been noted as potential bottlenecks. A number of overclockers have since requested an unlocked i3 processor from Intel, perhaps fleshing out the range of ‘K’ processors which are currently limited to i5 and i7. Other users are also requesting AES-NI and AVX support (which would come with an unlocked i3 processor), as the Pentium range does not have support for these technologies used for CPU throughput or encryption.
From the CPU-Z screenshots, the only difference between the G3258 and the G3420 is the name string in the CPU firmware (memory support is not shown here), and moving up to the i3-4330, the AVX/AES support is listed along with hyperthreading.
Pentium-AE and Devil’s Canyon
In our review of the new Devil’s Canyon CPUs, we noted that even though the Pentium-AE processor is launched at the same time, and all three are aimed at the overclocking crowd, that the Pentium-AE is not a Devil’s Canyon processor. Back in that review, we discussed the two changes that Intel had made to Devil’s Canyon over standard Haswell processors – additional decoupling capacitors on the package and upgraded thermal interface material to lower processors. For the first change, a quick look at the rear of the G3420 (which was launched in 2013 with the original Haswell processors) and the G3258 processors shows no difference:
When Intel decided to release the Pentium-AE processor, they had two choices. Either adjust processors coming off the line and turn overclocking ‘on’, or actually make physical changes similar to Devil’s Canyon. If the physical changes were an all-or-nothing policy, then I would have to say that the ‘new’ Pentium-AE is just the ‘old’ CPU with a firmware switch enabled. However, the overclocking performance surprised me a little.
The holy grail for Pentium-AE, as the processor was being announced, was to match the history of popular processors such as the Celeron 300A which gave a +50% overclock, or the Core 2 Duo E2160 which could go 100%+ in the right hands. Reaching anywhere near these percentages would be an impressive feat, given that or the past three generations of Intel processors, users have been achieving only +200 MHz (+5%) to +700 MHz (+25%), depending on how lucky they are with the silicon they purchased. Haswell is still known for having a wide swing in overclocking potential from CPU to CPU, so this is still a potential issue with the Pentium-AE processor.
At Computex, several companies were promoting ‘4.5 GHz’ as a magic number:
Aside from the awkward/inaccurate scaling on the slide shown, the 4.5 GHz number gives a +1.3 GHz over the base frequency, or ~40% increase in clock speed.
For our testing we started at 3.5 GHz and 0.900 volts and continued our normal overclocking procedure. If the setting is stable (POV-Ray benchmark and 5 minutes OCCT CPU load), the multiplier is increased, but if for any reason the system fails, the voltage is adjusted by +0.025V offset. This continues until the load temperature is too high, or the voltage jump is overly significant.
Our results are as follows:
Moving from 3.5 GHz to 4.4 GHz was very easy. For most jumps of +100 MHz, only +0.025 volts was needed. Above 4.5 GHz, the load temperature started to rise more significantly, as well as the system power. At 4.7 GHz, moving to 4.8 GHz was almost impossible – even with +0.150 volts in the CPU, the system would crash at any loading attempt.
This behavior is similar to what we saw with the original Haswell CPUs and also with Devil’s Canyon. As long as the user is not thermally limited, there seems to be a big bump where the amount of voltage needed to increase the frequency by 100 MHz is significantly higher than before. Note we are discussing air/water cooling, rather than sub-zero, which affords different properties.
The 4.7 GHz value is also eerily similar to that which we achieved with both the i5 and the i7 Devil’s Canyon CPUs. Note that the peak load temperatures at 4.7 GHz were ‘only’ 76C, but this is for two cores, whereas we saw 79C on the i5 for four cores.
The system power draw, increasing from stock to 4.7 GHz, gave +38W / 41% rise for a ~47% increase in frequency. The POV-Ray performance was also similar, with a 47.67% increase in performance for a 47% increase in frequency/41% increase in power.
It can be hard to pinpoint where the typical Pentium user might lie. If we consider a household machine for family use, it is not going to be overclocked. Similarly for simple office use, either for regular Office software or remote connecting, overclocking is not going to be a feature. Overclocking lies at the heart of both the enthusiast and the gamer, which is where we should look first. One could argue that there are HTPC usage points for an overclockable Pentium; however the increase in power draw and temperature for an overclocked processor might not be appropriate.
For our testing, our main comparison point at stock would be the Pentium G3420. This Haswell processor’s only difference is the DDR3-1600 memory support, meaning that we test the G3420 at DDR3-1600 and the G3258 at DDR3-1333. We also compared the overclocked Pentium G3258 with an i3-4330, showing the effect of hyperthreading.
|Intel Pentium G3258 Comparison|
G3258 OC vs
|Xilisoft VC 7.5 Skyfall LQ||0%||25%||23%|
|Xilisoft VC 7.5 BBB 4K 60||2%||30%||-7%|
|PovRay 3.7 beta||1%||47%||-17%|
|HandBrake v0.9.9 Skyfall LQ||1%||41%||-23%|
|HandBrake v0.9.9 BBB 4K 60||3%||32%||-4%|
|Agisoft PS v1.0 Stage 1||3%||19%||27%|
|Agisoft PS v1.0 Stage 2||9%||16%||3%|
|Agisoft PS v1.0 Stage 3||4%||27%||-17%|
|Agisoft PS v1.0 Stage 4||2%||30%||-20%|
|Agisoft PS v1.0 Mapping||3%||17%||11%|
(-2% w/o TrueCrypt)
For pure CPU performance, the biggest defects from not having DDR3-1600 support are in Photoscan, a 2D to 3D modeling conversion tool. The 47% increase in frequency to 4.7 GHz gives more of a boost, ranging anywhere from 12% in our WinRAR test to 47% in anything that was fully multithreaded with no memory limitations (3DPM, POV-Ray), for a 32% average.
The situation between the i3-4330 and the overclocked G3258 is a story of two tales. While the average score gives +19% to the i3, any single threaded benchmark (3DPM-ST, FastStone) gave an advantage to the G3258 OC while most of the multi-threaded benchmarks looked at the i3. There are clear exceptions to this – video conversion and POV-Ray. For the video conversion tests, especially with the smaller frame sizes of the low quality videos, the benefits of the high single thread speed outweighed the benefits of more threads. It should also be worth pointing out the encryption boost of 339% in favor of the i3 – this is due to AES-NI support on the i3. Without this result in the mix, the average result is actually in favor of the G3258 at 4.7 GHz by 2%.
Turning to gaming, and we tested in single and dual GTX 770 formats with six games at 1080p and all the settings turned up.
|Gaming Average Frame Rates: GTX 770 at 1080p|
at 4.7 GHz
|Company of Heroes 2||37.7||38.0||42.7||43.2|
|Gaming Average Frame Rates: 2x GTX 770 at 1080p|
|Company of Heroes 2||36.0||37.1||42.3||42.6|
Comparing the G3420 to the G3258 at stock speeds, the effect of DDR3-1600 vs. DDR3-1333 is felt most in Sleeping Dogs with one GPU and F1 2013 in dual GPU mode, giving +7% to the G3420.
When the G3258 is overclocked, most of the benefits are given in multi-GPU modes. Here, three of our titles recorded ~30% frame rate increases, with another two around 15%. The biggest beneficiaries of an overclocked Pentium-AE are going to be in the multi-GPU bracket.
However, the crux of the situation shows that even with an overclocked Pentium, an i3-4330 can get a lot more out of your graphics cards. In single GPU, we see a 30% increase in frame rates for F1 2013, moving towards 120 FPS. In dual GPU modes, BF4 was the biggest beneficiary with a +42% increase. Moving from 65.7 FPS to 93.4 FPS for dual GTX-770s is a no brainer.
Overall, the main performance benefit from having an overclocked Pentium is going to be from all the ‘need-now’ types of CPU tasks that rely on response time. Having a 4.7 GHz Pentium feels fast when opening tabs or documents, but the minute any serious load is applied, the overclocked Pentium will feel ‘on average’ like an i3 at stock. The only exception is AES-NI or AVX workloads that will fly on the i3. Putting this into perspective, this lands the overclockable Pentium at the feet of ‘a bit of fun’, rather than anything serious.
Motherboards for Pentium-AE
Overclocking is a targeted market for motherboard manufacturers; especially those that invest time and money into research to let their users get better overclocking performance. They cannot expect users to purchase a $70 CPU then a $250-$400 motherboard. There will be overclocking enthusiasts that will do that, but the larger market of end-users who want some free performance will most likely be purchasing a motherboard similar in price to the CPU, or perhaps reaching into the $110-$120 range at most.
To this end, at least one of the motherboard manufacturers has specifically released new motherboards aimed for Pentium-AE users, and all the others have directed me to models they already produce. ASRock launched its Z97 Anniversary and Z97M Anniversary models at Computex this year:
MSI sent me its Z97 Guard Pro while I was testing the G3258, their main motherboard for Pentium-AE. ASUS call upon its Z97-A, and GIGABYTE has the UD3H and lower models as well.
The dynamics of CPU Turbo modes, both Intel and AMD, can cause concern during environments with a variable threaded workload. There is also an added issue of the motherboard remaining consistent, depending on how the motherboard manufacturer wants to add in their own boosting technologies over the ones that Intel would prefer they used. In order to remain consistent, we implement an OS-level unique high performance mode on all the CPUs we test which should override any motherboard manufacturer performance mode.
HandBrake, SD Film: link
For HandBrake, we take two videos (a 2h20 640x266 DVD rip and a 10min double UHD 3840x4320 animation short) and convert them to x264 format in an MP4 container. Results are given in terms of the frames per second processed, and HandBrake uses as many threads as possible.
For low quality encoding, single threaded performance wins out over threads despite the extra multi-threading of i3 processors.
HandBrake, 4K60 Animation: link
For larger frame sizes, the extra MHz of the overclock brings it on par with the i3-4360, although one might suggest spending the extra $40 for the i3 to ensure full stability.
Agisoft Photoscan – 2D to 3D Image Manipulation: link
Agisoft Photoscan creates 3D models from 2D images, a process which is very computationally expensive. The algorithm is split into four distinct phases, and different phases of the model reconstruction require either fast memory, fast IPC, more cores, or even OpenCL compute devices to hand. Agisoft supplied us with a special version of the software to script the process, where we take 50 images of a stately home and convert it into a medium quality model. This benchmark typically takes around 15-20 minutes on a high end PC on the CPU alone, with GPUs reducing the time.
Dolphin Benchmark: link
Many emulators are often bound by single thread CPU performance, and general reports tended to suggest that Haswell provided a significant boost to emulator performance. This benchmark runs a Wii program that raytraces a complex 3D scene inside the Dolphin Wii emulator. Performance on this benchmark is a good proxy of the speed of Dolphin CPU emulation, which is an intensive single core task using most aspects of a CPU. Results are given in minutes, where the Wii itself scores 17.53 minutes.
Dolphin is another example where Haswell combined with strong single threaded performance wins.
WinRAR 5.0.1: link
This test compresses a set of 2867 files across 320 folders totaling 1.52 GB in size – 95% of these files are small typical website files, and the rest (90% of the size) are small 30 second 720p videos.
PCMark8 v2 OpenCL on IGP
A new addition to our CPU testing suite is PCMark8 v2, where we test the Work 2.0 and Creative 3.0 suites in OpenCL mode. As this test is new, we have not run it on many AMD systems yet and will do so as soon as we can.
In both of our PCMark8 v2 results, overclocking the CPU gave a significant jump in performance. This would be down to the single threaded nature of parts of the benchmark, allowing web browsing and the snappyness of the system to be sped up.
Hybrid is a new benchmark, where we take a 4K 1500 frame video and convert it into an x265 format without audio. Results are given in frames per second.
Almost an extra 50% performance for Hybrid x265 encoding.
3D Particle Movement
3DPM is a self-penned benchmark, taking basic 3D movement algorithms used in Brownian Motion simulations and testing them for speed. High floating point performance, MHz and IPC wins in the single thread version, whereas the multithread version has to handle the threads and loves more cores.
FastStone Image Viewer 4.9
FastStone is the program I use to perform quick or bulk actions on images, such as resizing, adjusting for color and cropping. In our test we take a series of 170 images in various sizes and formats and convert them all into 640x480 .gif files, maintaining the aspect ratio. FastStone does not use multithreading for this test, and results are given in seconds.
On the lower end processors, general usability is a big factor of experience, especially as we move into the HTML5 era of web browsing. For our web benchmarks, we take four well known tests with Chrome 35 as a consistent browser.
Mozilla Kraken 1.1
Google Octane v2
The usage model for an overclocked G3258 comes in highly single threaded environments. 4.7 GHz is nothing to be sniffed at, especially when it comes to web browsing or simple photo editing where it beats out more expensive processors. With multithreaded scenarios, it battles with the i3 depending on if the software can use hyperthreading to its full advantage. If the software can do that, then the i3 still wins out.
Gaming and Synthetics on Processor Graphics
The Haswell Pentium and Celeron ranges are filled with GT1 solutions, referred to as simply 'HD (Haswell)'. The same is true for Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge, although with Haswell the i3 CPU range upgraded to HD 4400 or HD 4600 - a significant leap in performance. As the graphics power is low for full 3D titles, and as such we test on lower frequencies, we might see the CPU power matter more here than with our Devil's Canyon review.
Company of Heroes 2
CompuBench is a new addition to our CPU benchmark suite, and as such we have only tested it on the following processors. The software uses OpenCL commands to process parallel information for a range of tests, and we use the flow management and particle simulation benchmarks here.
3DMark Fire Strike
The increase in speed due to overclocking only has one effect on gaming using the internal graphics - a slight advantage to minimum frame rates. Unfortunately the IGP is crippled too much to see any gain in performance for average frame rates and AMD APUs at similar power outputs have up to a 2x advantage.
Discrete GPU Gaming
When comparing CPUs to APUs, one strength shown by team Blue in the past is the discrete GPU performance. When using dual graphics cards at a 1920x1080p resolution, at a lower amount of CPU power overall, there tends to be a significant amount of variance when extra CPU performance is applied. While it seems the overclock numbers are nice for a Pentium, a little extra money for an i3 at stock seems to be the choice here.
Company of Heroes 2
All of our titles, except Tomb Raider, get a significant increase from overclocking the CPU. However, it is worth noting (especially in titles such as Battlefield) that using and i3 from the start gets an even better result. This is because the gaming industry has moved on from the last overclockable dual core Intel CPU - games can now take advantage of more cores, and that jump from 2 cores to hyperthreading lets a high end title stretch its legs a little more than a simple overclock.
Pentium-AE Is A Processor We Want, But Not The Processor We Need
Testing the Pentium G3258 has been fun. There was a well of nostalgia in me that was particularly excited to get the processor in and get a chance to play with the overclocking potential. Even though this does not seem to be a fully-fledged member of the Devil’s Canyon cohort, Intel should receive kudos for providing the ‘cheap and cheerful’ unit which might instill a new wave of overclocking enthusiasts.
While the performance at stock is nothing to shout about, the feel of the processor in its overclocked mode was fast – even faster than the top tier processors. That is benefit afforded by an overclocking platform - web browsing and any other simple operation that needs a single thread will be as quick as you can get it. The downside occurs if anything CPU-limited or multi-threaded attempts to push its workload through the system. If the software can take advantage of hyperthreading very easily, then no matter how high the Pentium-AE is overclocked, the i3 will win every time. As we move into the future, software is becoming more adept at using these extra threads.
Intel had several choices when it came to providing a cheaper overclocking processor. It had to come with appropriate branding (20+ years of Pentium), but also not be instantly recognizable (Pentium G3258 sounds generic) and it must not interfere with their high end product lines when going for full-out performance. Unfortunately, those last two points are just some of the reasons that a gaming enthusiast might want a nicely performing system on the cheap and why the Intel Pentium-AE is not the right processor to do it with.
To start, Intel missed a trick by not calling it a K processor, but if you want a processor to not take much of the spotlight, it gets a generic name. The specifications of the processor at stock leave cause for concern. Intel could have chosen a DDR3-1600 model for unlocking, but it chose the DDR3-1333 model instead. While one could postulate that this would offer more dies to sell (by being a lower classification, more dies would fit into this bracket overall), I doubt that Intel is stretching to fill die quotas at this low end of the spectrum. The other concern comes back to the fact that Intel wanted to leave a big enough gap between the Pentium-AE and the i5/i7-K processors, so fitting the CPU with a low amount of L3 cache and DDR3 support would help in this context.
Certain games get a boost with the Pentium-AE overclocked, such as F1 2013 and Company of Heroes 2, but the overclocking is more important when it comes to multiple GPU scenarios. The downside of that conclusion is that an i3 is better at multiple GPU scenarios right off the bat, and for single GPU gaming the trend is towards games that can use the threads. This is a big discrepancy between when we used to overclock older CPU and today – the games today can use multiple cores. Having a lack of cores can really damage frame rates in some titles, especially when the amount of GPUs starts to rise. Unfortunately the only way to get more cores is to buy a better processor, or buy one that unlocks cores. The former reason in the last sentence is what helps Intel in the long run from the Pentium-AE cannibalizing i5 and i7 sales.
This review ends not so much on a conclusion, but more of a request. But given what we have seen thus far when discussing the place of the G3258 with everything else, it might be a fruitless request, but I would like to try.
Please Intel, create an i3 overclocking processor.
An i3-K Would Complete the Set
If the overclocking community is to grow, there needs to be some positive encouragement, rather than an ecosystem where a user can buy an overclocked Pentium-AE gaming machine and it is beaten by an extra $45 which might have been spent on a good cooler enabling the overclock. Having the extra power of the i3 might, in time, encourage users to expand their remit and purchase the i5/i7 and overclock it further, with a potential route to the enthusiast X-series processors over time. The dual core Pentiums are limiting the potential of discrete graphics now that gaming can take advantage of processor cores. As long as an i7-K and i5-K processors are released at the same time, an overclockable i3-K would give you the trifecta of K processors that becomes instantly marketable, along with growing and creating communities around them.