Why an Overclockable Core i3 Might Not Exist: The Supermicro C7H170-M and Intel Core i3-6100TE Reviewby Ian Cutress on March 17, 2016 10:30 AM EST
Base Clock Overclocking the Core i3-6100TE: The i5 Competition
Now we have the data, I want to pull up the data for the overclocked Core i3-6100TE and pit it against the data we already have in our database for the most likely contenders. Sitting at $117 at the base cost, and ignoring for the fact that it is almost impossible to buy because it’s a TE model, we’ll look purely at the overclocking compared to an equivalent i5 to see where having four physical cores (and more L3 cache per core) will beat the dual core with hyperthreading. We've also added in the Pentium G3258 results, overclocked to 4.7 GHz, to see where that sits. The i5 in this is the Core i5-6500 processor, which sits at a 3.3-3.9 GHz frequency. We've tested it but not yet written up the review, but the results are included.
CPU Short Form
Handbrake with a low quality file relies mainly on pure frequency and floating point performance, hence why the overclocked Pentium at 4.7 GHz beats the i3-6100TE at 3.65 GHz.
When we move up to large frame conversion, the benchmark is more in line with the number of threads available as well as frequency, so the i5 takes more of a lead at the top and the Pentium comes down. The overclocked Core i3 holds station at mid-field, and in our benchmark database it sits at the top of the i3 parts, but significantly behind the Core i5s.
Dolphin likes single core performance and high IPC, but also gets a boost from Haswell and beyond in terms of CPU architecture. This is why the G3258 when overclocked can beat almost everything else at stock.
Photoscan is a mixed back of threading, where at some points high frequency wins the day but at others it's a combination with cores and threads. Here, the lack of true cores (and in turn, L3 cache per thread), is the issue.
While WinRAR is a variable threaded load, it sits more comfortably with more cache, faster memory and more threads. There is still a big gap between the Core i3 parts and the Core i5 parts, even when the Core i3 is overclocked.
Cinebench in single threaded mode is all about frequency and IPC, hence the i3-6100TE OC can beat the older i5 parts. The Pentium G3258 at 4.7 GHz storms ahead here as a result.
However, the lack of true cores brings it down to earth in the multithreaded test. The difference between the overclocked i3-6100TE and the Core i5-6600 is a big 50%, which is hard to make up on frequency alone.
3DPM v1 in single thread mode loves frequency and IPC, hence why the overclocked i3 sits at the bottom of this small graph but in the middle of the older i7 parts in our benchmark database.
In multithreaded mode, while the i3 and i5 parts can spawn similar amounts of threads, the 3.6 GHz overclock on the i3-6100TE isn't enough to bring the fight to the Core i5s.
WebXPRT is a big fan of responsiveness, and having an overclocked system seems to help here. This means both the i3-6100TE OC and G3258 OC storm ahead.
Octane is more multithreaded than WebXPRT, relying more on synthetic testing. In our benchmark database the overclocked i3 pushes above some of the older Core i5s, but the Skylake i5-6600 is still on top.
For AES encryption, the Pentium parts drop out due to the lack of AES-NI instructions, but it does become a case of threads and frequency here.
Overall conclusions on the pure CPU performance puts the stock Core i3 at the bottom end of our table in most tests, but overclocking it +35% turns it into a very average performer. In single threaded tests, depending on the memory footprint, it either handily beats or goes toe-to-toe with the Core i5s, usually sitting a pace behind. When the threads come out to play though, there is still that gap between the Core i3 and the Core i5 segments, by virtue of hyperthreads compared to real cores. This makes the issue more to do with cache per thread, and more trips out to higher latency memory to fetch data - typically highly threaded environments are processing a lot of data anyway, making it a compound effect.
GPU Tests on R9 290X
Alien Isolation gets a good +12% boost in frame rates from that 35% overclock, pushing it above the Sandy Bridge i7 when the i7 runs at stock speed, but still behind an i5.
Total War rises to an asymptotic peak of frame rates as cores and frequency increases, and while the overclocked i3 can't match the i5s they can get very close, as shown above.
Similarly with GTA, we get a good 20% rise in frame rates from the overclock but it still isn't enough for the last 1-8% or so to the old i7s or newer Core i5s.
GRID responds to a number of benefits, especially relating to DRAM speed, IPC and frequency. Using DDR4 helps the Core i3 here it seems, with that overclock giving a good 30% push in frame rates and putting the i3 and i5 within a margin of error.
Mordor is relatively flat on CPU performance.
With the AMD GPU tests, the overclocked Core i3 sits very much in mid table when looking at the big picture. The overclock doesn't really pull any of the games out of the gutter, but the use of DDR4 seems to help in games like GRID which love it when any component is upgraded. In games like Mordor, the GPU is the bottleneck so everyone seems to perform the same.
GPU Tests on GTX 980
In everything except Mordor, the overclocked i3 is anywhere from 10-15% behind the Core i5 in frame rates, but mid-table overall.
Everyone has been wondering for a while just how good an overclocked Core i3 part is. Well, here is our data, and the answer is perhaps somewhat surprising: a faster Core i3 moves itself into a mid-table position. In most cases it sits behind the Core i5 parts, unable to get over that hump of using two threads per core and having to share cache resources between hyperthreads. Having real cores in this instance makes a big difference. In a number of cases, the overclocked Core i3 sits above the older Core i7s, especially when improvements to the architecture have a profound impact on the performance of the processor.
But is an overclocked Core i3 going to feel like a part of higher value?