Intel Core i3-2100 vs. AMD Phenom II X2 565

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Intel Core i3-2100 vs. AMD Phenom II X2 565

March 7, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Core i3-2100
LGA1155 Processor
Phenom II X2 565 Black Edition
AM3 Processor
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$130
US$195

As Intel's Cougar Point recall has begun to resolve itself, we thought it would be an appropriate time to check out a lesser known Sandy Bridge processor. With so much adulation being thrown at high-end parts like the Core i5-2500K and i7-2600K, followed by the issue with LGA1155 motherboards, it was easy for Intel's new Core i3 lineup to get lost in the shuffle. These dual core chips certainly don't elicit as much excitement, but they are important as many users' computing demands don't warrant the more expensive quad core chips. In addition, there still many applications that do not take advantage of extra threads.

The Sandy Bridge i3's are stripped down 65W dual core chips with just 3MB of L3 (compared to 6MB/8MB on the i5/i7), slower HD 2000 graphics, and lack the TurboBoost dynamic overclocking feature, but they do have Hyper-threading. For now, there are just two standard models, the 3.1 GHz Core i3-2100 and 3.3 GHz Core i3-2120. Our i3-2100 sample will be compared with Intel's older Clarkdale processors as well as AMD's latest dual core CPUs. Unfortunately AMD doesn't have anything remarkable in this department, just more of the same silicon with slightly higher clock speeds.

Dual Core Desktop CPU Comparison ($150 and less)
Model
Speed
L2+L3
Cache
TDP
Street Price
Athlon II X2 250
3.0 GHz
2MB
65W
$60
Athlon II X2 255
3.1 GHz
2MB
65W
$65
Athlon II X2 260
3.2 GHz
2MB
65W
$70
Athlon II X2 265
3.3 GHz
2MB
65W
$75
Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition
3.0 GHz
1+6MB
80W
$90
Phenom II X2 560 Black Edition
3.2 GHz
1+6MB
80W
$105
Phenom II X2 565 Black Edition
3.3 GHz
1+6MB
80W
$115
Pentium G6950
2.8 GHz
0.5+3MB
73W
$95
Core i3-530
2.93 GHz
0.5+4MB
73W
$110
Core i3-540
3.06 GHz
0.5+4MB
73W
$115
Core i3-550
3.2 GHz
0.5+4MB
73W
$130
Core i3-560
3.3 GHz
0.5+4MB
73W
$145
Core i3-2100
3.1 GHz
0.5+3MB
65W
$130
Core i3-2120
3.3 GHz
0.5+3MB
65W
$150
Tested processors are in bold.

Since our last budget CPU roundup, AMD added the Athlon II X2 265, and their latest is the Phenom II X2 565 Black Edition. Both are clocked at 3.3 GHz, but as per usual, the Phenom version has 6MB of L2 cache and an unlocked multiplier to aid in overclocking. With a street price of about US$115, it competes with midrange LGA1156 dual core processors like the Core i3-540. Despite being the entry-level Sandy Bridge model, the Core i3-2100 is more expensive than the X2 565 at US$130.

Of course CPU cost is only one part of the equation. You can't discuss value without including motherboard cost, which varies from socket to socket. In the table above, we added the street price of the chips we're comparing today with the average price of a compatible motherboard from Newegg (Intel/Asus/Gigabyte/MSI DDR3 microATX and ATX models). It turned out to be US$97 for AM3, US$118 for LGA1156, and US$147 for LGA1155 (LGA1155 prices were taken before the Cougar Point recall for the greater sample size). The average Sandy Bridge Core i3 setup costs about US$65 more than a typical Phenom II X2 565 combination, significantly more than the US$15 difference in CPU pricing.



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