Rather than going headfirst into our review of the Pentium G3258, we thought it prudent to set the scene and provide some context. If you've only been overclocking your PC for a few years then you probably haven't known a time when Intel CPUs other than K-series models could yield significant overclocks.
After 2010's Pentium G9650, you've had no choice but to shell out £150+ for a K-series CPU in order to get something from Intel that you could overclock more than a couple of hundred megahertz. Before this, though, the enthusiast scene was awash with cheap, overclockable CPUs. In fact, if it couldn't be overclocked by more than 50 per cent, at the time this would have been considered average.
Intel had good reason to stop the practice of buying a £50-100 CPU and overclocking it to the same performance-standard as a £150-200 CPU. It's high end chip sales were apparently lacking, and the mark up on these cheap, overclockable CPUs was obviously a lot less. AMD had plenty of crackers too, though.
The Opteron 144 for example, was usually good for a 1GHz overclock from its default clock speed of 1.8GHz. However, AMD has continued with its budget overclocking antics, and is still popular in the low end thanks to cheaper motherboard prices and the fact that many of its cheap CPUs can be overclocked to make them competitive against their Intel competitors.
It's one area that AMD certainly has an edge over Intel with the cheaper FX CPUs offering more cores than their Pentium and Core i3 counterparts plus the advantage of cheaper motherboards compared to those you'd need for an Intel K-series CPU. AMD hasn't had things all its own way, though, as Intel still offers superior power consumption and clock for clock performance and this really shows in single-threaded applications. Give an overclocked FX CPU a multi-threaded task, though, and the situation is very different and games are looking set to go further down this route too.
Click to enlarge
The Pentium G3258 came as somewhat of a surprise but it could shake things up significantly in the low end for one simple reason. It has an unlocked multiplier, which means it can be overclocked without dealing with anything more than the CPU voltage and of course the CPU multiplier. It is in essence a K-series Pentium and clearly with Haswell CPUs not being terrible overclockers either, we were obviously quite excited when Intel announced it a few months ago.
The Pentium G3258 does have quite a mountain to climb though. It only has 3MB L3 cache compared to the Core i7-4790K's 8MB, plus it lacks Turbo Boost meaning its lonely two cores are stuck at 3.2GHz unless you tweak the multiplier of course. The IGP is simply listed as Intel HD Graphics, with the GPU offering half the number of execution units - just 10 - as its K-series counterparts. Needless to say, unlike AMD's APUs, you'll need a discrete GPU here for gaming.
However, it's the lack of Hyper-Threading that could decide the fate of this £50 CPU - most games won't likely see much of a hit but any rendering or video editing is going to hurt it and see AMD's offerings smelling blood. Everything will depend on the overclock - the G3258 even has board price in its favour with Z97 boards retailing for under £100 and Asus for one announcing that it is to offer multiplier tweaking on non Z-series boards .
Click to enlarge
Manufacturing process 22nm
Number of cores 2 physical
Cache L1: 4 x 32KB instruction/ data caches), L2 2 x 256KB, L3 3MB (shared)
Memory controller Dual-channel DDR3, up to 1,333MHz
Thermal design power (TDP) 53W
GPU Intel HD Graphics (1,100MHz)
Features SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4, SSE4.2, EM64T, F16C, Quick Sync Video