Review: Intel Core i3 2100

Our score: 4/5
Reviewed: January 2, 2011 11:00 PM
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Published: January 2, 2011 11:00 PM
By Régis Jehl
Translated by: Sam McGeever
The Core i3 2000 processors from Intel are the entry-level option in its Sandy Bridge range of CPUs.  They don't have all the latest bells and whistles, but they're a little more affordable.  After a thorough inspection in our lab, we've reached our verdict on this Core i3 2100—and it's not all bad news.

In technical terms, the Core i3 2000 CPUs are dual-core processors which use Hyper-threading.  This feature is designed to optimise performance for with software designed for use with multiple cores.  Each core is effectively doubled up—creating two new 'logical' cores—to more efficiently divide up the work when a lot of processor power is needed.


Intel illustrates Hyper-threading: each core can actually work on two tasks at once

On the other hand, there's no Turbo mode.  The Core i3 2100's two cores both run at 3.1 GHz, no matter whether you're using both of them or just one.

Energy Consumption

This chip's real strength is its low energy consumption.  When it's working hard, our test workstation only required a total of 128 W.  That's 18 W less than the Core i5 680 from the previous generation which had a largely similar overall performance.  Better still, with a total consumption of just 91 W for our test PC while the CPU was idle, this is one of the least power-hungry processors currently available.

Performance: Applications

Although it can't boast a particularly high clock speed (it runs at just 3.1 GHz) the Core i3 2100 pulls out ahead of the Core i5 680, which can climb to 3.6 GHz in Turbo mode.  Compared to an AMD processor, it's on a par with the Phenom II X4 965, which has twice as many cores.

General overall average.
Click on the graph to see all of our results and compare this CPU to other models.

That means that this CPU won't grumble if you give it big apps to deal with, even if some of its rivals will get the job done much more quickly.  For everyday use, or for a budget-conscious computer, it could be a worthwhile investment.

Performance: Gaming

With no Turbo mode, you might except fairly average performance with video gaming, but that's only partly true: although it's not quite as good as the Core i7 2600K or the Core i5 2300, we're still a long way beyond the Core i7 870 when playing in high quality.

Integrated Graphics

A graphics chipset is built directly into the die, the printed circuit board on the processor.  This is a new design, because the Core i5 600 CPUs had the graphics chip next to the processor itself.  It's easier to understand the difference if you look at the two architectures side by side:


Left: the old system had two chips, a CPU and a GPU side by side on the same physical chip
Right: the new system has a single chip with both the CPU and GPU

On the Core i3 2000, the graphics chip is called the Intel HD Graphics 2000.  Not only does it feature support for DirectX 10.1, it also brings support for stereoscopic 3D, something unavailable on the previous generation of chips.

The only compatible motherboards (Intel H67 chipset) already have an HDMI 1.4 output, which provides video in 3D, as long you've got a TV that can cope.  Traditional software like CyberLink PowerDVD, Corel WinDVD and ArcSoft TotalMedia Theater are all compatible with this 3D mode, called Intel InTru 3D.

You can't expect to do too much gaming with the Intel HD Graphics 2000 chip.  The level of graphics performance is just about enough to reach a reasonable bitrate for less demanding titles like Team Fortress 2 or Spore.  But even with these games, you'll probably have to turn the level of details down to keep the gameplay flowing smoothly.

View Performance Index Table

4/5 Intel Core i3 2100 DigitalVersus 2011-01-03 00:00:00

Pros

  • Good performance overall
  • Hyper-threading
  • Energy consumption
  • Integrated graphics useful for an office PC
  • Integrated graphics support stereoscopic 3D and hardware acceleration

Cons

  • No Turbo mode
  • Faster CPUs are available
  • Graphics not good enough for regular gamers

Conclusion

Intel has produced a well-rounded CPU that can handle most jobs, including video games. You can certainly get a better processor—but you'll be paying more for it, too.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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