Intel Core i3-10100 Review 36

Intel Core i3-10100 Review

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Introduction

Intel Logo

In today's Core i3-10100 review we'll take a close look at what this quad-core processor offers at its highly affordable $130 price point. Intel launched its 10th generation Core "Comet Lake" desktop processors at a brisk pace, with the entry-level Core i3 parts following only a couple of weeks behind the flagship Core i9-10900K. It took AMD nine months to launch its "Zen 2" based Ryzen 3 series parts. Intel also had its motherboard partners announce products based on the cost-effective B460 and H410 chipsets because pairing a Core i3 processor with a $150+ Z490 motherboard makes little sense.

Priced at $130, the Core i3-10100 is the entry-level of the 10th generation Core desktop processor family. Keeping in tune with Intel enabling HyperThreading across the board for Comet Lake, this is a 4-core/8-thread processor. Before AMD "Zen" came along, the price of entry for eight threads from Intel was around $300 for the cheapest Core i7 quad-core part. Intense competition from AMD forced Intel to increase core counts generation over generation. The 8th and 9th generation Core i3 were 4-core/4-thread parts, after nine or so years of Core i3 desktop being 2-core/4-thread with 3 or 4 MB of L3 cache and a lack of Turbo Boost. The consumer always benefits from competition.



The reviewed Core i3-10100 is based on the "Comet Lake" microarchitecture by Intel, and built on their existing 14 nm++ silicon fabrication process. The per-core performance (IPC) of these chips is identical to "Skylake" from 2016. The Core i3-10100 features four cores and HyperThreading, enabling eight logical processors. These four cores, however, are cushioned by only 6 MB of L3 cache. Historically (7th generation and prior), Intel used 6 MB of cache on 4-core/4-thread Core i5 SKUs, while reserving 8 MB for the 8-thread Core i7 parts. Intel is trying something different with the 10th generation. While the Core i3-10100 has 6 MB, the slightly pricier Core i3-10300 and Core i3-10320 have 8 MB of cache and slightly higher clock speeds.

The i3-10100 ticks at 3.60 GHz and has a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.30 GHz. It also features an integrated graphics solution in the form of the Gen 9.5-based Intel UHD 630, clocked up to 1.10 GHz. Across the competitive landscape, the Core i3-10100 faces the recently launched AMD Ryzen 3 3100 processor at $100 and the Ryzen 3 3300X at $120. Both are 4-core/8-thread parts based on the "Zen 2" microarchitecture with large 16 MB L3 caches, and some value additions, such as PCIe gen 4.0 and an unlocked multiplier. Both chips also earned critical acclaim for providing high performance per dollar with gaming. That's why we will put a special focus on those two SKUs in our Core i3-10100 review. It'll be interesting to see whether Intel's $130 offering has the potential to gravitate the e-sports and entry-level gaming PC crowd away from AMD. It's also worth exploring if buying a Core i5 processor still makes sense for paper-pushing office desktops that mostly deal with web-browsing, MS Office, etc.

Intel Core i3-10100 Market Segment Analysis
 PriceCores /
Threads
Base
Clock
Max.
Boost
L3
Cache
TDPArchitectureProcessSocket
Athlon 3000G$502 / 43.5 GHzN/A4 MB35 WZen14 nmAM4
Athlon 200GE$552 / 43.2 GHzN/A4 MB35 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 3 1200$604 / 43.1 GHz3.4 GHz8 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i3-9100F$754 / 43.6 GHz4.2 GHz6 MB65 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Athlon 240GE$802 / 43.5 GHzN/A4 MB35 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 3 2200G$854 / 43.5 GHz3.7 GHz4 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i3-10100$1304 / 83.6 GHz4.3 GHz6 MB65 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 3 3100$1004 / 83.6 GHz3.9 GHz16 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4
Pentium G5600$1002 / 43.9 GHzN/A4 MB54 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 5 1400$1054 / 83.2 GHz3.4 GHz8 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 3 1300X$1154 / 43.4 GHz3.7 GHz8 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 5 1600$1106 / 123.2 GHz3.6 GHz16 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 3 3300X$1204 / 83.8 GHz4.3 GHz16 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 5 2600$1206 / 123.4 GHz3.9 GHz16 MB65 WZen12 nmAM4
Core i3-8300$1404 / 43.7 GHzN/A8 MB65 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i3-10300$1504 / 83.7 GHz4.4 GHz8 MB65 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 5 1500X$1404 / 83.5 GHz3.7 GHz16 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 5 2400G$1504 / 83.6 GHz3.9 GHz4 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 5 1600X$1506 / 123.6 GHz4.0 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 5 2600X$1506 / 123.6 GHz4.2 GHz16 MB95 WZen12 nmAM4
Core i5-9400F$1806 / 62.9 GHz4.1 GHz9 MB65 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-10400F$1606 / 122.9 GHz4.3 GHz12 MB65 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 7 1700$1708 / 163.0 GHz3.7 GHz16 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1700X$1708 / 163.4 GHz3.8 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i5-10500$2006 / 123.1 GHz4.5 GHz12 MB65 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 5 3600$1756 / 123.6 GHz4.2 GHz32 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4

A Closer Look


Our Core i3-10100 sample came in a tray-only package. The retail packaging includes a heatsink, which will help keep overall system cost down.

Processor front view
Processor back view

The Core i3-10100 looks like any LGA1xxx processor released by Intel in the past decade. The processor is only compatible with socket LGA1200 motherboards because the position of the round notches has been changed. It will not work with an older motherboard.

Processor installed in motherboard

Luckily, socket LGA1200 retains cooler compatibility with all older LGA115x-series sockets. This means you're going to be spoiled for choice when picking a cooler to go with this processor.

Architecture


Under the hood of the Core i3-10100 is the 4-core "Comet Lake-S" silicon built on the same 14 nm++ process as the previous two generations. The die area is estimated to be 125 mm². This die looks similar to the 4-core "Kaby Lake" die. Certain steppings could also be carved out of the 6-core "Comet Lake-S" die with two cores and half its L3 cache disabled.


The "Comet Lake-S" silicon is laid out similar to the past four generations of Intel mainstream processors, with two rows of CPU cores flanked by the iGPU on one side and the system agent (integrated northbridge) on the other, and a Ringbus Interconnect serving as town square between the various components. The last-level cache is scattered across as slices, adding up to 6 MB of unified L3 cache all cores can access equally.

Much of the processor's uncore components are clumped into the System Agent, which contains the memory controller, PCI-Express gen 3.0 root-complex, DMI interface, and memory PHY. The iGPU solution, though present on the silicon, is permanently disabled by Intel. On the other end of the ringbus is the Gen 9.5 integrated graphics, which has practically been carried over for the past three generations, featuring 24 execution units in the GT2 trim. All SKUs in the desktop 10th gen processor series appear to have the top GT2 trim. Don't expect to play PUBG at 4K on this; the "UHD" moniker only indicates that the IGP can handle 4K Ultra HD displays, features modern connectivity options, such as DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.0, and can playback 4K video in new formats with 10-bpc color and HDR10/Dolby Vision standards.


The core itself is identical in design to "Skylake," and there are hence no IPC increases to be had. As we explained in the introduction, all of Intel's efforts to increase gaming, single-threaded, and less-parallelized application performance revolve around increasing clock speeds and deploying as many as three intelligent boosting algorithms to achieve the advertised clock speeds.

The Core i3-10100 has a nameplate base frequency (aka nominal clock) of 3.60 GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.30 GHz. Unlike the top Core i9-10900K part, it lacks Turbo Boost Max 3.0 or Thermal Velocity Boost, and makes do with classic Turbo Boost 2.0. It still has significantly increased power limits over the Core i3-9100. The TDP of the chip is rated at just 65 W, and so with just four cores to go around, nearly all socket LGA1200 motherboards should be able to optimally run this processor.

Intel introduced a handful of overclocking enhancements with the 10th generation, including the ability to toggle HyperThreading on a per-core basis rather than globally. This could be an interesting option for those gaming and streaming, where a certain number of cores have HTT disabled for the best gaming performance and certain cores have them enabled, with Windows process core affinity settings taking care of the rest.

The company also introduced the ability to overclock the DMI chipset bus. DMI is a PCIe-based interconnect that handles transfers between the processor and the chipset (PCH). The LGA1200 platform uses DMI 3.0 (comparable to PCI-Express 3.0 x4 in terms of bandwidth). Intel has apparently decoupled PCIe clock domains to enable you to overclock the DMI and PEG (that topmost x16 PCIe slot) without destabilizing your PCIe setup for graphics cards. Multiplier-based overclocking, however, isn't possible on the Core i3-10100.

The Z490, H470, and B460 Platforms


Z490 is the top 400-series chipset targeted at gaming desktops and PC enthusiasts, as it enables serious overclocking and multi-GPU support. In terms of I/O capabilities, the chipset is nearly identical to the Z390, with 24 downstream PCIe gen 3.0 lanes, six SATA ports, six USB 3.2 gen 2 ports that can be converted to three USB 3.2 gen 2x2 ports, ten USB 3.2 gen 1 ports, and fourteen USB 2.0 ports. Intel is recommending its i225-V 2.5 Gbps Ethernet chip as the wired networking solution to go with Z490, and the company's AX201 802.11ax WiFi 6 WLAN solution to go with the chipset's CNVio interface.


You are more likely to pair locked and entry-level processors such as the i3-10100 with the B460 or H470 chipsets. B460 has motherboards start at around the $90 mark. It comes with 16 downstream PCIe gen 3.0 lanes (compared to just 12 on the previous-generation B360). Compared to Z490, you get fewer PCIe lanes (16 vs. 24) from the chipset, and fewer USB 3.2 ports (eight 5 Gbps ports and no 10 Gbps ports compared to six 10 Gbps and ten 5 Gbps ports on the Z490). You also lose out on CPU overclocking features and multi-GPU capabilities (such as SLI). B460 motherboards also come with memory frequency restrictions set to DDR4-2933. The H470 is an interesting middle ground between the Z490 and B460. You still lose out on multi-GPU and overclocking, but get more platform PCIe lanes (20 vs. 16 on the B460 and 24 on the Z490), as well as four 10 Gbps USB 3.2 ports in addition to what you get from the B460.

For multiplier-locked chips like the i3-10100, you could save a lot of money by opting for cheaper B460 or H410 chipset motherboards.

Test Setup

  • All applications, games, and processors are tested with the drivers and hardware listed below—no performance results were recycled between test systems.
  • All games and applications are tested using the same version.
  • All games are set to their highest quality setting unless indicated otherwise.
Test System "Comet Lake"
Processor:All Intel 10th Generation processors
Motherboard:ASUS Z490 Maximus XII Extreme
Intel Z490, BIOS 0508
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
DDR4-2666 Test at 16-16-16-36
Graphics:EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra
Storage:1 TB SSD
Cooling:Noctua NH-U14S
Zadak Spark 240 mm AIO
Power Supply:Seasonic SS-860XP
Software:Windows 10 Professional 64-bit
Version 1903 (May 2019 Update)
Drivers:NVIDIA GeForce 430.63 WHQL
AMD Chipset 1.07.07.0725



Test System "Zen 2"
Processor:All AMD Ryzen 3000
Motherboard:ASRock X570 Taichi
AMD X570, BIOS v2.80 AGESA 1.0.0.4B
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above

Test System "Coffee Lake"
Processor:All Intel 8th & 9th Generation processors
Motherboard:Core i9-9900KS: ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming X
All other Coffee Lake: ASUS Z390 Maximus XI Extreme
Intel Z390
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above

Test System "Zen"
Processor:All AMD Ryzen 2000, Ryzen 2000G and Ryzen 1000
Motherboard:MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC
AMD X470, BIOS 7B77v19O
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above
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