The spring has come, so it's high time we returned to budget Intel processors for LGA1155. Half a year ago they introduced Pentium G2120—the first budget Ivy Bridge CPU. Today, the new microarchitecture is broadly used not only in the Pentium but also in the Celeron series. The new processors have 4-digit model numbers. As for Sandy Bridge, it had its final word in the Pentium G4xx models, which didn't seem attractive enough for the retail market.
The new offering looks really promising: as we know, Ivy Bridge beats Sandy Bridge, specifications being the same, so we should expect a certain progress in the performance. There's something to expect from the integrated GPU, too. That third-generation Intel HD graphics has really taken a step forward.
Here we collected all the low-range Ivy Bridge processors, except for the Pentium G2010. The L3 cache remains the same, but the core and RAM frequencies increase: G21xx supports DDR3-1600 while the lower-range models support DDR3-1333, as only Pentium G8xx did earlier.
In one of our earlier reviews we estimated that the move from DDR3-1066 to DDR3-1333 brought just 2% extra performance. There's even less to expect from a move to DDR3-1600, so our current testing method is based on DDR3-1333.
Ivy Bridge brings no innovations to specs, so we've decided to add just three top Sandy Bridge dual-core processors from the Celeron G5xx, Pentium G6xx, and Pentium G8xx lineups. This will be enough, because for this price AMD offers somewhat different CPUs, which outperform Intel dual-cores where they can and, er, yield where they cannot.
Our test method is briefly described here. The scores on diagrams are relative to that of our reference testbed that always scores 100 points. As of 2011, it's based on the AMD Athlon II X4 620 CPU, 8GB of RAM and Palit's NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 1280MB. Detailed (absolute) results are traditionally provided in this summary.
This group of tests forms nice 'staircase' in spite of the fact that the processor specifications are similar (furthermore, G1610 has even lower clock rate than G555). This illustrates the progress in the microarchitecture.
Final 3D Rendering
Another illustration of the slow progress. Note: Pentium G2130 scores almost 100 points, as much as reference quad-core AMD Athlon II X4 620. Intel Core i3-530 rolled out in 2010 was less powerful.
Big progress in the lower-range lineups against a small progress in the upper-range ones can be explained by the fact that we use DDR3-1333 with all the processors.
In this group of tests, based on rather old algorithms, usual dual-core processors can hardly excel. At the same clock rates, Ivy Bridge is nearly 5% faster than Sandy Bridge, letting Celeron G1620 almost catch up with not just another Celeron but Pentium G645 with the higher clock rates.
G2020 scores almost on a par with G870, even though its clock rate is 200 MHz lower.
Mathematical and Engineering Computations
In this group of tests G2020 isn't the only CPU that can demonstrate good performance—G1620 is catching up with Pentium G645. The core improvements of Ivy Bridge are clearly seen.
Raster Graphics Processing
The difference between the fastest Pentium G2130 and the slowest Celeron G555 doesn't exceed 25%, so there's really no need to explore what's in between.
Vector Graphics Processing
These are the least and the most interesting diagrams in the whole review. Video encoding shows inconsequent results, revealing the advantages of Ivy Bridge at their best. Celeron G1620 outperforms Pentium G645, Pentium G2020 scores like Pentium G870. By the way, another couple of processors reached the score of the reference Athlon II X4 620, and the top two beat it in a romp.
The numbers keep growing and getting far beyond the level necessary. Nothing to add here.
Another group where the newer lower-range processors catch up with the older upper-range ones.
The newer microarchitecture beats the older one in spite of the smaller cache size important in this test group. However, it owes its progress mostly to F1 2010, which doesn't favor small numbers of threads. When it comes to moving from Sandy to Ivy, we receive 30% more FPS. Much higher than the average.
Once a dual-core CPU, always a dual-core CPU, so to say. The progress can only be seen in lower-range lineups. The clock rates of the lower-end Celeron and Pentium processors can be compared to those of the ultramobile CPUs. However, the former also boast the new microarchitecture: lower power consumption and better performance at low clock rates. As you can see, Ivy Bridge is really great for mobile PCs. And there's the improved graphics core, too.
Overall Score and Final Thoughts
Of course, the overall 'staircase' of scores repeats on the most of today's diagrams. However, we used only the top three processors of the 'three-digit' Sandy Bridge lineups. It would be more interesting to have a broader view at the over-a-year-long development of budget lineups.
The coloured lines below connect the scores of CPU belonging to the same lineup (some were covered in earlier reviews). The vertical scale shows the overall score, the horizontal scale shows the clock rate.
As you see, at the same clock rates, Pentium always outperforms the same-generation Celeron, but the newer Celeron is better than the old Pentium. The move to Ivy bridge brings more than just an increase in core or RAM clock rates (especially to the top CPU in our testbeds).
In the summer of 2010, the 110 overall points of Pentium G840 were priced at $75 (wholesale). Today a similar result can be achieved by Celeron G1620 ($52 wholesale price). And again, we remind you of the improved Ivy Bridge graphics core, which can be really useful in budget and even more so in portable configurations.
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