Intel Pentium G3258 CPU Review: Haswell, Unlocked, For £55

Haswell, Unlocked, For £55

The Pentium G3258, at 3.2 GHz, is a fairly slow CPU. Two cores, 3 MB of shared L3 cache, no Hyper-Threading—those specifications are indeed Pentium-class. But it’s the unlocked clock multiplier that makes Intel’s 20th anniversary Pentium something special.

And let’s face it: nobody’s going to buy the G3258 and leave it at 3.2 GHz. Enthusiasts are going to take it and crank it up beyond 4 GHz.  

Before now, it was hard to go wrong with AMD’s Athlon X4 750K. Devotees of Don’s Best Gaming CPUs For The Money column know that’s where his recommendations begin. But you can almost scratch everything under the £170 mark by tuning this processor up to 4.5 GHz.

The Pentium isn’t perfect. Threaded workloads are going to punish its two cores. I find myself wishing this was a K-series Core i3 instead, if only for the addition of Hyper-Threading. But then it’d also probably sell for quite a bit more, at least. Down at £55, Intel is clearly gunning for that unlocked Athlon X4, which sells for just a bit more higher. It’s only unfortunate that you’ll want to pair the Pentium with a Z97- or Z87-based motherboard for overclocking. Right there, you’re looking at £10 or £20 premium over nice A88X-based platforms.

Although the Pentium gets kicked around in a few of our benchmarks, it does beat the Athlon in every game we test—sometimes by a lot. As a value-oriented gaming processor, this thing is just awesome. I’d love to see what Paul Henningsen could do with it in our System Builder Marathon, where he'd pick a more suitable graphics complement than the Titan I used to alleviate graphics bottlenecks. Powering a quiet, lightly-tuned home theater PC, it’d be right as rain. And although I wouldn’t want to rely on the G3258’s on-die HD Graphics engine, the chip’s Quick Sync technology is a real boon if you’re watching or converting video content.

For as long as Intel insisted on making enthusiasts pay a premium for K-series Core i5 and i7s, AMD had the market cornered on budget-friendly overclocking. The Pentium G3258 is a watershed moment for the company, though. It’s giving power users access to a powerful and efficient architecture, along with the freedom to tweak it, all at an inclusionary price point. The Pentium G3258 typifies what our Tom’s Hardware Smart Buy award is all about.

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  • Plusthinking Iq
    this beat every amd up to amd 8350, and still you need to oc the 8350 to get better fps in some games. this pretty much leaves amd dead in the water in gaming cpu's
  • Blahman11
    This is a very good CPU for the price, AMD should be worried, and in fact everyone should. This CPU is pretty much removing for AMD one of their last areas in which AMD did well- cheap overclockable CPUs. AMD need to respond to this, perhaps make a GPU disabled kaveri chip that overclocks better than the 7850k does? If AMD don't respond then we lose the last competitor to intel, and everyone knows what that would mean for the market.
  • jaslion
    well here in belgium and fx 6300 is 100€ straight and this pentium 75€ so i would go for the fx 6300 personnally
  • ivyanev
    correct me if i am wrong but overclocking this processor requires z motherboard, and a pontent cooler. These two combined will add up to more than the difference with the i3. What you end up is hot, overclocked processor that is inferior in almost all benchmarks for no less money. The only logic I can see is to buy this now and after a couple of years upgrade to i7 and overclock it also.
  • Plusthinking Iq
    stock cooler should not be used anyways, so your wrong ivyanev.
    dont buy a pc so cheap you cant cool it or have a good motherboard.
  • Defconluke
    Minimum of £80 for a low end Z97 motherboard + £55 for the unlocked Pentium with an overclock that is not guaranteed.

    When the i3 is £90 and can be put in a cheap (£40) H81 motherboard without needing the effort of finding a stable overclock it seems a bit risky to go for the Pentium.

    However, if a later upgrade to an i5K or i7K is planned (or you need the Z series chipset features) then the Pentium is a good way to start saving towards that upgrade while not compromising on the expense of an i3 or drop in performance of a regular Pentium.
  • d1vine
    You dont need an Z series to OC this monster.You need just an "solid" Asus h81/b85/h97 mobo(with al least one heatshrink on the VRM).Asus announced that they will unlock overclocking on their h81/b85/h97 mobos.Plus you don't need a serious cooler,
    Zalman CNPS10X Performa(~35$) or
    Thermalright True Spirit 120i(~45$) should be enough to keep it under 80 degrees.

  • TesseractOrion
    Is there a slight anomaly in the Tomb Raider graphs? The OC G3258 appears a lot slower than the normal one...
  • jukkie
    Well, I have my G3258 running at 4.3Ghz at 1.33v on a £30 MSI H81 mobo, coupled with a £15 Freezer 7 pro heatsink/fan. That's only £85 in total for quite a fair amount of performance.

    Anything above 4.3Ghz wasn't stable, even with the voltage up to 1.34v (not prepared to try higher than that as temps were too high). This was likely down to the cheap mobo, but I'm not going to complain about that, as it's still a nice overclock for the money.