Intel very recently launched a new CPU, the Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition and there has been quite a bit of hype about it as it differs from the Pentium CPUs we have seen over recent years, in the fact that it has an unlocked multiplier. Out of the box there isn’t really much to get excited about, 2 cores, 2 threads a clock speed of 3.2Ghz and 3MB of cache – Current UK pricing shows around the £45 - £50 mark inclusive of 20% VAT – in short its cheap CPU suited towards a casual user and light gamer that price wise sits in between the also new Pentium G3420 3.2Ghz and Pentium G3440 3.3Ghz.
So, why the hype you ask. Well back in the day you used to be able to take a £100 Pentium processor and overclock the living daylights out of it to exceed the performance of another CPU that was 2 or 3 times the price. This was common ground for enthusiasts for years until Intel put a stop to it all and started locking multipliers which pretty much put an end to overclocking most Intel processors. The Core series was born (i3, i5 and i7) and the Pentium series then represented the lower end of the market and thus continued, all with locked multipliers, for the last 4 or 5 years. In recent years if you wanted to overclock you needed a “K” Series processor which only came in the form of a high end i5 or i7 CPU costing £170 upwards and needed pairing with a motherboard capable of overclocking which would start around the £70 mark. Until now!
Pretty much all the info around has been about people popping a G3258 in a Z87 or Z97 chipset motherboard, bolting on a cooler and away you go. If you wanted to overclock a CPU in recent years you needed a chipset that supported overclocking (said Z97 or Z97) but a couple of manufacturers (as of Date Asus and Gigabyte) have released BIOS updates that support “Pentium G3258 Anniversary edition unlocked multipliers” on H81, B75 H87 & H97 chipset based motherboards.
Given that a G3258 AE is a dual core processor and not for the diehard high end enthusiasts it does seem a little odd that many people are pairing these chips with a relatively high end Z97 or Z87 based chipset motherboard adding potentially unnecessary cost to say a media centre or casual gaming pc build and completely overlooking a lower end H81 or B75 setup. Yes, granted a Z97 or Z87 will give you more control over an overclock, support 1600Mhz RAM and have a host of features that most will probably never use but putting a £50 CPU on a £150 motherboard for a system isn’t always a smart move. This is where a H81 based system comes in – it’s the cheapest of the chipsets capable of unlocking the potential of the G3258.
How we went about it
When the G3258’s landed here at UK gaming Computers we immediately bolted them to a £90 Gigabyte Z97X-SLI motherboard and proceeded to overclock “the living daylights” out of it with good success. Anywhere between 4.6Ghz and 4.8Ghz was possible depending on the CPU and we were relatively impressed, but felt given the cost of the Investment in a decent cooler and high-ish end motherboard there wasn’t a huge amount to gain.
A few days passed and Asus, as normal released a BIOS update (Version 2001) for the trusty H81M-PLUS. Its description reads “Support Intel® Pentium® Anniversary Edition CPU (G3258)”. This was slightly odd as only a few weeks before they had released version 0807 which was for the support of the new “Haswell refresh” Processors but with rumors circulating that other chipsets (H81, B85, H87 & H97) would also support G3258 unlocked multipliers we had to have a go. We flashed our Guinea pig H81M-Plus and installed a G3258 and were presented with an AI tweaker menu in the BIOS. Its worth noting at this stage if you have an older BIOS installed (current H81M-PLUS boards are shipping with Version 0805 which is prior to even the “Haswell refresh” CPU’s) then you must install and older CPU that is supported by the older BIOS before you can flash the BIOS – install a newer CPU and the PC will simply refuse the post in much the same way a toddler reacting to being being told “no, you can’t have an ice cream”.
The biggest surprise was actually how many options were available to us. We were kind of expecting a simple multiplier number along with a CPU Voltage offset but were instead greeted with manual voltage control and a host of other features you would normally associate with a Z97 or Z87 based motherboard.
Intel G3258 Anniversary edition CPU
Asus H81M-PLUS motherboard
Xilence M606 CPU Cooler
Corsair CX500 PSU
Nvidia GTX 760 2GB
Seagate Barracuda 500GB HDD
Corsair Carbide Spec 01 Case
8GB Corsair XMS3 1600Mhz RAM
Like most overclocks today the overclock was relatively simple;
CPU Voltage Mode: Manual
CPU Voltage: 1.31
Load line Calibration: Medium
Out of the 4 chips we tried all of them didn’t want to know within 15 minutes when tested in prime95 but happily booted into Windows. Upping the Voltage to 1.4V gave us 2 stable 4.7Ghz CPU’s after 15 minutes In Prime95, nice! Ideally each test in Prime95 should be done for 24 hours (that’s the amount of time we qualify our overclocks here) but most duff clocks will fail within the first 15 minutes and we didn’t have that much patience to spend longer on it. Temperatures we on the spicy side creeping into the high 80’s centigrade and we wouldn’t recommended exceeding 80°C for your own overclocks when running small FFT’s in Prime95. A blend test in Prime95 saw low to mid eighties. Clearly 1.4V is too much for these processors.
For fun we pushed the surviving two Processors further – The first didn’t want to budge over 4.7Ghz but the second was stable at 4.8Ghz at a whopping 1.52V. Temperatures were silly and so we bolted a custom XSPC AX360 360mm Radiator, XSPC Raystorm CPU waterblock and a D5 pump to it and managed to stress test with temperatures sitting in the mid-eighties. It’s still too hot but we wanted to see if we could do it.
Now we were starting to see where this CPU would fit in. What we have is a budget CPU capable of some pretty good dual core processing grunt when given a budget motherboard and a well priced cooler. These processors are never going to be better than a i5 or i7 CPU so there is absolutely no point trying to make that possible – ultimately grabbing a nice Corsair H100 closed loop water cooler or creating a custom open water cooling loop to bring those CPU temperatures down under the desired 80°C is the solution, but this a budget CPU on a budget motherboard so doing so would kind of defeat the object. The extra £75 spent on a Corsair H100 cooler would almost give you the budget to swap the G3258 for a quad core i5 4460 which would be far wiser choice.
We reran the fun on our original spec and settled on the following settings;
CPU Voltage Mode: Manual
CPU Voltage: 1.31
Load line Calibration: Medium
All 4 CPUs then passed 15 minutes of Prime95 and sat below 80°C when testing small FFT’s. Result!
Overall overclocking the G3258 on a H81 motherboard gave pretty good results. This article is not here to show how good an overclocked G3258 AE is (that’s already all over the tinterweb) but merely to show that you don’t have to pair this CPU with an uber motherboard. Our results were very similar to what we managed to achieve with a considerably more expensive Gigabyte Z97X-SLI motherboard and given the lack of cores which is what holds the G3258 back, its simply not worth the cost of pairing it up with a high end motherboard unless you are looking for an intermediate solution.
The G3258 has its place in the custom PC world – For a budget system that is used for light gaming, a media centre or perhaps even as an office system. If you are only spending £45 on a CPU then it makes sense to pair it with a £40 motherboard even if you don’t plan on overclocking it. For a small £25 - £35 investment on a processor cooler and a few hours of tinkering you can bump the frequency quite easily from 3.2Ghz to 4.6Ghz for a 43.75% improvement that’s got to be a bargain in anyone’s eyes!