The Intel budget category of CPUs can get a bit confusing. You have the Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium and the Intel Core i3 all in the seemingly “budget” or “entry-level” categories of CPUs.
In many instances having so many lines of budget CPUs seems a bit redundant. However, there are a plethora of differences between Pentium and Core i3 processors that make them quite distinct from each other.
In the simplest of terms, the Intel Pentium CPUs are INFERIOR to the Intel Core i3 CPUs in terms of performance. However, the Intel Pentium CPUs are also cheaper.
The clear demarcation of price and performance between these two Intel CPUs line make them both still quite viable for their respective market segment.
We will explore the differences between the two further more below.
Important Note: When Comparing, Select CPUs from the Same Generation!
Before comparing any two CPUs or a CPU line it is imperative that you compare them ideally from the same generation.
For instance, you cannot compare a 10th Generation Intel Core series processor with a decade old Pentium processor.
With that in mind, let us talk about the differences between Intel Pentium and Core i3 CPUs with examples.
Key Differences Between Pentium and Core i3 CPUs (Desktop)
Basically, given any CPU generation, the Intel Core i3 has a superior performance to the Intel Pentium CPUs.
For Instance, considering the recent “Comet-Lake” or 10th Generation DESKTOP-BASED Intel CPUs, the Intel Core i3 offers 4 cores whereas the Intel Pentium CPUs offer 2 cores.
The table below explains the key features considering current 10th Gen (Comet-Lake) CPUs.
||Intel Core i3
|Current Flaghip CPU (Desktop)
||Intel Pentium Gold G6600
|Intel Core i3 10320
|Hyper-Threading||Yes (4 Threads)||Yes (8 Threads)|
||Lower Clock Speed||Higher Clock Speed|
|Boost Clock Speed
||Lower Cache||Higher Cache|
||Light day to day work such as browsing, school work, writing reports, light casual gaming etc.||Entry into the Performance Grade PC Builds, For AAA gaming at a budget, for working on professional software with light workloads|
Basically, both Intel Pentium and the Intel Core i3 serve two very different purposes.
Intel Pentium is intended for those who have a very basic computing demands. So if you are looking for a CPU for day-to-day computing such as writing emails, watching movies, researching, surfing on the web, then Pentium is way to go.
Once you start delving into the Intel Core i3 series, you are now beginning to scratch the surface of performance grade CPUs. These are intended for gamers and professionals on a budget.
Also Read: What is AMD Equivalent to Intel Core i3?
Performance and Cost Benchmark
One of the biggest advantage Intel Pentium has to its side is its cost. An Intel Pentium CPU typically costs almost HALF as much as an Intel Core i3 CPUs.
The question is: Are Intel Pentium CPUs HALF as much powerful as Intel Core i3 CPUs?
The following table should explain this further:
||MSRP ($)||Cinebench R15
|Intel Core i3 10320
|Intel Core i3 10100
|Intel Pentium G6600
|Intel Pentium G6400
In the table above, we have selected two DESKTOP-BASED CPUs from both Intel Core i3 and Intel Pentium (latest Gen).
The flagship CPUs are expensive with a lower performance/dollar value. whereas the popular “value” based CPUs have a better performance/dollar value.
If I were you, I would always go for the “value” based models. Anyhow I digress. Going back to the benchmarks above, we can see some very interesting results
Not a Huge Single Core Performance Difference Between the Two
When comparing the single core performance, there isn’t a significant difference between Intel Pentium and Intel Core i3 processors.
There is perhaps a 14-15% difference between the two in single core performance.
The Single Core performance is a very important factor of a CPU as it determines how well it would perform on single-threaded applications.
However, single-core performance is only one part of the equation for a CPU.
Also Read: Is Intel Celeron Good for School Work?
Significant Multi-Core Performance Difference Between the Intel Pentium and Core i3
The critical difference between the two series is in their multi-core performance difference. In terms of multi-core performance, the Intel Core 3s are about 60% more powerful than the Intel Pentium CPUs.
As mentioned earlier, Intel Core i3 CPUs have twice as many cores as Intel Pentium CPUs (given the current gen) and hence naturally they have at least twice as good a multi-core performance.
The multi-core performance of a CPU determines how well it can multi-task and how well it can handle apps and services running simultaneously.
PCs, apps and games today are complex. You can have so many critical background applications and services running in the background without you even knowing about them.
Having more cores can significantly improve your experience particularly if you are a gamer or someone who works on professional software.
Also Read: What Does Processor Count Mean?
For Gaming, Aim for Atleast a Quad Core CPU
There was a time half or so decade ago when games did not scale well with multiple cores. In fact, a decade ago, an Intel Pentium would have given you almost the same performance as an Intel Core i3 CPU in gaming.
Modern AAA games and their engines, however, are particularly designed to scale well with multiple cores. Hence, if you are remotely a AAA title gamer, a Quad Core Intel Core i3 CPU is the least I would recommend today.
Balancing Single and Multi-Core Performance
Having a lot of cores and an over the top multi-core score doesn’t always mean better performance.
For instance, the Intel Core i9-11900K, the workstation grade CPUs with 8 cores and 16 threads scores a whopping 2575 on Cinebench R15. Compare this to a mere 1080 for Intel Core i3-10320.
However, if your workload does not make use of so many cores and threads, you will not see any kind of performance difference in your games or applications.
An over-the-top core count is often used by professionals and is used in video rendering, simulation, machine learning, and also for simulation games such as Cities:Skyline and Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Also Read: What is a Good Processor for a Laptop?
Differences In Laptop-Based Intel Core i3 and Pentium CPUs
When it comes to mobile or laptop based CPUs, the key overall performance difference mirrors that of the desktop-based variants i.e the Intel Core i3 is twice as powerful, whereas the Pentium is half as cheap.
However, there are a few key spec differences. For one, the laptop-based Intel Core i3 has the same amount of cores as the Intel Pentium.
The real winner for Intel Core i3 for laptop-grade CPUs is the Turbo boost frequency. The Intel Core i3-10110U can reach speeds of a whopping 4.1 GHz per core – almost twice as high as that of the Intel Pentium Gold 6405U.
|Intel Pentium Gold 6405U
|Intel Core i3-10110U
Here we looked into the differences between Pentium and Core i3 processors from the latest generation.
We looked at a handful of desktop models for both CPU lines, however, the same general idea can be applied to most, if not all, desktop and mobile grade Intel Core i3 and Intel Pentium CPUs.
The bottom line can be summarized as follows: While the Intel Pentiums are half as cheap as Intel Core i3s, the Intel Core i3s are more than twice as powerful.
As such, the value of money remains almost the same for both. The deciding factor between the two is your budget and the work you plan to perform.