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Intel Skylake i5-6500, i5-6400 & i3-6100 Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
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Messages
12,840
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Montreal
Gaming Benchmarks (1080P) – IGP

Gaming Benchmarks (1080P) – IGP


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Integrated graphics performance is an area where Intel has been historically weak but there are some rays of hope here. While AMD still reigns supreme for the most part, Intel’s domination in standard processing workloads allows their new Skylake processors to remain quite competitive.
While absolutely none of the i5 or i3 processors will achieve playable framerates in more demanding titles, more basic MOBAs and MMOs could provide perfect opportunity for them to shine provided expectations remain in-line. We do however like when we are seeing from the i3-6100; its high core speed alongside one of the faster Skylake iGPU’s results in some very good numbers relative to the alternatives.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
System Power Consumption

System Power Consumption


Our power consumption numbers are broken down into two categories: one which simply stresses all of the CPU cores with WPrime and another which puts a high amount of load on both the CPU cores and the IGP. The latter will only be included if a given processor includes a dedicated internal graphics sub-processor.

For the CPU power consumption test, we use the standard testing system (with an NVIDIA GTX 980 installed) and wait until the system and discrete GPU are at idle speeds in order to log the idle power consumption. After this, WPrime 1024M is looped for 15 minutes while the power consumption is logged with a calibrated power meter to determine the average watts.


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The Skylake architecture is extremely efficient and all the processors in this review highlight exactly that. Intel’s i5-6400 and i5-6500 remain well below the 90W mark when under load, even when a discrete GPU is installed. The i3-6100 isn’t that far behind, though given the fact it has two less cores we were expecting it to be a bit less power hungry.

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Without a GPU installed not much changes though we do want to highlight the idle power numbers. These are likely due to platform differences, and even though we initially pointed towards Skylake’s immaturity, nothing has changed after numerous BIOS revisions.

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Due to its higher IGP clocks, the i3-6100 runs right with its i5 brethren here despite its lower TDP. Nonetheless, all the power consumption numbers for these Skylake processors are very low.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Conclusion; Surprising Performance, Budget Price

Conclusion; Surprising Performance, Budget Price


The launch of Intel’s Skylake processors marked a very different approach from previous generations, one which focused on a very gradual product stack rollout. Whether that was by plan or some other combination of divine circumstances, Intel was extremely successful in pushing many buyers – even those who had no intent of overclocking- towards their high priced i7-6700K and to a lesser extent the i5-6600K. Meanwhile the other i5 and i3 CPUs were gradually rolled out without much coverage. As we’ve seen throughout this review, these processors for the everyman may not push the boundaries in our benchmarks but from a price for performance standpoint they are phenomenal options for the vast majority of users.

This review’s results are very much broken down into two separate categories, those achieved by the i5-6500 / i5-6400 and the i3-6100. Focusing in on the former CPUs presents us with an interesting combination of capabilities and shortcomings. The key word with both i5 options is consistency; they didn’t feature the application specific performance gyration of the i3-6100 due to an inclusion of high level feature sets like AES-256 acceleration and Turbo Boost. Meanwhile everything from synthetic benchmark performance to workstation-specific workloads successfully bridged the gap between the i3 series and leading edge i7 processors. In many cases they exhibited numbers that easily matched the Haswell i5-46xx CPUs which goes to highlight the advances Intel made with this generation.

The i3-6100 is a processor with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mentality. With a truncated feature set yet impressively high clock speeds it can blow higher level CPUs out of the water yet also lose by a huge amount as well. In heavily multi threaded workloads a pair of processor cores alongside less cache and a lack of Turbo Boost contribute to challenging times in many situations. However, when two or less threads are engaged this thing absolutely flies.

Approaching the i3-6100 becomes a lesson in expectation management. Do you expect a $120 CPU to be proficient at high level workstation-class workloads like HDR rendering and AES decryption / encryption? It’s simply not built for that, nor does it target any professional oriented market niche. You’ll need to upgrade to the i5 for those capabilities. The i3-6100 can certainly provide adequate performance in any of those scenarios but at lower speeds than better equipped and more expensive alternatives. However, where it reigns supreme is in standard usage cases and gaming; you know, the nuts and bolts situations most users encounter every day.

Gaming with a discrete GPU alongside these three processors is really something that needs to be discussed from a holistic standpoint and as a separate topic altogether. I’m having a crisis of conscience since the i5-6500, i5-6400 and i3-6100 performed so damn well in games that one has to wonder why a gamer (notice I’m not saying “overclocker” here since in most cases they are not one and the same) would need anything else. Ultimately at 1080P and higher resolutions even a GTX 980 becomes the bottleneck long before any of these processors step in to limit framerates.

The eight threads provided by something like the i7-6700K may provide tangible benefits when developers get around to rolling out DX12’s higher level multi threaded feature sets into their titles but that’s just a hypothetical situation right now. In reality few games take advantage of more than two simultaneous threads and as a result the i3-6100 may be one of the best CPUs currently available for the sole purpose of gaming. The price difference between it and an i7-6700K (about $230 right now) is about the same that separates the GTX 980 Ti and GTX 980 with $30 to spare. I’ll give you one guess as to which upgrade will net you boatloads more gaming performance…

Now the i3-6100 may be a bit too one dimensional for some users who want great in-game framerates but also need their desktop to accomplish other more demanding tasks that lie outside a typical home use environment. In those cases the i5-6400 and i5-6500 provide awesome alternatives once again without the stratospherically high i7-series premium.

Overclocking is something that hasn’t been broached in this review but it needs to be discussed. Now that motherboard vendors have once again locked out BCLK overclocking for non-K processors, every one of the Skylake-S CPUs can’t even be factored into the equation unless you are willing to use an older BIOS. In the past this wouldn’t have been too much of a concern for typical users since boosting frequencies took knowledge and time they may not have had. However, today’s motherboards are so proficient at overclocking those K-series chips with the push of a button that the “free” boost in performance is quite appealing. It may not be beneficial right now but as workloads evolve in the future (both in games and other applications) it may be the lynchpin needed to keep a system relevant.

For budget-minded users who don’t need overclocking the i5-6500, i5-6400 and i3-6100 all provide excellent performance without the huge prices demanded by Intel’s K-series processors. They aren’t perfect for every scenario but in the vast majority of situations, it’s very hard to argue against what’s being brought to the table. As you can probably tell by this conclusion, the i3-6100 found a special place in my heart as the ultimate price / performance CPU right now. While overclocking isn’t part of its repertoire, the in-game framerates and general usage performance it brings to the table is just what folks need if they are looking to maximize their GPU, storage or motherboard purchase without throwing down tons of money on a processor upgrade.

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Intel Core i3-6100
 
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