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Why Upgrade to Core i3?
Hyper-Threading, DMI bus, higher processing speed and HD 2500/4000 graphics, along with low power consumption provided by the i3 lines make them worth an upgrade.

We live in times where computing power, once available only at the level of super computers, is now within grasp of the common man. The forerunner in this race to provide the fastest computer processors, who's probably miles ahead of its competitors, is the computing giant Intel. The company delivers chips with varying degrees of power and clocking speed to serve the diverse requirement levels of its users. These include the entry-level, mid-level and high-end processors. The core i3 processors, now in their third generation Ivy Bridge line have supplanted the core 2 duo line in the entry level domain. In fact the old core 2 duo line was overthrown by the first two generations of i3 processors long ago. The new hierarchy of Intel chips, in ascending order of computing power, are the core i3, i5 and i7 processors.

All these lines have now evolved to their third generation with the 22nm Ivy Bridge architecture being the latest. Although core 2 duo processors are slowly being phased out of production, they are still available in the market. The old war horses are still in use all over the world. In this Buzzle article, I present a comparison of third, second and first generation core i3 vs. core 2 duo processors, which may help you decide which one to go for. If you can't make up your mind about whether or not, an upgrade to a core i3 line would be worth it, keep reading ahead.

Intel Core i3 Vs. Core 2 Duo Comparison


Intel Core i3
3rd Generation
Intel Core 2 Duo
Core Number
22
Processing Threads
42
Lithography
22 nm45 nm
RAM
DDR3DDR2
Hyper-Threading
YesNo
HD Graphics
YesNo
Smart Cache
YesNo
Integrated GPU
YesNo


A comparison between processors was simple some years ago with a single core processor. All you had to look at was the clocking frequency and cache size. The entry of multiple core chips changed it all and life became complicated. With dual, quad and even six core processors hitting the market, there are many more factors to be considered, than before. Intel's dual core and core 2 duo processors were the first ones to introduce multi-core processor based computing.

Today, Intel has gone through a phase of radical innovation to introduce three successive generations of core i3 processors, that are a significant improvement over the core 2 duo line. The following comparison will provide an overview about how the i3 processors are different from their dual core predecessors. The two points of comparison will be technical specifications and the only other factor which matters, which is - performance.

Technical Specifications

Like the core 2 duo processors, the new core i3 line of processors have two cores, with many other technological enhancements, including an integrated GPU (Graphic Processing Unit). The clocking frequency of the core i3 series of processors ranges from 2.26 GHz to 3.06 GHz.

Each processor is endowed with the new line of advanced technologies including Intel developed Hyper-Threading, Intel Virtualization and Smart Cache technology which makes these chips faster than core 2 duo processors. This is the most important point in this core i3 vs. core 2 duo comparison.

The Intel codename for the first generation core i3 architecture is 'Clarkdale'. They are based on Westmere architecture with 32 nm fabrication and a direct media interface (DMI) bus. The socket type used for core i3 processors is LGA 1156 and the RAM type is DDR3. They support mother boards with the following types of chipsets- H55, P55, H57 and Q57.

In mid-2011, a second generation Intel core i3 series was launched, consisting of 17 processors. It includes the core i3-2100 desktop series and the core i3-2300 mobile processor series. They are enabled with some new technologies, which include Intel Fast Memory Access, Intel Flex Memory Access, Quick Sync Video, InTru 3D Technology, Thermal Monitoring Technologies and Intel Insider, which are not available in the first generation core i3 series of processors. Besides a doubled DMI operating speed (5 GT/sec) and lowered power consumption, they are equipped with the Intel HD Graphics 2000 technology.

Very recently, a reincarnation of the core i3 was launched in the form of Ivy Bridge microarchitecture with a 22 nm manufacturing process. Using tri-gate or 3D transistors, Intel has managed to add more transistors in lesser space creating high-performance, power-efficient chips. With Hyper-Threading (simultaneous multithreading) enabled, the two built-in third generation core i3 processors can work on four threads simultaneously, thus making parallel computing possible. Besides the substantial boost in computing power, these chips offer 3 MB smart cache, with on-board Intel HD 4000/2500 graphics that can run intensive graphics without an external video card. In both desktop and mobile domain, these processors currently rule the market.

So how does the old dual core line measure up against these computing 'young turk' core i3 processors? Let's find out. Core 2 Duo processors came in three types of architectures, codenamed as 'Conroe', 'Wolfdale' and 'Allendale'. With 65 nm and 45 nm fabrications, they are a tad slower and less power efficient than the 32 nm/22nm based core i3 processors. The socket used for core 2 duo processors is LGA 775 and they come with a FSB bus. This bus type is a lot slower in operation, compared to the DMI bus in core i3 processors.

Coupled with the fact that i3 processors have a L2 cache size of 2 x 256 Kb and a L3 cache size of 4MB/3MB, with Hyper-Threading and Smart Cache enabled, core 2 duo processors are indeed slower. Moreover, DDR3 compatibility in core i3 processors, compared to DDR2 compatibility of core 2 duo processors, makes them faster. The price range of Intel core i3 is $100 to $133, which makes them top options in the entry-level market. The price of the third and second generation core i3 line ranges from $117 to $250. On the other hand, the price range of core 2 duo desktop line, which is still in production, ranges from $112 to $285.

Performance Compared

The technical specifications have made it clear that Intel core i3 beats its predecessor, core 2 duo, in almost all departments and in all three generations. This is but natural, as they were indeed designed to replace them. Be it processing speed, multitasking or graphic output, opting for core i3 processors is the logical choice to make. It is also clear that the second generation core i3 line has already been superseded by the third generation. Things change very rapidly in the technological arena. So if you want to go for the best entry-level processors, choose from the third generation core i3 line of processors. For your convenience, I have listed the best core 2 duo, core i3 (1st, 2nd and 3rd generation processors) in the following table.

Best Core 2 Duo Desktop ProcessorsBest 1st Generation Core i3 Processors
Core 2 Duo E8600
(6M Cache, 3.33 GHz)
Core i3-560
(4M Cache, 3.33 GHz)
(Desktop)
Core 2 Duo
E8500 (6M Cache, 3.16 GHz)
Core i3-550
(4M Cache, 3.20 GHz)
(Desktop)
Core 2 Duo
E8400 (6M Cache, 3.00 GHz)
Core i3-390M
(3M Cache, 2.66 GHz)
(Mobile)
Core 2 Duo E8300
(6M Cache, 2.83 GHz)
Core i3-380UM
(3M Cache, 1.33 GHz)
(Mobile)


Best 2nd Generation Core i3 ProcessorsBest 3rd Generation Core i3 Processors
Core i3-2130 (3M Cache, 3.40 GHz)
(Desktop)
Core i3-3240(3M Cache, 3.40 GHz)
(Desktop)
Core i3-2125
(3M Cache, 3.30 GHz)
(Mobile)
Core i3-3225
(3M Cache, 3.30 GHz)
(Desktop)
Core i3-2350M
(3M Cache, 2.30 GHz)
(Mobile)
Core i3-3130M
(3M Cache, up to 2.60 GHz)
(Mobile)
Core i3-2340UE (3M Cache, 1.30 GHz
(Mobile)
Core i3-3227U
(3M Cache, up to 1.90 GHz)(Mobile)

Dual core chips will always stay in vogue, despite the onslaught of quad and hexa-core processors, as they serve the multitude and most software programs are still built to utilize two cores at the most. Going for an advanced line of processors is always beneficial in the long run. You should also check out the Intel core i5 and core i7 processors before going ahead, as they offer far more computing power and speed, compared to the entry-level core i3 or core 2 duo lines. Decide on the processor you want, according to your usage requirements and of course giving due thought to your vitamin 'M' levels, before choosing one!