Intel Devils Canyon header_edit

Although it isn’t a Devil’s Canyon processor, Intel’s Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition could be considered a nod to the overclocking-focused past that the brand is famous for. The G3258 is the cheapest, multiplier-unlocked dual-core Haswell processor available on the market and it is making life hell for AMD, particularly when the software market is still so heavily focused on single-threaded performance. What does this little Pentium offer, then, to the consumer and what would you need to get the most out of it? Hit the jump to read a little more into this tiny monster.

Pricing locally is competitive

Comparing Processors – R800 to R1600

Rebel Tech TakeAlot Raru Wootware Landmark PC
Intel Pentium G3240 3.1GHz dual-core R721  R696 R763 R780 R760
AMD A6-6320 3.8-4.0GHz dual-core R755 R820  R732  R801
Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz unlocked dual-core R828 R849 
AMD Athlon 5350 2.0GHz quad-core R844  R848  R870
AMD A6-6400K 3.9-4.1GHz unlocked dual-core R849 R820  R869  R900  R877
Intel Pentium G3450 3.4GHz dual-core R1281   R1310 R1324
Intel Core i3-4150 3.5GHz dual-core with HT R1427 R1490 R1489 R1504
AMD FX-4300 3.8-4.0GHz unlocked quad-core R1548 R1543  R1532 R1517 R1577
AMD A8-6600K 3.9-4.2GHz unlocked quad-core R1572 R1568  R1454 R1613  R1629
Intel Core i3-4330 3.5GHz dual-core with HT R1629 R1566 R1720 R1703 R1719
AMD FX-6300 3.5-4.1GHz unlocked six-core R1791 R1755  R1672 R1655 R1729

Initially I could not believe that the entry price for the Pentium G3258 would be so low. When accounting for today’s (07 July 2014) exchange rate to the US Dollar, things get even more weird – $75 converted is R810.08 (at R10.80 to US $1) and that’s only a few rum and cokes away from Rebel Tech  and Wootware’s advertised price points. Locally, Intel is extremely competitive in the low-end market and mostly uncompetitive once you hit the R1500 bracket. If you just want a dual-core CPU that’s good enough for modern games right out of the box, the Pentium G3220 is around R600, which is a good example of Intel using their position as market leader locally to maintain that iron grip through low prices.

Moving along, though, the Pentium G3258 is cheap – we get that. Overclocked even modestly to 4.2GHz, however, it begins to behave like a Core i3-4330, which costs twice as much, has twice as many threads and doesn’t even share the same power rating. Compared to the only other unlocked dual-core processor on the market, the A6-6400K, it’s a much better performer at stock and overclocked speeds, however the AMD chip has the benefit of being able to overclock on almost any socket FM2/FM2+ motherboard.

The value play for the Pentium G3258 is there and for games that aren’t GPU-limited the higher clock speeds would certainly be welcome. If you mostly play GPU-limited games then there isn’t much of a reason to invest in the chip and a decent Z87/Z97 motherboard when a Pentium G3220 and a cheap H81 motherboard would give you almost exactly the same performance.

As a stepping stone to Broadwell…

Comparing ATX/mATX Z97 motherboards – R1500 to R2500

Rebel Tech TakeAlot Raru Wootware Landmark PC
MSI Z97 PC-Mate ATX R1661 R1715 R1683 R1700
ASRock Z97 Pro4 ATX R1694 R1688 R1766 R1495  R1750
MSI Z97 Guard-Pro ATX R1780  R1838  R1803  R1821
ASRock Z97M OC Formula mATX R1899
ASUS Z97-P ATX R1936
ASUS Z97M-Plus mATX R1941 R1987 R1996 R2005
ASUS Z97-K ATX R1962 R2009 R2017 R2027
Gigabyte GA-Z97-D3H ATX R2002 R2113 R2092 R2114
ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer ATX R2058 R2051 R2145 R2105 R2126
ASRock Z97 Extreme4 ATX R2179 R2172 R2272 R1995 R2252
ASUS Z97-C ATX R2184 R2236 R2234 R2256
MSI Z97 Gaming 3 ATX R2299 R2343 R2452 R2405 R2429
MSI Z97 SLI Plus ATX R2301 R2376 R2365 R2376
Gigabyte GA-Z97X Gaming 3 ATX R2306 R2495 R2470 R2571
MSI Z97M Gaming mATX R2375 R2452 R2405 R2429
ASUS Z97-A ATX R2427 R2484 R2495 R2507
Gigabyte GA-Z97MX Gaming 5 mATX R2427 R2557 R2509 R2571
MSI Z97 Gaming 5 ATX R2550 R2741 R2743

The issue that remains, though, is motherboard compatibility. The Pentium G3258 is a drop-in upgrade for most of the LGA1150 8-series and 9-series boards and it’ll run like a regular Pentium G3240 for most of the time. When it comes to overclocking, however, things are a bit murky. Out of all the boards listed here, currently one of them is ideal if you’re planning to just pick up the Pentium G3258 and have fun with it, namely the ASRock Z97M OC Formula. That is an introductory price, though and it’s only a little better than the Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, which offers the same overclocking capabilities and 8-phase VRM layout.

Some of Intel’s partners, namely ASUS, ASRock and Gigabyte, have motherboards that are capable of overclocking the G3258 and do not feature the Z87/Z97 chipset. Although most don’t have the kind of VRM layouts that would support the chip clocked to super-high speeds, 4.0GHz at stock voltages should be doable on most hardware. The question then remains: would Intel let this chip run rampant and leave it unlocked on cheaper boards?

It’s not a question of price or concern for the welfare of AMD, no. The main concern here is that Intel wants people to buy the Broadwell-K chips when they come out in late 2014 – someone has to buy them. The Pentium G3258 is the perfect stepping stone because you can invest in a good board, good memory and a great GPU and simply plop in the R800-odd chip and overclock it to keep things running.

But if they allow their board partners to enable overclocking the chip on H81, H87 and H97 boards, less people will buy the Broadwell-K chips. As it is now, the only thing that Broadwell will bring is a new production process and more energy efficiency , but it’s at least four months out from now – Devil’s Canyon processors, meanwhile, are available today.

So ideally, you’d buy this chip together with a decent Z97 board because you’re moving to Broadwell for real, or you don’t have enough money for a Core i5 or i7 K-series processor just yet. There is the possibility that a cheap Z87 board would do just as well, although you’re limiting your upgrade path to regular Haswell chips and not Devil’s Canyon in most cases. Perhaps you hit it lucky and find that some H87/H97 boards work just fine with a BIOS update, so you leave them on that BIOS version to enable overclocking and enjoy the free speed. Win-win.

But for the majority of people out there the Pentium G3258 doesn’t mean much. There’s just too much uncertainty and there’s not enough information for myself or anyone else to recommend this chip along with a cheap board – at any time, Intel can call in some of its partners and coerce them to disable the overclocking functionality.

That risk isn’t worth your money.