A very common discussion is about the need for a CPU upgrade from time to time. Some people believe a high-end CPU will always be better than an entry-level one, but other people have the opinion that a new generation CPU will be better than an old one. In order to check this, we tested a Core 2 Quad processor, which was a high-end CPU six years ago, and ran the same tests on three modern basic processors: a Core i3-4150, a Pentium N3700, and an Athlon 5150. Check out which is the faster CPU!
It is important to keep in mind that this test has the only objective to satisfy our curiosity, to test a myth, and not to provide a comparison between the tested CPUs, because it not only includes a discontinued processor, but also products from different price ranges, electrical consumptions, and target market, not being direct competitors in any form.
The Core 2 Quad Q8300 was launched in 2008 and used the LGA775 socket, being a popular high-end CPU during the year of 2009, with its four cores and (at the time) innovative 45 nm manufacturing process.
It is important to say that the Core 2 Quad Q8300 was not the most high-end CPU at the time, and can even be considered a mainstream processor, depending on the criteria you use. We believe we can fit it on the high-end segment, considering that, at the time, Intel was offering three desktop CPU families: Celeron (low-end), Core 2 Duo (mainstream), and Core 2 Quad (high-end).
The Core i3-4150 is a basic/mainstream CPU from the fourth generation Core i family, with two cores, that are recognized by the operating system as four thanks to the Hyper-Threading technology. The Pentium N3700 and the Athlon 5150, on the other hand, are low-cost, low-consumption CPUs, both with four cores.
An important detail is that, on the Core 2 Quad Q8300 setup, both the memory controlled and the integrated video are located at the chipset, while on the other three CPUs, those components are integrated in the CPU. Besides that, the Pentium N3700 and the Athlon 5150 are “SoC” (System on a Chip) processors, where the functions of the chipset are also integrated to the CPU.
Figure 1 shows the motherboard used for the Core 2 Quad Q8300, a Gigabyte G41MT-ES2L, based on the Intel G41 chipset, supporting DDR3 memory modules. Thanks to that, we could use the same DDR3 memories on all the tests.
Let’s compare the main specs of the reviewed CPUs in the next page.
[nextpage title=”The Reviewed CPUs”]
In the tables below, we compare the main features of the CPUs included in our review.
|CPU||Cores||HT||IGP||Internal Clock||Turbo Clock||Core||Tech.||TDP||Socket|
|Core 2 Quad Q8300||4||No||No||2.5 GHz||No||Yorkfield||45 nm||95 W||LGA775|
|75Core i3-4150||2||Yes||Yes||3.5 GHz||No||Haswell||22 nm||54 W||LGA1150|
|Pentium N3700||4||No||Yes||1.6 GHz||2.4 GHz||Braswell||14 nm||6 W||FCBGA1170|
|Athlon 5150||4||No||Yes||1.6 GHz||No||Kabini||28 nm||25 W||AM1|
Below you can see the memory configuration for each CPU.
|CPU||L2 Cache||L3 Cache||Memory Support||Memory Channels|
|Core 2 Quad Q8300||4 MiB||No||Up to DDR3-1066*||Two*|
|Core i3-4150||2 x 256 kiB||3 MiB||Up to DDR3-1600||Two|
|Pentium N3700||2 MiB||No||Up to DDR3L-1600||Two|
|Athlon 5150||2 MiB||No||Up to DDR3-1600||One|
* On LGA 775 CPUs, the memory controlled was located at the chipset, not at the processor. So, those characteristics refer to the Intel G41 chipset.
[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]
During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions, the only variable device was the CPU being tested and the motherboard, which had to be replaced to match the different CPUs.
- Motherboard (Core 2 Quad Q8300): Gigabyte G41MT-ES2L
- Motherboard (Core i3-4150): ASRock Z97 Extreme4
- Motherboard (Pentium N3700): ASRock N3700-ITX
- Motherboard (Athlon 5150): ASUS AM1M-A
- CPU Cooler: Intel/AMD stock
- Memory (Core 2 Quad Q8300, Core i3-4150, and Athlon 5150): 8 GiB DDR3-2133, two G.Skill Ripjaws F3-17000CL9Q-16GBZH 4 GiB memory modules configured at 1,066 MHz, 1,333 MHz or 1,600 MHz depending on the CPU
- Memory (Pentium N3700): 8 GiB DDR3L, two Kingston KVR16IS11/4 4GiB modules, configured at 1600 MHz
- Boot drive: Kingston HyperX Savage 480 GB
- Video Card: integrated
- Video Monitor: Philips 236VL
- Power Supply: Corsair CX500M
Operating System Configuration
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Video resolution: 1920 x 1080 60 Hz
- AMD driver version: 15.7
- Intel Inf chipset driver version: 10.0
- PCMark 8 2.4.304
- Cinebench R15
- DivX 10.2.3
- Media Espresso 6.7
- DVD Shrink 3.2
- 3DMark 1.5.915
- Adobe Photoshop CC + Retouch Artist Speed Test 1.0
We adopted a 4% error margin. Thus, differences below 4% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 4% should be considered as having similar performance.
[nextpage title=”PCMark 8″]
PCMark 8 is a benchmarking software that uses real-world applications to measure the computer performance. We ran two tests: Home, which includes web browsing, writing, light gaming, photo editing, and video chat tests; and Work, which runs tasks such as writing documents, web browsing, spreadsheets, editing, and video chatting.
We did not include the Creative benchmark because it is not supported by the integrated video of the G41 chipset.
[nextpage title=”Video encoding”]
We used the DivX converter, a tool included in the DivX package, in order to measure the encoding performance using this codec. The DivX codec is capable of recognizing and using all available cores and the SSE4 instruction set.
We converted a Full HD, six-minute long .mov video file into a .avi file, using the “HD 1080p” output profile. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the better.
On DivX encoding, the Core 2 Quad Q8300 was 41% slower than the Core i3-4150, 28% faster than the Pentium N3700, and 41% faster than the Athlon 5150.
Media Espresso 6.7
Media Espresso is a video conversion program that uses the graphics processing unit of the video engine to speed up the conversion process. We converted a 1 GiB, 1920x1080i, 23,738 kbps, .mov video file to a smaller 320×200, H.264, .MP4 file for viewing on a smartphone. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the better.
Here the Core 2 Quad Q8300 was 43% slower than the Core i3-4150, 29% faster than the Pentium N3700, and 49% faster than the Athlon 5150.
DVDShrink is an old but still very useful program to “shrink” video DVDs that have more than 4.7 GiB of data to fit single-layer DVD media. We used it to compress the DVD of “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” DVD to 4.7 GiB. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the better.
In this test, the Core 2 Quad Q8300 was 23% slower than the Core i3-4150, 65% faster than the Pentium N3700, and 84% faster than the Athlon 5150..
[nextpage title=”Cinebench R15″]
Cinebench R15 is based on the Cinema 4D software. It is very useful to measure the performance gain obtained by the presence of several processing cores while rendering heavy 3D images. Rendering is an area where a bigger number of cores helps a lot, because usually this kind of software recognize several processors (Cinebench R15, for example, can use up to 256 processing cores).
We ran the CPU benchmark, which renders a complex image using all the processing cores (real and virtual) to speed up the process. The result is given as a score.
On the CPU benchmark, the Core 2 Quad Q8300 was 26% slower than the Core i3-4150, 81% faster than the Pentium N3700, and 96% faster than the Athlon 5150.
[nextpage title=”Photoshop CC”]
The best way to measure the performance of a CPU is by using real programs. The problem, of course, is to create a methodology that offers precise results. For Photoshop CC we used a script named “Retouch Artist Speed Test”, which applies a series of filters to a standard image and gives the time Photoshop takes to run all of them. The results are given in seconds, so the less, the best.
In this test, the Core 2 Quad Q8300 was 22% slower than the Core i3-4150, 39% faster than the Pentium N3700, and 38% faster than the Athlon 5150.
3DMark is a program with a set of several benchmarks. The only one that runs on the G41 chipset integrated graphics, used by the Core 2 Quad Q8300, is the Ice Storm benchmark, which uses DirectX 9. So, we ran the Ice Storm Extreme benchmark.
On the Ice Storm Extreme benchmark, the video engine used with the Core 2 Quad Q8300 was 76% slower than the Core i3-4150’s, 61% slower than the Pentium N3700’s, and 55% slower than the Athlon 5150’s.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
The CPU microarchitecture has changed a lot from 2008 to present day. If we think only about Intel models, the memory controller and the GPU were incorporated to the CPU, Core microarchitecture advanced six generations, and the manufacturing process was reduced from 45 nm to 14 nm. With this, a basic/mainstream CPU like the Core i3-4150 can be significantly faster than the Core 2 Quad Q8300, which was a high-end processor, even with only two physical cores, against the four cores of the Core 2 Quad Q8300.
However, real low-end processors like the Pentium N3700 and the Athlon 5150, even also with four cores, did not reach the processing performance level of the Core 2 Quad Q8300. Of course, they are based on low-power microarchitectures, not focusing on performance. And, to be honest, for most current situations, it is better to use a CPU that dissipates only 6 W like the Pentium N3700 than a Core 2 Quad Q8300, which has a performance between 4% and 81% higher, but uses 1500% more electric power.
Another important subject is about the integrated video. On the Core 2 Quad Q8300 (as well as on all LGA775 CPUs), the onboard video is controlled by the chipset, not by the CPU. We could notice that the nowadays integrated video, even on the most basic CPUs, is faster than the solution provided by the G41 chipset we used with the Q8300. So, we can conclude that we are less dependant on a dedicated video card now than we were some years ago; today, you need a video card only on a “gamer” PC, or on very specific applications that need high video performance, or if you use a software that explicitly takes benefit on GPGPU technology.
So, our original question does not have a single answer: an old CPU can, in certain cases, be more powerful than a modern one. But, depending on how old is your CPU, even if it was a high-end model at the time, it can be outperformed by a mainstream or even by a low-end modern processor.