Intel Core i3-8350K
Driving the budget concept in a whole new direction.
There are two important factors when it comes to the Core i3-8350K: Firstly, it is unlocked, and secondly, it costs $260. It’s good that you can overclock it, but that’s unquestionably a lot of money for a chip that most of us would perceive as being a budget offering. For context, this isn’t the only 8th-gen Core i3 currently available, as the Core i3-8100 rolls in at a much more palatable $169 — Intel clearly knows what sort of price it can expect to charge for budget hardware, even if it has decided to ignore that here.
Pricing aside, it’s worth going over what your cash does actually get you. Under Intel’s new branding, a Core i3 is a quad-core processor that lacks Hyper-Threading ( just like the Core i5), but also lacks a Turbo mode. To be fair, the base clock frequency of 4GHz is healthy enough, even if it won’t be jumping up and down as more/fewer cores are used. But this CPU also happens to be unlocked, so if you want to push the chip harder, you can.
You get 8MB of cache to help keep things ticking along nicely, support for up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, and integrated graphics in the form of Intel’s UHD Graphics 630, which has a nominal base clock of 350MHz, capable of hitting a maximum speed of 1.15GHz. While this obviously can’t compete with dedicated graphics silicon when it comes to driving the very latest games, it does mean that you can build a machine without a discrete GPU, keeping both the price and size of the machine down.
There is one small problem when it comes to that notion of budget, though, and it’s that your options on the motherboard front are limited to a single chipset, and that’s the enthusiast-class Z370. There is a surprisingly good spread of options here, but with even the cheapest starting out at $170, we’re some way off the $100 starting point that formed the basis of many a budget Core i3 build using the B250 motherboards from the previous generation. More budget-conscious chipsets should be on the way, but for now, the combo of this chip alongside the cheapest Z370 board starts out at around $430 in Australia. Gulp.
Performance, however, is great. That high base clock speed combined with four real cores makes for some great results. Indeed, in testing, this chip was just a shade off the performance offered by the last-gen Core i5-7600K. Here, we’ve compared it to the closest priced chip from AMD, the Ryzen 5 1500X, which is a quad-core chip as well, albeit with Simultaneous Multi-Threading, so it can handle eight threads. It’s a neck and neck fight, with the added threads of the Ryzen helping it to win in some areas, but the raw grunt from Intel’s singlecore performance trumping Team Red elsewhere.
When it comes to overclocking, we managed to get our silicon running at 4.9GHz, with only a little extra voltage (1.4V), resulting in a Cinebench score of 784 (with a singlethread score of 205). Impressive figures.
The real problem for this unlocked Core i3 is Intel’s own Core i5-8400, a chip that costs just $20 more, yet boasts 50% more cores. The Core i5 also has more cache and a lower TDP. Of course, you can’t overclock that chip, which is a definite win for the Core i3-8350K, but on balance, we’d still prefer to have the extra cores.