Intel's Core i3 Still Trumps AMD's Budget Range

As expected, not a great deal has changed in the nine months since our original article. Intel's Core i3 range still trumps AMD's most affordable FX processor and the Skylake Core i3-6100 just cements that fact.

Anyone investing in one of Intel's budget Skylake processors isn't going to be spending big on their motherboard and being that the Core i3-6100 costs just $125, we suspect most will want to spend less than this on their board.

It's possible to pick up a Z170 motherboard for as little as $100, with several options priced between $100 and $120. Although H170 motherboards are $10 to $20 cheaper, we recommend avoiding them as they lack some key features that make the savings somewhat pointless. CPU overclocking is only offered by the Z170, though obviously this isn't a concern if you're buying the fully locked i3-6100, and nor is multi-GPU support.

For budget-conscious builders, H110 motherboards starting at around $60 will be hard to resist, especially considering they cost almost half as much as the cheapest Z170 motherboard. Feature-wise, the H110 is even leaner than the H170, forgoing M.2 support for instance, but how many budget builders aren't going to be happy with a 2.5" SATA SSD?

The main concern for many might be the lack of DDR4 memory overclocking support. As far as we know, all H110 motherboards will limit users to 2133MHz unless they support DDR3, which would limit the memory speed to 1600MHz.

Pricing for DDR4-2133 memory starts at just $45 for an 8GB kit, while the cheapest 3000MHz kit costs $65, a little over 40% more. At no point did we see performance gains that come even close to justifying that premium, so memory frequency support becomes a moot point then.

Compared to the Core i3-4170, the Core i3-6100 can be had for the same price and H81 motherboards are around $20 cheaper than H110 boards while 8GB of DDR3-1600 memory is about $10 cheaper than DDR4-2133 in the same capacity. That makes the Haswell Core i3 build a little over 10% cheaper, which is a relatively negligible difference.

Performance-wise, the Skylake Core i3-6100 is a whisker faster and doesn't consume any more power. The 'improved' HyperThreading performance is rarely seen and was only evident in a few select tests such as HandBrake. We'd say the biggest benefit to buying Skylake is the potential upgrade path.

Gaming performance was similar, though there were times where the i3-6100 was faster than the 4360. Keep in mind we were only using a $200 GeForce GTX 960 graphics card, so the margins will possibly be greater with a more extreme GPU such as the GTX 980 Ti, though this card wouldn't realistically be paired with a Core i3.

Overall, it appears the Skylake Core i3 processors aren't a great deal faster than their old Haswell equivalents, just as we found previously with the Core i5 and Core i7 processors.