Over the last several years, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) neglected the very low end of the computing market. This enabled competitor Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) to gain a real foothold in notebooks and cheap desktops. The chip giant finally struck back with the Bay Trail-M and Bay Trail-D platforms for low-cost notebooks and desktops, respectively, and now Intel appears finally ready to fight for lower-end PC gamer dollars as well.
Intel, where have you been?
In the PC enthusiast world, many users like to do what is called overclocking. The idea here is to take a chip rated at a certain speed and then push it to higher speeds. This increases the power consumption of the processor -- often nonlinearly with respect to the performance gained -- but it's a solid option for users looking to eke more performance out of their existing hardware.
Since the release of Intel's Sandy Bridge in 2011, overclocking the company's processors required special "unlocked" chips. No longer could a budget processor be pushed to its extremes -- one needed to pay a premium for that privilege by buying special "K" SKUs that came in i5 and i7 flavors.
While its intent here was to drive up ASPs and mix, the fact that Intel did not offer unlocked processors across the stack gave rival AMD a niche to exploit at the low end.
Enter the Pentium G3258
Alongside Intel's recently launched Devil's Canyon processor (this is a high-end overclocking-focused chip), the company's Pentium G3258 chip became available for sale. This $75 processor sports two Haswell processor cores (with hyperthreading -- a feature that allows one processor core to act as two -- disabled), as well as the obligatory Intel HD graphics block. It's also unlocked.
Tom's Hardware, a leading technology site, was so impressed with this processor's performance and power efficiency that it replaced the AMD Athlon X4 750K with the G3258 as the best gaming CPU for $75 (though the Athlon remains an honorable mention). Legit Reviews, too, wrote favorably on the new part:
If you're looking to build a dedicated LAN gaming machine or Steam Box, the Intel Pentium G3258 is a great option for only ~$60-$65. I found it was able to keep up with the Intel Core i7-4770K in most of the games and even come out ahead when it was overclocked!
Things are looking pretty good for Intel's new chip.
As Intel realizes that over the long term filling its factories with as much company-designed chip volume as possible (and denying that volume to its competitors) is the best course of action, investors are likely to continue to see these types of aggressive moves. The Pentium G3258 in itself isn't going to move the needle for Intel, but a lot of such moves in aggregate could.