For more than a decade tech-savvy users on a budget would commonly buy a sub-$100 CPU and achieve performance comparable to $200-$300 chips by overclocking. The practice dates back to the early Pentium and Celeron days and was a practical way to extract more performance out of low-end systems until Intel locked its Celeron, Pentium and Core i3 ranges about four years ago.
In fact, even most Core i5 and i7 processors have locked clock multipliers, forcing users to spend big to overclock. The last time we saw overclockable budget CPUs from Intel was during its Core 2 days when you could pick up a Core 2 Duo E7200 for a whisker over $100 and easily push it to 3.8GHz, a 50% boost that let the chip crush the then $850 Core 2 Quad Q6600 and $266 Core 2 Duo E8600.
Although the clock multiplier of the non-Extreme Edition Core 2 processors was still locked, this architecture responded very well to front-side bus (FSB) overclocking. The E7200, for example, came clocked at 2.53GHz using a 266MHz FSB with a 9.5x clock multiplier, yet it would happily accept a 400MHz FSB, resulting in a frequency of 3.8GHz!
In a move to improve CPU performance, the FSB was eliminated and we now have what is known as the base clock. Unlike the front-side bus, the base clock only allows for very minor alterations and overclocking it by just 10MHz isn’t an easy task.
Even Intel’s most extreme overclocking-orientated processors, such as the Core i7-4790K, are tuned using just the clock multiplier. Moreover, it means the cheapest Intel CPU available to overclockers is the Core i5-4670K, which isn’t exactly made for budget systems at $240.
However, to mark the 20th anniversary of its Pentium brand, Intel has released a special fully unlocked Haswell dual-core Pentium G3258 for $72 — just what the overclocking community has been waiting for.
Today we not only plan to overclock the Pentium G3258, but demonstrate its capabilities in two builds that the most diehard gamer could be proud of. The systems are based on Asrock’s Z97 Anniversary motherboards, one is a standard ATX and the other uses the micro ATX version. Below is the full list of components used for each build.