The Intel Core i3-2120 is a very capable processor for the $149.68 price tag that online retailers are asking for it. It was able to do everything we asked it to during testing and the test system felt just as fast and responsive on the desktop as the higher-end Core i7-2600K processor. It was only when we got deep into the benchmarking that we were able to find the strengths and weaknesses of the Core i3-2120. Let’s talk a little bit about what the good and bad points happen to be for this specific processor.
One of the best selling points of this processor is the clock speed of the actual processor. The Intel Core i3-2120 features a 3.30GHz dual-core processor based on the 32nm ‘Sandy Bridge’ architecture, but don’t knock it for being just a dual-core processor as it features Hyper-Threading technology. This means that there are four threads available for use at any given time. Since the Core i3-2120 runs 200MHz faster on CPU it means that it will win any x86 CPU benchmark battle over the other Core i3 processors. This makes it faster than other Core-i3 21xx series processors like the Intel Core i3-2100 (3.10GHz) at $119.98 and the Core i3-2105 (3.10GHz) at $147.00. This is the strongest feature of the Core i3-2120 processor and if you are planning on doing transcoding, or number crunching the Intel Core i3-2120 is the way to go as it will complete the work you are throwing at the CPU faster.
The biggest downside to the Intel Core i3-2120 is most certainly the graphics. The Intel Core i3-2120 uses the underwhelming Intel HD Graphics 2000 engine that is already starting to show signs of aging. Intel has recognized this and has started to do something about it. Take the Intel Core i3-2100 for example. That has the same Intel HD Graphics 2000 and also came out in Q1 2011. Intel recently updated the CPU with Intel HD Graphics 3000 and re-named it the Core i3-2105 just recently in Q2 2011. The only difference between the Core i3-2100 and Core i2-2105 is the GPU that is being used. Remember the Intel HD Graphics 2000 has six execution units and the Intel HD Graphics 3000 has twelve execution units and the operate at the same clock speeds for the Core i3-21xx series. If you are worried about GPU performance and play games the Intel Core i3-2105 is the better buy and well worth the extra $27 over the Core i3-2100 if that is what you are after.
When it comes to overclocking performance the Intel Core i3-2120 didn’t do bad considering it is a locked CPU and doesn’t have Turbo Boost. Getting the base clock up to 104MHz was enough to boost the CPU core clock speed by nearly 130MHz and running the processor at 3.43GHz did bring a nice performance boost. We were also able to overclock the Intel HD Graphics 2000 engine up to 1250MHz from 1100MHz and that did help in the games, but not enough to catch up to the performance numbers we were seeing with the Intel HD Graphics 3000 enabled processors. It’s hard to catch up when you are dealing with only half a deck of cards!
The last area I wanted to touch on before wrapping this one up is power consumption. The Intel Core i3-2120 is very light on power and consumed the least amount of power of all four processors that we tested. This is likely due to the fact that it was the only Intel ‘Sandy Bridge’ processor that was tested with Intel HD Graphics 2000 and since it has half the execution units it uses less power. This is another reason to get this processor over the Core i3-2105 if you don’t plan on doing any gaming or GPU intensive tasks as it uses less power and produces less heat.
We hope you enjoyed our review on the Intel Core i3-2120 processor and if you happen to have any questions please post them up in the forums or feel free to e-mail us and ask!
Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Core i3-2120 Sandy Bridge processor is ideal for consumers that are looking for a CPU that is good at X86 CPU tasks and aren’t really worried about graphics.