The Skylake Core i3-6320 is the gamer's new best friend


— 8:09 PM on September 1, 2015

Today brings the official introduction of Intel's broad lineup of Skylake processors. This is the launch that brings us more affordable chips to go along with the Core i7-6700K and i5-6600K, which were released early.

As a result, we now know how the entire lineup of socketed desktop Skylake processors looks. There are a bunch of them beyond the two K-series parts, and they all have power ratings of 65W or less. Here's a look at the Core i3, i5, and i7 models.

That's a lot to take in, and I'm not sure what to make of each and every product. My general sense is that Intel would be better off presenting a simpler set of choices to consumers rather than tailoring chips for so many different fine gradations of price, speed, and features.

I think many PC enthusiasts will find the unlocked Core i5-6600K to be a better option than anything in the table above. That quad-core chip has a 91W power envelope and a 3.9GHz Turbo peak. For $242, it's more attractive to me than any of the regular Core i5 or i7 offerings.

If you're a PC gamer on a tight budget, though, I think you should give a long, hard look at the Core i3-6320 for $157. This chip has dual cores and four threads, which is probably optimal for most of today's games. We've seen games take advantage of four threads in many cases, but they rarely seem to care about whether chips are "real" quad-cores or just dual-core parts with four hardware threads. And heck, Skylake has improved Hyper-Threading compared to past generations.

At 3.9GHz, the i3-6320's two Skylake cores should offer a nice peak amount of per-thread performance, which makes this chip my Amdhal's Law special of the month. This CPU looks to be ideal for a mid-range gaming build. Unless you're going to be doing video encoding or something like that, you'll probably rarely miss the additional cores.

Since this is a Core i3, there's no Turbo involved, either. Both cores just run at 3.9GHz as needed. Also, the i3-6320 has a seriously skimpy 47W power envelope, so you could probably get by with a wimpy stock cooler and a lower-capacity power supply than you'd need for something with more cores.

For what it's worth, I'd like very much to back up my analysis with some testing, but Intel turned down our request for anything other than a 6700K for review. We'll have to consider doing a full review once the new Skylake desktop chips are available for purchase on the open market.

Speaking of good CPUs for gaming, you'll notice in the table above that there are no socketed Skylake processors with eDRAM onboard. That's a whole other story, which I've written about right here.

That said, there are more Skylake-derived parts coming out today. Here are the budget Pentiums:

These are interesting only in the sense that they might replace our beloved Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition, yet there is no successor to that unlocked overclocking dynamo being introduced today. We also have no indication of future plans for an unlocked Skylake Pentium, either.

Those folks building home-theater PCs or mini-ITX systems may be interested in the T-series parts, which are low-power variants of Intel's socketed desktop CPUs.

The 6700T squeezes an awful lot of power into a 35W envelope. Ain't cheap, though.

By the way, although the specs tables above come from Intel, I've clipped out some of the columns so that they'll fit our format. Just know that all of the socketed Skylake chips support two memory speeds: DDR4 at 2133 MT/s and DDR3L at 1600 MT/s.

Skylake processors and systems based on them are slated to be available in Asia starting today, and Intel expects Skylake products to become available in North America "over the next six weeks." Two socketed desktop parts have been shipping in limited volume in the U.S. for several weeks, but availability has been spotty. Hopefully, that situation will be remedied as the full range of Skylake parts floods the market.

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