The Intel Pentium Gold G5420 is a great CPU possibly from a bygone era. In 2020, it is still considered a modern CPU but with many features missing. While this is a “Coffee Lake” generation CPU, it is heavily de-featured. In our review, we are going to discuss the trade-offs made for this sub $65 part. While many will review this chip as a potential desktop part, we are going to take a look at it in the context of a server chip.
Key stats for the Intel Pentium Gold G5420: 2 cores / 4 threads with a 3.8GHz base clock and no turbo boost. There is 4MB of onboard cache. The CPU features a 54W TDP. These are $64 list price parts. Here is the Intel Ark page for your reference.
Here is the lscpu output for the Pentium Gold G5420:
While the “Pentium” brand was a premium line two decades ago, it now covers a fairly wide range of processors. We do not often call a CPU “cheap” but in this case, that is what we have. There are only 20 other articles on STH where “cheap” is even used as of this writing. For servers, the CPU has an integrated GPU, but unlike the workstation side, system vendors must explicitly do extra work to enable it in server platforms. We find this CPU in some extremely low-end servers because it is low cost, low power (54W TDP), and has a feature many consumer CPUs lack: ECC memory support.
In terms of memory support, unlike many of its contemporaries that support DDR4-2666, the G5420 supports only up to 64GB using ECC UDIMMs at DDR4-2400 speeds. It still has two memory channels which help bandwidth on this two core/ four-thread processor. Then again, with only two cores using 16GB x 4 DIMMs for 64GB yields 32GB per core or more than cloud service providers provision.
De-featuring goes beyond just memory speed and capacity. These chips use a reduced instruction set. While Intel has rolled out AVX, AVX2, AVX-512, and now DL Boost for AI inferencing, the G5420 supports none of these. It is a SSE4.2 chip which was first implemented on Nahelem in 2008. Practically, this means instructions such as bmi2 that we use in our chess benchmark are not available so that test reverts to using popcnt instead.
While this is, perhaps, an ominous prelude to our benchmarks, there is another perspective and that is price. At under $65, this is a cheap product. We are all accustomed to lower quality and features for a lower price and that sums up the G5420. For many markets, two 3.8GHz cores with two threads each are perfectly sufficient. This is more compute power than most NAS units have by a significant margin. In our review, we are going to look at how it fares compared to something like the Intel Core i3-9100F to see if the extra $33 (~50%) or so is worth it.
Here is our basic configuration for this class of CPU:
- Motherboard: Supemicro X11SCA-F
- CPU: Intel Pentium G5420
- RAM: 4x 8GB DDR4-2666 ECC UDIMMs (at DDR4-2400)
- SSD: Intel DC S3710 400GB
- SATADOM: Supermicro 32GB SATADOM
The CPU itself supports up to 64GB of RAM, in a 4x 16GB configuration. We see these platforms using 8-64GB or less given cost sensitivities.
There are going to be folks who want to point to AMD alternatives. As of this writing, there are really no alternatives in this space because while AMD may have competitive CPU parts, vendors have a vibrant Intel Xeon E-2100/ E-2200/ Core i3/ Pentium ecosystem. AMD needs to do some work here to catch up, but it is not a focus market for them. Single socket servers in this segment are a relatively low volume area.
Next, we are going to take a look at our Intel Pentium Gold G5420 benchmarks, we are then going to focus on power consumption then conclude with our final words on the processors.