Ivy Bridge is the codename for the third generation of Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors from Intel, manufactured using the new 22 nm process. For the desktop market, nine CPUs are being announced today, five with a TDP of 77 W (Core i7-3770K/3.5 GHz, Core i7-3770/3.5 GHz, Core i5-3570K/3.4 GHz, Core i5-3550/3.3 GHz, and Core i5-3450/3.1 GHz), three with a TDP of 65 W (Core i7-3770S/3.1 GHz, Core i7-3550S/3 GHz, and Core i7-3450S/2.8 GHz), and one model with a TDP of 45 W (Core i7-3770T/2.5 GHz). Let’s take a look at the Core i7-3770K and compare it to its main competitor, the AMD FX-8150, and also with a second-generation Core i7 (“Sandy Bridge”), the Core i7-2600K.
This new generation of CPUs presents minor enhancements compared to the previous microarchitecture, Sandy Bridge. The most important one is the upgraded embedded PCI Express controller, which is now 3.0, doubling the communication bandwidth with the video card if a PCI Express 3.0 model is installed. Of course, the CPU continues to be compatible with older video cards, working with 2.0 or 1.0 bandwidth, depending on what PCI Express revision the video card supports.
The integrated graphics engine was updated and is now a DirectX 11 part, supporting 16 graphics processors (Intel HD Graphics 4000) or six graphics processors (Intel HD Graphics 2500), with clocks up to 1,350 MHz. Sandy Bridge processors use either the Intel HD Graphics 3000 (12 processors, DirectX 10.1) or the Intel HD Graphics 2000 (six processors, DirectX 10.1), with clocks also up to 1,350 MHz.
Another important enhancement was the official support for DDR3 memories up to DDR3-1600, while “Sandy Bridge” processors officially support memories up to DDR3-1333.
These new CPUs make use of LGA1155 (“socket LGA1155”) pinout, making them compatible with motherboards originally developed for the “Sandy Bridge” CPUs. So if you have a “Sandy Bridge” CPU (i.e., second-generation Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7), you can upgrade to a new “Ivy Bridge” model without having to replace the motherboard (except for motherboards based on the Intel Q65, Q67, and B65 chipsets, which don’t support “Ivy Bridge” CPUs; for other motherboards, a BIOS upgrade may be necessary and is recommended).
Nevertheless, Intel released six new chipsets: the Z77, the Z75, the H77, the B75, the Q77, and the Q75, which are recommended if you are building a new PC based on an “Ivy Bridge” processor. The main improvement added to these new chipsets was the support for four USB 3.0 ports. The main differences between them are listed in the table below. SRT is the Intel Smart Response Technology, which we’ve already explained in detail here. AMT is the Active Management Technology, which allows IT administrators to remotely manage computers that have this feature.
|PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot configuration||x16/x0/x0 or x16/x8/x0 or x8/x8/x4||x16/x0 or x8/x8||x16||x16||x16||x16|
For a complete description of what is new in the “Ivy Bridge” microarchitecture, please read our “Inside the Intel Ivy Bridge Microarchitecture” tutorial. Also, if you want to know more about the origin of the name “Ivy Bridge,” Intel posted a very interesting article about it.
In Figures 1 and 2, you can see the Core i7-3770K side-by-side with the Core i7-2600K.
Let’s now meet the processors included in this review.
[nextpage title=”The Reviewed CPUs”]
In the tables below, we compare the main features of the CPUs we included in this review. The Core i7-3770K and the Core i7-2600K support Hyper-Threading technology, which simulates a processing core in each physical core available. Therefore, these processors are recognized as eight-core CPUs by the operating system.
|CPU||Cores||HT||Internal Clock||Turbo Clock||Max Turbo||Core||Technology||TDP||Socket||Price*|
|AMD FX-8150||8||No||3.6 GHz||3.9 GHz||4.2 GHz||Zambezi||32 nm||125 W||AM3+||USD 250|
|Core i7-2600K||4||Yes||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||3.8 GHz||Sandy Bridge||32 nm||95 W||1155||USD 310|
|Core i7-3770K||4||Yes||3.5 GHz||3.9 GHz||3.9 GHz||Ivy Bridge||22 nm||77 W||1155||USD 313|
* The prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review, except for the Core i7-3770K, which is the price provided by Intel.
TDP stands for Thermal Design Power which advises the user of the maximum amount of heat the CPU can dissipate. The CPU cooler must be capable of dissipating at least this amount of heat. It is important to see how the Thermal Dissipation Power (TDP) of the new Core i7-3770K dropped to 77 W, thanks to the new manufacturing process. (Usually, the smaller the manufacturing process is, the less heat is generated.)
Below we compare the memory cache configuration of the reviewed CPUs. The L2 memory cache of the AMD FX-8150 is shared by each pair of cores, thus it has four L2 caches instead of eight.
|CPU||L1 Cache (I + D)||L2 Cache||L3 Cache||Memory Support||Memory Channels|
|AMD FX-8150||64 kB per module + 16 kB per core||8 MB x 4||8 MB total||Up to DDR3-1866||Two|
|Core i7-2600K||32 KB + 32 KB per core||256 KB per core||8 MB total||Up to DDR3-1333||Two|
|Core i7-3770K||32 KB + 32 KB per core||256 KB per core||8 MB total||Up to DDR3-1600||Two|
[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]
During our benchmarking sessions we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable device was the CPU being tested and the motherboard, which had to be replaced to match the different CPU sockets.
- Motherboard (Socket LGA1155): Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H (F8d BIOS)
- Motherboard (Socket AM3+): ASUS Crosshair V Formula (1301BIOS)
- CPU Cooler: Intel stock/AMD stock liquid cooling solution
- Memory: 4 GB DDR3-1866, two G.Skill Ripjaws XF3-14900CL9D-4GBXL memory modules
- Hard Disk Drive: Western Digital Black Caviar 1 TB (WD1001FALS, SATA-300, 7,200 rpm, 32 MB buffer)
- Video Card: Radeon HD 7850
- Video Monitor: Samsung Syncmaster 932BW
- Power Supply: Antec TruePower New 750 W
Operating System Configuration
- Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
- Video resolution: 2560×1600 60 Hz
- AMD video driver version: Catalyst 12.3
- AMD chipset driver version: 3.0.825.0
- Intel Inf chipset driver version: 126.96.36.1999
- 3DMark 11 1.0.3
- Adobe After Effects CS4
- Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended + Retouch Artist Speed Test 1.0
- Battlefield 3
- Cinebench 11.529
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- iTunes 10.2
- Media Espresso 6.5
- PCMark 7 1.0.4
- Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty – Patch 1.4.3
- VirtualDub 1.9.5 + MPEG-2 Plugin 3.1 + DivX 6.9.2
- WinZip 15.5
We adopted a 3% error margin. Thus differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.
[nextpage title=”PCMark 7″]
The new PCMark 7 performs a series of tests and gives scores in the following categories: An overall score called PCMark; a Productivity score, which is the system performance when using applications such as web browsing and home office applications; a Creativity score, which is the system performance when viewing, editing, converting, and storing photos and videos; an Entertainment score, which is the system performance when recording, viewing, streaming, and converting TV shows and movies, importing, organizing, browsing music, and gaming; and a Computation score, which indicates the processing performance of the system. Let’s analyze the results.
On the PCMark 7 overall score, the Core i7-3770K and the Core i7-2600K achieved the same performance level, with the new CPU achieving a score 15% higher than the AMD FX-8150’s.
On the Productivity set, the Core i7-3770K and the Core i7-2600K achieved similar scores, with the new CPU achieving a score 7% higher than the AMD FX-8150’s.
On the Creativity suite, the Core i7-3770K was 28% faster than the Core i7-2600K and 34% faster than the AMD FX-8150.
On the Entertainment test suite, the Core i7-3770K and the Core i7-2600K achieved similar scores, with the new CPU achieving a score 16% higher than the AMD FX-8150’s.
On the Computation test, the Core i7-3770K was 30% faster than the Core i7-2600K and 75% faster than the AMD FX-8150.
[nextpage title=”DivX Encoding”]
We converted a full-length DVD movie to DivX format using VirtualDub and saw how long it took for this conversion to be done. DivX codec is capable of recognizing and using not only more than one CPU (i.e., more than one core) but also the SSE4 instruction set.
The movie we chose to convert was “Star Trek – The Motion Picture: Director’s Cut.” We copied the movie to our hard disk drive with no compression, so the final original file on our HDD was 6.79 GB. After compressing it with DivX, the final file was only 767.40 MB, which is quite remarkable.
The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the better.
On DivX encoding, the Core i7-2600K and the AMD FX-8150 achieved the same performance level, with the new Core i7-3770K being only marginally faster (four percent).
[nextpage title=”Photoshop CS5″]
The best way to measure performance is by using real programs. The problem, though, is creating a methodology using real software that provides accurate results. For Photoshop CS5, we used a script called “Retouch Artist Speed Test,” which applies a series of filters to a sample image and gives us the time that Photoshop took to run all the filters. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.
On Photoshop CS5, the Core i7-3770K was 7% faster than the Core i7-2600K and 17% faster than the AMD FX-8150.
[nextpage title=”After Effects CS4″]
After Effects is a very well-known program for video post-production that is used to add animation and visual effects in videos. To evaluate the performance of each CPU running this program, we ran a workload consisting of a number of compositions that applied several filters and effects to a variety of input file types such as PSD (Photoshop), AI (Illustrator), EPS and TIF. After each filter was applied, the composition was rendered to an uncompressed AVI file with the same resolution as the input files. The results below are the times each CPU took to finish the whole batch, given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.
On After Effects CS4, the Core i7-3770K was only 4% faster than the Core i7-2600K but 35% faster than the AMD FX-8150.
[nextpage title=”Media Espresso 6.5″]
Media Espresso is a video conversion program that uses the graphics processing unit of the video card to speed up the conversion process. It is also capable of using Intel’s QuickSync technology available in the CPUs from this company. We converted a 449 MB, 1920x1080i, 18,884 kbps, MPG2 video file to a smaller 640×360, H.264, .MP4 file for viewing on a portable device such as an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Here we forced Media Espresso to use the CPU for the conversion process, not the GPU. The Core i7-3770K and the Core i7-2600K achieved the exact same result and were 17% faster than the AMD FX-8150.
We used WinZip not only to measure compression time, but also decryption time. We measured the time each CPU took to decompress and decrypt 200 JPEG images, 125 of them at 10 megapixels and 75 of them at six megapixels. The total size of all the photos was around 830 MB. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.
Decompressing and decrypting files, the Core i7-3770K and the Core i7-2600K achieved the exact same performance and were 25% faster than the AMD FX-8150.
We used iTunes to convert an uncompressed .wav file into a high-quality (160 Kbps) MP3 file, and checked how many seconds each CPU took to perform this operation. Therefore, the results below are given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.
Here the Core i7-3770K and the Core i7-2600K achieved similar performance, with the new CPU only 5% faster than the AMD FX-8150.
[nextpage title=”Cinebench 11.5″]
Cinebench 11.5 is based on the 3D software Cinema 4D. It is very useful to measure the performance gain given by having more than one CPU installed on the system when rendering heavy 3D images. Rendering is one area in which having more than one CPU helps considerably, because usually, rendering software recognizes several CPUs. (Cinebench, for instance, can use up to 16 CPUs.)
Since we were interested in measuring the rendering performance, we ran the test called “Rendering x CPUs,” which renders a “heavy” sample image using all available CPUs (or cores – either real or virtual, as on CPUs with Hyper-Threading technology, each core is recognized as two cores by the operating system) to speed up the process.
Interesting enough, on Cinebench the Core i7-2600K was 6% faster than the Core i7-3770K. The new CPU was 8% faster than the AMD FX-8150.
[nextpage title=”StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty”]
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a very popular DirectX 9 game that was released in 2010. Though this game uses an old version of DirectX, the number of textures that can be represented on one screen can push most of the top-end graphics cards to their limits. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty uses its own physics engine that is bound to the CPU and thus does not benefit from PhysX.
We tested this game at 1440×900, setting all image quality settings to their lowest values. This was done to measure the performance of the CPU, since at high resolutions and increasing image quality setting we actually measure the performance of the video card, not of the CPU. We then used FRAPS to collect the frame rate of a replay on the “Unit Testing” custom map.
On StarCraft II, the three CPUs achieved the same performance level.
[nextpage title=”Deus Ex: Human Revolution”]
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a DirectX 11 game. We used the in-game introduction to measure the number of frames per second, using FRAPS. We ran the introduction at 1440×900, setting all image quality settings to their lowest values. As explained before, this was done to measure the performance of the CPU, since at high resolutions and increasing image quality setting we actually measure the performance of the video card, not of the CPU.
On Deus Ex, all three CPUs achieved the same performance level.
DiRT3 is another DirectX 11 game. We measured performance using this game by running a race and then playing it back using FRAPS. We ran this game at 1440×900, setting all image quality settings to their lowest values. As explained before, this was done to measure the performance of the CPU, since at high resolutions and increasing image quality setting we actually measure the performance of the video card, not of the CPU.
On DiRT3, the AMD FX-8150 was 4% faster than the Core i7-3770K.
[nextpage title=”Battlefield 3″]
Battlefield 3 is the latest installment in the Battlefield franchise released in 2011. It is based on the Frostbite 2 engine, which is DirectX 11. In order to measure performance using this game, we walked our way through the first half of the “Operation Swordbreaker” mission, measuring the number of frames per second using FRAPS. We ran this game at 1440×900, again setting all image quality settings to their lowest values for the reasons already explained.
Here all three CPUs achieved the same performance level.
[nextpage title=”3DMark 11 Professional”]
3Mark 11 Professional measures Shader 5.0 (i.e., DirectX 11) performance. We ran this program at 1920×1200 using the “Performance” profile.
This program provides three different scores: graphics, physics and combined.
The graphics score achieved by the three CPUs was the same. This was expected, since this score measures the performance of the video card, not of the processor.
The physics score measures exclusively the physics performance of the system, a process that is typically done on the CPU. Here the Core i7-3770K achieved a score 4% higher than Core i7-2600K’s and 35% higher than AMD FX-8150’s.
The combined score shows a balance between the graphics and the physics performance achieved by each system being tested. Here all CPUs achieved the same performance level.
Intel processors with the letter “K” on their model number are targeted to overclocking, as they have several internal locks opened. As it happens with the “Sandy Bridge” CPUs, the “correct” way to overclock “Ivy Bridge” processors is through the adjustment of the Turbo Boost technology, since you can’t increase much of the CPU base clock.
The Core i7-3770K has a default clock multiplier of x35 (3.5 GHz) for its standard clock and x39 (3.9 GHz) for its turbo clock.
In our case, we were able to increase the CPU base clock to only 110 MHz. However, we were able to increase the clock multiplier for the first and second CPU cores to x42 (making them run at 4.62 GHz, a 32% increase over the standard clock of 3.5 GHz and an 18% increase over the default turbo clock), the clock multiplier for the third CPU core to x41 (making it run at 4.51 GHz, a 29% increase over the standard clock and a 16% increase over the default turbo clock), and the clock multiplier for the fourth CPU core to x40 (making it run at 4.40 GHz, a 26% increase over the standard clock and a 13% increase over the default turbo clock).
In order to achieve these numbers, we increased the CPU main voltage (Vcc, a.k.a. “Vcore”) from 1.1 V to 1.2 V, the CPU I/O voltage (VTT) from 1.05 V to 1.10 V, and the CPU PLL voltage from 1.8 V to 1.9 V.
We are pretty sure that with more time and patience you will be able to achieve even better results.
The new Core i7-3770K is a no-brainer if you were considering buying the Core i7-2600K; it costs the same and is faster.
It is, however, very important to understand that this processor is targeted to users who will really benefit from additional processing power. We are talking about professionals using the computer for audio and video editing, and 3D rendering. If you want to build a high-end gaming machine, you can save a considerable amount of money by buying a Core i5 processor. As you can see from our results, if you have a high-end CPU, you won’t see any difference in performance by picking a faster and more expensive model. That happens because the video card is the component that dictates gaming performance in this kind of system, considering that you have a mid-range or high-end video card, of course. Therefore, it is a better deal if you pick a more affordable CPU and spend your money on buying a more powerful video card.
In addition, if you are an average user who is looking for extra processing power, we believe that the Core i5 will provide you with a better price/performance ratio.