A closer look at Ivy Bridge
Not only is the 3rd-generation Core family the first batch of microprocessors pressed using Intel’s new 22 nanometer fab process, they’re the first 22nm chips on the market, period. This shrinkage allows them to offer ever-higher CPU performance with even lower power consumption compared to Sandy Bridge, plus a bevy of new features and other enhancements designed around the 7 Series chipsets (such as native support for PCI-Express 3.0). The linchpin of this generational shift in Ivy Bridge is the redesigned processor architecture that shares cache memory across the four CPU cores and built-in graphics hardware. In total there are 1.4 billion transistors crammed into a space of 160 square millimeters -- take a look:
Another innovation that makes this possible is the use of what are called tri-gate or 3-D transistors. I don’t pretend to fully understand how they work, but the bottom line is that they allow for higher performance and less power consumption using the same amount of space by increasing the surface area compared to traditional 2-D (flat) transistors. It’s just another way they’ve discovered to help get around the proverbial glass ceiling that has threatened to limit silicon-based processor performance for years. All Intel processors going forward will make use of this new technology, which has been in the works since 2002.
Other things you might consider if you’re pondering an upgrade from Sandy Bridge include enhanced overclocking capabilities and improved integrated graphics. Ivy Bridge supports a maximum clock ratio of 63 compared to 57 (if you really want to get past 6GHz) and memory speeds of up to DDR3-2667, whereas before the limit was 2133. Even better, though, is what they call dynamic overclocking support, which allows you to change the ratio -- and thus the CPU clock speed -- on the fly without requiring a reboot. The integrated graphics in Ivy Bridge have been upgraded considerably compared to those present on last year’s Sandy Bridge, even more so than the HD 4000 moniker might suggest. Along with introducing support for DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1, and OpenCL 1.1, it offers up to twice the computing power over HD 3000 thanks in part to an increased number of execution units (16 compared to 12).
All told, there are 15 models of Ivy Bridge CPUs launching this week, including nine for desktops and six for mobile applications. Most of them feature the brand new Intel HD 4000 IGP, promising double the performance of the HD 3000 variant, which was the best Sandy Bridge had to offer in that regard. They’re all quad-core for now, but with Hyper-Threading that still means 8 threads in all cases except the three Core i5 desktop variants. Base memory supported is DDR3-1600, and like Sandy Bridge, it's still used in a dual-channel configuration. Since these are the mainstream offerings, we’re almost definitely going to see an ‘Ivy Bridge-E’ style launch later this year where they will introduce the high end parts (including hexa-cores) for the LGA 2011 platform. Like Sandy Bridge-E, those will offer bleeding edge CPU performance without the integrated graphics weighing them down.
With that said, here are all the details on the full line-up of 3rd-generation Intel Core processors as it stands today:
|Intel Ivy Bridge CPU Family Line-up|
|As of April 23rd, 2012|
|CPU Model||Clock Speed||Turbo Speed||Cores/Threads||L3 Cache||Max TDP||HD Graphics||Price|
|i7-3770K||3.5 GHz||3.9 GHz||4 / 8||8 MB||77 W||4000||$313|
|i7-3770||3.4 GHz||3.9 GHz||4 / 8||8 MB||77 W||4000||$278|
|i7-3770T||2.5 GHz||3.7 GHz||4 / 8||8 MB||45 W||4000||$278|
|i7-3770S||3.1 GHz||3.9 GHz||4 / 8||8 MB||65 W||4000||$278|
|i5-3570K||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||4 / 4||6 MB||77 W||2500||$212|
|i5-3550||3.3 GHz||3.7 GHz||4 / 4||6 MB||77 W||2500||$194|
|i5-3450||3.1 GHz||3.5 GHz||4 / 4||6 MB||77 W||2500||$174|
|i5-3550S||3.0 GHz||3.7 GHz||4 / 4||6 MB||65 W||2500||$194|
|i5-3450S||2.8 GHz||3.5 GHz||4 / 4||6 MB||65 W||2500||$174|
|i7-3920XM||2.9 GHz||Up to 3.8 GHz||4 / 8||8 MB||55 W||4000||$1096|
|i7-3820QM||2.7 GHz||Up to 3.7 GHz||4 / 8||8 MB||45 W||4000||$568|
|i7-3720QM||2.6 GHz||Up to 3.6 GHz||4 / 8||6 MB||45 W||4000||$378|
|i7-3615QM||2.3 GHz||Up to 3.3 GHz||4 / 8||6 MB||45 W||4000||N/A|
|i7-3610QM||2.3 GHz||Up to 3.3 GHz||4 / 8||6 MB||45 W||4000||N/A|
|i7-3612QM||2.1 GHz||Up to 3.1 GHz||4 / 8||6 MB||35 W||4000||N/A|
Remember what I said about these being mainstream parts? Aside from the insanely-expensive mobile chips for desktop-replacement notebooks, the highest price on that chart is around $300. That’s the Core i7-3770K, the enthusiast variant of the only desktop Core i7 model releasing at this time (other versions are the 3770, 3770T, and 3770S). They are asking for a bit of a premium just for that -K modifier, which means it’s unlocked and freely overclockable, but people will pay it; that’s why they’re called enthusiasts! Note the low-power variants with different clock speeds and degrees of power consumption, all priced identically.
Now I know you’re dying to find out how its performance measures up, and that’s where we’re headed next. We’ve got benchmarks of the Core i7-3770K’s performance as a CPU, as well as the integrated HD 4000 graphics’ capabilities in modern games compared to a handful of discrete GPUs, so read on!