Intel Core i7-3770 Ivy Bridge CPU

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Intel Core i7-3770 Ivy Bridge CPU

April 23, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Intel Core i7-3770K
LGA1155 Processor

For the past few years, Intel has been switching sockets and updating their CPU architecture at a frantic pace compared to the days of Socket 478 and LGA775. Ivy Bridge is a welcome change, an updated CPU architecture that is actually widely compatible with current hardware, in this case LGA1155/Sandy Bridge motherboards. Their last major processor launch, Sandy Bridge Extreme for the newly minted LGA2011 socket, left many regular users in the cold with its costly chipsets and processors aimed at professionals and enthusiasts who could afford such extravagance.

LGA1155 was and continues to be extremely successful despite being relegated to being Intel's mainstream platform. Sandy Bridge processors exhibit very strong performance and excellent energy efficient and are reasonably priced. The integrated graphics in each chip is also a nice bonus too for users who have no need for discrete graphics cards. It's nice to see Intel push out an update for a popular existing product line rather than jumping straight into their next big thing.

Ivy Bridge quad core die layout.

Being pin-compatible with current motherboards, it's logical to deduce that Ivy Bridge is not fundamentally different from Sandy Bridge. The die is arranged the same way but the manufacturing process has been shrunk from 32nm to 22nm utilizing Intel's much lauded Tri-gate transistor technology (it's explained nicely by AnandTech), the integrated graphics chips has been beefed up with more horsepower, the memory controller has been updated to officially support DDR3-1333, and there's support for the new PCI Express 3.0 standard. Other minor updates include an improved version of Turbo Boost, updated instruction sets, and a couple of new security features (SecureKey, OS Guard) aimed at mobile/enterprise users. New series 7 chipsets have been released incorporating a native USB 3.0 and PCI-E 3.0, but they're not required to work with Ivy Bridge. Most Sandy Bridge motherboards will be compatible with a BIOS/UEFI update.

Sandy Bridge vs. Ivy Bridge integrated graphics comparison.

One of the defining features from the Sandy Bridge launch were the integrated graphics chips. The on-die GPUs offered the usual upgrades like updates to DirectX 10, HDMI 1.4, and improved video playback, but Intel also included their hardware-accelerated QuickSync video encoding feature and boosted the 3D performance considerably compared to their previous onboard graphics solutions. The HD 3000 chip on the higher end SKUs was the first Intel integrated graphics processor we encountered that rivaled entry level discrete video cards.

Ivy Bridge's HD 2500/4000 graphics is more of an incremental upgrade, offering more four more execution units, DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1, and QuickSync 2.0 support. The clock speeds remain the same, but multiplier overclocking is supported on all motherboards. Also notable is the ability to use three displays at once, a feature that previously required a discrete graphics card to accomplish.

Our Core i7-3770K sample.

Like Sandy Bridge, the stars of Intel's opening Ivy Bridge salvo are the enthusiast-friendly "K" series chips that allow almost unbound multiplier overclocking but are lacking in enterprise/management features that typically aren't utilized by overclockers anyway. The lineup mirrors the Sandy Bridge launch 15 months ago, with the faster IGP on the i7 and "K" models, and no Hyper-threading and less cache on the i5's. The various SKUs also hit the price-points occupied by current Intel chips. It's not clear what the fate of Sandy Bridge will be — either its price will be cut or it will quickly be kicked out of the nest by Ivy Bridge. Our first Ivy Bridge sample is a Core i7-3770K, which happens to match the current flagship Sandy Bridge i7-2700K in clock speed (3.5 GHz, 3.9 GHz maximum on Turbo Boost speed) and price.

Though there are no dual core chips being released this time around, those craving extreme energy efficiency may be sated by a series of low power quad core models. The familiar "T" and "S" suffixes live on, branded on CPUs with 45W and 65W TDPs respectively. Similar to previous incarnations, they employ a clever trick to maximize performance within a low thermal envelope. The base frequencies are fairly low, but the maximum Turbo frequency is 3 to 8 ranks higher than normal. When fewer cores are active, the clock speed ramps up considerably more than the standard Ivy Bridge models, making the system extremely snappy.

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