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Review: Intel Core i7-3770K (22nm Ivy Bridge)

by Parm Mann on 23 April 2012, 17:00 4.0

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qabfdf

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Meet the chips...

At launch, Intel is rolling out a total of 15 new Ivy Bridge processors, split across six for mobile use and nine for the desktop. We're concentrating on the latter for the purpose of this review, and the nine pertinent parts are detailed in the table below. For reference's sake, we've also included relevant processors from the incumbent Sandy Bridge lines.

Model
Cores /
Threads
CPU Clock
(MHz)
Turbo Boost
(MHz)
Process
Die Size
Cache
IGP
IGP Clock
(MHz)
DDR3 Support
TDP
Price
(US 1ku)
Ivy Bridge Core Processor Family (3rd Generation, LGA1155)
Core i7-3770K
4 / 8
3.50
3.90
22nm
160mm²
8MB
HD 4000
1,150
Dual 1,600
77W
$313
Core i7-3770
4 / 8
3.40
3.90
22nm
160mm²
8MB
HD 4000
1,150
Dual 1,600
77W
$278
Core i7-3770S
4 / 8
3.10
3.90
22nm
160mm²
8MB
HD 4000
1,150
Dual 1,600
65W
$278
Core i7-3770T
4 / 8
2.50
3.70
22nm
160mm²
8MB
HD 4000
1,150
Dual 1,600
45W
$278
Core i5-3570K
4 / 4
3.40
3.80
22nm
160mm²
6MB
HD 4000
1,150
Dual 1,600
77W
$212
Core i5-3550
4 / 4
3.30
3.70
22nm
160mm²
6MB
HD 2500
1,150
Dual 1,600
77W
$194
Core i5-3550S
4 / 4
3.00
3.70
22nm
160mm²
6MB
HD 2500
1,150
Dual 1,600
65W
$194
Core i5-3450
4 / 4
3.10
3.50
22nm
160mm²
6MB
HD 2500
1,100
Dual 1,600
77W
$174
Core i5-3450S
4 / 4
2.80
3.50
22nm
160mm²
6MB
HD 2500
1,100
Dual 1,600
65W
$174
Sandy Bridge Extreme Core Processor Family (2nd Generation, LGA2011)
Core i7-3960X
6 / 12
3.30
3.90
32nm
434mm²
15MB
N/A
N/A
Quad 1,600
130W
$999
Core i7-3930K
6 / 12
3.20
3.80
32nm
434mm²
15MB
N/A
N/A
Quad 1,600
130W
$583
Core i7-3820
4 / 8
3.60
3.90
32nm
294mm²
10MB
N/A
N/A
Quad 1,066
130W
$294
Sandy Bridge Core Processor Family (2nd Generation, LGA1155)
Core i7-2700K
4 / 8
3.50
3.90
32nm
216mm²
8MB
HD 3000
1,350
Dual 1,333
95W
$332
Core i7-2600K
4 / 8
3.40
3.80
32nm
216mm²
8MB
HD 3000
1,350
Dual 1,333
95W
$317
Core i7-2600
4 / 8
3.40
3.80
32nm
216mm²
8MB
HD 2000
1,350
Dual 1,333
95W
$294
Core i7-2600S
4 / 8
2.80
3.80
32nm
216mm²
8MB
HD 2000
1,350
Dual 1,333
65W
$294
Core i5-2500K
4 / 4
3.30
3.70
32nm
216mm²
6MB
HD 3000
1,100
Dual 1,333
95W
$216
Core i5-2500
4 / 4
3.30
3.70
32nm
216mm²
6MB
HD 2000
1,100
Dual 1,333
95W
$205
Core i5-2500S
4 / 4
2.70
3.70
32nm
216mm²
6MB
HD 2000
1,100
Dual 1,333
65W
$205
Core i5-2500T
4 / 4
2.30
3.30
32nm
216mm²
6MB
HD 2000
1,250
Dual 1,333
45W
$205

Intel clearly isn't beating around the bush with this one. There's a good choice of high-end Ivy Bridge CPUs at launch, ranging from $174 to $313 in 1,000-unit pricing. Given the similarities between Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge - namely in pricing, branding and speed - we'd expect to see the latter go the way of the Dodo in the next few months.

Desktop provisos

The line-up looks tantalising, doesn't it? But hold on to your wallets, as you won't be doing any spending just yet. While Intel is officially announcing Ivy Bridge today, the new range of processors won't be available to purchase until April 29.

And, if you're looking for something a little further down the Core pecking order, you may be waiting further still. Intel has confirmed that the first wave of 3rd generation Core processors will be limited to the quad-core Core i7 and Core i5 product lines; cheaper dual-core Core i3 processors won't appear until later in the year.

Which chip's for me?

Making sense of Intel's product line can be a challenge, but the manufacturer has tightened the boundaries between each range in order to maintain the philosophy that Core i3 is good, Core i5 is better and Core i7 is best.

That three-fold strategy appears to be working a treat for technophobic mums and dads (and it's a line up that's easy to sell), but if you prefer to make your decision based on more granular information, the following table illustrates the key differences between the three options (though, remember, 3rd Generation Core i3 won't be available for some time).

 
Number of Processor Cores / Threads
4 / 8
4 / 4
2 / 4
Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Yes
Yes
Yes
Intel Hyper-Threading Technology
Yes
No
Yes
Intel Smart Cache
8MB
6MB
3MB
AES New Instructions (AES-NI)
Yes
Yes
No
Intel HD Graphics with DirectX 11
HD 4000
HD 2500 / HD 4000
HD 2500 / HD 4000
Performance Tuning Enabled
Yes
Yes
No
Recommended Intel Express Chipset
Z77
H77
H61

Intel only managed (or chose) to keep blurred lines between Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3 with its Sandy Bridge range - you never quite knew which graphics you'd be getting, for example - but it's painting a slightly clearer picture this time around.

For the third-generation desktop Ivy Bridge line, every Core i7 processor will be a quad-core part with hyper-threading, an 8MB smart cache and integrated HD 4000 graphics. Dropping down to Core i5 will take away hyper-threading and lower the amount of smart cache to 6MB, and most i5 parts will utilise the downgraded HD 2500 IGP. Core i3, when it arrives, will do so in dual-core form with hyper-threading enabled, 3MB of cache and either HD 2500 or HD 4000 graphics.

The range is easier to decipher, but it's still some way from crystal clear and Intel's scattering of processor suffixes don't make the decision any simpler. As a general rule of thumb, here's how it works:

  • No suffix - these are regular processors aimed at the mainstream
  • K - any processor with a K after its name is multiplier unlocked, providing greater overclocking potential for enthusiast users
  • S - officially described by Intel as "performance optimised lifestyle," processors with an S in their name feature a lower CPU base frequency and a reduced TDP
  • T - officially described by Intel as "power optimised lifestyle," any chip with a T suffix features a lower CPU base frequency, a lower Turbo Boost frequency and a greatly-reduced TDP

Compatibility

Choosing the right chip for you involves a bit of thought, but choosing the right motherboard shouldn't be too difficult. As Ivy Bridge is based on the previous-generation Sandy Bridge architecture, the new third-generation Core processors continue to utilise the LGA1155 socket that many users have become familiar with.

Ivy Bridge processors will therefore slot into existing six-series motherboards (H67, P67, and Z68, though a BIOS update may be required), but to make the most of your shiny-new chip, Intel recommends pairing a third-generation Core processor with a new seven-series chipset.