|Introductions and Specifications|
|Back in 2011, Intel Capital, Intel's investment arm in support of their strategic objectives, ponied-up a cool $300 million to help give birth to a new class of notebooks called "Ultrabooks." Though there isn't a complete set of design specifications, Intel requires certain characteristics of performance, mechanical design, battery life and processor component selection, in order to market a notebook as an Ultrabook. From resume from hibernation response times to chassis thickness, Intel wanted to build upon Apple's success with the MacBook Air, so that all of their OEM and ODM partners could get in on the thin, sleek and sexy trend that's all the rage with consumers. And of course Intel would also be continuously investing in processor technology to further the Ultrabook initiative.
Today Intel is lifting the embargo veil off of a number of Core i5 Ivy Bridge processors for both the desktop and mobile segments. In terms of mobile products, Ultrabooks remain the clear focus for Intel, and as such, we've been setup with a demonstration vehicle for the new Core i5-3427U Ultra mobile processor that Intel is launching today, along with a few other SKUs for these super thin and light notebooks. Make sure to check out our coverage of the new 3rd generation Core i5 Ivy Bridge desktop processors here, but what follows is a look at Intel's latest Ultrabook vision and the shape of things to come in no-compromise, highly mobile computing according to Intel.
2 Core and Four-Way Multi Task Processing: 4-way multi-task processing allows each core of the processor to work on two tasks at the same time.
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0: Dynamically increases the processor frequency up to 2.60GHz when applications demand more performance giving you speed when you need it, energy efficiency when you don’t.
Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology: 4 threads provide for better multi-tasking and threaded application processing.
Intel® Smart Cache: 3MB of L3 shared cache allows faster access to your data by enabling dynamic and efficient allocation of the cache to match the needs of each core, significantly reducing access latency to frequently used data and improving performance.
Integrated Memory Controller: Supports 2 channels of DDR3-1600 memory with 2 DIMMs per channel. Support for memory based on the Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (Intel® XMP) specification.
AES-NI: Provides 6 additional processor instructions that help to improve performance for AES encryption and decryption algorithms.
Chipset Compatibility: Compatible with all Intel® 7 Series Chipsets
Intel® Secure Key: a HW assist processor technology designed to produce high-quality, high-security, high-volume random numbers through an on-chip entropy source that can be used for various security computing demands, such as Intel’s own Identity Protection Technology, IPT.
Intel® Quick Sync Video 2.0 Technology: Media processing for fast conversion of video files for portable media players or online sharing, with transcode performance up to two times faster than standard voltage 2nd Gen Intel Core processors and up to 30 times faster than 3-year-old notebooks (Core™ 2 Duo).
Intel®InTru™3D: Stereoscopic 3D Blu-ray* playback experience in full HD 1080p resolution over HDMI 1.4 with 3D
Intel® Clear Video HD Technology: Visual quality and color fidelity enhancements for HD video playback and web browsing
Intel® HD Graphics 4000: A brand new graphics architecture delivering full DirectX 11 functionality and support for OpenGL version 3.3. Intel HD Graphics on 3rd generation core Ultra processors has similar graphics performance to dual core standard voltage 2nd Gen Intel Core processors.
Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX): Increased performance for demanding visual applications like professional video & image editing.
The Intel Core i5-3427U processor we'll be testing today is a midrange CPU with a 17 Watt TDP (Thermal Power Design). This chip has a base clock speed of 1.8GHz with a Turbo Boost speed of 2.6GHz in multithreaded workloads and 2.8GHz in single-threaded operation. As you can see, in this new class of Ivy Bridge Ultra Low Voltage CPUs, Intel is offering top-end clock speeds of 3GHz with a low-end of 1.7GHz. Intel HD 4000 graphics core speeds are scaled back from their quad-core counterparts to 350MHz/1150MHz in the chip we tested, which is only 100MHz or so slower at max dynamic frequency.
We've given you detail on both the Ivy Bridge core architecture and mobile architecture in our previous coverage last month, so we won't go into it in depth again here. We will, however, take a detailed look at what Intel has in store for their new "Chief River" Ultrabook, Centrino platform features as well as the prototype Ultrabook they sent us for testing.
|Intel's Ultrabook, Current Vision and Roadmap|
|An "Ultrabook" as envisioned by Intel, is more about design aesthetics and user experience than it is about the underlying technology. As much as it may pain some of you to read this, Intel has essentially taken a page from the book of Apple with the Ultrabook as we know it today, such that the technology roadmap, something that not all mainstream consumers can relate to, has taken a back burner to the "Experience Roadmap." This is not a bad thing of course. After all, technology will always be the driving force and enabler of the experience; it's just a different way of looking at product solutions versus speeds, feeds and capacity.
Below is what Intel has set forth for its OEM and ODM partners with respect to what they're looking for in the Ultrabook experience for both minimum and optimal product features.
Intel sets forth requirements for not only battery life but also system responsiveness, both active and resume from sleep, security features like Identity Protection and Anti-Theft Technologies, USB 3.0 connectivity and even touch sensors in 3rd Gen Intel Core Family-based Ultrabook designs. Taking cues from the slide above, you can also see that Intel envisions Ultrabooks comprising a significantly larger portion of their market share moving forward as well, with the Ultrabook moving to a "mainstream" product class in associated volume. Does this mean we'll see prices commensurate with mainstream adoption?
In fact it does. Intel has already announced that at least 75 new Ivy Bridge Ultrabook designs are coming with price points that should reach the $699 range. In addition, some of these designs will include touchscreens for Windows 8 hybrid tablet/notebook products like Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga.
In terms of system responsiveness, Intel-based Ultrabooks will make use of Intel RST (Rapid Start), SRT (Smart Response) and SC (Smart Connect) technologies, to enable a generally snappier experience. We've seen all of these technologies in one form or another in the Sandy Bridge architecture as well. Regardless, Intel's cache-driven wake from hibernate technology (RST) along with Smart Connect, (which briefly powers up the system to pull feeds and updates from sites and services you might have running like Twitter, Facebook or RSS feeds) is impressive to see in action and definitely adds to the overall quality of experience as does the system responsiveness when combined with SSD caching of the hard disk with SRT.
Other than the fact that this is a really thin and sleek 13.3" notebook, there's not a lot that calls your attention to the fact that it's a 3rd generation Core i5 Ivy Bridge-based machine. What you're looking at here will not be sold as a retail product but rather is just an ODM whitebook setup to demonstrate Intel's new low power Ivy Bridge mobile processor technology. The design is really quite nice, however, with a rubberized flat black top and bottom shell, along with a composite silver finish keyboard and palm rest area.
One of the highlight features of this machine, beyond it's power-efficient performance that we'll show you next, is its high resolution 1600x900 LED backlit display. We're hoping manufacturers take Intel's cue here and follow suit accordingly for 13 and 14-inch machines. Finally, with a 240GB Intel Series 520 SSD under the hood, coupled with 8GB of DDR3-1600 system memory, the Core i5-3427U Ivy Bridge Ultra chip at its helm is setup nicely for high performance.
|Test Methodology, HD Video and Quick Sync Transcoding|
|Test Methodology: As you'll note in the following pages of benchmarks, we've compared the Ivy Bridge mobile-equipped Intel Ultrabook to a few different machines, both standard notebooks and in some cases Ultrabook class products. In every test case, we tried to leave each notebook as delivered to us from the manufacturers. This meant, after any pending Windows updates were installed, we disabled Windows update and also disabled any virus scanning software that may have been installed, so it wouldn't kick in during benchmark runs. That said, it's virtually impossible to ensure identical system configurations between notebooks; so we'll caution you that reference scores from the various test systems are listed in order to give you a general feel for performance between these similar class of machines and not for direct, apples-to-apples comparisons.
As a quick sanity check on CPU utilization, we first fired up a 1080p QuickTime video clip from the Apple QuickTime Movie Trailer gallery. Here we've captured a scene from the movie I am Legend, so you can get a look at how Intel's new Ivy Bridge Core i5-3427U handles unoptimized HD video decoding workloads.
1080p H.264 Encoded QuickTime Trailer Playback
Windows Task Manager Performance monitor shows the new low power dual-core, four-thread capable chip is oscillating between 10 - 18% CPU utilization.
Cyberlink's MediaEspresso is a video conversion tool that imports various video media files types and converts them to other standard video types for publication, portability and streaming. In this test, we take a 224MB high definition 1080p AVCHD video clip and convert it to a 720p H.264-encoded video file. Here we're going to look directly at Intel's Quick Sync video transcode engine in the new Ivy Bridge Ultra processor architecture and compare it to Intel's previous generation Sandy Bridge Quick Sync engine and competitive GPU-based solutions as well.
Times are measured in minutes:seconds with lower times representing faster throughput in the video conversion process.
The highlight numbers you want to take-away from this graph are shown at the very top and bottom here. Intel's previous generation Sandy Bridge Core i7-2820QM quad core clips in at a blistering 14 seconds flat, only to be beaten by the new Core i7-3720QM Ivy Bridge CPU in half the time at 7 seconds. However, Intel's new dual-core Core i5-3427U low power CPU clocks in at the 10 second mark, edging out its Sandy Bridge quad-core brethren by a healthy margin.
At the bottom of the stack is the new Core i5-3427U in software only mode. At only 17 Watts TDP it's the most power-conservative CPU of the bunch, however, and with Quick Sync disabled this result falls in line as expected.
|SiSoftware SANDRA and PCMark 7|
|We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2012, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2012 suite (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Cache and Memory Latency and Memory Bandwidth).
SANDRA Processor Arithmetic and Multimedia Tests
SANDRA Cache and Memory Latency and Memory Bandwidth Tests
In these quick synthetic tests the new Ivy Bridge ULT dual-core shows it's actually able to keep pace with previous generation standard voltage/power chips and in some cases even surpass them. Memory bandwidth is also showing a slight advantage for the Core i5-3427U chip.
Next up, we ran our test systems through Futuremark’s previous generation total-system performance evaluation tool, PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity. Since we have a database of scores for this test, we felt it would be good to give you additional reference points to compare to.
Keep in mind we're showing you reference scores versus previous generation Sandy Bridge Utlrabooks primarily here. However, each of these machines are also configured with fast SSDs, which affects the score in PCMark 7 significantly since it's a rather disk sensitive benchmark. Recently, this new crop of Ultrabooks has chalked up top end scores in this benchmark as a result of their SSD storage subsystems primarily. Dual-core versus dual-core its no contest, Intel's new Core i5-3427U Ivy Bridge CPU puts out impressive performance, almost doubling scores seen from previous generation Ultrabooks (Toshiba's rather slow SSD in the Portege Z835 actually gets lapped and then some), and leaving the AMD Trinity-based prototype in its rear view.
|Rendering and Media Encoding: Cinebench and LAME MT|
Cinebench R11.5 is a 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others. It's very demanding of system processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput.
In Cinebench, the low power Ivy Bridge Core i5-3327U processor's OpenGL graphics score drops it in ahead of the Sandy Bridge quad-core, but as expected, behind the Ivy Bridge Core i7 quad-core chip. AMD's Trinity APU easily posts up the best integrated GPU score here almost doubling the Ivy Bridge ULT chip. In terms of CPU performance, the ultra low voltage Ivy Bridge chip can't quite catch a 35W 2.5GHz dual-core Sandy Bridge CPU but it does handily out-pace AMD's 35W Trinity APU.
In Lame we see a similar spread of performance with the low power Core i5-3427U sliding in just under the standard voltage Core i5-2520M Sandy Bridge dual core. The new Ivy Bridge Ultra chip is only about 10-12% behind the full power Sandy Bridge dual-core, however, and AMD's Trinity APU isn't even in the running, quite frankly.
|DX11 Gaming Benchmark: 3DMark 11|
In 3DMark 11 Intel's now DX11 capable chip can finally render the workloads required for each sub-test, something that Intel integrated graphics haven't been able to handle until now. Here the new low power Ivy Bridge-based Core i5-3427U and Intel's prototype 3rd generation Ultrabook are able to just edge-out a previous generation Sandy Bridge-based machine with discrete AMD Radeon graphics. It's not a benchmark busting score by any stretch, but even the ultra low voltage version of Ivy Bridge has a little bit of game on board.
|Gaming Performance: Just Cause 2 and Far Cry 2|
The Radeon HD 7660G graphics engine in the AMD A10-4600M Trinity APU easily outpaced Intel's integrated graphics in the Just Cause 2 benchmark. Regardless, the low power Ivy Bridge Core i5 dual-core offers a sizable performance gain over the previous generation Sandy Bridge Core i5 in this test; on the order of about 45% faster than the Core i5-2467M.
The Radeon HD 7660G within the AMD A10-4600M Trinity APU also performed well in our FarCry 2 tests though the numbers are a more tightly grouped here. The Core i5-3427U low power Ivy Bridge CPU once again steps past even the quad-core Sandy Bridge processor, but in any event, you'll need to turn down image quality or resolution to get playable frame rates in either game engine tested here.
|DX11 Gaming: Batman Arkham City|
Batman: Arkham City is sort of the poster child for a leading-edge game engine that not only looks great but employs some higher-end effects and rendering techniques. In DX11 mode, the new ultra low voltage Core i5-3427U doesn't catch playable frame rates but if you drop the game back to the DX9 rendering path, at a lower resolution of 1024X768 things smooth out. Surprisingly, in this game engine, Intel's HD 4000 graphics engine is stronger than AMD's Radeon HD 7600 series core in the A10 Trinity APU, though we suspect driver maturity is at play more than anything else.
Regardless, to even consider running a title like this on a wafer-thin Ultrabook is something that reaches beyond the intended usage model for this type of machine. Admittedly, expecting to game on a notebook that weighs in under 3lbs is unrealistic, though we had to look at the numbers just for grins.
|Power Consumption and Battery Life|
|If you're shopping for a notebook, you're likely very interested in what kind of battery life you can expect from a system, unless you're considering a desktop replacement machine. Here we're put Intel's new dual-core Ivy Bridge chip through its paces in our power consumption and battery tests.
The results below are from our combined Battery Eater Pro (worst case) and Web Browsing only (almost best case) tests. BEP beats on the CPU, GPU, disk and memory while it renders a 3D image and rotates it in real time on the screen. Our light duty, web browser test refreshes a web page of mixed text, graphics, HTML and Flash, every 3 minutes. Both tests are run with display brightness set to 50% with no sleep timers enabled. All other power plan options were left as delivered from the manufacturer. We should note that all tests below were conducted on the integrated graphics core of the CPU in each notebook.
In our Battery Eater Pro and Web Browser battery drain test, Intel's new Ultrabook platform demonstration vehicle scored the longest light-duty uptime measurement we've seen to date, lasting almost 8 hours on a single charge under our web browsing test condition. In our heavy-duty Battery Eater test, the machine still managed to post over 2 hours of untethered use but couldn't quite keep up with the bulkier machines with larger batteries than the 49WHr battery the new Intel prototype was powered by.
Under idle conditions on the desktop the new Intel Ultrabook drew just 11.5 Watts of power. Under full CPU and GPU load combined, the entire system only drew about 56 Watts. Compared to AMD's Trinity Whitebook, which sports a larger 14-inch form factor, this is a modest advantage at best. However, the ultra low voltage version of Ivy Bridge is still impressive and miserly about power consumption, when you consider its relative horsepower compared to legacy and competing architectures.
|Performance Summary and Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: Intel's new Core i5-3427U 17 Watt Ivy Bridge Ultra processor compared favorably to previous generation Sandy Bridge standard voltage CPUs in terms of CPU performance. The new chip often offered 85+% of the CPU throughput of the standard power dual-core, as we saw in our Cinebench CPU tests for example, but with much lower power consumption. In multimedia workloads, especially video encode/decode, the new low power 17W Ivy Bridge Core i5 dual-core was dramatically faster than a standard power 35W Sandy Bridge processor and the same holds true under casual gaming conditions as well. Finally, compared to AMD's Trinity APU, a yardstick Intel's chip is competitively aligned with, Intel's CPU lead continues to extend while their graphics game has come up significantly, even within their ultra low voltage architecture. Intel can't match AMD's integrated graphics performance or game compatibility, but Intel absolutely obliterates AMD on the CPU side of the equation.
The New Thin - Ultrabooks Powered by 22nm CPUs - Intel's Ivy Bridge ULT Processor
And so the stage is set. Intel has lowered price points for Ultrabooks to start at $699, though we're hopeful manufacturing partner execution to the bar that has been set is better achieved versus the first generation of UItrabooks. Remember that $999 price point? Too often it was exceeded and there are still scant few options beneath the $1K mark. Performance-per-watt, however, has once again been dramatically enhanced, with power consumption, size and thermal design performance optimized for even thinner, lighter and more stylish designs. With these key system level performance characteristics in hand, along with solid cost reductions, AMD's Trinity has some pretty stiff competition.
In fact, for ultralight notebooks, we'd say it could very well be game, set and match for Intel with this design cycle. In more midrange multimedia-targeted notebooks, where graphics performance is more critical, Trinity-based machines could offer a price aggressive option in the market, though there will be a trade-off in CPU performance that will take careful marketing to convey at the retail level.
Regardless, though the landscape is quickly changing in the notebook arena, Intel appears to be ahead of the curve again, offering more power-efficient CPUs like the Core i5-3427U with leading-edge features like DX11 graphics, and video transcoding and encryption processing engines on board. When you stop to think what Intel's new Ultrabook architecture is capable of, considering its size and weight specifications, what the company has achieved is an unquestionable feat of design and manufacturing prowess that virtually no other company in the market can match currently.