Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge Processor Review

Introduction and Specifications

One of the great things about Intel’s “Tick, Tock” release cadence is that it gives us all an early glimpse into the company’s future plans and potential product offerings, especially since they’ve been able to execute so well over the last few years. Seeing Conroe eventually evolve into Penryn, and Nehalem into Westmere has given us all an idea as to what to expect with today’s official launch of Ivy Bridge, the “Tick” to Sandy Bridge’s “Tock”, otherwise known as Intel’s 3rd Generation Core Processor family. Of course, if you haven’t stayed on top of Intel’s plans since announcing their “Tick, Tock” model, you could have just read the myriad of leaks that have plagued this launch, but that’s a discussion for another day. Today is all about Ivy Bridge and its official launch in both desktop and mobile flavors.

We have had Intel’s flagship Ivy Bridge-based Core i7-3770K desktop processor humming along in the lab for a while now, along with a new notebook platform powered by a Core i7-3720QM. Our coverage of Intel’s mobile Ivy Bridge variant is available at this link; in this article we’ll be focusing on the Core i7-3770K and all that it brings to the table. Before we deep dive into Ivy Bridge’s juicy details though, feast your eyes on the main specifications and features of Intel’s 3rd Generation Core Processor family posted below. We’ve also got a bit of related back-story linked for your reading pleasure, followed by the full scoop on Ivy Bridge itself and the new capabilities it brings to Intel’s processor line-up...

Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge-based Quad-Core Desktop Processor

Intel 3rd Generation Core Processor Family
Specifications & Features

Core i7

Core i5

Core i3

Number of Cores / Threads 4 / 8 4 / 4 2 / 4
Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 Yes Yes No
Intel Hyper-Threading Technology Yes No Yes
Intel Smart Cache 8MB L3 6MB L3 3MB L3
AES New Instructions (AES-NI) Yes Yes No
Intel HD Graphics with DirectX 11 4000 2500 / 4000 2500 / 4000
Intel Virtualization Technology (VT-x) Yes Yes Yes
Performance Tuning Enabled Yes Yes No
Recommended Chipset Z77 H77 H61
Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 Dynamically increases the processor's frequency as needed by taking advantage of thermal and power headroom to give you a burst of speed when you need it.
Intel Hyper-Threading Technology Delivers two processing threads per physical core. Highly threaded applications can get more work done in parallel, completing tasks sooner.
Integrated Memory Controller An integrated memory controller offers stunning memory read/write performance through efficient prefetching algorithms, lower latency, and higher memory bandwidth.
Built-In Visuals Inte Quick Sync Video—Delivers fast conversion of video for portable media players, online sharing, and video editing and authoring.

Intel Clear Video HD—Visual quality and color fidelity enhancements for HD playback for a sharper, smoother, and richer picture.

Intel InTru 3D—Stereoscopic 3-D Blu-ray playback in full 1080p resolution over HDMI 1.4 and premium audio.

Intel HD Graphics—Enhanced 3-D performance for immersive mainstream and casual gaming.

Intel Advanced Vector Extensions—A set of new instructions to improve software performance for floating point-intensive applications such as audio processing,
audio codecs, and image and video editing applications.
Intel Smart Cache The shared cache is dynamically allocated to each processor core, based on workload. This significantly reduces latency, improving performance.
AES New Instructions (AES-NI) New AES instructions add hardware acceleration to AES algorithms and speeds up the execution of AES applications.
Intel Virtualization Technology Allows one hardware platform to function as multiple "virtual" platforms. Offers improved manageability by limiting downtime and maintaining productivity by isolating computing activities into separate partitions.
Thermal Solution for Boxed CPUs Includes a four-pin connector for fan speed control to help minimize the acoustic noise levels generated from running the fan at higher speeds for thermal performance.

Intel Ivy Bridge Die Shot

For those of you not quite familiar with Intel’s codenames, Ivy Bridge is the codename of a new family of products built using Intel’s 22nm process technology that will be the foundation of an entire line of desktop and mobile processors in 2012 and beyond. Ivy Bridge is a “Tick” in Intel’s CPU release cadence, which means it is a somewhat mild revision of an existing microarchitecture—in this case Sandy Bridge—manufactured using a new process node, but with some new features thrown into the mix. It is not a totally new microarchitecture. That distinction will come with Haswell, the next Tock in Intel’s release cadence (not pictured).

Above we have a die shot of an Ivy Bridge processor, along with the features and some specifications of the initial batch of products in the new 3rd Generation Core processor family. Some of the features are carryovers from previous-generation Intel processor offerings, but Ivy Bridge does have a number of new tricks up its virtual sleeve as well. Ivy Bridge heavily leverages many technolgoies from previous Intel CPU microarchitectures, but with these new chips, in addition to building them on a new process, Intel has incorporated a much more powerful, DirectX 11-class graphics core, some new security related features, and enhanced the chip's power management capabilities, among a few other things.

We’ll explain more and dive a little deeper into Ivy Bridge on the pages ahead. But before we do, we’d like to reference a few previous HotHardware articles with information pertinent to today’s launch.

The new 7-Series chipsets that officially support Ivy Bridge-based processors have similar features to the 6-Series chipsets they supplant in Intel’s line-up. As such, many of the technologies we’ve covered in the past are available with Ivy Bridge.

Intel recommends the Z77 Express chipset for enthusiast-class Ivy Bridge-based desktop platforms, and we’ve already posted a round-up of four very nice Z77 Express-based motherboards we’d recommended checking out. Many 7-Series chipsets will offer Intel Smart Response Technology (SRT) and Rapid Storage Technology (RST) which we covered in our Z68 launch piece. Lucid Logix’s Virtu GPU virtualization software, which gives users the ability to leverage Intel’s integrated graphics engine and QuickSync along with a discrete graphics card, is also included with many 7 Series motherboards. We've covered Virtu in previous articles as well. Because Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge are so closely related, perusing our Sandy Bridge launch articles would be a good idea if you’d like more detailed explanations on the changes ushered in with Sandy Bridge. And our coverage of Intels 22nm Tri-Gate transistor announcement gives some detail on the new manufacturing process technology used with Ivy Bridge.

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