Ivy Bridge as many of you now know, is Intel’s 22nm die shrink of their Sandy Bridge architecture. The way that Intel is able to achieve this is through their new manufacturing process technology called FinFET. This FinFET technology is also known as 3-D transistors as they essentially spread the transistors out from one another instead of having to arrange them in a single plane or simple manner. While the term FinFET was originally coined at UC Berkeley, it has been brought to the mass market mainly by Intel even though others like IBM have already shown these products in a theoretical sense many years ago.

To compete with Intel’s FinFET 22nm manufacturing process, many companies like IBM, Samsung and Globalfoundries who are also responsible for fabricating microprocessors have stated that they will also join the FinFET craze when they shrink their process down to 14nm, down from their current 28nm.

In addition to the 22nm process technology, Intel has significantly beefed up the graphics on their Ivy Bridge processors, with the 77w TDP i7 3770K desktop processor getting Intel HD 4000 graphics running at 1.1 GHz. Intel claims that their newest integrated graphics is twice as powerful as their previous generation enabling them to be able to deliver better video and game experiences (now supporting DX11) in extremely low power environments. In addition to that, Intel’s newest HD 4000 graphics enables users to connect up to three displays to their computer using the integrated graphics. This removes the need for consumers to go out and buy a low-end discrete card purely for the purpose of having more monitors. Granted, the motherboard does have to support it, but if it does it can result in a very quiet and cool computing environment.

Intel has traditionally been very proud of their manufacturing capabilities and they believe that their newest 22nm process for the Ivy Bridge processors will enable them to deliver great performance at a very low power cost. Today, we will be evaluating their desktop processor, the Core i7 3770K in conjunction with the Z77 chipset. Unfortunately for us, our Intel Z77 board had the bios corrupt itself shortly after installing the Intel chipset drivers and we were forced to use a Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H instead. As a result, we’ve had very little time to test the Core i7 3770K fully and will be bringing you more reviews with Ivy Bridge including some gaming benchmarks to compare the HD 4000 as well as explore certain technologies such as Lucid Logix’s Virtu MVP, which many motherboard manufacturers (including Intel) have found to be a valuable technology to include in their motherboards.

As you’ll notice from the pictures we’ve included above, the Z77 chipset adds a few features to Intel’s motherboards, which they have not had in the past. Namely, native USB 3.0 and native PCIe 3.0. Both of these technologies are slightly behind the curve (especially USB 3.0) as many graphics cards that have already been released this year have PCIe 3.0 support. The X79 chipset did technically support PCIe 3.0 but Intel did not officially state that it was PCIe 3.0 and left motherboard vendors to make those claims and meet those parameters. With USB 3.0, Intel has included four USB 3.0 ports as part of the chipset and as a result, significantly improved the connectivity performance for many systems worldwide as many motherboards generally had a maximum of two or four ports in the past. 

In addition to having those two new features, Z77 does support Intel’s Smart Response technology which is pictured above where you can place an mSATA SSD for caching to improve your system’s overall performance when using a hard drive. Some motherboard vendors with the Z68 bundled 20GB mSATA SSDs with their motherboards when it was first introduced, but we have not seen that with Z77. Honestly, we find Intel’s Smart Response technology to be a bit of a short term fix for those who don’t want to spend the money on a full size SSD until prices come down. Once prices come down, we expect this technology to all but disappear. In addition to that, when you have an mSATA SSD plugged into that slot, you lose the use of one of your SATA 2.0 ports.

SATA ports pictured, white ports are SATA 6Gb/s and black ports are SATA 3Gb/s

This is another feature of the Z77 chipset that we would like to talk about, the lack of added storage bandwidth. The Z77 chipset only supports two SATA 6Gb/s ports with an additional four SATA 3Gb/s ports. This is essentially the exact same storage solution that we have seen from Intel since P67 or the first Sandy Bridge which was released early last year and suffered from a single transistor design flaw which ended up resulting in a channel-wide recall and 2 month delay of the Sandy Bridge launch as well as a $1 Billion write down for Intel. Thankfully we have not seen any such catastrophic bugs from Intel since then, but we hope that they really get their chipset game together. Benchmarks

Benchmarks Setup:
Intel Core i7 3770K
Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H
4GB Kingston 2400MHz DDR3 running at 1600MHz C9 and 2400MHz
2x Patriot Pyro SE 240GB 
Maingear Epic 180 Water Cooling
AMD Radeon HD 7970
Maingear Shift Case
Thermaltake ToughPower 1475w Gold PSU

Intel Core i7 3820
Intel X79 DX79SI
16GB of Kingston 1600MHz DDR3 C9
1 Patriot Pyro SE 120GB
Coolermaster 1100W UCP
NVIDIA GTX 680

Intel Core i7 3960X
Gigabyte X79-UD7
16GB of Kingston 2133 running at 1600MHz C9
1 Patriot Pyro SE 120GB
Coolermaster 1100W UCP
NVIDIA GTX 680
Velociraptor 1TB
Velociraptor 600GB

AIDA64

In AIDA64, we ran all five of their CPU benchmarks and compared the three main Intel CPUs that we have tested in the past. Unfortunately, we did not have access to our original Sandy Bridge processors, so we made due by including the 3820 and 3960X in our benchmarks against the 3770K. As you can see in our benchmarks above, in the majority of our benchmarks the 3770K trades punches with the 3820, beating it in the Zlib, Hash and Queen benchmarks while losing in the AES and PhotoWorxx benchmarks, which tend to be more memory bandwidth intensive.

We also tested the AIDA64 FPU benchmarks to further evaluate the 3770K’s FPU worthiness.

Here we can definitely see the improvements over the Sandy Bridge Core i7 3820, but realistically still not nearly as fast as the Core i7 3960X except for in the VP8 benchmark which indicates that Intel has significantly improved the video compression capabilities of the Ivy Bridge processors as the VP8 benchmark uses Google’s VP8 code for video compression. SiSoft Sandra 2012

In this test, SiSoft Sandra tests the mathematical computation capabilities of the processors with two different tests. As you can see here, the Core i7 3770K beats out the Core i7 3820. This does indicate that on a purely computational basis, the Core i7 3770K is a superior processor, even if by a relatively small margin.

Here in the Processor Multimedia Benchmark, we essentially see more of the same with the 3770K edging out the 3820 by quite a bit more than in the previous test, but still quite a bit behind the 3960X. Admittedly, we wouldn’t expect the 3770K to beat the 3960X, but it would be nice to see it competing more closely. Then again, it is a bit hard to expect that when Ivy Bridge is simply a die shrink of the Sandy Bridge architecture. Nevertheless, these results are pretty good and continue to tell the story that Intel has indeed significantly improved video processing performance.

Here we see the multi-core efficiency between the processors and we can see that the 3770K actually has the best inter-core latency, but also the slowest inter-core bandwidth. What should be interesting is to see how Ivy Bridge-E stacks up against Sandy Bridge-E (3960X).

The SiSoft Sandra 2012 Cryptography Benchmark shows a mixed bag of the 3770K beating the 3820 in hashing bandwidth test, but losing in encryption/decryption test. As expected, the 3960X once again wins both tests in this benchmark.


IIn this test, we have the 3770K going up against two Sandy Bridge-E processors with Quad-Channel memory. Admittedly, we didn’t for a second expect the 3770K to compete with the 3820 or 3960X, but we still wanted to see how well it performed against them when taking into consideration the massive expected performance differential. Even though we didn’t have a Sandy Bridge processor to test against it, based off of the database’s existing benchmarks of Sandy Bridge, the 3770K did beat it by a slight margin. Cinebench R11.5 CPU

Here in our Cinebench benchmarks, we compare the same three processors once again. This time we also decided to add the Core i7 3960X overclocked at 4.6 GHz as well as the 3770K which we were able to OC to 4.9GHz.

3DMark 11


Here in the Futuremark 3DMark 11 benchmark, we decided to take a middle of the road high-end GPU and test it on the 3960X vs the 3770K to see how much of an effect CPU performance can have on such a test as well as how much the 3770K is expected to perform against the 3960X in games. Looking at these results it is pretty clear that at lower resolutions and settings the 3960X is more powerful and relevant, but as the GPU settings increase it is clear that the different is negligible.

x264 HD Benchmark 4.0

In the x264 HD Benchmark, we were able to see the continued trend of Intel’s video performance improvements in Ivy Bridge when compared to older processor architectures. In this test we were able to compare to many other processors which we have tested over time and were able to get a Sandy Bridge processor for this benchmark back when we tested it. Looking at the comparison the 3770K against the 3960 you can see that the 3770′s Pass 1 performance outperforms our initial X79 testing and the 2600K but stays very close to the 2600K in the pass 1 test. We also included our overclocked results for this benchmark to show how much performance is gained on this processor when overclocking from 3.9GHz to 4.9GHz. When that is achieved, the 3770K achieves equality with the 3960 in pass 2 and beats it handily in pass 1. Also, as a note, this benchmark is a 720P benchmark and not 1080P.

LinX a Simple Linpack Interface

In our LinX benchmark, we simply wanted to see what kind of raw performance the Core i7 3770K was capable of delivering. Taking a look at that, it would be safe to assume that this processor is capable of about 50 Gflops. This is in comparison to our previous results with the 3960X which achieved 65 Gflops and our 3820 which achieved only 44 Gflops, indicating that based upon raw performance the 3770K is a 10% faster processor in doing linpack computation which is in line with our AIDA64 arithmetic results.


For our storage benchmarks, we simply wanted to see how Ivy Bridge handled two SSDs in RAID 0 and how well they performed when used in high-stress environments. Judging by our results, we were able to determine that the performance is in-line with what we would expect from an X79 or Z68 board indicating very little to no performance increases in terms of storage performance.

We did our testing with two Patriot Pyro SE 240GB SSDs in RAID 0 using the SATA 6Gb/s ports on the Gigabyte Z77-UD3H

In both benchmarks above, you can see that we were able to break 1GB/s reads on the array and in ATTO we were able to break 1GB/s writes. Since we consider ATTO to be more of a theoretical benchmark, we decided to run a few benchmarks to give a better ballpark idea of overall performance.

Here you can see that overall, our results average out around 1GB/s read and about 550 MB/s write. Unfortunately, even though the drives claim 510MB/s writes individually in reality SandForce’s 2281 controllers generally don’t deliver this (only in ATTO) and as a result you will see about half that in real world performance in RAID as the Z77 illustrates.

Overclocking

On the topic of overclocking, Ivy Bridge is a different animal while still being the same beast. In a sense, overclocking this chip really isn’t hard. Actually, we’d say it was quite easy. We were able to attain 4.6 and 4.7 GHz pretty quickly and easily as we have traditionally been able to do on Sandy Bridge architecture based processors. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t really get any additional overclocking potential out of this chip than we did out of the other i7 processors that we have tested, including the 3820 and 3960X.

Cinebench performance at 4.9GHz

Looking at actual performance increases, we were able to test both the Cinebench and x264 HD Benchmarks to show how much of an increase of performance was realized under a 4.9GHz overclock.

In Cinebench we were able to realize an increase from 7.93 to 9.95. The increase from 3.9 GHz to 4.9 GHz translates into a 25% overclock and the performance differential is more around 20%, which is still pretty good considering how close it is to a linear improvement.

In the x264 HD Benchmark, we were able to increase our performance at 4.9 GHz to 213.47 fps in pass 1 and 54.66 fps in pass 2. This is an increase of 23.7% in pass 1 and 24.9% in pass 2. These two benchmarks are actually much closer to our 25% overclock in terms of linear improvement than Cinebench was and the pass 2 performance was almost exactly the same as our overclock percentage which is actually astonishing as linear improvements are very rare.
 
We were able to squeeze out 4.9GHz, which is actually the best overclock that we’ve been able to achieve on water. But, even on water we had to pump far too much voltage into the chip to actually make it stable (1.41v). We spent countless hours trying to get 5GHz stable on water and it simply would not happen. While we are not entirely sure if it was our motherboard or the processor, we haven’t seen anything about this chip that is revolutionary when it comes to overclocking. It really is a different animal but still the same beast, there is no doubt that it is an awesome overclocking chip, it just isn’t really that much more awesome, in our eyes.

Temperatures and Power Consumption

In terms of temperatures and power consumption, the 3770K didn’t really perform out of expectations whatsoever. This chip is an extremely low wattage chip and as a result of the higher frequency has about the same thermals as Sandy Bridge.

Here, you can see that even under full load the full CPU package does not surpass 50W of power consumption and that the cores themselves consume 41w while the GPU consumes under 1W (not under load).

Here, we can see that the power consumption stays pretty low and that the CPU never actually consumes more than 50W. You can also see the CPU temperatures under stock settings and under load the CPU under load tends to idle around 40C which is pretty good when you consider that it is running at 100% load. You also have to take into consideration that we are running a 180mm water cooling system on this CPU and that also can have an effect on how cool the CPU may run. But generally speaking, these temperatures are good and around the ballpark we’d expect. 

Value
Taking a look at the 3770K and the Z77, there are certainly some added benefits of going with them over the 2600K or 2700K. Looking at them price-wise… the 3770K is priced at $313 which puts it right in the same price slot as the 2600 and 2700K as well as the 3820. This enables you to decide which features are important to you and to buy the one that fits you most. If memory bandwidth is more important to you, go with the 3820. If you want the best value, go with the 3770K as it has HD4000 graphics and now supports USB 3.0 natively.

If you already own a Sandy Bridge processor, you would literally be upgrading for the added benefits of having native USB 3.0 and Intel’s HD4000 as well as Lucid’s Virtu MVP which is almost ubiquitous across all major Z77 motherboards. We do not believe that the 3770K delivers a good enough proposition for users who already own a Sandy Bridge family product to switch to Ivy Bridge if they are on a desktop. On laptops, there is still a strong argument for switching as a result of the lower power consumption.

Now, if you’re looking for a brand new computer and want the fastest without spending many thousands of dollars, the 3770K and Z77 are certainly for you. They deliver all of the latest technologies at a pretty affordable price while keeping power consumption down and still leaving plenty of overclocking headroom (25%). So, in that sense, when you take the 3770K out of the context of all the other Intel processors and look at it from a new product aspect, it is really quite a good value especially when paired with a motherboard like the Z77X-UD3H.

Conclusion
After having benchmarked the 3770K and compared it against its brothers and sisters from the Sandy Bridge family of processors it is fair to say that Ivy Bridge is without a doubt faster and that Ivy Bridge-E will once again take that performance level to the enthusiast and server platforms with added cache, cores, and memory bandwidth.

Even though we were able to overclock the processor to 4.9GHz we were still left a little disappointed that we were unable to attain 5GHz stable on the 3770K which we had hoped would be possible with the die shrink from 32nm to 22nm and all of the talk of improved power consumption and the like. If you own a Sandy Bridge processor and don’t care about native USB 3.0 or PCIe gen 3.0 or the HD 4000 integrated graphics, then Ivy Bridge and the Z77 are not for you.

That said, we do believe that the Ivy Bridge processors are very well designed and positioned to do quite a bit of damage on the low-end of the desktop market and laptop/ultrabook sector. We find ourselves much more excited to see Ivy Bridge in Ultrabooks than we are in desktops and hopefully that will change with Ivy Bridge-E but we get a sense that desktop platform has been stale ever since AMD has stopped competing with Intel on the high end. We really hope that AMD is able to recapture some market share from Intel with Trinity and that they will be able to create more value for consumers and perhaps make Intel work a little more. Currently, though, Intel owns the performance segment and they have closed the gap between themselves and AMD when it comes to integrated graphics performance.

Expect to see more Ivy bridge coverage from us including mini-ITX systems and boards as we explore the smaller form factors for big computing. In our opinion, Mini-ITX is the most exciting form factor for Ivy Bridge because of its performance and power consumption combined with the relatively small form factor. We are really excited about the mini-ITX space and look forward to bringing more coverage about Mini-ITX Ivy Bridge systems soon.