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 transistor
s 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.
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