Intel's third-generation Core processor family, known as Ivy Bridge, incorporates advanced technologies that promise faster performance and improved power efficiency over the previous Sandy Bridge line.

We pitted the flagship desktop processors from each generation head-to-head in a variety of tests designed to measure application performance, video processing and power consumption. See also Yoyotech Warbird XTi review.

Intel Ivy Bridge: The new chips

Ivy Bridge marks a 'Tick' in Intel's regular Tick, Tock cadence of annual processor upgrades. With each ‘Tock' a new microarchitecture is introduced; this is then refined in the following year's 'Tick'.

This particular Tick brings increased efficiency by reducing the process size from 32-nanometre (nm) to 22nm. Still greater power savings come courtesy of a new Tri-gate transistor technology, said to considerably improve the chip's low-voltage performance.

Intel has dubbed Ivy Bridge a Tick+ release, following a major upgrade to the processor family's integrated graphics. Its HD Graphics 4000 processor now supports DirectX 11.0 and HiDPI graphics.

Intel Ivy Bridge: Performance results

To evaluate the performance benefits of the new technology, we compared a Core i7-2700K Sandy Bridge chip to one of the new Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processors. Both chips run with a base clock speed of 3.5GHz, and can turbo boost up to 3.9GHz when required.

We tested using one of Intel's new DZ77GA-70K motherboards, which features the enthusiast-level Z77 Express chipset. Our setup included 16GB of DDR3 memory, running at 1,600MHz, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit installed on a 256GB Intel 510 Series SSD. See also: Intel Ivy Bridge 7-series motherboards tested.

All tests were conducted at the chips' default settings. Due to an issue with the motherboard, we also installed an Asus-branded AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphics card to get the system to boot into Windows. This card played no part in the overall performance, but it does consume power even in its idle state. See also: Intel launches Ivy Bridge processor family.

Ivy Bridge MediaEspresso performance

Intel Ivy Bridge: Application performance

We measured general application performance with WorldBench 6. This suite tests the performance of real-world applications running day-to-day computing tasks.

WorldBench 6 revealed only a very small increase in performance using the new processor. Moving from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge yielded an overall performance gain of just 2.6 percent. Some individual components of the test achieved up to 6 percent improvement.

This level of performance gain may seem unimpressive, but the ageing test applications in WorldBench 6 don't always take advantage of some of the processor's newer features. More: Intel Ivy Bridge processors tested.

NEXT PAGE: Ivy Bridge video transcoding and gaming performance >>

Our Ivy Bridge review shows that Intel's next-gen of Core processors offers more power and greater efficiency.

Intel Ivy Bridge: Video transcoding

We used CyberLink's MediaEspresso application to convert 16 short clips of 1080p Blu-ray video into a format designed for viewing on an iPad. MediaEspresso takes advantage of Intel's Quick Sync Video technology, leveraging the power of the built-in graphics processor.

Here, the Core i7-3770K outperformed its predecessor by 45 percent, completing the task in 1 min 37 secs compared to the 2 mins 21 secs of the Core i7-2700K. This is a clear indicator of the improved performance of the new graphics engine found in Ivy Bridge.

Intel Ivy Bridge: Gaming

Intel's integrated graphics aren't really powerful enough for the gaming enthusiast, but the new Intel HD 4000 graphics do deliver a significant improvement. It allows more challenging games to be played smoothly and with better graphics.

We ran our Crysis benchmark at 1280x720 resolution, and measured a 15.2 percent performance boost in low-quality mode. This increased to an impressive 36 percent when we stepped up to medium quality.

Ivy Bridge Crysis Performance

Intel Ivy Bridge: Power consumption

We also measured system power consumption with each of the chips installed, first with the system idle and then when running the aforementioned CyberLink MediaEspresso test.

There's not much to be gained when the PC is idle, but the average power consumption dropped from 58W for Sandy Bridge to 55W for Ivy Bridge.

Once the processors are put under load, the advantages of the 22nm process and Tri-Gate technology come to the fore. We measured an average power consumption of 142W for Sandy Bridge and 113W for Ivy Bridge. It's important to keep in mind that the Ivy Bridge processor achieves this lower power consumption while simultaneously performing the task 45 percent faster.

Ivy bridge Power Consumption

Read our first Ivy Bridge PC review.

WorldBench 6 breakdown    i7-2700K    i7-3770K
Overall score    195    200
Adobe Photoshop CS2    213    208
Autodesk 3ds max (DirectX)    267    262
Autodesk 3ds max (rendering)    178    168
Firefox 2.0    141    133
Microsoft Office 2003 with SP1    293    293
Windows Media Encoder 9.0    130    126
Multitasking: Firefox and WME    159    153
Nero 7 Ultra Edition    92    92
Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator 1.5    147    142
WinZip Computing WinZip 10.0    135    135

Intel Core i7-3770K: Specs

  • Intel third-generation Core processor
  • quad-core
  • 3.5GHz (Turbo Boost to 3.9GHz)
  • 22nm manufacturing process
  • DirectX 11.0
  • HiDPI
  • Intel third-generation Core processor
  • quad-core
  • 3.5GHz (Turbo Boost to 3.9GHz)
  • 22nm manufacturing process
  • DirectX 11.0
  • HiDPI


Ivy Bridge is most certainly a improvement over its predecessor. And with prices expected to be around the same as those of their Sandy Bridge counterparts, these new chips are definitely worth seeking out. Graphics performance sees the more impressive boost, even if the results are still behind what can be achieved with existing integrated graphics solutions from AMD – albeit with significantly lower application performance. Sandy Bridge owners need not worry too much, since the performance gains are not huge – but if you do want to upgrade, you may be able to do so without replacing your existing motherboard. Overclockers may benefit most from this type of upgrade, thanks to the lower power requirements of the Ivy Bridge architecture. The greatest benefits of all are sure to be felt in the mobile-optimised processors in laptops, which should benefit from improved battery life and graphics.

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