Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge CPU Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/Intel_Core_i7_3770K/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Over the years Intel has managed to consecutively launch a new architecture annually, living up to their aggressive "Tick-Tock" strategy. Today’s launch of their 3rd generation Core architecture falls under the "tick" portion of that strategy, which in this case would refer to a refinement of the previous generation as opposed the massive performance increases traditionally associated with "tocks". This means Ivy Bridge is not going to beat the performance numbers of Sandy Bridge processors by a landslide, but since it is built on a new 22nm process, Ivy Bridge will be more power efficient, have better thermal performance and should scale higher than processors based on a 32nm design. In addition, Intel has slightly reworked the architecture for better single threaded performance via more efficient data structure.

The Ivy Bridge processor we are going to be examining in this review is the high-end Intel Core i7 3770K, which will be the desktop replacement for the 2700K, both in terms of pricing and performance. As the name suggests, this processor is part of the “K” or “Unlocked” series of processors, meaning the multiplier is unlocked which makes increasing the clock speeds infinitely easier than the previous method of overclocking via the base clock. The new Ivy Bridge processors also come with a built-in IGP which comes in two flavors; the Intel HD Graphics 4000 and 2500. As the faster of the two, the G4000 is integrated into high-end chips such as the 3770K we are examining, while the G2500 will be in mid-range to mainstream Ivy Bridge processors.

The G4000 is similar to the IGP found in Sandy Bridge, but the new graphics processor has been reworked and as a result actually becomes one of the more dramatic differences between Sandy and Ivy Bridge. Unlike the G3000, which had 12 execution units, the total amount of execution units available in the G4000 has be increased to 16. The clock speed has been set to 1.15GHz, which is slightly slower than the G3000. However, with the additional execution units and 22nm process, the overall performance should be better, all while consuming less power than the G3000.

Specifications
 Cores 4
Threads 8
Intel® Smart Cache 8MB
Processor Base/Boost Frequency 3.5 / 3.9 GHz
Memory Frequency 1600 MHz
Number of DDR3 Memory Channels 4
Overclocking Enabled YES
Intel® Express Chipset Z77
Socket LGA1155

Intel is releasing multiple Ivy Bridge processors, as you can see from the table below. The processor we are examining sits at the top of the stack, costing $313. Interestingly that is slightly cheaper than what the current generation 2700K retails for. Other processors in the Ivy Bridge family are all priced below $300, and go as low as $174 for the chips in the i5 series.

Model CPU Base Turbo Core TDP Cores/Threads L2 Cache MSRP
Core i7 3770K 3.5GHz 3.9GHz 77W 4/8 8MB $313
Core i7 3770T
3.4GHz 3.7GHz 45W 8MB $278
Core i7 3770S
3.10GHz 3.9GHz 65W   8MB $278
Core i7 3770 3.4GHz 3.9GHz 77W 4/8 8MB $278
Core i7 3570K 3.4GHz 3.8GHz 77W 4/4 6MB $212
Core i5 3550S
3.0GHz 3.7GHz 65W 4/4 6MB $194
Core i7 3550 3.3GHz 3.7GHz 77W 4/4 6MB $194
Core i7 3450 3.1GHz 3.5GHz 77W 4/4 6MB $174

Instead of creating an entirely new packaging box for Ivy Bridge, Intel decided to go with the same style as other processors based on the Core architecture. This of course means the box has depiction of the micro-architecture running across the center, with the logo at the top and model information toward the bottom. The box dimensions are also roughly equal to the boxes Sandy Bridge processors shipped in, meaning unlike SB-E, Ivy Bridge will come with a small heatsink inside the box.

Ivy Bridge is Intel's third Generation Core architecture, and in many ways is extremely similar to its predecessor. This is due to the core logic between Ivy and Sandy Bridge remaining the same, but Ivy Bridge is built on a 22nm process instead of 32nm. While the die shrink is not going to change the overall performance, it will improve the performance-per-watt, thus allowing this chip to perform better than Sandy Bridge while consuming less power. However, Intel has refined the architecture so clock for clock, Ivy Bridge should perform around 5% to 15% faster than a similarly clocked Sandy Bridge processor.

Taking a look at the internal specifications, the 3770K comes built on a 22nm node, and is the first chip to use Intel's 22nm tri-gate transistors, which improves the overall power efficiency even at higher clock speeds. Ivy Bridge processors also have a die size of 160mm2, pack in a total of 1.6B transistors and utilize an all-in-one solution compiled of the CPU cores, PCIe lanes, memory controller and an integrated graphics processor, all in the same die. With the refined architecture, Ivy Bridge supports 2 channels of DDR3-1600 memory with 2 DIMMs per channel and has built-in PCIe Gen 3.0 support.

The 3770K has four physical cores and runs 8 independent processing threads in one physical package via Hyper Threading, and has a total of 8MB of shared cache. The base and Turbo clock speeds of the processor are set at 3.5GHz and 3.9GHz, respectively, and the chip also utilizes the same ring architecture as Sandy Bridge. Essentially this means the processor cores, IGP, last level cache, integrated memory controller, PCIe controller, graphics controller and the power control unit all communicate with each other via signal that loops through the whole block until it is picked up by the proper controller in the pipeline. Little has also changed with the front end, as it is still 4-wide with support for both x86 instructions and decoded uOps. However, some of the instructions have been optimized to give Ivy Bridge better single threaded performance via more efficient data structure that dynamically allocates resources to the thread.

Ivy Bridge also utilizes Intel's Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology, which dynamically increases the processor frequency up to a predefined level. This effectively allows the Turbo mode to exceed the processor's standard TDP threshold during periods when the workload is increased. The Turbo mode can remain active for a 25 second time frame, and will start to throttle down as the processor heats up. This allows the CPU to dynamically adjust the frequency level to best suit the demand. Additionally, since the CPU and IGP share a TDP they can adjust for better processor performance when the graphics processor is at a low thermal level, and vice versa. The Ivy Bridge chips also work in the same manner when the system is idle through the EIST function, but under these circumstances the clock speed will be reduced, which in turn lowers the power consumption and heat output. The new architecture also provides 6 processor instructions that help to improve performance for AES encryption and decryption algorithms.

The IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) built into Ivy Bridge has been redesigned and now includes support for DirectX 11 capable shaders, hardware tessellation, a dedicated level 3 cache and DirectCompute support. However, the IGP is still a single chip solution, but unlike Sandy Bridge it is built using the new 22nm process. This should improve the overall efficiency of the core and allow it to operate at a lower temperature while achieving higher frequencies. Also, like the previous generation HD graphics, the G4000 has access to the shared L3 cache, as well as the memory. This allows it to exchange data with each CPU core through the high speed cache, thus improving performance. The G4000 however has up to twice the amount of compute throughput thanks to an increased number of execution units (16 total) and a clock frequency of 1.15GHz.

The HD Graphics 4000 also features an improved high performance video decoder that enhances the graphics/media capabilities. The new decoder includes a Multi-Format Codec (MFX) that serves as a dedicated parallel engine. The IGP of course also supports QuickSync for fast transcoding of videos, as well as Advanced Vector Extensions for Increased performance for demanding visual applications like professional video & image editing. The G4000 also supports MPEG2, VC1, AVC and MVC (Multi-view video coding) for Stereoscopic 3D support. The 3D support is dubbed IntelInTru3D and can be utilized via the HDMI connector via supported motherboards.

Test Setup:

Comparison Setups:

Sandy Bridge-E

AMD Phenom II "Thuban" (Socket AM3)

AMD Phenom II "Deneb" (Socket AM3)

Intel Core i7 "Bloomfield" (Socket 1366)

Intel Core i7 "Sandy Bridge" (Socket 1155)

Benchmarks:

Since the 3770K is part of the "K" series of processors, it comes with an unlocked multiplier and like Sandy Bridge, changes to the bclock affect other buses aside from just the CPU clock speed. This means the majority of the overclocking will be done via the multiplier, and the bclock will only be needed for fine tuning the final clock speed. This is actually the preferred method for most overclockers, as there is no longer a need to by the best motherboard for overclocking since the bclock has been taken out of the equation.

To test the Intel Core i7 3770K, we used a Thermalright Ultra-120 heatsink with dual high performance fans. With this setup we were able to boost the clock speed of the 3770K up to 4.8GHz, at 1.36V. At this speed the processor is running each core 37% higher than the base clock, and 23% higher than the Boost clock. We also could have scaled the processor higher, but we were already hitting temperatures of nearly 78°C, so we decided not to push it any further. However, if we were using better cooling it would not have been surprising to see this chip easily scale to 5GHz.

We did also play around with the bclock while overclocking to see if there was any improvement from Sandy Bridge. In all honesty, there really wasn't as the system didn't like it when we pushed the core clock above 4.8GHz using the bclock. The end result was that the system became unstable, and even while we could boot into Windows and run some of the less stringent benchmarks, programs such as OCCT, Cinebench and others would crash when the bclock was increased.

Intel Core i7-3770K Settings:

Sisoft Sandra 2010:

Sandra, by SiSoftware, is a tool capable of benchmarking about every component found inside a computer. The processor arithmetic and multi-core efficiency will be ran as well as the memory bandwidth and latency benchmarks.

Ivy Bridge was slightly faster than Sandy Bridge in most of these synthetic benchmarks, but the difference was not dramatic.

POV Ray:

POV-Ray, for Persistence of Vision Raytracer, is a 3D rendering software that has impressive photorealistic capabilities.

Setting: Run Benchmark (All CPU's).

The 3770K was slightly faster than both the 2600K and AMD FX8150 when it comes to rendering, but the additional threads of the 3960X kept it at the top of the heap. However, once we overclocked the processor to 4.8GHz it was able to suprass the 3960X by nearly 4%.

Handbrake:

HandBrake is an application that converts sound and video files to other formats. It makes use the many available threads so it can exploit the processor to its full potential.

Settings: Custom file used.

To test HandBrake we use a custom MP4 file that was converted into another format. The total length of the clip we use is 120 seconds and the 3770K was able to finish converting the file in 83 seconds, which is a total of 1.44 frames converted per-second. Like in the last benchmark, the 3770K was again able to perform better than the 3960X when overclocked and here it was actually 13% faster at 4.8GHz.

7-Zip:

POV-Ray, for Persistence of Vision Raytracer, is a 3D rendering software that has impressive photorealistic capabilities.

Setting: Run Benchmark (All CPU's).

7-Zip is a program that can utilize multiple threads simultaneously, and judging from the performance we can see that Ivy Bridge does offer better multi-threaded performance than Sandy Bridge. The difference between the 3770K and 2600K in this benchmark is around 20%, so there is obviously more going on than just higher clock speeds.

Cinebench:

Cinebench 11.5 is another rendering program, also optimized for many-core processors. I will run both the single-threaded benchmark as well as the multi-threaded.

Settings: Run CPU benchmark

Cinebench is another program that efficiently utilizes all the available threads, and from the results we again see how the Ivy Bridge does have better multi-threaded performance. The single threaded performance is also better though, as the 3770K was 8% faster than the 2600K in the single threaded portion of the benchmark.

PCMark Vantage:

PCMark resembles a lot to the 3DMark suite from FutureMark, except the fact that it includes many other tests like hard drive speed, memory and processor power, so it is considered as a system benchmark and not just a gaming benchmark.

Settings: PCMark Suite at default settings.

PCMark 7:

Settings: PCMark Suite at default settings.

In both PCMark tests, the 3770K scored more marks than all the other processors we have been testing, including the 3960X.

Far Cry 2:

Far Cry 2 is another first person shooter that has been developed by Ubisoft. The story takes place in Africa, where the ultimate goal is to assassinate an arms dealer.

Settings: DirectX 10, 0x AA, overall quality value set to high and performance settings at high.

When it comes to all out gaming performance, Ivy Bridge doesn't offer any additional performance over Sandy Bridge. In the configuration we used for benchmarking, the Ivy Bridge processor was not a bottleneck during gaming, even at the default clock speed. Since this is the case, there was only a marginal improvement in the amount of frames rendered in this benchmark between the stock and overclocked CPU.

Settings: DirectX 10, 0x AA, overall quality value set to high/medium and performance settings at medium.

While the IGP performance in a game such as Far Cry 2 is still going to be lower than those of most discrete graphics cards, the G4000 is dramatically faster than the G3000 IGP. The results demonstrate this, as the G4000 was 40% faster than the G3000 across all the three resolutions.

3DMark 11:

Futuremark's latest 3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new DirectX 11 features including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

3DMark 11 is a 3D rendering program that relies mainly on the power of the graphics card. This being the case, we are gauging the total performance of the processor based on the difference in the stock and overclocked results to see if any bottleneck is occurring. As you can see from the graph, there was a decent performance increase at the lowest setting, so overclocking will improve the total frame rate at least when it comes to running DX 11 games at low settings. However, as the resolution is increased, the difference becomes marginal at best.

Lost Planet:

Settings: Resolution at 800x600 with lowest in-game settings

The results in the Lost Planet benchmark were interesting, as the two scenes in the game gave us entirely different results once we overclocked the CPU. The reason being the snow scene is a large environment with only a few creatures, so here it is the graphics card doing all the work, while the cave scene has actions executed by the CPU, hence the large increase in performance in the cave scene and not the snow.

Call of Juarez

Call of Juarez is made by Ubisoft whereas the World in Conflict game is developed by Massive Entertainment. They will be run at the lowest settings possible so the score is not GPU-bound, so that entails a resolution of 1024x768 pixels for Call of Juarez and 800x600 for World in Conflict. This way, the true processor power will be exhibited.

Settings: Resolution at 1024x768 with details set to low.

The 3770K's performance showcased no discernible difference compared to the Sandy Bridge in Call of Juarez. This is due to the program only being able to use four threads simultaneously, so the results here are more based on clock speeds. It also explains way the 2500K is performing at the same level as the 2600K and 3770K.

World in Conflict

Settings: Resolution at 800x600 with lowest in-game settings

World in Conflict actually did a relatively good job of utilizing the available threads, but the again the deciding factor in performance was the clock speed rather than thread count. This is easily seen as once we overclocked the 3770K the frame rate jumped from 401FPS to 534FPS.

Turbo:

By now, both processor manufacturers had the occasion to reiterate their Turbo capability which had been disabled in all previous tests. Three benchmarks from the previous pages have been chosen and were run with Turbo enabled and disabled. Far Cry 2 and Call of Juarez have been chosen for their poor multi-threaded support, whereas 7-Zip has been chosen as a benchmark that makes use of all threads, but without capping the TDP.

In comparison to the previous generation processors, the Turbo Boost doesn't do quite as much as it did for the 2600K, but they are both close. In our labs, we observed a 6% performance increase when running standard tasks such as video editing, rendering and so on. The difference was much smaller in gaming scenarios though, as the performance increase was only around 1%.

Power Consumption:

To measure power usage, a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter was used. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the processors themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings at the end of a 30 minute OCCT power supply benchmark.

Wow! What else needs to be said. It is extremely impressive to see the whole system is only consuming 290W of power while the high-end processor is running at full speed. This made the 3770K more efficient than the 2600K by 16%, not to mention more efficient than the 2500K.

Looking at the performance of Ivy Bridge alone we can see how clock for clock, this generation's architecture comes out to be around 10% to 15% faster than its predecessor in most applications, and dead even in gaming. However, when looking at Ivy Bridge as a whole there are two areas where the new architecture really stands out. These are of course the lower power consumption, which due to the new 22nm process makes this chip around 15% more power efficient than the previous generation, all while having faster single and multi-threaded performance. So, even while the Ivy Bridge performance is more of a step forward than a leap, it comes with dramatically improved power efficiency.

The second benefit from this architecture is the new G4000 integrated graphics processors. In comparison to the previous generation IGPs, the HD G4000 is roughly 40% faster in games than the G3000. This allowed us to run Far Cry 2 at medium settings up to 1680x1050 without too much screen stuttering. In addition, the G4000 IGP supports features such as DirectX 11, QuickSync, Advanced Vector Extensions and Clear Video HD Technology. All of which increase the performance of the IGP in day to day tasks such as accelerating video, transcoding and increasing the performance in editing both images and video. Still, the G4000 is still going to struggle when gaming at high settings, but if you don't mind reducing the graphics quality, it can be an excellent replacement for a discrete graphics card.

The 22nm process also improved the overclocking headroom of the processor. In our labs we were able to overclock the 3770K to 4.8GHz at 1.36V, and we could have easily hit 5GHz if we were using a more robust thermal solution. Still, even on air we easily hit the 4.8GHz mark, and while we could boot into Windows above 5GHz, at this point the temperatures were peaking above 78°C so we had to scale it back to a safer temp range. At 4.8GHz, the 3770K was a force to be reckoned with, as it was at times able to surpass even the 3960X. In addition, since this version is part of the “K” series of processors, overclocking was extremely easy. All we really had to do was increase the unlocked multiplier and adjust the voltage accordingly. Overclocking with this method reduces the amount of time one needs to spend in the BIOS.

Overall, Ivy Bridge inches up the performance of Intel’s processors, while taking a leap in terms of power efficiency and offering a stronger integrated graphics unit. All of these make Ivy Bridge an excellent replacement to Sandy Bridge, and a worthwhile investment at $313.

»Neoseeker.com

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