Intel has just released brand new Ivy Bridge CPU architecture on 22nm. Although Intel has released 14 new mobile and desktop CPUs, we will focus on their flagship desktop CPU - the Core i7-3770K. We will compare its performance in more than 20 games against our aging flagship 45nm Core i7-920 CPU at 4.2GHz by using an overclocked GTX 680 on both platforms. We will also look at the performance that Intel’s brand new premium DX11 HD 4000 graphics promises, compared to the now last generation of Sandy Bridge’s DX10 Core i3-2105 integrated HD 3000 Graphics at 1280×720 (720P).
Before we evaluated Intel’s Core i3-2105, our last major CPU evaluation introduced AMD’s new FX “Bulldozer” architecture as we focused on performance in 20 modern games. We compared AMD’s new 8-core flagship, the FX-8150, versus Intel’s overclocked Core i7-920 and the overclocked Phenom II 980 BE X4. We concluded that the FX-8150 required a lot of power and overclocking to beat the Phenom II and to approach the Core i7′s performance in gaming. This time, we are taking a look at Intel’s enthusiast-level new top LGA 1155 CPU, the quad-core, Core i7-3770K and we shall compare it in gaming against our quad-core, Core i7-920, overclocked as far as ours will go, to 4.2GHz.
Unfortunately we received our Core i7-3770K rather late, only 5 days before the NDA ended this morning. We then had to scramble to get a suitable Series 7 motherboard as we were unable to get an updated BIOS for our ASRock Z68 Generation 3 Extreme 3 motherboard in time. The new 22nm CPUs are a drop-in replacement for Sandy Bridge CPUs in Z68 motherboards with a BIOS update, and we shall compare performance to the new Z77 motherboard in an upcoming evaluation.
We purchased a micro-ATX Z77 Gigabyte motherboard from Amazon.com that is suitable for testing SLI and CrossFire at 8x+8x PCIe 3.0 specification in future evaluations. It arrived this last Thursday evening, and we only had 3 days hands on with the new Intel platform. This is just the beginning of our evaluation of the Core i7-3770K and we expect it will become our flagship platform for testing very fast multi-GPU graphics.
We notice that AMD’s new FX series is positioned against Sandy Bridge and especially against the 2500/2600K. The Core i7-3770K is priced about $90 more than AMD’s flagship FX-8150, at $313. In our comparison of FX-8150 with Core-i7-920, it took a strong overclock of the AMD CPU to 4.4GHz to barely match our Intel CPU at 4.0GHz. Now we will see how the new Core i7-3770K compares – first at its stock speed of 3.5GHz and then overclocked to 4.2GHz to match our older CPU at clock-for-clock with both at 4.2GHz in gaming.
Core i7-3770K’s built-in HD 4000 Graphics
One important feature of Intel’s new Core i7 CPU is that Intel’s latest DX11 HD 4000 graphics is integrated directly into the CPU. This is a real convenience for Intel users as they no longer have to buy discrete graphics cards, to run the latest DX11 games or to run three displays for productivity. AMD’s new APUs also provide Integrated Graphics (IG), while the older Phenom II and current FX processors do not. That means that you must buy a discreet video card or spend more for a motherboard with IG just to run your PC at all with Phenom II and FX processors.
The Sandy Bridge Core i3-2105 is a dual-core processor with HT enabled and it uses DX10 Intel HD 3000 Graphics with twelve execution units (EUs). The new HD 4000 graphics is now DX11 and it has 16 EUs operating at 1150MHz in the Core i7-3770K.
Buying a discrete video card is never an issue for PC gamers as integrated graphics (IG) performance is never sufficient for them. However, we will benchmark our Core i7-3770K’s integrated HD 4000 graphics versus Core i3′s HD 3000 Graphics at 720P so that our readers will know what to expect in light gaming. We already found that the Core i3′s HD 3000 graphics is also very useful for watching HD video and/or to troubleshoot your discrete video and we are interested to see what Intel’s upgraded HD 4000 graphics bring in terms of performance.
The Core Ivy Bridge i7 Architecture
The 3rd Generation Intel Core processor family is the next generation of desktop 64-bit, multi-core processors built on 22-nanometer process technology. The processors are designed for a two-chip platform. The two-chip platform consists of a processor and a Platform Controller Hub (PCH) and enables higher performance at a lower lower cost, including energy consumption. The Core i7-3770K processor includes Integrated Display Engine, Processor Graphics, PCI Express ports, and an Integrated Memory Controller. This top processor offers 16 graphic execution units (EUs), an improvement over HD 3000′s 12 EUs.
The Core i7-3770K processor is offered in an 1155-land LGA package (H2). Here is an example of the Ivy Bridge desktop platform block diagram.
We are benching using the GTX 680 on both platforms to give you a comparison of our two CPUs’ scaling in games at 1920×1200 and 2560×1600 resolutions and at the maximum details that gamers play at. The GTX 680 is the most powerful single-GPU stock card available and we have also overclocked it as far as it will go to compare CPU scaling with stock and overclocked graphics.
The Core i7-3770K has four identical 3.5GHz Ivy Bridge cores, and is rated at a TDP of 77W. As with the other Ivy Bridge Core i7 CPUs, they have a large pool of shared L3 cache, along with four L2 cache pools (one for each core) and a pair of dedicated pools of L1 cache (again, one per core).
Probably the main advantage offered by Ivy Bridge’s Core i7-3770K is its incredible power savings features on the 22nm process. Ivy Bridge is a refinement of Sandy Bridge and a node shrink that should give us some performance improvement over last generation along with a lot of power savings and new features, including being able to drive 3 displays at once. A lot of the new significant improvements have been made to the HD graphics over last generation and we shall focus on it.
The Chipsets – Z68 versus Z77
The Z77 chipset is the premium chipset for Ivy Bridge including Core i7 which supports both CPU multiplier and IGP overclocking (for unlocked Intel CPUs), Quick Sync, and SATA 6.0Gbps as well as PCIe 3.0. It also supports Intel Virtu Technology, which uses the IG for less demanding tasks and the discrete GPU for more intensive applications, saving energy. With this chipset, Intel has further refined their Smart Response (SSD caching).
The ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Generation3 LGA 1155 motherboard which we purchased from Newegg for $125, is a very full-featured and is excellent bang-for-buck but has not yet had its BIOS updated for the new Ivy Bridge CPUs. Like most Sandy Bridge LGA 1155 motherboards, it currently supports 8x+8x PCIe 2.0 specification for SLI and CrossFire. In contrast, the Gigabyte Z77 motherboard that we purchased from Amazon.com, supports the higher bandwidth of the PCIe specification for 8x+8x PCIe 3.0 and it should make a difference to performance with multi-GPU setups.
Here are the i7-3770K specifications from Intel’s site:
Head over to the next page and we’ll find more out about the new Ivy Bridge Core i7-3770K.