We do a quick runthrough of benchmarks tests @ 4.8GHz on the new 22nm "Ivy Bridge" Core i7-3770K (Retail E1 Stepping) against the nearly 1.5 years old 32nm "Sandy Bridge" Core i7-2600K, and then give some useful consumer advice at the end.

Foreword:

Nebojsa Novakovic did a preview piece on Ivy Bridge architecture improvements last week, and here are the important points anyway in case you missed it:

  • Lower power consumption thanks to 22nm Tri-Gate Die Shrink and other tweaks
  • Up to double the 3D integrated graphics (HD 4000 IGP) & Quick Sync video performance
  • Ultra high resolution (4K) and multi-display (triple) support 
  • 16 PCI Express v3 lanes (double the sustained per-link bandwidth)
  • Hardware Random Number Generator – improved security
  • Improved memory controller (DDR3-2800+)
  • More overclocking with less effort – realtime adjustments and higher multiplier limits
  • New 7-series chipsets with native USB 3.0 and (optional) Thunderbolt support

We ran our benchmark tests at 4.8GHz as it is the average core frequency that is achievable by both the microarchitectures on air cooling.

CPU Benchmarks:

 

 

 

Recommendations / Lessons:

  • Clock for clock, Ivy Bridge (which is a "Tick" on Intel's roadmap) does offer performance improvements over Sandy Bridge, albeit mostly in single digit percentages. This is good news as the new processors will directly replace the old ones at roughly the same price points.
  • From the large pool of CPUs that we have tested/binned, Ivy Bridge uses 25% less power on average clock for clock due to the lower voltages required (in this case Sandy's 1.48v to Ivy's 1.27v).
  • Ivy Bridge's on-die temperatures (TJ Max of 105 degrees celsius) are a lot higher than Sandy Bridge, indicating possible high electrical leakage on the new process or a different measurement method. Note: Temperatures != Power, although there is some correlation.
  • Ivy Bridge is a (subzero) overclocker's wet dream, able to hit core frequencies near 7GHz with no cold bugs (unless motherboard induced).
  • In general, Z77 boards are better made and engineered (shorter electrical traces, better component placement) than their P67/Z68 predecessors, doing away with niggling BIOS firmware bugs and dodgy VRM implementations. 
  • According to roadmaps, Ivy Bridge is the end of the road for Socket 1155 (next year's Intel "Haswell" CPUs will on Socket 1150), head for Socket 2011 if you need more than quad cores/16 PCIe lanes.
  • X79 is a better platform than Z77 if you need more than 16 PCIe lanes for 3-way/4-way GPU operation without the use of latency inducing switches.
  • If you already have a Sandy Bridge 2500K/2600K/2700K, stick with it as there is hardly any tangible reason to fork out US$212-$313 for a minor upgrade.