Intel Core i7-3770K Review: A Small Step Up From Sandy Bridge

The Ivy Bridge Core: I Think I Know You

Intel purposely carries over a lot of the technology it introduced with Sandy Bridge, allowing the company to focus more intently on a smoother transition from 32 to 22 nm manufacturing. Thus, the capabilities of an Ivy Bridge-based IA core are very much similar to the prior generation.

Each core still hosts 32 KB of L1 data and L1 instruction cache, along with a 256 KB L2 cache. Moreover, quad-core models like the Core i7-3770K share up to 8 MB of last-level cache. Latencies appear very similar, indicating comparable cache bandwidth as Sandy Bridge.

Intel claims it made subtle adjustments to the IA cores, however, that improve performance in certain situations. Company representatives didn’t go into much detail about core architecture improvements at last year’s IDF, mentioning only that there are about half a dozen features in the core and another six or so more in the memory controller/cache that accelerate IA workloads. Fortunately, it’s easy enough for us to run a handful of single-threaded tests with Turbo Boost disabled to see how Core i7-3770K compares to Core i7-2700K, both operating at 3.5 GHz.

Ivy Bridge takes about three seconds off of our Lame, iTunes, and PDF creation metrics. That’s decidedly less impressive than what Sandy Bridge did compared to Nehalem—but again, it’s a result we expected.

The bottom line for enthusiasts is that Ivy Bridge’s IPC-oriented improvements alone are not compelling enough to warrant an upgrade from Sandy Bridge chips running at similar frequencies. 

Intel does incorporate a pair of security-oriented features that software developers will be able to exploit moving forward: a Digital Random Number Generator instruction and Supervisor Mode Execution Protection.

Designed to be standards-compliant, the DRNG’s purpose is to provide a high-quality and high-performance source of entropy—the measure of a cryptographic key’s unpredictability. As a result, an application can exploit the DRNG, and get reliably good random numbers at up to 2-3 Gb/s. Intel makes the instruction available to operating system- and user-level code at all privilege levels.

The other new feature, abbreviated SMEP, attempts to thwart escalation of privilege attacks that seek access to resources normally protected from a less privileged ring. Simply, it prevents the execution of supervisor mode code in user-mode memory pages.

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  • SSri
    Thanks for the pretty quick review. The HD 4000 may be a tempting factor for many low-end desktop users. High-end users are unlikely to switch to IB. Unless extensive future reviews show a different picture, Sandy Bridge would be the CPU for my high-end new build!
  • HEXiT
    4% on average is a pretty small performance bump from a dye shrink i was hoping that ivy was gonna be in the region of 10% but i guess a small bump is better than none. still not a big enough jump for me to give up my old i7 920... ah well maybe haswell will deliver.
  • damian86
    Well I think this will be improved in no-time, the guys are doing well in their new architecture and finding new ways to make the big jump. This is like testing, their stuff is good enough to get on the market and they can earn a lot of credits that will help them to keep working hard with new stuff.I really liked their quick sync thing.
    I still don't know the negative points in including gpus in cpus.
  • mi1ez
    US comp. You would think they could put that somewhere in the article.
  • kaprikawn
    I'm personally very excited by Ivy Bridge. I'm not planning on replacing the first gen i5 in my gaming rig, I can't see the benefit. But I'm looking at replacing the Sempron 1100LE in my server with one of the low power i3 chips when they come out. For a computer that runs 24/7, power consumption and noise are fairly important to me for that machine. The Sempron and the low end i3 have similar TPD ratings, but there's a gulf of difference in performance.
  • Anonymous
    An unlocked, "K" variant of the i3, or Pentium-G? That might get people excited...
  • K3v1n
    I'm happy with my FX-6100...Even if I had the money, I wouldn't upgrade it, except for maybe a 8150. This CPU is amazing, and no review on here or anywhere really does it justice. It handles every game i throw, I can convert a 6gb HD video to MP4 in 5 mins WHILE photoshop, and a game is running
  • army_ant7
    I still do wish that Intel offered a cheaper or more powerful CPU without the built-in GPU. It seems like a big waste of time, work, and die space (and maybe even money) for, esp. now, such a big GPU portion. But maybe from the business/profit-spending point of view, it really is better for Intel as a company to have GPU's built-in irregardless.

    I'm interested in hearing from anyone else's thoughts on this.
  • AndrewdAzotus
    I see and hear about the reasons for not upgrading from Sandy-bridge to Ivy-bridge, but I would be interested in pointers for someone who has not had a desktop for about 5 years but is now looking for a new architecture which will be as long lasting as possible so I can buy a good ($200-$300) motherboard and a cheaper processor with a view to upgrading all components (memory / graphics etc) on the motherboard as time and money permits. I'm thinking either 1150 or 2011 but would appreciate some general guidance