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

An Evolution That Makes Sense, But Doesn't Impress

A group of journalists recently went to visit AMD in Austin (including one of our writers) and came back talking about the value of an “experience,” and how benchmarks can’t tell you if a given piece of hardware is “good enough.”

I believe benchmarks are important and will remain the lowest-level tools for quantifying one component’s value over another. They’re the most precise measure of “good enough.” You can look at performance numbers and generalize for a broad audience using hard data. It’s not as easy to tell how long you’ll spend compiling code based on one person’s opinion that a workstation is fine and dandy, though.

But that’s a conversation for another day. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself, Core i7-2700K is subjectively “good enough” compared to Intel’s Ivy Bridge-based Core i7-3770K. No question. If you’re die-hard about data, the numbers also make it objectively clear that there is no reason to upgrade a high-end desktop Sandy Bridge CPU to a high-end Ivy Bridge CPU.

Intel succeeds in bolstering the performance of its integrated graphics solution, but insofar as HD Graphics 4000 applies to gamers from any walk of life, you’d really be selling yourself short by not complementing a ~£250 CPU with an add-in card. Although AMD’s A8-3850 is nowhere near as fast as Core i7-3770K in processing workloads, the £95 APU does deliver better frame rates, if entry-level gaming is all you need.

Can Core i7-3770K catch a break with power users eager to overclock? Unless you’re using an extreme form of cooling, I’m afraid not. Our boxed Core i7-2700K hit a more aggressive frequency, nearly matching the -3770K’s performance in the process.

What if you saw the award that Core i5-2500K won last year in Intel’s Second-Gen Core CPUs: The Sandy Bridge Review but didn’t upgrade? What if you’re still stuck on an old Core 2- or Phenom-based platform and need something new? In that case, of course a desktop Ivy Bridge-based chip makes more sense than buying what is now last-generation hardware. The Core i7-3770K is one option, but we’d also be fairly confident in a Core i5-3570K for £75 less, too. Intel is actually being really reasonable on pricing, so you’ll pay less for the i7-3770K than you would have for a -2700K yesterday, and less for an i5-3570K than the -2550K. Not bad at all. 

A Little Perspective

Although Core i7-3770K, as one model in Intel’s line-up, is fairly easy for enthusiasts with modern machines to dismiss, don’t take our judgment as a cloud over the Ivy Bridge architecture.

An emphasis on integrated graphics performance and lower thermal design power points makes it clear that Intel is out to conquer smaller form factors like all-in-one desktops and thin/light notebooks.

Soon, the first wave of Ultrabooks based on Ivy Bridge, code named Chief River, will wash over the mobility-obsessed masses, more accurately representing the purpose of Intel’s newest family of processors.

But before that happens, we have more Ivy Bridge-based coverage planned, including our first round-up of Z77 Express-based motherboards driven by a Core i7-3770K, a look at how four different Ivy Bridge-based Core i5s compare at as many thermal ceilings, more depth on overclocking performance, and a review of mobile Ivy Bridge in a brand new notebook. Stay tuned!

Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • 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