CPU Guide

Intel Core i7-3770K review

Intel Core i7-3770K - A Performance Analysis

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Overall rating 8/10
Performance:
8
Features:
8
Value:
8
THE GOOD
Relatively good performance
Power efficiency has improved
Easier to overclock
Integrated 16-lane PCIe 3.0 controller
THE BAD
No major architectural changes in CPU
Integrated graphics performance could be better


Overclocking and Conclusion

Overclocking

We managed to push the Ivy Bridge (with stock air cooling) to 4.8HGz by setting all its CPU Core Ratios to 48. We also needed to set the voltage offset to +300mV and push both its Burst and Sustained Modes to the same setting of 500 (as recommended by Intel). At air cooling with it paltry stock cooler, this is the most stable overclock we achieved and it's quite a feat by itself.

For Cinebench 11.5, this overclock translated to a gain of slightly over 12.3%. For its CPU Score of the 3DMark Vantage benchmark, the improvement was less than 10% (only a paltry 8.8% to be exact). It seems that we would need to go back to the drawing board in order to garner more impressive performance gains from the Ivy Bridge processor. We have to look at better rated OC memory modules and investing in a customized CPU cooler. For the Far Cry 2 scores, overclocking the processor didn't increase the performance much.

What about overclockability in comparison to Sandy Bridge processors? As shown in our past review of the Core i7-2600K overclocking performance, it managed slightly lower overclocks - about a maximum of 4.6GHz. However, its results in the first two benchmarks are actually up to 6% better than a higher clocked Ivy Bridge processor. This suggests what some have been discussing in the online space that Ivy Bridge actually operates hotter than Sandy Bridge in overclocked states and it's probably hitting the thermal limits of the processor, which gives rise to less than stellar performance increases. We'll be providing more details on this after more thorough testing with repeatable findings.

 

** Updated on 25th April - Conclusion updated with renewed findings and comparisons.

Conclusion - Doing More with Less

With its improved new CPU architecture, the general performance of the Intel i7-3770K CPU prompts us to label it as a one that is skewed for multi-threaded applications. It will appeal to power users and enthusiasts who demand workstation-like performance and power optimization balance. It is a fine line to walk and we do strongly feel that the Intel Core i7-3770K does so with finesse. It understandably outperformed the Sandy Bridge-based CPUs with consistent margins (though usually less than 10%) and on certain tests, it even managed to rival or beat the server-grade Intel i7-3960X processor in terms of raw computing power. Of course, given our consumer-oriented benchmarks, we're not surprised that the Sandy Bridge-E processors didn't really shine against the new mainstream chip in town.

Its improved integrated GPU of the Intel i7-3770K, featuring the more powerful new HD 4000 GPU will appeal to users who will leverage on the LucidLogix Virtu MVP software with its familiar Virtu GPU-tasking capabilities that is touted to dynamically assign tasks to either the integrate GPU or the discrete GPU. This version has added two 3D features: Virtual Vsync to reduce screen tearing and HyperFormance to increase frame rates. The choice of using either graphical processing option will make the Ivy Bridge processor appealing to a broader market, but so has the old Sandy Bridge ever since it acquired the Z68 chipset platform (as such it's probably not much of an advantage for Ivy Bridge). Another enhancement is its native support for up to three simultaneous displays. More analysis of  its integrated graphics performance is available in a separate article, but in short, though it's better than its predecessor, it still leaves you wanting more as the competition's APUs can deliver a lot more.

Overall, we feel that with features appealing to a broad spectrum of general users, Intel is astutely building on its reputation as a market leader in desktop computing. As its fleshes out the Ivy Bridge lineage with its lower desktop SKUs as well as mobile versions of the Ivy Bridge, the competition has serious reasons to be concerned about. As such, the upcoming AMD Trinity APUs could prove to be an interesting competitor in some aspects.

From a price-performance perspective, we can safely say that the new Intel Core i7-3770K will be offered at a similar price point of the existing Core i7-2700K at just over US$300. This means you'll be getting the latest for the same price, which offers better features and a slight performance improvement. Furthermore, when compared to the Intel Core i7-3820, this older processor might have a price advantage at the CPU level (sub US$300), but not at the platform level when considering the expensive Intel X79 motherboards. Even in terms of performance, the Core i7-3820 and the Core i7-3770K are fairly equally matched. As far as mainstream enthusiasts are concerned, the top Ivy Bridge processor has what it takes to appeal to even more users than is predecessor. And we haven't even iterated upon its power efficiency angle.

Given what we've seen from the Core i7-3770K, Ivy Bridge looks set to be the platform of choice for most folks for the rest of the year (not that they've much choice) as more variations of it will follow suit for desktop and mobile systems. It's not exactly breathtaking, but its improvements all round certainly contribute to its appeal.

The problem however is that Ivy Bridge processors won't really appeal to the core enthusiast DIY market who would probably be using some form of a Sandy Bridge class processor already. This is because clock for clock, the tangible improvements are small. You would think that the 22nm fabrication would allow it to stretch itself further, but overclocking seems limited as high speeds quickly develop hot spots which hinder the processor's overall performance as we've noticed. We don't mean Ivy Bridge is bad, but ironically it just won't appeal much to the same group of people it was meant to appeal because it's compatible with most Sandy Bridge equipped systems. Instead, the new processor and platform will be ideal for those who've not yet made the jump to Sandy Bridge based systems or those who've very low-cost Sandy Bridge processor based systems and want to upgrade it with a top of the line Ivy Bridge processor.

Like we mentioned earlier, Ivy Bridge is a nice update, but it's not a stellar one.