Ivy Bridge is the codename for the third generation of Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors from Intel, manufactured using the new 22 nm process. For the desktop market, nine CPUs are being announced today, five with a TDP of 77 W (Core i7-3770K/3.5 GHz, Core i7-3770/3.5 GHz, Core i5-3570K/3.4 GHz, Core i5-3550/3.3 GHz, and  Core i5-3450/3.1 GHz), three with a TDP of 65 W (Core i7-3770S/3.1 GHz, Core i7-3550S/3 GHz, and Core i7-3450S/2.8 GHz), and one model with a TDP of 45 W (Core i7-3770T/2.5 GHz). Let’s take a look at the Core i7-3770K and compare it to its main competitor, the AMD FX-8150, and also with a second-generation Core i7 (“Sandy Bridge”), the Core i7-2600K.

This new generation of CPUs presents minor enhancements compared to the previous microarchitecture, Sandy Bridge. The most important one is the upgraded embedded PCI Express controller, which is now 3.0, doubling the communication bandwidth with the video card if a PCI Express 3.0 model is installed. Of course, the CPU continues to be compatible with older video cards, working with 2.0 or 1.0 bandwidth, depending on what PCI Express revision the video card supports.

The integrated graphics engine was updated and is now a DirectX 11 part, supporting 16 graphics processors (Intel HD Graphics 4000) or six graphics processors (Intel HD Graphics 2500), with clocks up to 1,350 MHz. Sandy Bridge processors use either the Intel HD Graphics 3000 (12 processors, DirectX 10.1) or the Intel HD Graphics 2000 (six processors, DirectX 10.1), with clocks also up to 1,350 MHz.

Another important enhancement was the official support for DDR3 memories up to DDR3-1600, while “Sandy Bridge” processors officially support memories up to DDR3-1333.

These new CPUs make use of LGA1155 (“socket LGA1155”) pinout, making them compatible with motherboards originally developed for the “Sandy Bridge” CPUs. So if you have a “Sandy Bridge” CPU (i.e., second-generation Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7), you can upgrade to a new “Ivy Bridge” model without having to replace the motherboard (except for motherboards based on the Intel Q65, Q67, and B65 chipsets, which don’t support “Ivy Bridge” CPUs; for other motherboards, a BIOS upgrade may be necessary and is recommended).

Nevertheless, Intel released six new chipsets: the Z77, the Z75, the H77, the B75, the Q77, and the Q75, which are recommended if you are building a new PC based on an “Ivy Bridge” processor. The main improvement added to these new chipsets was the support for four USB 3.0 ports. The main differences between them are listed in the table below. SRT is the Intel Smart Response Technology, which we’ve already explained in detail here. AMT is the Active Management Technology, which allows IT administrators to remotely manage computers that have this feature. 

Feature Z77 Z75 H77 B75 Q77 Q75
PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot configuration x16/x0/x0 or x16/x8/x0 or x8/x8/x4 x16/x0 or x8/x8 x16 x16 x16 x16
RAID Yes Yes Yes No Yes No
SRT Yes No Yes No Yes No
AMT No No No No Yes No
SATA-600 Ports 2 2 2 1 2 1
Legacy PCI No No No Yes Yes Yes

For a complete description of what is new in the “Ivy Bridge” microarchitecture, please read our “Inside the Intel Ivy Bridge Microarchitecture” tutorial. Also, if you want to know more about the origin of the name “Ivy Bridge,” Intel posted a very interesting article about it

In Figures 1 and 2, you can see the Core i7-3770K side-by-side with the Core i7-2600K.

Core i7-3770K (“Ivy Bridge”)Figure 1: The Core i7-2600K (“Sandy Bridge”) and the Core i7-3770K (“Ivy Bridge”)

Core i7-3770K (“Ivy Bridge”)Figure 2: The Core i7-2600K (“Sandy Bridge”) and the Core i7-3770K (“Ivy Bridge”)

Let’s now meet the processors included in this review.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.