Intel announced their new Ivy Bridge processors this week. They are built on the company's 22 nanometer production process and offer performance improvements on both the CPU and graphics side when compared to the previous generation Sandy Bridge.
Just like on Sandy Bridge, Intel has integrated a quad-core CPU, graphics, cache, memory controller and PCI-Express connectivity into a single silicon die. The new 3D transistors offer more performance, while using less power at the same time. Please note, that the 3D transistors have nothing to do with 3D gaming at all. "3D" is simply a marketing term to explain the physical layout of the transistor, compared to the previous flat transistors.
On the CPU side things haven't changed that much, it's still a quad-core design, featuring Hyper-Threading on select models, which effectively doubles the number of threads to eight. Intel has done some small improvements to their CPU cores, combined with the higher clock speeds, this results in about 15-20% increased performance for number crunching applications.
The biggest changes can be found in the graphics core. It adds support for DirectX 11, which puts it on the map to play the latest games. Intel has increased the number of execution units from 12 to 16, which by itself will give a nice performance boost. We also see support for less common APIs like OpenCL 1.1 and OpenGL 3.1.
When taking a look at the processor lineup, the most important difference is whether it supports "HD Graphics 4000" (Core i7 models) or the slower "HD Graphics 2500" (Core i5). The main difference between those two is the number of execution units for graphics (think "shaders"). These have received an overhaul and a single unit will now perform better than the same unit on Sandy Bridge. HD Graphics 4000 will have 16 of these, HD Graphics 2500 only six. There are tiny differences between models in the Graphics Max Dynamic Frequency, which is essentially Intel's CPU Turbo ported to the graphics world. It is not as elaborate as NVIDIA's GTX 680 Boost clocks, but works in hardware and still provides a healthy performance boost.
In this review we will pit the Intel Core i7-3770K's integrated HD Graphics 4000 against a selection of typical low-end graphics options from the sub-$100 segment. We will use the same test suite as in our regular VGA benchmarks, but please note that we turned down the settings to low, to have a more realistic load for these low-end graphics processors.
Unfortunately we can not include previous generation Sandy Bridge graphics in our tests, since it does not support DirectX 11, which most of our benchmarks use.