REVIEW: Intel Ivy Bridge Chip, Motherboard Got Game


Intel Ivy Bridge chip, motherboard


Intel continues to push the envelope of processor performance as it attempts to keep up with Moore's Law. The latest example announced this week is the Intel Core i7 3770K running at 3.5GHz. This amazing chip incorporates four, dual-threaded processor cores, an 8MB cache, and Intel HD Graphics 4000 in a single die.

This is the first part to be released under the name Ivy Bridge, the code name for its latest series of powerful and power-efficient processors to come from its 22nm process, and it's the first to be built with Intel's revolutionary 3-D Tri-gate technology.

The company also has released a new motherboard -- the Desktop Board DZ77GA-70K with D77 chipset--optimized for its K-series of unlocked processors fit to the LGA1155 socket. On top of the usual array or slots and ports, Intel adds eight USB 3.0 ports (plus 10 of the USB 2.0 variety), four 6.0Gb/s SATA ports (along with four at 3.0Gb/s), a pair of FireWire ports, HDMI output and support for as much as 32GB of two-channel DDR3 memory running at a maximum of 1600MHz.

Oh, and then there's Intel Visual Bios, an implementation of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). The all new mouse-controlled environment includes an Overclocking Assistant for K-series processors that turns the once-complex practice into child's play, removing some of the uber-geek mystique. For VARs and everyone else, the environment uses tabs, drop-down menus and slider-bars to greatly simplify the system and processor settings configuration, and it provides a wealth of information about system performance and health, as well as fan speeds and slot status. UEFI was initially developed by Intel and is now managed by a consortium that includes the company and major BIOS makers along with AMD, Apple, Dell, HP, IBM and others.

Initial performance results of Intel's new processor and motherboard are impressive. Out of the box using default clock rate and with only the barest of drivers installed, the system turned in a top Geekbench 2.2.7 score of 16,240. That's about 25 percent faster than its Sandy Bridge predecessor, which turned in a top score of 12,286. In both cases, the test system was running 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate on 4GB of Dominator GT 2000MHz DDR3 memory.

The CRN Test Center recommends the new Intel Desktop Board DZ77GA and Intel Core i7 3770K processor. The motherboard's LGA1155 (H2) socket will support not only third-generation Ivy Bridge processors but also Intel's second-generation processors and numerous older parts down the line. Its $249 list price includes an accessory bundle with a front-panel bracket for mounting a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a Bluetooth/WiFi networking module, SLI bridge connector and software utilities. It also comes with a motherboard-sized mouse pad complete with the silkscreened skull logo.