Intel has released its quad-core Ivy Bridge processor family. The chips are the third generation of Core processors, succeeding the Sandy Bridge range. See also: Intel Ivy Bridge processors tested.

The Ivy Bridge line-up consists of 14 different processors for PCs and laptops. Initially there is no Core i3 chip but five Core i5 variations, eight Core i7 models and one Core i7 Extreme Edition. The cheaper lower-end Core i3 processors will be released later this year. See also: Intel Ivy Bridge 7-series motherboards tested.

Intel is using, for the first time, a 22nm fabrication method the for Ivy Bridge processors which is a significant jump from the previous 32nm used for Sandy Bridge. The improvements which come with this upgrade are focused around graphics, media and energy efficiency. See also: Intel Ivy Bridge review.

The chip giant claims that Ivy Bridge gives double the graphics performance of Sandy Bridge which uses Intel HD 3000 graphics. The extra space on the chip made possible by the 22nm process has been put largely towards this area.

The latest edition is named Intel Graphics HD 4000 and comes with DirectX 11 support. Some chip models will come with HD 2500 graphics which Intel said is between 10 and 20 percent better than HD 2000 graphics based on a 3D workload.

Additionally, a suite of built-in visual enhancements include support for 3D via InTru 3D, better Quick Sync Video and Intel Wireless Display.

Intel goes as far as to say: "The built-in visuals of the 3rd gen Intel Core processor eliminate the need for many of the functions provided by a discrete graphics card, reducing power consumption and system cost."

In real terms the chip will supposedly play new games out-of-the-box on integrated graphics and, for the first time, support for up to three independent displays.

Power consumption is another area of improvement with Ivy Bridge. Intel said that at most the quad-core chips will draw 95W and the dual-core chips 65W. Realistically both will run at much lower rates during average use.     

For those thinking about upgrading to Ivy Bridge there is good news; the processor is compatible with the existing LGA1155 socket used by Sandy Bridge making for an easy swap.

Both the Core i5 and Core i7 processors come with Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 for improved performance and energy efficiency. However, Intel Hyper-Threading which is used for better multi-tasking is only available on the latter of the two.

Intel also touts improved overclocking for Ivy Bridge with real-time adjustments, higher CPU multiplier limits and finer DDR frequency control.
For Ultrabooks, Intel's category of laptop, Ivy Bridge brings a few improvements. Intel believes that Ivy Bridge will bring Ultrabooks into the mainstream. The firm said that the processor will enable an instant on and off experience like that of a tablet along with improved battery life and better security.

Rival chip vendor Qualcomm is making a quad-core version of its Snapdragon S4 processor in the hope that it will get a share of the Ultrabook pie.

See also: Ivy Bridge graphics kills budget graphics cards