Intel's third-generation Core processor family, known as Ivy Bridge, incorporates advanced technologies that promise faster performance and improved power efficiency over the previous Sandy Bridge line.

We pitted the flagship desktop processors from each generation head-to-head in a variety of tests designed to measure application performance, video processing and power consumption. See also Yoyotech Warbird XTi review.

Intel Ivy Bridge: The new chips

Ivy Bridge marks a 'Tick' in Intel's regular Tick, Tock cadence of annual processor upgrades. With each ‘Tock' a new microarchitecture is introduced; this is then refined in the following year's 'Tick'.

This particular Tick brings increased efficiency by reducing the process size from 32-nanometre (nm) to 22nm. Still greater power savings come courtesy of a new Tri-gate transistor technology, said to considerably improve the chip's low-voltage performance.

Intel has dubbed Ivy Bridge a Tick+ release, following a major upgrade to the processor family's integrated graphics. Its HD Graphics 4000 processor now supports DirectX 11.0 and HiDPI graphics.

Intel Ivy Bridge: Performance results

To evaluate the performance benefits of the new technology, we compared a Core i7-2700K Sandy Bridge chip to one of the new Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processors. Both chips run with a base clock speed of 3.5GHz, and can turbo boost up to 3.9GHz when required.

We tested using one of Intel's new DZ77GA-70K motherboards, which features the enthusiast-level Z77 Express chipset. Our setup included 16GB of DDR3 memory, running at 1,600MHz, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit installed on a 256GB Intel 510 Series SSD. See also: Intel Ivy Bridge 7-series motherboards tested.

All tests were conducted at the chips' default settings. Due to an issue with the motherboard, we also installed an Asus-branded AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphics card to get the system to boot into Windows. This card played no part in the overall performance, but it does consume power even in its idle state. See also: Intel launches Ivy Bridge processor family.

Ivy Bridge MediaEspresso performance

Intel Ivy Bridge: Application performance

We measured general application performance with WorldBench 6. This suite tests the performance of real-world applications running day-to-day computing tasks.

WorldBench 6 revealed only a very small increase in performance using the new processor. Moving from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge yielded an overall performance gain of just 2.6 percent. Some individual components of the test achieved up to 6 percent improvement.

This level of performance gain may seem unimpressive, but the ageing test applications in WorldBench 6 don't always take advantage of some of the processor's newer features. More: Intel Ivy Bridge processors tested.

NEXT PAGE: Ivy Bridge video transcoding and gaming performance >>