Final Words

Based on these early numbers, Ivy Bridge is pretty much right where we expected it on the CPU side. You're looking at a 5 - 15% increase in CPU performance over Sandy Bridge at a similar price point. I have to say that I'm pretty impressed by the gains we've seen here today. It's quite difficult to get tangible IPC improvements from a modern architecture these days, particularly on such a strict nearly-annual basis. For a tick in Intel's cadence, Ivy Bridge is quite good. It feels a lot like Penryn did after Conroe, but better.

The improvement on the GPU side is significant. Although not nearly the jump we saw going to Sandy Bridge last year. Ivy's GPU finally puts Intel's processor graphics into the realm of reasonable for a system with low end GPU needs. Based on what we've seen, discrete GPUs below the $50 - $60 mark don't make sense if you've got Intel's HD 4000 inside your system. The discrete market above $100 remains fairly safe however.

With Ivy Bridge you aren't limited to playing older titles, although you are still limited to relatively low quality settings on newer games. If you're willing to trade off display resolution you can reach a much better balance. We are finally able to deliver acceptable performance at or above 1366 x 768. With the exception of Metro 2033, the games we tested even showed greater than 30 fps at 1680 x 1050. The fact that we were able to run Crysis: Warhead at 1680 x 1050 at over 50 fps on free graphics from Intel is sort of insane when you think about where Intel was just a few years ago.

Whether or not this is enough for mainstream gaming really depends on your definition of that segment of the market. Being able to play brand new titles at reasonable frame rates as realistic resolutions is a bar that Intel has safely met. I hate to sound like a broken record but Ivy Bridge continues Intel's march in the right direction when it comes to GPU performance. Personally, I want more and I suspect that Haswell will deliver much of that. It is worth pointing out that Intel is progressing at a faster rate than the discrete GPU industry at this point. Admittedly the gap is downright huge, but from what I've heard even the significant gains we're seeing here with Ivy will pale in comparison to what Haswell provides.

What Ivy Bridge does not appear to do is catch up to AMD's A8-series Llano APU. It narrows the gap, but for systems whose primary purpose is gaming AMD will still likely hold a significant advantage with Trinity. The fact that Ivy Bridge hasn't progressed enough to challenge AMD on the GPU side is good news. The last thing we need is for a single company to dominate on both fronts. At least today we still have some degree of competition in the market. To Intel's credit however, it's just as unlikely that AMD will surpass Intel in CPU performance this next round with Trinity. Both sides are getting more competitive, but it still boils down to what matters more to you: GPU or CPU performance. Similarly, there's also the question of which one (CPU or GPU) approaches "good enough" first. I suspect the answer to this is going to continue to vary wildly depending on the end user.

The power savings from 22nm are pretty good on the desktop. Under heavy CPU load we measured a ~30W decrease in total system power consumption compared to a similar Sandy Bridge part. If this is an indication of what we can expect from notebooks based on Ivy Bridge I'd say you shouldn't expect significant gains in battery life under light workloads, but you may see improvement in worst case scenario battery life. For example, in our Mac battery life suite we pegged the Sandy Bridge MacBook Pro at around 2.5 hours of battery life in our heavy multitasking scenario. That's the number I'd expect to see improve with Ivy Bridge. We only had a short amount of time with the system and couldn't validate Intel's claims of significant gains in GPU power efficiency but we'll hopefully be able to do that closer to launch.

There's still more to learn about Ivy Bridge, including how it performs as a notebook chip. If the results today are any indication, it should be a good showing all around. Lower power consumption and better performance at the same price as last year's parts - it's the Moore's Law way. There's not enough of an improvement to make existing SNB owners want to upgrade, but if you're still clinging to an old Core 2 (or earlier) system, Ivy will be a great step forward.

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  • arno - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    No, it is just out of question for me to overclock. I wanna buy a profesional laptop (w520 lenovo). SO no way to teak it.
    Fact is memory will be 1600 Mhz and the processor a bit stronger with maybe a better memory controler.
    At one month of the release, it worth to wait it.
    Just wanna make sure that in my particular case it really worth it cause i'm tired of my heavy old laptop. I buy this damn machine just for working after all. At home, my E8400 is still upto date for what I do with it.
  • DDR4 - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    I want to see some increase in performance and actual processing power. For now, i can leave the graphics to the GPU. Reply
  • Nexing - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    I'd consider a few aspects:
    -Do you need to use precision external gear, -like we audio people do with soundcards- and hence need ExpressCard or Thunderbolt connectors? Then I'd expect May-Jun launches will bring those professional Laptops and Ultrabooks.
    -If portability is important, factual Sandy bridge battery capacity is near 4 hours whether Ivy Bridge battery will extend real usage around eight hours for similar performance.
    -Furthermore USB 3.0 will be native, something important since most renesas boards have been far from perfect and just their recent (Feb/March 2012) releases seem to finally have nailed efficiency.. Problems with USB 3.0 equiped Sandy Bridge laptops abound in forums, and that is in professional brands.
    -If you were questioning about SandyB vs IvyB desktops, you could still buy now the former and later upgrade for the later CPU, but with the mobile platform, Intel has stated that H67M -their actual chipsett platform, also named Cougar Point- Upgradeability is not going to be feasible, despíte it could be technically possible easily..
    Therefore, there a many reasons pointing to wait. Since sales are very low, any are choosing this route.
  • arno - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    Thanks Nexing for u answer. Actually, i totally agree with you on:
    portability => IB is a shrink and must be more power efficient for an equivalent task load. Seems that the test proves it. moreover, I will work a lot in trains or outdoors (visiting customers), so it is definitely a +.
    USB 3 => u feedback is very interesting. I myself think that "native" versus "add on" USB3 feature must be better. And that was also a reason for me to wait when last december, i was already thinking of buying something new. Now i'm quite sure that it was the good thing to do.

    For the rest, more than external gears, I need a processor good in floating points calculation. I do intensive electrical simulations so i definitely need it.

    I took my decision and I will wait. This laptop will replace and desktop and laptop for work (and work only cause for internet or usual offices task, i definitely think a core 2 duo can make it); so better to catch the best. I will manage the present emergency I have, praying for Lenovo (or Samsung?) to offer new Ivy Bridge laptop as soon as possible. Let's make a bet: Lenovo got it ready to release and is just waiting for the official launch date....

    thanks for sharing ;)
  • Nexing - Friday, March 9, 2012 - link

    Should say:
    "many are taking this waiting route"
  • arno - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    "FP/integer divider delivers 2x throughput compared to Sandy Bridge"

    I should read more carefully. That is an answer to my question. Maybe not a spectacular improvement, but still one.
  • DrWattsOn - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    @arno I'm GLAD you didn't read more carefully, because you posted the question, and Nexing's answer focused me on something I still wasn't considering as a major factor in my decision: USB3. Between your question and the response, I also got a better picture of how specific use is affected by the tech. So, I'm a waiter (tho I don't serve food 8^D ). Reply
  • stephenbrooks - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    Intel released on 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012.

    In base 9 they're on schedule.
  • bhima - Saturday, March 10, 2012 - link

    Basically every 2D-based graphic designer/web designer doesn't need a discrete GPU for their work. The IGPs handle that workload fine (mainly because most of the processing needed for photoshop, indesign, illustrator or dreamweaver is CPU based). A discrete GPU gives you better performance with the very limited 3D stuff that photoshop offers which is situational at best for the vast majority of graphic designers.

    3D artists and those that pump a ton of effects in video editing, they would benefit from discrete.
  • shadow king - Monday, March 12, 2012 - link

    ^ =) Reply

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