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I told you up front that the story on Ivy Bridge was relatively straightforward. Now that we've conducted enough analysis to bring down a healthy adult bison in its prime, let's boil things down to a simple scatter plot showing price versus overall performance. Many inputs go into creating our overall performance scores, which are derived from the components of entire CPU test suite, save for those initial synthetic benchmarks. For gaming, we've used the 99th percentile frame times as our performance inputs. Our prices come from the manufacturers' official price lists.

As the plot shows, the Core i7-3770K is just a little bit faster than the 2600K at essentially the same price. That's progress, but mild progress, on the value front. The real gains with Ivy Bridge come in terms of power use, with the 18W reduction in peak power draw and the accompanying improvements in power efficiency. Don't say I didn't tell you!

You can add some other positives to Ivy Bridge's corner that we discovered in more detailed testing. For one, I think we've demonstrated that there are measurable and probably tangible benefits to having a fast processor in several of today's games, even when FPS averages rise above the vaunted 60-FPS mark. Frame delivery is simply quicker and more consistent with a fast processor, and the Core i7-3770K is among the world's best on that front. Based on our experience, Ivy also overclocks like Flava Flav, as long as you can keep it cool. We're curious to see how others fare on this front, since our experiences with one Core i7-3770K chip may not translate into universal success. Finally, Intel has gained substantial ground on AMD in terms of integrated graphics. The 3770K's HD 4000 IGP still isn't as fast as Llano's built-in Radeon, but it's within striking distance—and Ivy's substantially quicker CPU cores may give it a playability advantage in some games.

If you're considering buying a desktop quad-core processor, though, you probably don't care too much about integrated graphics. For PC enthusiasts, I'd say the decision on Ivy bridge is pretty easy. If you already own a Sandy Bridge-based CPU, there's probably no point in upgrading. If your CPU is older than that, then Ivy Bridge represents a substantial performance upgrade from prior generations, just as Sandy Bridge did 16 months ago. The big difference now is that the TDP has dropped to 77W. That's enough to earn the Core i7-3770K a TR Recommended award.

The improvements in Ivy Bridge look fairly nice in a desktop package like the Core i7-3770K, but they're almost certain to make a bigger impact in the mobile market, where the power efficiency gains conferred by Intel's 22-nm process should pay off more dramatically. I'm already tempted by the prospect of an Ivy-based Ultrabook, once the dual-core variant of Ivy arrives later this year.

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