Ivy Bridge is Here – An Overview

7093651619 c69ea33e4f o Ivy Bridge is Here   An OverviewThis week brought us the release of Ivy Bridge.  This particular release is especially strange and rather challenging to cover as a lot of the critical parts are spread out over a 3 month period. Earlier this month we saw the release of the Z77 chipset, which is the primary enthusiast chipset to support Ivy Bridge (like the Z68 Chipset).  This week we get the release of the Quad Core CPU versions of Ivy Bridge.

The article below is a great extensive look at the Ivy Bridge release and more specifically, the Core i7-3770K.  I just want to touch on a few key points here which will be important to you.

The number one question I am sure:  “Is it worth upgrading to Ivy Bridge from Sandy Bridge?”  From a value standpoint my answer is no – UNLESS you want to run PCIe 3.0, or you want to support Thunderbolt technology.

Before I continue, there is a HUGE caveat about Thunderbolt.  If you are wanting to use Thunderbolt devices with your new Ivy Bridge System – DO NOT BUY ANYTHING YET.  The Z77 chipset will be supporting Thunderbolt with an additional controller, but this will not be released until the end of May.  So that means you can’t buy a Z77 motherboard right now, and have it support Thunderbolt.  If you don’t care about using Thunderbolt, then don’t worry about it.

Ivy Bridge CPU Ivy Bridge is Here   An OverviewThe largest benefit for building an Ivy Bridge system is PCIe 3.0 – or it will be eventually.  Currently you can play any game at max settings with PCIe 2.0 cards – though I am interested to see the effect PCIe 3.0 will have on current benchmarks.  There are currently PCIe 3.0 capable cards on Tom’s Benchmarks, but it is difficult to compare the current offerings.  AMD’s 7XXX series cards are PCIe 3.0 capable, and they perform better than the previous generation – but that is to be expected for a new generation video card.  nVidia has released the GTX 680 as their only PCIe 3.0 video card, and it outperforms everything except certain cards with higher memory at higher settings – the Extreme benchmarks are dominated by 3 and 4 GB cards, which is to be expected considering the large resolution (keep this in mind when Retina Displays become mainstream).

My take on this is that if you have a Sandy Bridge system right now, don’t upgrade just yet (unless of course you simply enjoy doing that, then feel free to go nuts :).  There is no value justification in upgrading from a Sandy Bridge / Z68 system to an Ivy Bridge / Z77 system at this time.

Just to wrap up some other notes about this release.  This release is only for the Quad Core Ivy Bridge CPUs.  The i7-3770k reviewed below is the IB version of the i7-2600k/2700k.  The i5-3570k is the IB version of the i5-2500k.  So the mid-range build will likely consist of an i5-3570k on a Z77 chipset board.  As I am writing this, I haven’t actually seen these chips available in retailers, so I am not sure when that will happen.  It’s nice to note that the new versions of these CPUs are actually going to be slightly cheaper than their predecessors – the i7-3770k being $19 cheaper than previous, and the i5-3570k being $13 less.  This says to me that retailers are going to likely drop prices on Sandy Bridge not insignificantly (or at least provide sales).

So again, if you currently have a Sandy Bridge system of at least the mid range build, there’s really no reason to upgrade to Ivy Bridge (other than for the heck of it).

I’ll be building a new Ivy Bridge system in the next couple of months – I’m waiting on Thunderbolt for Z77 as well as the rest of nVidia’s Kepler lineup.

For now, do check out this article for more extensive information on the Ivy Bridge release.

The Intel Ivy Bridge (Core i7 3770K) Review

The times, they are changing. In fact, the times have already changed, we’re just waiting for the results. I remember the first time Intel brought me into a hotel room to show me their answer to AMD’s Athlon 64 FX—the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. Back then the desktop race was hotly contested. Pushing the absolute limits of what could be done without a concern for power consumption was the name of the game. In the mid-2000s, the notebook started to take over. Just like the famous day when Apple announced that it was no longer a manufacturer of personal computers but a manufacturer of mobile devices, Intel came to a similar realization years prior when these slides were first shown at an IDF in 2005:


image from IntelFreePress

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High Res Displays and PC Gaming

The release of the iPad 3rd Gen was most noticible due to its retina display.  While we had seen the retina concept with the iPhone 4, never before has this level of pixel density been available (at least on a consumer device).  And let me tell you – it is absolutely stunning.  Reading text is like reading a book, pictures are stunningly crisp, and games designed for this screen are just pure gold.  Also as a side note, my regular monitor looks like crap by comparison (and I run a high quality NEC).

The inevitability is that this tech will reach computer monitors, and I think that’s going to happen far sooner than most people are saying.  This is a once you go retina, you don’t go back scenario – its that pleasing to look at.

So what does it mean for you?

Right now your average 24 inch monitor runs 1920×1080 pixels, which is in the neighborhood of 130 ppi.  You can play most games at high settings with around a GTX 560 1GB (or equivalent).  A retina 24 inch by comparison would be twice this resolution.  3840×2160 around 260 ppi.  The essence of this is that you are essentially supporting graphical production for two monitors in one.   Right now in order to run ultra settings on that type of screen you would probably need to SLI two 580s – an expensive proposition (as a side note, video memory and memory bandwidth will be critical at these resolutions.  A 1 GB card on PCIe 2.0 would choke).

It is inevitable that retina monitors will make their way to consumers.  When they do, game development will step up to meet the new visual possibilities, and in order to play those games we will need the best of the best hardware.

Fortunately we are now stepping into the next level of PCIe technology with double the memory bandwidth capability.  If you are building a system right now, I would strongly urge you to at least build a platform that allows for you to upgrade to a PCIe 3.0 video card (ie. build at least Z68 gen 3 – or Z77 with Ivy Bridge).

This article demonstrates not quite that level of resolution and also suggests that this technology is far off.  But I’m looking at a consumer level device of not insignificant size (the iPad) which says otherwise.  Apple has a way of pushing the boundaries of reality, and I think they will surprise most people with full sized retina displays in the next 1-2 years.

Prepare for a ride – PC gaming as we know it is going to be shook up, and those of us who build will be in the best position to have our cake and eat it too icon wink High Res Displays and PC Gaming

The perils and promise of high-resolution displays

Sharp has announced that it’s building next-generation LCDs using IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) technology. This new approach first made headlines just before Apple launched the iPad 3, when it was rumored that Sharp would provide panels for the high-resolution tablet, but manufacturing difficulty reportedly led to Apple opting for a conventional S-IPS LCD panel instead.


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The Asus P8Z68-V Pro Review

Today I have for you an excellent review of the motherboard I prefer for the mid range build.  You will see me constantly say that I prefer Asus motherboards, and there is a reason for this.  They are not only well built, but they also consistently score high on benchmark tests.

This review is a look at the Gen 3 version of the P8Z68-V Pro, which supports PCIe 3.0.  There aren’t any PCIe 3.0 tests yet of course, but if your intention is to build a Sandy Bridge Z68 system, then this is the motherboard to go with.

Asus P8Z68-V Pro Gen 3 Motherboard Review

This motherboard features UASP mode, which stands for USB Attached SCSI Protocol. Asus say “With USB 3.0 Boost technology, a USB device’s transmission speed is significantly increased up to 170%, adding to an already impressive fast USB 3.0 transfer speed. ASUS software automatically accelerates data speeds for compatible USB 3.0 peripherals without the need for any user interaction.”

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Z77 Motherboards – an Introduction

I’m starting to get pretty excited for the release of Ivy Bridge.  I’ve been running the same system for about 4.5 years now and while it’s still in great condition, I’m itching to build a new powerhouse.

Last week I shared with you an article giving our first preview of Ivy Bridge performance.  Today I bring you an article showcasing our upcoming 7-series motherboards.

It looks like things are likely to line up similarly to Sandy Bridge.  While we don’t have benchmarking of any kind yet it’s looking like my value recommendation will be the i5-3570k with the Asus Z77 Pro.

A Brief Look at Some Upcoming 7-Series Motherboards


With Intel’s next generation processors firmly on the horizon, we should also turn to what motherboards will be on offer when we have the opportunity to root around in our pockets to invest in an next generation system.  With appropriate vendor support, 6-series motherboards will support these new processors with little more than a BIOS update, however to get the most out of the new processor, we have to look at the new range of motherboards about to hit the market.

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Ivy Bridge – First Look

With the (delayed) approach of Ivy Bridge, the exact place of this new technology for gamers has yet to be made clear.  Is it worth upgrading from Sandy Bridge?  Until now we haven’t had independently tested performance of an Ivy Bridge system with a discrete graphics card.

This is one of many tests that will be considered as we get more information going forward – until then, here’s my interpretation:

The CPU tested is the i7-3770k, it is to Ivy Bridge as the i7-2600k is to Sandy Bridge (quad core with hyperthreading).  That is, the average computer gaming build wont be considering this chip, but we can use its comparison with i7-2600k for an idea.  The charts in the article show us a 5-10% increase in graphics performance with a discrete GPU.

So I would say it isn’t worth upgrading from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge on the surface, for a gamer (there are decent improvements in production activities for those of you who do more than gaming).

You would likely see a larger improvement by upgrading graphics cards, especially if you switch to PCIe 3.0 (for which we don’t yet have benchmarking comparisons).

If you have a Sandy Bridge system with a motherboard other than a Z68 rev 3 that supports PCIe 3.0, then you may consider upgrading to Ivy Bridge just for PCIe 3.0 support (of course you could upgrade the motherboard, but why not go all the way and sell your Sandy Bridge system?)

Anyways, check out the article below for the first independent look at Ivy Bridge performance.

The Ivy Bridge Preview: Core i7 3770K Tested

Intel calls Ivy Bridge a tick+. While CPU performance steps forward, GPU performance sees a more significant improvement – in the 20 – 50% range. The magnitude of improvement on the GPU side is more consistent with what you’d expect from a tock. The combination of a CPU tick and a GPU tock is how Intel arrives at the tick+ naming. I’m personally curious to see how this unfolds going forward.

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More Information on Ivy Bridge Release

As we approach the release of Ivy Bridge, we will start to see information appear more and more – some of the leaked info will be useful and accurate, while some of it should be ignored.

This article briefly goes over some of the tech behind Ivy Bridge (nothing new really in terms of how it affects gaming).

The article also mentions slow downs in production – I believe Intel’s statement about the dual core versions being the only delay is accurate.  They did the same thing with Sandy Bridge release.  We will see Core-i5 and Core-i7 to begin with, and the Core-i3 (dual core) will come later in the year.


Intel Reveals More Details of Ivy Bridge Variants at ISSCC

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Article: Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge at the same clock speed

As we approach the release of Ivy Bridge, I will be looking to answer one big question – is it “worth” upgrading from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge.  That answer is probably going to be murky, but we will at least be able to make some assessment of performance numbers.

This article points a small test done to compare same-level Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge CPU performance.  This is by no means a comprehensive test – and doesn’t tell us exactly how IB will perform in gaming.  The performance increase in this one on one testing however verifies Intel’s original claims – so we could be in for a treat come April 8…

Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge at the same clock speed

The days leading up to the launch of Intel’s next-gen Ivy Bridge processors where we start to see leaked benchmark results here and there are yet to come, but a small piece of info on the expected performance of Ivy Bridge versus the current crop of Sandy Bridge chips has already popped online.

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Z77 Chipset – Panther Point

51ro87u2ZkL. SL160  Z77 Chipset   Panther PointWith the release of Ivy Bridge on the horizon (currently April 8 ) we are also anticipating the release of the next series of chipsets to go with it – this time it will be Panther Point or 7-series chipsets. Check out the article on Ivy Bridge for a brief overview. In this article, I’m going to quickly touch on the Z77 chipset.

The Z77 Panther Point chipset is the top of the line chipset complimenting the Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. The Z77 chipset is going to be the most advanced of the chipset options (think an upgraded version of the z68 chipset).

Some of you have asked whether it is worth waiting for the Z77 chipset over building a system right now with Z68 (and then upgrading to Ivy Bridge later). While it has not yet been released – so we don’t know how it will perform – we can look at features that the Z77 chipset will have.

There are two major differences between the Z77 and Z68 chipsets. This is native USB 3.0 and slightly different PCIe configuration. Currently, in order to get USB 3.0 onto a motherboard, manufacturers are using third parties.

The most noticeable effect of using a third party is an increase in price, as the manufacturer has to purchase the chips (ICs) from those third parties. With Intel including USB 3.0 natively (for up to 4 USB 3.0 ports), this should mean that the relative cost will be slightly less (in the neighborhood of $20) – granted, when Panther Point is released, the previous generation will likely drop in price anyways.

One could also surmise that native hardware implementation makes it easier for manufacturer’s to build custom configurations.

This is where the different PCIe configuration will come into play.  The new chipset will provide a more flexible pcie configuration for the manufacturers, making it easier to implement multiple card configurations for PCIe 3.0 – wheras currently it looks like the most you can do on Z68 is two PCIe 3.0 cards (at x8/x8), and then not all Z68 motherboards allow this.

The rest of the Z77 chipset configuration is very similar to Z68. Both Z77 and H77 will include SSD caching – the increase in number of options for SSD caching suggests a trend in that direction, but thats for another article.

In terms of overclocking both Z77 and Z75 will be capable, while H77 will not. Similarly, it looks like there will be K (or similar) versions of the Ivy Bridge processors indicating overclockability.

Unlike the Sandy Bridge release, where the enthusiast chipset (P67) was limited with on board video, all version of Panther Point will include built in video. This is likely due to the utility of Virtu (which again, does not affect gaming performance).


So on the surface, the Z77 chipset appears to be perhaps only a slight upgrade (some might say that about the Ivy Bridge CPU as well). The new platform may prove to be not worth upgrading from Sandy Bridge, but I’m personally trying to wait until April to build a new system – I plan on diving into Ivy Bridge + Z77 with gusto ^_^



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OCZ demonstrates PCIe 3.0 based SSD

My strange enjoyment of OCZ's Revodrives leads me to find this PCIe 3.0 based SSD (16 TB at 6.5 gb/s transfer rate?  yes please) very exciting.  I'm sure there will be a day sometime in the next few years when I will find it affordable…I'm sure.

In any case, with the release of PCIe 3.0, we should start seeing some interesting tech upgrades, and possibly some new internal hardware that takes advantage of the increased data transfer rate.

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Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0

With the upcoming release of Ivy Bridge and PCIe 3.0, one question that might be on your mind is “will my current Z68 chipset board support a PCIe 3.0 video card?” Today I just want to take a quick look at the situation and hopefully answer that question.

First, a quick look at PCIe 3.0. This is the next iteration of PCIe, following the update to PCIe 2.0 in 2007. PCIe 3.0 is going to double the memory bandwidth of PCIe 2.0 – this is the most important change to realize. Some sites have taken a look at how that might affect current gaming – but this analysis has yet to be done with an actual PCIe 3.0 video card (as none are available yet).

The other thing about PCIe 3.0, is that in order for it to function you will be required to be running at least an Ivy Bridge CPU (presumably any CPUs released after Ivy Bridge will be compatible as well). Some of these motherboards have PCIe 3.0 capability, but only if you install an Ivy Bridge CPU into them. Currently Intel has indicated that Ivy Bridge will be compatible with the LGA 1155 motherboards – z68 and P67. You also of course need a PCIe 3.0 video card.


51nZvs2L9XL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0ASRock EXTREME7 GEN3/EXTREME4 GEN3 – these motherboards come with PCIe 3.0 capability. As previously mentioned, you must have an Ivy Bridge CPU installed. The way the PCIe 3.0 is activated is that the second x16 slot is directly connected to the CPU (where the PCIe 3.0 lanes come from in Ivy Bridge). This means that this particular motherboard can only run 1 video card at PCIe 3.0 (so no PCIe 3.0 SLI/Crossfire). The notes on the Gen 2 version of the next motherboard make me stress that you should only get the Gen 3 of this board if you are looking for future PCIe 3.0 capability.

51eRxCJnGhL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 – just like the Extreme7, this motherboard has the capability of switching one of it’s PCIe 2.0 slots to 3.0 with an installed Ivy Bridge CPU – again, no SLI/Crossfire. ASRock notates that the Gen 2 version of this motherboard will only provide PCIe 2.0 speeds even with Ivy Bridge installed – though you can run a PCIe 3.0 card in the slot (with 2.0 speeds).


51xkQ3Z91aL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0ASUS Maximus IV GENE-Z/GEN3 – This motherboard comes with 2 PCIe 3.0 capable slots. Ivy Bridge CPU Required. This suggests that this motherboard would be capable of running two PCIe 3.0 in SLI – notations indicated x8/x8, though at PCIe 3.0 speeds, this would be similar to running PCIe 2.0 SLI at x16/x16.

51Ny0QpwDEL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0ASUS P8Z68 DELUXE GEN3/P8Z68-V Pro GEN3/P8Z68-V GEN3 – these motherboards also has 2 PCIe 3.0 capable slots (totally 3 PCIe 2.0 capable slots). No notations claim SLI in PCIe 3.0 is capable, however with 2 PCIe 3.0 slots, it is reasonable to assume this will be possible.


613BQPN1ZcL. SL75  Z68 Motherboards and PCIe 3.0Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P/GA-Z68x-UD3H-B3/GA-Z68XP-UD3 – all three of these motherboards support PCIe 3.0 with what appears to be two x16 slots. The wording of their specifications suggests that these boards may only support one slot as PCIe 3.0. If they do support two, then they would run in x8/x8.


Of all these choices I have been most skeptical of the Gigabyte boards – they released “pcie 3.0 supported” z68 motherboards first, but as I recall they were shown to only be running at pcie 2.0 speeds (like the ASRock Gen 2 motherboards). The take home from this is that if you want to build a system right now, but with the ability to upgrade to PCIe 3.0 video card(s) – be sure you grab a Gen 3 Z68 board from ASRock/Asus or a UD3/B3 board from Gigabyte. Even though some P67 boards may support Ivy Bridge, it doesn’t appear that any will support PCIe 3.0.

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