Intel, Gigabyte, ASUS, MSI, Biostar and ECS tested.
Welcome to the 22nm era as Intel swings in the “Tock” phase of their yearly CPU upgrades. Today marks the introduction of the long awaited Ivy Bridge platform which is basically running the Sandy Bridge architecture on a 22nm process.
While basic operations on Ivy Bridge remain similar to Sandy Bridge, let’s look at some of the features that differentiate the new processors from last year’s models. Well, first thing’s first, the 22nm process, shrunken down from Sandy Bridge’s 32nm, provides a cooler processor that requires lesser power.
We see this factor shine during the overclocking process as our Sandy Bridge i7-2600K processor would run stable at an overclock of 4.7GHz @ 1.45v, whereas on some of the motherboards tested, the i7-3770K ran perfectly fine on as low as 1.3v with a 4.7GHz overclock.
Next up is the much touted Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics processor which promises performance increase from the HD 3000 by up to 50% in some cases. Of course, HD 4000 also brings DX11 support which helps with faster QuickSync performance in addition.
Lastly there are some core level changes that improve upon the Sandy Bridge architecture by allowing (overclocked) memory speeds of up to 2800MHz.
The Ivy Bridge processors are launched in conjunction with Intel’s new Z77 chipset; also an improvement over last year’s Z68 chipset. I have discussed about the Z77 chipset in our review of the MSI Z77A-GD55 motherboard. However, let’s have a quick look at some of the new features.
Not only can you overclock the CPU and memory, but the GPU as well. 2x SATA 3 ports are supported natively, as is Intel’s Smart Response Technology; certain motherboards have mSATA slots for micro-SSD expansion. Up to 4xUSB 3.0 ports are supports in addition to 10xUSB 2.0 ports. Lastly we have native PCIe 3.0 slots, ranging from 2 to 3 depending on the motherboard manufacturer.
So without further ado, let’s look at the contestants in today’s Ivy Bridge motherboard roundup.