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Hard Choices Essential Update: Intel's New CPUs

Quick update for all you hardware chappies - Intel's NDA for the new Ivy Bridge generation CPUs lifted earlier this week and the lawyers are back in their cages. The first reviews are out and it's just as I predicted. Ivy Bridge is positively stultifying.

The headline news is that clockspeeds are essentially static, Intel hasn't added extra CPU cores and the per-core, per-clock performance has increased only very marginally. In the real world, the roughly five per cent performance boost isn't something you are ever going to notice on the desktop, in a game – anywhere.

Now that's at default, factory speeds. My one remaining hope regards Ivy Bridge was that the fancy new 22nm 3D Tri-gate transistors would allow for stellar overclocking. As it turned out, my Ivy Bridge samples hit the wall at exactly the same speed as the 32nm Sandy Bridge gen chips I've had since they appeared a year ago. So that's around 5GHz. Still excellent, then, just no actual improvement.

The explanation of course, is that Intel is all about mobile and ultra-mobile. That's where all the growth is so Intel doesn't care about the desktop any longer. Which explains why the emphasis this time around was on improving the performance of the integrated graphics core. Which is a lot better. But it's still completely crap. It was ever thus.

Having said all that, Ivy Bridge is very marginally better than the existing Sandy Bridge generation, so my “buy” advice is hereby officially updated from Intel Core i5-2500K to its direct successor, the Intel Core i5-3570K. But if you bought a 2500K recently, rest assured it's as near as dammit as good.

Oh and the other good bit of news is that Intel has stuck with the LGA1155 socket, so you may not need a new motherboard for Ivy Bridge. Check on your board manufacturer's website for details of required BIOS updates. If you are buying a new board, make it a Z77 chipset like I said in the motherboard guide. It's one hell of a chipset.

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