Intel Third Generation Core i7 3770K Review

ccokeman - 2012-04-01 21:10:33 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 23, 2012
Price: $313


Each year, or shortly thereafter, Intel seems to deliver on its Tick-Tock cadence, which signifies either a micro architecture change or process change. This time we have a Tick in the cadence with a shift to a 22nm manufacturing process for this launch of the Third Generation Core series processors code-named Ivy Bridge, and specifically the Core i7 3770K enthusiast SKU. With this launch, Intel is releasing a total of fourteen new processors spread amongst the mobile and desktop segments. Nine of these are dedicated to the desktop segment, with the Core i7 3770K and 3770, and Core i5 3570K, 3550 and 3540, along with low power variants, the Core i7 3770T and 3770S, and Core i5 3550S and 3540S. To go with the Third Generation parts, Intel has launched four new chipsets for the desktop market: Z77, Z75, H77, and B75 with the Z77 chipset targeted squarely at the enthusiast and power user. Process improvements are not the only change in Ivy Bridge, with an upgrade in the integrated GPU and integrated memory controller. Let's see how this new processor will perform in relation to the tried and true overclocking-friendly Second Generation Core i7 2600K.









Closer Look:

Built using the 22nm process for both the CPU and GPU, the Third Generation Core i7 3770K Ivy Bridge processor is the enthusiast SKU for this line up. The Core i7 3770K is a quad-core processor that supports hyper threading and Turbo Boost 2.0 technologies and features a GPU-shared 77 watt TDP. Base clock speed for this offering is 3.50GHz with Turbo Boosted speeds up to 3.90GHz for a small speed boost over the Sandy Bridge Core i7 2600K. The integrated HD 4000 GPU sports an increase in Execution units from the 12 on the HD 3000-equipped 2600K to 16 - a 33% boost over the prior generation. Clock speeds on the HD 4000 graphics are a dynamically managed 1150MHz and utilizes shared system memory. The four CPU cores use a dynamically shared 8MB L3 Cache utilizing Intel Smart Cache technology. The Core i7 3770K is designed to fit in the LGA 1155 socket, with a total of 1.4 billion transistors on board with a die area of 160mm2. DDR3 memory is supported in a dual-channel configuration at 1600MHz.




The Z77 chipset is built for the Ivy Bridge lineup and supports performance tuning to go along with the K-SKU processors. The block diagram shows 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes broken down into 1x 16x, 2x 8x, 1x 8x+1x 4x+1 x 4x with Intel Thunderbolt supported. Three independent displays are supported with one as VGA and the others using DP or HDMI 1.4. Up to fourteen USB ports are available with a maximum of four being USB 3.0. Intel-integrated Gigabit LAN connectivity is used and has been a prominent feature on many of the latest Intel-based motherboards released lately. A new management engine firmware is used with the 7 Series chipsets, with Intel Extreme Tuning as a supplementary feature. DDR3 speeds of up to 1600MHz are officially supported while motherboard manufacturers are listing speeds of up to 2666MHz (OC). Connectivity to and through the Z77 PCH is through DMI (Direct Media Interface) 2.0 and FDI (Flexible Display Interface) pathways that carry both data and the integrated graphics information. Intel's Rapid Storage and Responsiveness technologies are supported to improve the user experience. Six SATA ports are supported from the Z77 PCH with a maximum of two being SATA 6Gb/s with RAID support. An additional eight PCIe 2.0 lanes are dedicated through the Z77 PCH.


Intel has sent us out a package the includes the Intel Extreme DZ77GA-70K motherboard and Third Generation Core i7 3770K processor to see just what Intel has to offer the mainstream user and enthusiast with the drop to a 22nm process and the introduction of its latest chipset motherboard.


Let's see what the DZ77GA-70K has to offer the enthusiast.

Closer Look:

The DZ77GA-70K is Intel's offering for a full-size enthusiast ATX motherboard using the Z77 PCH. It is compatible with both Second and Third Generation Core series processors using the LGA 1155 socket. The blue and black theme has been standard for Intel Extreme series boards over the past few launches. The back side of the PCB is bare, save for the CPU socket retention back plate.














I/O connectivity includes a PS/2 port for mouse or keyboard use, a pair of high current USB 2.0 ports (yellow), a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a single IEEE1394 port, one 6.0 Gb/s eSATA port, the Back to BIOS button, a pair of Intel Gigabit LAN ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a HDMI 1.4a port that supports Lucid Logix Virtu, and the Realtek ALC898-controlled HD sound with optical S/PDIF output. Expansion capabilities include a pair of 16x PCIe 3.0 slots, which support dual graphics cards in CrossfireX or SLI configurations. When run with a single card, the top slot runs at 16x electrically and 2 x 8x with both slots populated. It is noteworthy that these slots only run at PCIe 3.0 speeds with a Third Generation processor installed. There are also two 1x PCIe slots, 2 PCI 2.0 slots, and a single 4x slot.



Across the bottom of the board is the IEEE1394 header, a chassis fan header, Diagnostic LEDs, S/PDIF output header, two USB Super Speed 3.0 front panel headers, a high current USB 2.0 header, two standard USB 2.0 headers, and the front panel IO connections. The IR input and output headers are just above the USB 2.0 ports, with the Debug LED above the front panel connection.



There are a total of eight SATA connections on the right side of the PCB: two gray SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports through a Marvel 88SE9172 controller, four SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports from the Intel Z77 Express Chipset, and two blue SATA 6.0 Gb/s port also fed by the Intel Z77 Express Chipset; the latter two comes with Intel® Rapid Storage Technology RAID support. Further up are the onboard power and reset buttons, a 24-pin ATX power connection, a chassis fan header, and four memory slots which, in total, support up to 32 GB of DDR3 1600 MHz memory in a dual-channel configuration.



Across the top of the PCB are chassis and CPU fan headers, the VRM heat sink, LEDs to show power phase load, and the 8 pin EATX power connector. The CPU socket area has a lot of hardware around it, in the form of capacitors and chokes, but they should not present any concerns when mounting large air-cooled or even liquid-cooled solutions such as the Corsair H100.



The DZ77GA-70K has several large heat sinks on board to transfer the thermal load from the VRM circuits and Z77 PCH to the air traveling through the chassis. The two sinks around the CPU socket are cooled by airflow from the CPU cooling solution, while the skull-covered sink on the Z77 PCH is passively cooled. Even so, it sits right under any large discrete video card, blocking most of the airflow from a front panel chassis fan.



After having tested a few Z77 PCH-based boards with a Second Generation Core i7 2600K, it's time to see what we can do with a Third Generation Core i7 processor. Let's see if this Intel Extreme offering can deliver excellent performance with the full feature set that it has.


Processor Number
Core i7 3770K
CPU Base Frequency GHz
CPU Max Turbo Frequency GHz
DDR3 Mhz
L3 Cache
Intel HD Graphics 2500/4000
Graphics Base Render Frequency
Graphics Max Dynamic Frequency
PCIe Gen3.0
Intel® Secure Key
Intel® OS Guard





All information courtesy of Intel


Testing the Third Generation Core i7 3770K Ivy Bridge Processor will involve running it and its comparison products through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which include both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play, in which we can see if similarly-prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest chipset drivers for each board and latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 6970. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages, and latencies, unless otherwise stated. Turbo Boost will be disabled on all processors to make a fair comparison without skewing results. After stock speed testing, each processor will then be overclocked as much as possible, while still maintaining full stability.


Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 3770K


Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 2011


Testing Setup: AMD AM3+


Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155


Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 1366



Comparison CPUs:



Overclocked settings:


Overclocking the Third Generation Core i7 3770K was a little more challenging than I expected, as the usual means to gain additional clock speed did not seem to work after a certain point. My expectation was to go for 5.0 GHz right off the bat by adjusting the clock multiplier to 50 and voltage to 1.40 V. That did not end well, so it came down to starting low and working my way up. Thankfully, using the Back to BIOS button enabled a return to the BIOS and allowed me to fix problems each time I reached a no-post or boot-looping after changing the settings. Working up from a 45 multiplier and 100 bclock, I was easily able to get the Core i7 3770K stable at 4.7 GHz using 1.325 V, as applied in the BIOS. After that point, enabling the PLL overvoltage option did not increase the multiplier capabilities and resulted in a hard lock at post. Adjusting the bclock also resulted in the same no-post scenario. Dropping the multiplier and adjusting the bclock for additional clock speed also resulted in no-post. It seemed like I reached a hard wall at 4.7 GHz without the ability to go any higher, no matter through bclock tuning or additional multiplier tuning. Temperatures were in the mid-60's Celsius under load, so I am sure that was not the concern here. For now, 4.7 GHz is what I will run with. Nonetheless, the 1.2 GHz bonus over the stock speed of 3.5 GHz should offer significant improvements on performance in CPU-related tasks. Overclocking the HD 4000 graphics core was fairly simple; navigating to the graphics page in the BIOS and setting the graphics speed you are looking for allows the BIOS to adjust parameters such as the TDC, multiplier, and voltage needed to reach the speed. However, this is still all dependent on the graphics core and CPU's ability to manage the clock speeds. I was able to reach 1600 MHz on the HD 4000 graphics core, which presented nice improvements over baseline speeds when tested in games.




If overclocking is not in your future, Intel's Turbo Boost 2 technology is used to boost the speed of the processor under differing usage conditions. Low load situations with one or two cores active will see a boost of up to 400 MHz over the base clock speeds of 3500 MHz; a total of 3900 MHz. With all cores active, the maximum frequency is relatively lower in keeping within the power limits of the architecture. Each of these scenarios offer a nice boost in clock speed, with really no effort, as the BIOS setting for Turbo Boost is enabled by default, allowing the end user the ability to overclock without really overclocking; Intel simply manages the process for you.


Intel Extreme Tuning Utility:

Intel offers their Extreme Tuning Utility to adjust the CPU, GPU, and Memory settings from within the operating system. There are 5 tabs to choose from in this utility. System Information gives a breakdown on what components are installed in the motherboard, along with current CPU and GPU clock speeds. Manual Tuning allows the Core i7 3770K to be overclocked with just about all of the BIOS settings available, from maximum power and current limits, to the Turbo Boost multipliers, and additional voltage under Turbo Boost. Graphics Tuning allows the user to increase the clock speed and performance of Intel's HD 4000 graphics engine. Stress Tests has a series of tests to test the stability of the system including the CPU, GPU, and System memory. Under Profiles, you can save a group of settings as a specific user or performance preset for a quick way to manage performance characteristics.




Maximum Core Clock Speed:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the listed overclocked speeds. These clock speeds will represent the level of performance shown by the overclocked scores in the testing.




  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Geekbench 2.1
  4. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  5. POV-Ray 3.7
  6. Bibble 5
  7. Sandra 2011
  8. AIDA64 1.85
  9. HandBrake .9.5
  10. ScienceMark 2.02
  11. Cinebench 10 & 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Civilization V
  3. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  4. 3DMark 11


The first part of our testing will involve system-specific benchmarks.


Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is primarily used to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:



The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to completion.











Lower is Better


WinRAR is a tool that archives and compresses large files to a manageable size. Here, we will test the time needed to compress files of 100 MB and 500 MB. Time will be measured in seconds.




Lower is Better





Lower is Better



Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy-to-use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.


Higher is Better


Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting one hundred 8.2 MP RAW images to JPEG format. The original file size is 837 MB. The measure used for comparison is time needed to convert the file, in seconds.


Lower is Better


In Apophysis, the Core i7 3770K is slightly faster at stock speeds than the 2600K. These results are duplicated across the WinRar testing. The Geekbench scoring also shows that the Core i7 3770K is a better performing processor package than the 2600K. The Bibble 5 tests again present a significant performance boost for the Core i7 3770K over the 2600K, resulting in a relatively lower completion time.


Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2 MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is the amount of time it takes to refresh the sheet.

















Lower Is Better


POV-Ray 3.7: This program features a built-in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric Multi-Processing), enabling the workload to be spread across several cores for quicker completion.


Higher Is Better


ProShow Gold: This program is used to take a collection of images and stitch them together in a slide show, using a variety of transitions and effects, to make a compelling show you can share with friends and family. The workload consists of 29 high-resolution images that are stitched into a 3 minute video file.


Lower Is Better


HandBrake .9.5: is an open source application used to transcode multiple video formats to an h.264 output format. The test file size is 128 MB in size and 43 seconds in length.


Lower Is Better


Throughout all of these tests, the i7 3770K is faster in the workloads than the 2600K at stock speeds.


SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.
















Processor Arithmetic


Multi-Core Efficiency



Memory Bandwidth



Cache and Memory




Power Management Efficiency



AIDA64 Extreme Edition: is a software utility designed for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the CPU Queen test that looks for the solution to the "Queens" problem on a 10x10 chessboard. This tests the branch prediction capabilities of the processor. The FPU Mandel test measures double precision floating point performance through the computation of several frames of the "Mandelbrot" fractal.


Higher is Better

In all stock frequency tests, the Core i7 3770K delivers a higher level of performance than the 2600K without exception. When overclocked, the higher overall clock speeds of the Core i7 2600K and Core i7 3770K help close the performance difference, though not in all benchmarks.


ScienceMark tests real-world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we will run the benchmark suite and use the overall score for comparison.





















Higher is Better!




Cinebench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program, CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.





Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5



Higher is Better


HD Tune measures disk performance to easily make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.





Higher is Better





Lower is Better


PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This latest version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs, from laptops to desktops.


Higher is Better


The Third Generation Core i7 3770K is much faster than the Socket 1366-based Core i7 920 in every one of these benchmarking tests. Against the Core i7 2600K, however, the overall performance margins are much smaller.

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a remake of the classic science fiction first-person shooter from 1999. The game is based on the two popular sci-fi franchises: Alien and Predator. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species: the Alien, the Predator, or the Human Colonial Marine. The game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine, which supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. For testing, I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool, using the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.















Higher = Better


The FPS delivered by the Core i7 3770K is within 2-3 FPS of the highest scores in Aliens vs. Predator.


Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead it from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This is the latest iteration in the Civilization series, which uses a new game engine and brings massive changes to the AI behaviour. Released for Windows in September of 2010, Civilization V was developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games. Testing will be done using actual gameplay, with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 199-205 turns into the game.















Higher = Better


In this game, performance deltas between the 2600K and Core i7 3770K are between 0 and 2 FPS at stock speeds. A higher overclock nets more performance, as seen by the Core i7 2600 and 3820 5 GHz overclocked results.


Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, which allows for destructible environments. You can play the single-player campaign or multiplayer; the latter with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has sold in excess of six million copies so far.
















In this first person shooter, the Core i7 3770K stands out slightly from the crowd and delivers excellent FPS scores across the four tests.


3DMark 11 is the next instalment in Futuremark’s 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies the benchmark's focus on Microsoft DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 is required alongside a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition gives unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage only allows for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all features of the benchmark, while the professional edition runs for $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing – one that tests physics handling, and one that combines graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics Library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still remains a popular choice.

The new benchmark comes with two new demos that can be watched; both of which are based on the standard tests, though unlike them, contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a number of vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and displays a location similar to South American tribal ruins, with statues and the occasional vehicle. The demos are simple in that they have no story, but really demonstrate testing conditions. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors, MSI and Antec, on the sides, helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test pre-set levels to find the performance of each card. The pre-sets are used because they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.











In stock speed tests, the Third Generation Core i7 3770K delivers the highest score in 3DMark 11 for a mainstream processor and platform, just below the SNBe Socket 2011 Core i7 3960X and 3820.

Closer Look:

Not everyone that purchases a mainstream system will end up with a strong discrete video card, so Intel has been upping the strength of its IGPU solutions since early 2010 with the Core i5 661. Today, both the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge mainstream processors feature an integrated graphics processor that support Intel's Quick Sync video feature for GPU accelerated video transcoding. The Core i7 3770K is equipped with Intel's HD 4000 GPU with 16 Execution units, which improves gaming and GPU accelerated performance and video playback. Switchable graphics are also supported via third party software from Virtu, allowing for the best of both worlds; low power consumption in a 2D environment and full graphics power when needed through the onboard video connection. To test out these features, I ran the HD 4000-equipped 3770K through its paces. Firstly, I used 3DMark 11 Entry test, Aliens vs. Predator on low settings, and Civilization V on medium settings while running a resolution of 1680x1050. I then ran the HD 3000-equipped 2600K and HD 4000-equipped 3770K through a popular FPS shooter, also at 1680x1050, using the "Low" preset in-game to see if either could make it above a playable 30 FPS. There are plenty of casual games and MMOs that can run on older integrated solutions from Intel including WoW, but this is about testing with much more different type of game that demands a stronger GPU for playable frame rates.

Switchable Graphics Testing: Virtu








HD 3000 vs. HD 4000 comparison.


It is no surprise that the mainstream user is going to do so much more than game with their computer, especially as it becomes a tool to integrate ourselves into the digital world. For one, GPU acceleration is a way to reduce the time spent on tasks such as encoding video and transcoding video to fit formats usable by our portable smart phone to tablet devices. High definition content playback such as BluRay and 3D BluRay, with supported applications, can result in smooth playback with very little CPU usage, allowing the family to watch content streamed wirelessly to the display while working on other applications. Applications from Arcsoft, Corel, Cyberlink , Badaboom, Loilo, and Mainconcept are already available to support Intel's Third Generation Core series processors. Below are the results of using GPU acceleration to view a BluRay movie with Corel's WinDVD suite and conversion times to convert a 1080p clip for use on an Ipad using just the CPU and then the CPU and GPU combined. The results speak for themselves.

Video Playback:


Video Transcoding:


As you can see, utilizing the integrated GPU on its own, as well as coupled with a discrete video card has benefits beyond that of just gaming performance. When coupled with a discrete GPU using Lucid Logix Virtu software, you can see a huge increase in performance without having to swap connections on the back of the PC when a 3D load is generated. There was just a slight drop off in performance running in this configuration. As a stand-alone GPU, the HD 4000 can hold its own with low settings on current games on top of MMOs. It won't give you the best gaming experience at 1680x1050, but reducing the detail level and resolution further should help. Using GPU accelerated applications with the Core i7 3770K shows significant gains in performance across the board, from the 1% CPU usage while watching a BluRay movie to the almost 100% improvement in completion time to convert a video clip for use on an ipad. That is truly technology in progress.


Is Ivy Bridge all it's cracked up to be and well worth the wait? It seems so. With measurable performance improvement in just about every benchmark, it's hard to make a case for sticking with a Second Generation Core series processor for a new build. With performance improvements anywhere between 3 and 10+%, it's just simple math when you look at the price point between the $313 Third Generation Core i7 3770K and $339 Second Generation Core i7 2600K. As an upgrade from someone currently running a Sandy Bridge 2600K system it really depends on what you are looking for. Native PCIe 3.0, Intel Smart Response, and Rapid Start technologies are all reasons to move forward as well as utilizing Intel's latest Wireless communication devices for video streaming using Intel WiDi. For the mainstream user there is a lot to be gained in terms of responsiveness and performance from the latest Core series processor and Panther Point chipset-based motherboards like Intel’s own DZ77GA-70K used to run the 3770K through its paces. Intel has put together a full featured platform to showcase the performance of its latest 22nm offerings. Intel has given the BIOS on the DZ77GA-70K a complete overhaul with Intel’s own UEFI Visual BIOS. This implementation was easy to navigate and was complete and polished throughout. Each section was well laid out and easy to use with both an easy and Advanced menu to manage everyone’s abilities.

The performance of the HD 4000 integrated graphics proved to be a significant upgrade from the HD 3000 used on the 2600K. When you knock the quality settings down, newer DX 11 games can be played at resolutions up to 1680 x 1050. In Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on low, the HD 4000-equipped Core i7 3770K delivered 36FPS through our standard test sequence, which is impressive to say the least. Civilization V, while admittedly not the hardest on a GPU, was also up over 30 FPS with the settings on low. All with the free integrated solution. Video transcoding performance with applications supporting Intel Quick Sync offer up huge benefits in performance, dropping the time to transcode a video file for a format used on the iPad by 80% compared to using the CPU alone. Watching HD Blu-ray content with GPU accelerated applications drops the CPU usage to almost nil, with an average of around 1% during 45 minutes of Last of the Mohicans. Again, improvements over past generations are significant.

When it came time to overclock the Third Generation Core i7 3770K, I was looking for a little more clock speed than I was able to wrench from the CPU. Now in the grand scheme of things, any increase is a win, but I just felt that 4.7GHz was a bit short of where it should have fallen, with every Sandy Bridge based chip I have above this mark. Even though the DZ77GA-70K is a competent board, I will reserve full judgment until I play with some of the aftermarket motherboards. Even so, 4.7GHz is a 1.2GHz improvement over the baseline clock speeds. GPU overclocking was as easy as using a point and shoot camera. The base line 1150MHz was bumped up to 1600MHz by just moving a slider and locking in the adjustments. Each one of these increases offered up a nice boost in application and gaming performance.

The combination of the Intel Third Generation Core i7 3770K and the DZ77GA-70K motherboard offers up performance gains and new technologies that can be utilized for a more responsive and higher performing system for the mainstream user. With comparable pricing to previous generations, the latest from Intel is sure to impress as well as deliver on performance vs. price points.