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Benchmark Results: PCMark 7

Core i5-3570K, -3550, -3550S, And -3570T: Ivy Bridge Efficiency
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It turns out that PCMark yields some of the most interesting results—and not necessarily in a good way.

If you flip back to the twelfth page of Intel Core i7-3770K Review: A Small Step Up For Ivy Bridge, you’ll notice that the Core i7-3770K scores here are higher than in that story. Moreover, the Core i5-3570K blows away the Core i7-2700K in this story and the launch coverage as well. What. The. Heck. Right? We were using a flippin’ GeForce GTX 680 for the launch, and basic HD Graphics 4000 here. You mean to tell me that, according to PCMark, the system with integrated graphics is better?

Let’s step through the sub-tests for more detail. We did some digging on this and have answers.

Alright. Productivity comes first, including Storage, Web browsing/decrypting, and Text editing components. Sandy Bridge winds up behind four different Ivy Bridge-based setups, three of which are Core i5s, and two of which employ HD Graphics 2500. It’s frankly difficult to imagine that this would reflect real-world performance, and we’ll keep these numbers in mind as we start firing up our own workloads.

Here’s where things start to get really wonky (though the oddest results are yet to come). Although the Creativity suite includes Storage, Image manipulation, and Video transcoding workloads, there’s a clear step down from HD Graphics 4000-, 3000-, and 2500-equipped CPUs.

Naturally, our first question was to Futuremark: is PCMark benefiting from Quick Sync? The company’s response: yes, using Microsoft’s Media Foundation transforms, hardware acceleration is utilized. Futuremark does not make public the weightings for each piece of the test, but it seems unlikely that one Quick Sync-enabled Ivy Bridge chip with HD Graphics 2500 should score less than half of a Quick Sync-enabled Ivy Bridge chip with HD Graphics 4000, particularly when transcoding is only one of three variables.

The Entertainment test is broader; it includes Video playback, Storage, Graphics, and Web browsing. All of these integrated graphics engines support DirectX 10, at least, so none of the tests are getting dropped. And yet, there’s still a huge gap between the top and bottom, clearly segmented by HD Graphics 4000, 3000, and 2500. We’ll simply have to accept that Graphics (gaming) and Video playback are the biggest determinants of performance in this one.

Futuremark uses three pieces for its Computation suite: Video transcoding (downscaling), Video transcoding (high-quality), and Image manipulation. Not only does the test consequently suggest that the HD Graphics 4000-equipped processors are more than five times faster than the ones with HD Graphics 2500, but, again flipping back to Intel Core i7-3770K Review: A Small Step Up For Ivy Bridge, the benchmark puts a Core i5 almost four times above a Core i7-3960X-based machine with a GeForce GTX 680.

Bottom line: because PCMark is a black box, there’s no way to see how heavily Futuremark weighs video transcoding in its sub-tests. But judging by the disparity between Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge, the importance placed on Quick Sync is way too high. Will this benchmark show up again in the future? Probably, but more selectively, now that we know any fixed-function transcode acceleration can throw off its results so blatantly.

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