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Core i7-3720QM: Ivy Bridge Makes Its Mark On Mobility

Mobile Ivy Bridge: Paving the Way For Ultrabooks

We already know that Ivy Bridge is a tick in the company's cadence. It represents a shift to 22 nm manufacturing, and incorporates much of what Intel introduced alongside Sandy Bridge. Naturally, it's an evolutionary step forward more than anything.

In the desktop space, Ivy Bridge doesn't have much effect at all on the performance of our tests. Improved IPC throughput shaves off a few seconds here and there from our processor-bound benchmarks. And of course, the graphics engine is significantly faster. But an enthusiast puts very little weight on integrated graphics, and a couple of percentage points certainly aren't enough to compel an upgrade from the previous generation.

Asus's N36Vm, Ivy Bridge Based Notebook

Ivy Bridge's impact on the mobile space is certainly more profound, though. That 22 nm adoption helps bring down power consumption, even as Intel's newest processors maintain similar performance. Moreover, a notebook is far more likely to exploit good-enough built-in graphics. By beefing up its GPU, HD Graphics 4000 proves capable enough to satisfy more of Intel's customers than any past effort. It's even capable of slogging through Battlefield 3 (albeit using low resolutions and modest quality settings).

Lower power, better compute performance, and faster graphics. Those are all massive boons to partners designing small, thin, and light mobile platforms based on Ivy Bridge. 

Where does the competition land? Well, none of AMD's Llano-based parts come equipped with fixed-function logic able to match Quick Sync. We know that upcoming Trinity-based APUs will include the company's VCE capability, but because that feature isn't even enabled on the Radeon HD 7000-series add-in cards, we don't know how it'll match up.

AMD does have a great graphics solution. Unfortunately, throttling down from the 100 W TDP of its desktop Llano-based parts down to 35 W affects 3D performance in a big way. The A8-3520M boasts 400 shader cores, but they have to operate at much lower clock rates. The result is generally good enough to match Intel's HD Graphics 3000 implementation, but the new Ivy Bridge design simply pulls away effortlessly.

In the days to come, we'll be seeing AMD's answer to Ivy Bridge in its Trinity design. Armed with Piledriver-based processor cores and a more efficient graphics architecture, the company probably won't try to compete against Intel's highest-end mobile models. We do expect a big value push, though, and an almost-certain counter to Intel's Ultrabook initiative.

Until then, Intel's most recent step forward looks like it'll be a major enabler for a number of the company's partners. The high-performance, lower-power Ivy Bridge design facilitates the newest generation of Ultrabooks, embodied in a fresh form-factor that many folks hope will breathe new life into the diminishing notebook marketplace. With tablets increasingly grabbing mind and market share, Intel is placing its bets on Ivy Bridge-powered Ultrabooks to help turn the tide.

  • fstrthnu
    Would there be a noticeable performance gap between the i7-3720QM and the i7-3612/5QM? I'm trying to decide whether the extra 300 Mhz is worth ~$150 more (which I'm guessing not really)
    Reply
  • s3anister
    fstrthnuWould there be a noticeable performance gap between the i7-3720QM and the i7-3612/5QM? I'm trying to decide whether the extra 300 Mhz is worth ~$150 more (which I'm guessing not really)
    There would be a performance difference in applications that could use the extra MHz (Video games, encoding/decoding) and performance would scale accordingly. Otherwise no you'd likely never notice.
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl
    Wow, it looks like Ivy Bridge is a very compelling option in the mobile market. I had no idea the mobile versions of Llano were so performance constrained by their TDP. The graphics performance results are especially interesting. Just turned my whole world view upside down.

    Great job. Another excellent review Andrew.
    Reply
  • fstrthnu
    It looks like the Geforce GT650M in the notebook I'm looking at would bottleneck faster than the processor would, so I guess I'll save $$ then
    Reply
  • amiame
    A high end desktop plus an ivy bridge ultrabook. Now, THAT works pretty well.
    Reply
  • DjEaZy
    ... why there waz no screenshots of picture quality differences in games between intel's HD4000 and AMD's HD6620?
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    dragonsqrrlWow, it looks like Ivy Bridge is a very compelling option in the mobile market. I had no idea the mobile versions of Llano were so performance constrained by their TDP. The graphics performance results are especially interesting. Just turned my whole world view upside down.Great job. Another excellent review Andrew.
    To be fair, it was a low power APU being bench-marked against higher end, higher power, and newer chips. I would be surprised if it won much of anything, besides power usage, against the Sandy and Ivy i7s. A higher TDP mobile A8 might be able to beat HD 4000 if it had 1600MHz or maybe even 1866MHz memory, granted it still wouldn't win in CPU performance.
    Reply
  • ojas
    Interesting review. But i guess people are likely to point out differences in price (thus affecting performance/$), and RAM speeds, which apparently impact IGP performance.

    IIRC, the IGPs on the mobile chips can be OC'd, right?

    The Core i7-3720QM particularly shines in tests involving:

    Video Transcoding
    DX9 Graphics
    Web Browsing
    Hmmm...wouldn't you agree that "data decryption" should be on this list too? The difference b/w each proc is significant...plus you've got hardware acceleration for AES256 on SB and IB...

    I hope the mobile i3s get HD4000...still wondering why the i5s didn't get it...
    Reply
  • DavidC1
    Andrew, love the review. But there's what seems to be a big error. You said on the power usage tests that AMD defaults to max battery life while Intel goes to balanced? Looking at World of Warcraft results, it looks like all the other results may be running max battery life mode for the AMD A8 chip.

    The i5-460M is faster than A8-3520M, just not that much faster. I have a feeling you need to run the application and gaming tests on max performance all over again. It doesn't matter for the Intel part as Balanced pretty much performs like max performance.
    Reply
  • DavidC1
    Also, you need to do a battery life test. Power usage and battery life tests are hard to connect, because of advanced power management techniques and different usage models.
    Reply