Introduction, Product Specifications And Line-Up

Intel’s New Low-Voltage Part Improves The CPU But Throttle The IGP

Earlier this year I penned an editorial about ultrabooks. It wasn’t all that nice. I pointed out that they are slow, that they require design sacrifices that not everyone will enjoy and that ultraportables often provide a better experience at the same price or lower. 

Since then I’ve also discovered, through various reviews, that ultrabooks so far have not shown any battery life advantage over ultraportables. The advantage of a low-voltage processor is consistently negated by the smaller batteries squeezed into Intel’s thin form-factor.

I’m not on the bandwagon. This, however, should not come as a surprise. It’s exceedingly rare for a company, even of Intel’s size, to knock a new product out of the park on its first try. The models that released so far were decent products in some ways, but they were also the hardware equivalent of a beta. Intel and laptop manufacturers are now responding to what they’ve discovered.

This brings us to Ivy Bridge. As I noted in my Ivy Bridge for mobile review, Intel’s architectural update seems to be more exciting for laptops than for desktops. The Core i7-3720QM we received in our Ivy Bridge reference laptop was a beast, easily defeating all previous processor benchmarks and also posting surprisingly good results in gaming tests. Despite this, battery life seemed to at least remain the same. 

But that was a high-end component. Less powerful processors have to make sacrifices to achieve low-voltage heaven. That means lower clock speeds (on both the CPU and IGP) and fewer cores. Can Ivy Bridge still impress despite these constraints, and just as importantly, has Intel managed to squeeze more life out of less battery? Let’s find out.

Product Specifications And Line-Up

There are effectively two components that we’re testing in this review. One is the processor. Our Intel reference platform arrived with a Core i5-3427U clocked at 1.8 GHz. The single-core Turbo Boost max sits at 2.8 GHz, while the dual-core Turbo Boost max is 2.6 GHz. This is the first time I can recall seeing Intel publish tiered Turbo Boost numbers. 

This particular part is a mid-range entry into Intel’s launch products. As you can see on the chart below, Intel is offering just four products at this time, none of which are Core i3 models (though I am sure we’ll see those within a few months). Pricing is still high for these processors, with the Core i5-3427U being listed at $225 and the top-end Core i7-3667U coming in at $346. All the parts, regardless of capability, have been listed with a 17W TDP.

There have been rumors that we’ll soon see $600 or $700 ultrabooks. That may the case, but judging from these numbers they’d have to be running Core i3 low-voltage products or perhaps older Sandy-Bridge low-voltage processors. Even then, the other specifications would have to be rather poor to fit in at $600.

The maximum graphics frequency has been downgraded slightly in comparison to the Core i7-3720QM, retreating from 1250 MHz to 1150 MHz. The minimum frequency is also quite low at 350 MHz, which is much lower than the 650MHz figure we’ve seen in Intel HD 4000 products so far. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact these reductions have in real-world gaming.

Clock speed differences aside, this is Ivy Bridge. The architecture is the same as the processors that have already been released and reviewed. If you’d like to find out more about Ivy Bridge in general I suggest that you read our desktop and mobile reviews. 

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