Intel Ivy Bridge vs Sandy Bridge – is the new platform worth upgrading to?

Saturday, April 28th 2012. | Gadget News

Ivy Bridge processor

Just a year ago Intel has introduced the new Sandy Bridge platform to the market, bringing a whole new architecture and a noticeable increase in performance for their processor line, and now the company has released the successor, Ivy Bridge. If you were planning on buying a new laptop or desktop you might be stumped: should you go for the Sandy Bridge platform (with the Series 6 chipset) or should you wait for the newer Ivy Bridge computers to hit the market?

The question may seem hard at first, but if you take a closer look at the features of both platforms, you’ll see that it’s not that complicated. Let’s see what Ivy Bridge has in store for its users and how do its features compare to Sandy Bridge.

The new Ivy Bridge processors are socket-compatible with their Sandy Bridge counterparts, however only desktop motherboards using the Series 6 chipsets will be able to use the new Ivy Bridge processors, and only with a BIOS update from the manufacturer. Laptop users will have to stick with Sandy Bridge chips for the most part – some Ivy Bridge chips may work, but it’s not guaranteed by Intel or the manufacturers.

The main features of the Ivy Bridge processors are the smaller die (thanks to the new 22 nm manufacturing process vs 32 nm for SB), the tri-gate transistors (which should further reduce overall power usage), the new Intel HD 4000 graphics adapter (which is now as powerful as NVidia or AMD’s entry-level chips) and an integrated random number generator (useful for secure encryption). Other than that, there haven’t been many changes inside the architecture – Ivy Bridge is basically a shrunk down Sandy Bridge with a new graphics adapter.

Most people expected that Ivy Bridge will bring significant improvements in power consumption and performance over Sandy Bridge – Intel themselves said that the new architecture will be up to 50% more effective and up to 20% faster. Well, “up to” in this case really means just that – the new chips are more effective and faster, but only in a select few range of applications. Only the ULV Ivy Bridge processors (which will be used in Ultrabooks) use less power than their Sandy Bridge predecessors – normal mobile and desktop processors won’t have nearly as much of a difference. As for the performance – the new chips are at most 10% faster than their predecessors in most apps.

You can find quite a few comparisons and benchmarks of Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge processors online, and I can say with certainty that the new platform is not worth upgrading to if you have a Sandy Bridge processor – in fact, even the first generation Core i7 processors are good enough for most tasks. Ivy Bridge is just being rolled out, so the price will be high for several months before it starts going down – I’d say waiting for that to happen before you upgrade is a wise thing to do.

If you need a laptop or desktop now and you’re deciding between Sandy and Ivy Bridge, well it’s really a no-brainer: unless you need to squeeze every single bit of performance out of your machine, Sandy Bridge is more than enough – the only thing you’ll miss is the Ivy Bridge sticker and the higher price of the new platform. Ivy Bridge is basically a stepping stone for the next generation of chips – and those will actually be worthy of an upgrade.

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