Our experience with the absolute high end of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processor refresh has been great. Intel has done what it does best, tweaking its manufacturing technique to deliver small but noticeable gains upon the previous generation of processor.
But to date, our only desktop sample has been the $400 Core i7-3770K. The performance of this chip is excellent, but if anything it is overpowered for the vast majority of people in the market for an upgrade or a new PC.
Now, weeks after the 3770K launched, Intel is lifting the lid on the more mainstream members of its processor family. We’ve been testing the Core i5-3470, which comes with the much more modest pricetag of USD $184.
In many ways it resembles our favourite processor of last generation, the Core i5-2500K. It lacks the K designation, and hence is limited in its overclockability, but still has four physical cores, a 3.2GHz base frequency with the ability to turbo to 3.6GHz and a modest (for a desktop CPU that is) TDP of 77W.
It also sports the lower spec version of Intel’s processor graphics, using the HD 2500 core instead of the HD 4000 that is found in the i7-3770K.
Most people won’t miss hyperthreading, overclockability and the high end graphics. Gamers especially will find this to be an excellent chip – if you have a discreet GPU the processor graphics will be used for transcoding at the most, and games seldom make use of four cores, let alone the eight that Hyperthreading offers.
The HD 2500 graphics are a bit of a step down in performance from the HD 4000. In our Crysis benchmark the i5-3470 managed to pump out 40fps at low detail, but this dropped dramatically to 14fps at medium.
In contrast the 3770K managed 50fps at low and a near playable 24fps at medium. Anything higher in detail was unplayable on either processor, and anyone who wants to game beyond the most basic of titles will want to get a discreet GPU.
In fact, our advice for gamers especially would be to save the money you would have spent buying a 3770K and direct it towards a graphics card and an i5-3470. While Australian pricing will undoubtedly be more than a straight currency conversion from $184 US dollars, you’ll still likely be saving $200 on processor alone. This buys quite a lot of graphics card, and will make for a pretty great little system.
We like the Core i7-3770K, but we love the Core i5-3470. It packs more than enough performance for everyday tasks, and the $200ish savings can be redirected to a discreet GPU or SSD, both of which will make a more noticeable performance difference than choosing the i7 over it will.
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Issue: 315 | May 2013
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