By Louis Ramirez, dealnews Senior Feature Writer
Intel's third generation Core i-series processors were officially announced yesterday, and a wave of new Ivy Bridge-toting desktops and laptops are soon to follow. The new CPUs (you'll be able to distinguish them from the current generation CPUs by looking for the "3" in the model number, e.g. "Core i7-3720QM") aren't significantly faster than their Sandy Bridge predecessors, but were designed to be more energy efficient and, with the help of Intel's integrated HD 4000 graphics, pack stronger video capabilities.
Initial Ivy Bridge Reviews Tout Video Capabilities
Out of the 14 high-end, quad-core chips announced yesterday, five are laptop CPUs. (Mainstream desktop and laptop chips are expected to come in late May, as are dual-core Ivy Bridge chips for ultrabooks.) While reviews are still trickling in, CNET got some hands-on time with an Ivy Bridge-based laptop, and in their initial tests they found that everyday CPU performance isn't much different than what you'd get from a Core i7 Sandy Bridge laptop. "Apples to apples comparisons show some modest gains, but nothing like last year's dramatic Sandy Bridge leap." Laptop Mag saw similar gains in performance, but also called Ivy Bridge "not a huge leap." Likewise, the folks at the Tech Report saw the chips as an "incremental refinement of Sandy Bridge."
Gamers, however, should take note because, according to CNET, the integrated HD 4000 graphics found on the new Ivy Bridge CPUs "could finally be good enough for most people to use for their everyday gaming." And this is where Ivy Bridge is expected to shine. The HD 4000 graphics onboard these chips has up to 16 execution units (compared with 12 in Sandy Bridge). This means a 2x improvement over Sandy Bridge's video capabilities.
What Are the Current Sandy Bridge Price Drops?
Intel claims pricing for the new Ivy Bridge systems should be similar to pricing we saw for high-end Sandy Bridge systems. However, as with all tech, a previous generation model will always cost less than its newer generation purely because it's older. We wondered then what kind of price drop Sandy Bridge-based computers have seen thus far, now that Ivy Bridge is official. To find out, we checked our archives to evaluate the kinds of deals we saw with Intel's last major CPU announcement, and how much consumers could save on those same systems now that the new generation has been announced. We specifically looked at laptop deals, since they're seeing the most changes these days.
In the month Intel released its mobile Sandy Bridge Core i7 CPU (January 2011), we listed an HP Pavilion dv7 Intel Core i7 Quad-Core 17" Notebook boasting the new Sandy Bridge processor for $950. Fast forward to April 2012 (just days before the official arrival of the Ivy Bridge platform) and that same notebook with the same specs had dropped to $700. That's a savings of 26%. The Lenovo IdeaPad y560p Intel Core i7 16" Notebook underwent a similar drop; in January of 2011, we listed it for $949, and by late 2011 it had dropped down to $709 (25% off).
The Perfect Storm for Laptop Deals
These price drops shouldn't come as a big surprise, given the trends that occur with older generation technology. However, in this scenario, it's worth noting that Intel's previous generation processors still have a lot of muscle in them, and with the incoming price cuts, could wind up offering a tremendous bang for your buck. Even better, we've been spotting Black Friday-like deals on desktop replacements, so if timed right, you could get a killer deal on a Sandy Bridge-based laptop.
Bottom line, if you're already on a Sandy Bridge-based system, Ivy Bridge doesn't seem like a worthy upgrade. Even if you're using an older Core i-series-based system, your best bet would be to keep an eye on high-end Sandy Bridge laptop deals, as these will offer you the performance you want at a lower price point you won't second guess.
Photo credits: Intel
An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez
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unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were
available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of
publication (unless otherwise specified).