Intel five generation IPC test: Broadwell, Haswell, Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge and Nehalem

How much performance gain has there been over the past generations of Intel processors?

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Introduction

We have recently published an extensive review on the Intel Core i7 5775C, the first Broadwell processor that is available of the shelf. What we have not covered in our previous review is the actual like-for-like performance gain that Broadwell has over the previous generation. We have tested this as well as the gain over earlier generations, covering a total of five generations of Intel processors running on the same clock frequency.


Intel implements their tick-tock strategy when introducing new processors, firstly introducing a new architecture (tock) and after that a new manufacturing process (tick). The latest iteration of this process is the Broadwell chip, which is a processor based on existing architecture but with a new generation of transistors, so a tick. These are normally known for their increase in efficiency and therefore more performance per watt. The processors based on new architecture (tocks) are usually the ones that show a large increase in performance overall, recent examples of these are the Sandy Bridge and Haswell.

It looks like the upcoming Skylake will be the last step in this strategy, as Intel has already announced that after the upcoming tock there will be two ticks in stead of just the one.

Architecture CPU's Tick/Tock Process Introduction
Presler/Cedar Mill Pentium 4 / D Tick 65 nm 2006
Conroe/Merom Core 2 Duo/Quad Tock 65 nm 2006
Penryn Core 2 Duo/Quad Tick 45 nm 2007
Nehalem Core i Tock 45 nm 2008
Westmere Core i Tick 32 nm 2010
Sandy Bridge Core i 2xxx Tock 32 nm 2011
Ivy Bridge Core i 3xxx Tick 22 nm 2012
Haswell Core i 4xxx Tock 22 nm 2013
Broadwell Core i 5xxx Tick 14 nm 2014
(2015 desktops)
Skylake Core i 6xxx Tock 14 nm 2015
Kaby Lake Core i 7xxx? Refresh 10 nm 2016
Cannonlake Core i 8xxx? Tick 10 nm 2017

It is usually not just the new architecture that is responsible for the increase in performance. Support for new instructions, higher clock speeds, improved Turbo algorythms and more are also a reason for the processors of a new genaration to be faster than their predecessors. This makes it difficult to see in benchmarks what part of the better performance can be directly attributed to the newer architecture and what is just the result of the evolution of the chip.

To find out how this has evolved over the last five generations of Intel processors we conducted a fast IPC test on all of them. We used a processor out of each generation, clocked them at exactly 3.0GHz, disabled the Turbo and HyperThreading settings and used 8 GB DDR3-1600 memory on 8-8-8-24 1T timings with all of them. 

We have tested the below processors at the settings mentioned above:

Nehalem: Intel Core i7 875K
Sandy Bridge: Intel Core i7 2600K
Ivy Bridge: Intel Core i7 3770K
Haswell: Intel Core i7 4790K
Broadwell: Intel Core i7 5775C 

We ran two benchmarks; Cinebench R15 and the Tech Arp x264 video-encoding benchmark. We ran both of these benchmarks multi-threaded (all cores active) as well as single-threaded (one core active).


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