The new chips shrink circuit widths from 32 to 22 nanometres, and introduce so-called TriGate "3D" circuitry to reduce heat and improve performance and battery life.
Intel works on a two-year schedule of new products, which it terms the "tick-tock" strategy. A major die shrink is termed a "tick"; the "tock" coming about a year later involves completely new micro-architecture. So Ivy Bridge is a tick-shrink following on from the Sandy Bridge tock - though such a dramatic change that it could almost be termed a "tock"
Whatever they're called, the Ivy Bridge chips are expected to breath new life into the PC business, which has been lagging under the challenges from smartphones and tablets.
The first wave of Ivy Bridge chips will reportedly include 13 quad-core processors designed primarily for desktops. Dual-core processors meant for ultrabooks and other portable devices are not expected until next month, following delays in production.
Ivy Bridge chips are expected to replace the current 32nm Intel Sandy Bridge processors used in most PC manufacturers' higher-end models. At Apple they will replace Sandy Bridge in a new line of MacBook portables expected around June, as well as new iMac all-in-one models.
Further dual core processors, suitable for ultrabooks - thin laptops - will be announced "later this spring".
Intel and PC manufacturers expect the release to drive a wave of new sales.
"The momentum around the system design is pretty astonishing," Intel's PC business chief, Kirk Skaugen, who is spearheading the launch, told the BBC.
"There are more than 300 mobile products in development and more than 270 different desktops, many of which are all-in-one designs.
"This is the world's first 22 nanometre product and we'll be delivering about 20% more processor performance using 20% less average power."
Footnote: Next "tock" in the Intel line-up will be Haswell, a 22nm architecture due in March-June 2013 - to be followed by a dramatic "tick" die shrink to 14nm with Broadwell, due in 2014.