Shootout: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti

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When the GTX 460 came out last year with the GF104 chipset, it quickly rose to the top in the value for money charts and its performance stood out from the rest of the Fermi chipsets – mainly because the GF100s were hot, power-hungry beasts and not many people were keen on getting one for their rig. The GTX 460 was a different ballgame though, it brought to the table a fantastic mid-range card that overclocked very well, so NVIDIA managed to avoid a complete washout in a generation which saw the ATi cards take over.

What about this generation, though? We saw with the GTX 580 and GTX 570 that NVIDIA had delivered a rather perfect one-two punch to AMD in terms of this generation of graphics cards. With a superb combination of performance and low power consumption/noise, the GF110 chipsets are real winners. So when the GTX 560 Ti was announced last month, it caught me a little by surprise, not because I was totally unaware of the rumours surrounding it – but because it came out earlier in the release cycle than the GTX 460 did, and it was aimed at a higher mid-range bracket. Aimed not as a replacement to the GTX 460, NVIDIA has tried to seat the GTX 560 Ti comfortably between the 460 and the 570 with its price. Now let’s find out if it performs at that level.

Design and packaging
I tested two GTX 560s for this review, the ZOTAC GTX 560 Ti and the factory-overclocked ASUS DirectCU II GTX 560 Ti TOP.

 

The ZOTAC GTX 560 Ti

The ZOTAC GTX 560 Ti

 

 

ZOTAC have used their GTX 460 cooler on the 560 too, with minor tweaks to the design. Their black and orange colour scheme returns, which makes it easily identifiable as a ZOTAC card and also looks pretty decent. There are also a few mesh-like vents which should facilitate some decent airflow. The ASUS on the other hand uses a dual-fan design and combined with the black and red colour scheme, looks menacing and very cool. Contrasting with the ZOTAC is the much more open design, with the side and top of the card having gaps. This card is built for overclocking, so the emphasis on airflow is not surprising. Both cards are left open at the back.

The ASUS DirectCU II GTX 560 Ti TOP

The ASUS DirectCU II GTX 560 Ti TOP

 

 

While the ZOTAC has two DVI-D ports, a DisplayPort and an HDMI 1.4a port, the ASUS has a mini-HDMI port and two DVI-D ports. Both cards do, however, need two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors.

Variation in ports!

Variation in ports!

 

 

Packaging is pretty standard fare for both companies. They follow their tried and tested patterns, but ASUS caught my eye with the big logo that says 900MHz on their cover, making it easily recognizable as a factory overclocked SKU. Bundled stuff for both include the pretty standard converters – mini to full HDMI, Molex to PCI-E power and DVI-VGA. ZOTAC have bundled Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood with their card though, which is a rather cool freebie to give away, because it’s a pretty good game.

Specs
The GF114 chipsets, that the 560s are based on, are an upgrade to the GF104, which powered the GTX 460s. With an additional Streaming Multiprocessor Partition enabled, that takes the total Unified Stream Processor count to 384, 48 more than the 336 the GTX 460 had. You can check out the rest of the specs in the image below.

Check out the specs

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Performance
The GTX560, as expected, came out on top against the 5870 which it’s pitted up against. It also beat out the GTX 470 and destroyed the GTX 460 in tests. So it pretty much justifies its price tag and shows us that it is an extremely awesome mid-range card. The factory overclocked ASUS card also gives us a pretty decent increase in performance.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

 

 

The real story has to be how close the ASUS DirectCU II GTX 560 is to the GTX 570 though. It’s a very respectable drop in performance when taking into consideration the price difference between the two. Check out the benchmark results in the image above.

Heat, Noise and Power Consumption
This is the only place where the GF114 chipset isn’t a winner, unfortunately. Both cards ran pretty bearable temps, but were rather close to the GTX 570 which is understandable considering how good the 570 is in this regard. We would’ve liked to see a bigger drop, though. The ASUS card ran par temps with the ZOTAC on idle, even with the overclock, because of its dual-fan design. Load temps were a different story though.

While the power consumption is still very good, it’s no match for the new AMD chipsets’ efficiency. Again, the ASUS draws in more power than the ZOTAC because of the overclock. There’s a cause for concern because the power and voltage throttling that was in the 580 and 570 makes a return here, which might end up reducing overclocking efficiency.

Noise management was a bit poor. While both cards were deathly quiet on idle, put it under stress and a whole different picture unfolds. They’re just a tad too noisy for comfort, which came as quite a shock because the 570 and 580 both ran immaculately silent.

Conclusion
NVIDIA have delivered with the GF114, but just not as well as we expected in some areas. Performance wise, though, the chipset is a real winner, as are both cards. The ZOTAC, priced at around Rs. 16,000 slots in very nicely with its performance level, and the Rs. 17,000 + taxes ASUS DirectCU II even more so. NVIDIA’s strategy has become even clearer now – 460 -> 560 -> OC’d 560s -> 570 -> 580, which is a pretty damn impressive lineup.

What becomes of the 470? Well, we speculated during the 570 review that it’d receive a price drop – which it did, ZOTAC are now offering their 470s for around 15k-odd but it’d be a stupid purchase with all due respect. I honestly just don’t see a place for that card in the lineup anymore, it has to go.

On the AMD side, yes, the 5870 and 6870 were beaten but it looks like they’re doing something very strange with their 6950. The company is planning on releasing the 1GB version of the card at an unbelievable price – even lower than the GTX 560’s – and apart from future-proofing loses nothing from the 1GB loss of memory. So they’re effectively going to pit a high-end card against a mid-range card in the same price bracket, which might spell doom for this excellent card. We’ll just have to wait and watch.