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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti Review
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Date: Jan 25, 2011
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications
Titanium. It’s a lightweight, yet relatively strong metal that conjures up images of sleek airplanes or powerful spacecraft. It’s used in a multitude of different machines and tools, from the Boeing 777 to surgical implants, where high tensile strength, low weight, and strong resistance to corrosion and high temperatures are desired. To us computer geeks though, Titanium, or more specifically its chemical symbol ‘Ti’, takes us back almost a decade to the release of NVIDIA’s GeForce 4 Ti series of graphics cards with its whopping 128MB frame buffers and the flagship Ti 4600 model’s impressive 10.4GB/s of memory bandwidth. Wow, time sure flies when you’re evaluating graphics cards. But, we digress...

The reason we bring up the GeForce 4 Ti is that NVIDIA is resurrecting the Ti moniker with a new GPU targeting mainstream market segments, dubbed the GeForce GTX 560 Ti. If you’ve been on top of the graphics space the last few months, you’ll no doubt be aware that NVIDIA recently introduced the GeForce GTX 580 and 570, which feature the GF110 GPU; an updated version of the GF100 which arrived with the GeForce GTX 480. In a similar move, the GF114 GPU that powers the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti is a new take on the GF104, which debuted on the GeForce GTX 460 a few months back.

We’ve got a couple of GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards in the lab, a reference model from NVIDIA and a factory overclocked speedster from MSI. Strap yourself in and come along for the ride as we check out what will undoubtedly be a popular card with budget conscious PC gamers.


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti Reference Card

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti
Specifications & Features



The reference specifications for the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti are listed in the table above. While the numbers don't seem to align themselves with any previous GPU from NVIDIA, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti is actually very similar to the GeForce GTX 460. Let us explain.

The GF114 GPU at the heart of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti is actually an update to the GF104 used on the GTX 460. As was the case with the GF110 on the GeForce GTX 580, which was essentially a reworked GF100, the new GF114 is a respin of the GF104. In terms of features, the GF114 remains unchanged, but NVIDIA worked with their foundry partner, TSMC, to respin the chip and implement a new transisor mix designed to reduce power consumption and increase yields. As a side benefit, the new GF114 is also capable of hitting higher clocks.


NVIDIA GF114 Block Diagram

The GF114 is manufactured using TSMC's advanced 40nm process node, and features roughly 1.95 billion transistors. The chip sports 2 graphics processing clusters, 8 streaming multiprocessors, 384 CUDA cores, 64 texture units, and 32 ROPs. It also sports a 256-bit memory interface, with support for GDDR5 memory, and a 512KB cache.

Each of the streaming multiprocessors in the GF114 GPU features 48 CUDA cores, 8 texture units, various registers and cache, and its own PolyMorph engine. You can see each functional block outlined in the diagram above and it's actually the same as the one we used to illustrate the GF104’s configuration. But remember, the GF104 was never sold in its full configuration. The GTX 460 had only 7 SMs enabled, with 56 texture units, and the 768MB configuration had only 24 ROPs.

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NVIDIA Reference and MSI OC 560 Ti Cards
The reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti looks much like the GTX 460, but there are some improvement lurking beneath the card’s fan shroud. NVIDIA improved the cooling by using a larger heatsink with an additional heatpipe, there is now a 4-phase power circuit instead of 3-phase, and 5Gbps memory chips were installed on the GTX 560, versus 4Gbps modules on GTX 460. A base plate for VRM/memory cooling was also added to help stiffen the board.

  
Reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti

The stock reference specifications call for an 822MHz core clock, with 1644MHz shaders, and 1002MHz (4008MHz effective) memory. At those frequencies, the GTX 560 Ti offers 52.6GTexels/s of fillrate and 128.4GB/s of memory bandwidth—a far cry from its GeForce 4 Ti namesake. The TDP of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti is 170 watts and the card required a pair of 6-pin power connectors. Like other GeForce GTX 500 series cards, outputs on the 560 Ti consist of a pair of dual-link DVI outputs and a single mini-HDMI out. Although there are three outputs to use the card in a triple-monitor NVIDIA surround setup, a second card is required.

As you’ll see, the reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti is quite the speedster, but many of NVIDIA’s partners will actually be launching overclocked variants right out of the gate. The card you see here, the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II, is one of three overclocked 560 Ti’s MSI has planned.

 

 
MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II

The MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II is a custom design that features a different PCB than reference models and a much more elaborate dual-fan cooler. The Twin Frozr II cooler had dual 80mm fans that sit above a large heatsink with nickel-plated copper base that’s linked to an array of aluminum fins by a pair of 8mm heatpipes. There is also a secondary heatplate underneath that cools the memory and VRM and helps stiffen the PCB. The MSI cooler proved to be very effective during testing and unlike some previous designs, it remained nice and quiet too. Other features of the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II include the company’s “Military Class II” components, which consist of Hi-c capacitors, super ferrite chokes, and all solid, aluminum core caps.

The frequencies of the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II model you see here (model no. V238) are 880MHz for the GPU core, 1760MHz for the shaders, and 1050MHz (4200MHz effective) for the memory. Those are nice steps up from the reference specs and as you’ll see later they gave the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II a significant boost in performance. We should note, MSI also a 900MHz and a 950MHz model planned, the former of which will also feature a copper fan shroud.

 
AMD Radeon HD 6950 1GB

Spoiler Alert:
As has become the norm with the last few GPU releases from either camp, new products are arriving alongside the GTX 560 Ti that will rival its performance. To go head to head with the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti, AMD is launching a 1GB Radeon HD 6950 card, which you see pictured here. The specifications and features are identical to the original 2GB model, with the only exception being the new card’s smaller frame buffer. Pricing for the 1GB model is, as expected, lower than the 2GB card at $259, which will put it right in line with some GTX 560 Ti cards. AMD’s partners are also readying overclocked Radeon HD 6870 cards, which we’ve also received just in time for testing as well.

As an interesting aside, one of the most interesting “features” of the 1GB Radeon HD 6970 we received was its date of manufacture. Yeah, you’re reading the sticker in the image correctly. This puppy was made in August of last year. Over five months old and still fresh as a daisy!
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Test Setup & Unigine Heaven v2.1

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard powered by a Core i7 980X six-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3-1333 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings (DDR3-1333, CAS 7) and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redist, along with the necessary drivers, games, and benchmark applications.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 980X (3.3GHz)
Gigabyte EX58-UD5 (X58 Express)

Radeon HD 6870
Radeon HD 6870 OC
Radeon HD 6950 1GB
Radeon HD 6950
Radeon HD 6970
MSI N560GTX-Ti OC 
GeForce GTX 560 Ti
GeForce GTX 460
GeForce GTX 570
GeForce GTX 580

6GB OCZ DDR3-1333
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX Nov. 2010 Redist
ATI Catalyst v10.12/11.1
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers 263.09/266.58

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v2.1
Futuremark 3DMark11
FarCry 2
Just Cause 2
Alien vs. Predator
Metro 2033
Lost Planet 2
F1 2010*

* - Custom benchmark

Unigine Heaven v2.1 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven

The Unigine Heaven Benchmark v2.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion), and it also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.

The new GeForce GTX 560 Ti, whether in reference or overclocked forms, performed a bit better than the Radeon HD 6950 in Unigine Heaven, but it finished a notch behind the Radeon HD 6970. The comparison to the GeForce GTX 460 is the most eye-opening, however. With its higher clocks and full compliment of shader processors enabled, the GF114 GPU as it in implemented on the GTX 560 Ti is significantly faster than the GF104 which powers the GTX 460.

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Futuremark 3DMark11

Futuremark 3DMark11
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


Futuremark 3DMark11

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows Vista and 7-based systems because it uses the advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 11, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1080 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

We almost want to end this article right here--the overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti from MSI scored an "elite" 1337 in the 3DMark11 GPU test.  It doesn't get any better than that in terms of smirk-inducing geekiness. In terms of performance though, the reference 560 Ti performs about on par with a Radeon HD 6870 here, with the overclocked variant obviously coming in somewhat faster, but not fast enough to catch the 1GB Radeon HD 6950.

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FarCry 2 Performance

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date. Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions with 4X AA enabled.

The GeForce GTX 560 Ti performed well in the FarCry 2 benchmark. At the lower resolution, it outpaced the Radeon HD 6970 by a small margin, but the 560 Ti's advantage dwindled once the resolution was increased to 2560x1600 and the reference card performed about on par with, but slightly ahead, of the Radeon HD 6950.

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Just Cause 2 Performance

Just Cause 2
DX10.1 Gaming Performance


Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 was released in March 2010, from developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. The game makes use of the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the similarly named original. It is set on the fictional island of Panau in southeast Asia, and you play the role of Rico Rodriquez. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article using one of the built-in demo runs called The Concrete Jungle.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions and settings. This game also supports a few CUDA-enabled features, but they were left disabled to keep the playing field level. 

The new GeForce GTX 560 Ti's performance fell somewhere in between the Radeon HD 6950 and 6970 in the Just Cause 2 benchmark at the higher resolution (2560x1600); at the lower resolution (1920x1200), the 560 Ti outpaced all of the Radeons, but its margin of victory was relatively small.
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Metro 2033 Performance

Metro 2033
DirecX11 Gaming Performance


Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment, but rather you’re left to deal with life, or lack there-of more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Metro 2003 boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform currently including a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. This title also supports NVIDIA PhysX technology for impressive in-game physics effects. We tested the game resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with 4X anti-aliasing and in-game image quality options set to thei High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.

Metro 2033 was hard on all of the cards we tested. The new GeForce GTX 560 Ti finished this test about on par with the factory overclocked Radeon HD 6870 and somewhat behind the 1GB Radeon HD 6950.

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Lost Planet 2 Performance

Lost Planet 2
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Lost Planet 2

A follow-up to Capcom’s Lost Planet : Extreme Condition, Lost Planet 2 is a third person shooter that takes place again on E.D.N. III ten years after the story line of the first title. We ran the game’s DX11 mode which makes heavy use of DX11 Tessellation and Displacement mapping and soft shadows.  There are also areas of the game that make use of DX11 DirectCompute for things like wave simulation in areas with water.  This is one game engine that looks significantly different in DX11 mode when you compare certain environmental elements and character rendering in its DX9 mode versus DX11.  We used the Test B option built into the benchmark tool and with all graphics options set to their High Quality values.

The Lost Planet 2 benchmark heavily favors NVIDIA's architecture, and as such, the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti is able to perform a notch ahead of the Radeon HD 6970 here.

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F1 2010 Performance

F1 2010
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


F1 2010

Though Codemasters still continues to torture us with their ridiculously complicated labyrinth of game menus, we’ve found ourselves coming back to one of their titles for a taste of bleeding-edge DX11 benchmarking. F1 2010 is their latest racing simulation and like Dirt 2, it sports impressive visuals with DX11 support. “Ultra” settings for shadow effects and post processing elements like depth of field then become available to the gamer and in turn, crank up the workload on the graphics subsystem. The game engine also makes use of multi-core processors for higher performance on top-end systems. We tested the game configured with its Ultra graphics options at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.


The new GeForce GTX 560 Ti performed well in F1 2010 in comparison to the GeForce GTX 460, but the Radeons were definitly stronger here. The Radeon HD 6870 1GB managed to pull ahead of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti.
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Alien vs. Predator Performance

Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Alien vs. Predator

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion and high-quality shadow features, available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11 related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested.

The new GeForce GTX 560 Ti performed about on par with the factory overclocked Radeon HD 6870, but a notch behind the 1GB Radeon Hd 6950 in the Alien vs. Predator DX11 benchmark. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti continues to completely dominate the GeForce GTX 460, however, despite their GPU similarities.

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Total System Power Consumption

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

The GeForce GTX 560 Ti, whether stock or overclocked, has some of the best idle power consumption scores we have seen from a current-generation GPU. While overclocked, the GTX 560 cards pulled more power than a 1GB Radeon HD 6950, but the differences aren't very dramatic.
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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The GeForce GTX 560 Ti, whether in its stock or overclocked configurations, performed very well throughout out testing. In comparison to its closely related cousin, the GeForce GTX 460, it’s no contest—the GeForce GTX 560 Ti smokes the GeForce GTX 460 across the board. It’s harder to summarize the 560 Ti’s performance versus competing cards from AMD, however. In some circumstances, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti is actually faster than the more expensive Radeon HD 6970 (Far Cry 2, Lost Planet 2). Other times the GTX 560 Ti hangs right alongside the new Radeon HD 6950 1GB (Unigine, Just Cause 2). In the rest of the games and apps we tested, the Radeons came out on top. Suffice it to say, the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti is a strong competitor to similarly positioned graphics cards from AMD.

When the GeForce GTX 460 was first introduced back in July of last year, our conclusion included these statements, “We won't beat around the bush; we really like the new GeForce GTX 460. In just about every regard, the cards are appealing… In the end, we have to commend NVIDIA for this one. The GeForce GTX 460 is simply one of the most appealing DirectX 11-class graphics cards out there. They're affordably priced, perform very well, and they're relatively small and quiet, not to mention they fully support all of NVIDIA's proprietary technologies like PhysX and CUDA.”

All of this rings true for the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti as well, with the added benefit of significantly higher performance.


NVIDIA Reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti

Suggested retail pricing for the GeForce GTX 560 Ti will be $249, which is a notch above the GeForce GTX 460’s introductory price. Overclocked models will be priced somewhat higher, but should peak around the $269 mark. Reference cards and moderately overclocked models like the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II we looked at here should hit e-Tail today, with more aggressively clocked models arriving in a couple of weeks (some clocked at high as 1GHz). In its price range, the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti is a bit more expensive than most Radeon HD 6870 cards due to AMD's strategic price cuts this past week, but the 560 is prices right in line with the new 1GB Radeon HD 6950 at $259. As the benchmark numbers have shown, the GTX 560 Ti is typically faster than the 6870 and right about on par with the 1GB 6950; it’s faster in some games and slower in others.

NVIDIA’s latest salvo of updated Fermi-based GPUs is very strong products at their respective price points. The GeForce GTX 580 is the fastest single-GPU available, the GTX 570 is very strong in its segment, and the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti represents a great value at its price point. Competition is fierce at the moment, but that’s a great thing. Consumers now have a number of excellent options in the sub-$300 space and we suspect the GeForce GTX 560 Ti will be quite popular with budget conscious gamers. For about 250 bucks, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti has a ton of game.

  • Strong Performance
  • Cool and Quiet
  • PhysX and CUDA Support
  • Competitive Pricing
  • Highly Overclockable (1GHz card coming)
  • Requires Two Cards For Surround View
  • Trailed The 1GB 6950 in most DX11 titles



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