One of the most popular ways to obtain great performance for a sensible amount of expenditure has been to use two lower priced cards paired up, either as SLI or Crossfire.
There are many options available for this purpose and today we're looking at the GTX560-Ti. No ordinary GTX560s though, these are from MSI and come with the always brilliant Twin Frozr cooler that we love so much here at OC3D Towers.
With the GTX580 being the single-GPU king we're hoping that the combination of these two MSI cards will give us better performance for the same money, whilst still providing the PhysX and CUDA benefits you get with nVidia.
As we've looked at the GTX560 before let's get straight down to it.
Heading over to the MSI website we can see the specifications of the cards on test. MSI produce three models of the GTX560, the standard, the OC and the SOC. We have the OC model on hand which boosts the GPU Core speed from 822MHz to 880MHz and the memory is up from the standard 1000MHz to 1050MHz.
|Graphics Engine||GeForce GTX 560 Ti|
|Bus Standard||PCI Express x16 2.0|
|Memory Interface||256 bits|
|Core Clock Speed(MHz)||880|
|Memory Clock Speed(MHz)||4200|
|Texture Fill Rate(billion/sec)||N/A|
|D-SUB Output||2(optional, via DVI to D-Sub adaptor)|
|HDMI-Output||2(Optional, via Mini HDMI to HDMI dongle)|
|Display Output (Max Resolution)||2560x1600|
|DirectX Version Support||11|
|OpenGL Version Support||4.1|
|Card Dimension(mm)||238 x 111 x 37mm|
Of course we have to get a look a the cards, so turn over and we'll have a closer look.
Packaging is fairly standard with the normal quality MSI design housing the card and drivers.
Once out of the package we can see that the Twin Frozr II cooler dominates proceedings and looks as pretty as ever.
The Twin Frozr II bristles with heat-pipes and cooling fins beneath those two PWM fans. There is no denying that it always has the looks to go along with its performance.
The GTX560-Ti is powered by two 6-pin PCI-E power inputs, and has two DVI and one mini-HDMI outputs.
We always get a little excited when dealing with two cards. There is no denying that a matched pair always look stunning whether in the rig, or just in the photo booth.
As always we're testing with our usual GPU Test set-up and the very latest drivers.
2x MSI GTX560-Ti in SLI
Intel Core i7 950 @ 4GHz
6GB Corsair Dominator GT
ASUS X58 Sabertooth
BeQuiet Dark Power Pro
Forceware 270.61 WHQL drivers
Windows 7 64-Bit
As you can see both cards are the OC version of the three different variants that MSI produce of this card, giving us a plentiful 880 MHz on the core.
3D Mark Vantage
We all know Vantage tends to prefer the nVidia cards because of the PhysX element in the testing. Even so the GTX560-Ti SLI setup does well, being comparable to nVidias own twin-GPU card the GTX590 and far ahead of the similarly priced GTX580. It's worth noting that as the AA gets ramped up in the higher quality tests the gap between the GTX560-Ti SLI and its competitors narrows hugely until on the Extreme setting many of our cards are neck and neck.
3D Mark 11
Dispensing with the nVidia-biased Vantage and moving to 3D Mark 11 the GTX560-Ti SLI doesn't quite match the GTX590 and falls somewhere between the HD6870 CF and HD6970 CF results.
In the absolutely stunning Unigine Heaven benchmark our GTX560-Ti SLI setup falls just shy of the GTX590 again although still a fair bit ahead of the GTX580. Such is the performance of the AMD cards in this test that even the HD6870 CF setup beats this one.
Increasing the anti-aliasing to the maximum available tightens everything up, although once again the minimum frame-rate is quite alarming. Still the GTX560-Ti SLI just squeezes in between the all-powerful single-GPU GTX580 and the twin-GPU GTX590.
Alien vs Predator
Away from the synthetic and onto gaming the GTX560-Ti SLI performs very well. AvP is very heavy with lighting effects and yet the GTX560-Ti SLI is right up there with the GTX590 and miles ahead of the GTX580. The AMD cards are where we'd expect them to be when price is taken into account with the much cheaper HD6870 CF being 10 FPS or so behind and the much more expensive HD6970 CF setup 10 FPS or so ahead.
With Crysis we have something slightly different in our graph. When testing twin-GPUs or very high-end single cards we always use the highest possible settings and here the GTX560-Ti SLI was, as you can see, a jerky unplayable mess. 35FPS average seems okay but that 2 FPS minimum happened way too often to be playable.
However if you leave everything on Enthusiast but drop the AA from 16xQ to 8xQ, suddenly it all springs to life and gives an exceptionally smooth experience right at the 60 FPS mark with no noticable loss of image quality.
Obviously it's a black mark against the GTX560-Ti SLI because everything else on test was nowhere near as bad at 16xQ, but it shows that even a tiny reduction in video settings can give an enormous performance boost.
Far Cry 2
If Crysis Warhead was a nasty surprise, then Far Cry 2 was an entirely pleasant one with the GTX560-Ti SLI coming second only to the GTX580 SLI setup, which obviously costs twice as much.
Finally we look at Metro 2033, a game we know that adores multi-card setups and takes advantage of PhysX too so it's not surprising to see the GTX560-Ti SLI rocking and rolling here with performance right on a par with the pricier HD6970 CF and GTX590. Impressive.
At the start we said how often it proves that two medium graphics cards in SLI are usually a better purchase than a single top-end one and so it proves once again.
Price is always the factor in choosing a graphics card and it's the one area where, to a point, you really get what you pay for. Motherboards by and large give the same performance and for gaming the difference between, for example, a i7-920 and a i7-990X aren't as much as you'd expect. But graphics cards most definitely can give massive gains for only a little extra outlay. The two MSI GTX560-Ti OC cards we have today are around £200 each, and so you've got £400 worth of GPU performance to play with. This is much less than you'd pay for a GTX590 or HD6990, and only a little more than a single GTX580 would set you back.
For that though you're getting two pre-overclocked cards with the outstanding MSI Twin Frozr II cooler. Our love for this cooler is well known and it never fails to deliver. Even in SLI it kept the cards cool and quiet which is something that certainly can't be applied to the AMD cards it's up against. It is obviously louder than a single card though and there are power considerations to be taken into account too, but you'd struggle to find a pair of graphics cards that remain as untroubled as these two.
Performance is incredible at all but the highest levels of image-quality. Throughout the testing MSI GTX560-Ti OC SLI setup was as good as its name is lengthy. It comprehensively smashed the GTX580 and was up with the GTX 590 in nearly every test too. Equally it happily took on a variety of cards from AMD and wasn't disgraced at all. Just shy of 40000 P-Score in 3D Mark Vantage is great for the money and our gaming tests continued to surprise us with the level of performance the cards gave.
Only in one instance did we find the MSI unable to provide what we hoped and that was, as to be expected, Crysis Warhead. With everything up to the stops it really struggled to provide anything other than a slideshow, despite every other setup on test happily providing a playable experience. However if you're willing to give up a minuscule amount of image quality and drop from 16xQ AA down to 8xQ AA then the limitations of the GTX560 architecture are overcome and everything returns to being smoother than buttered teflon. One thing the results have made us wonder is if the cards struggle with games like Warhead maxed out would they again struggle with multiple screens? At this present moment in time we can not give any results to back it up but we would wajor the OC3D caffeine fund to say it would and the settings would have to get dropped significantly below what a 580 or 590 would play happily at.
There are many options available as a graphics solution for about £400 and many of them will give great performance. The MSI GTX560-Ti OC should be on anyone's short-list as the combination of performance in all situations, factory overclock, and the Twin Frozr II cooler give exceptional value for money and a quiet, trouble-free experience.
Slightly off topic but keep your eyes peeled at the end of the week when our next competition goes live, where you will get a chance to win a pair of MSI GTX560's just like we have tested here today and also a chance to win one of MSI's flagship P67 B3 overclocking motherboards the Big Bang Marshall! All details will be released very soon!
Highly recommended and an OC3D Silver Award winner.
Thanks to MSI for providing the cards for today's review. Discuss in our forums.