The turnaround in the fortunes of nVidia, at least from a consumers point of view, is so remarkable that you'll forgive us if we state it once again, because to be honest we're almost endlessly surprised.
In Summer 2009, despite some rumblings from those who saw the world as green, we wholeheartedly recommended ATI products throughout the whole price spectrum. If you were after either a reasonably priced office system, or a great value gaming system, all the way up to a full-on beast of a rig ATI had everything covered from a HD5770 to the HD5970. Once you included the possibility of running in Crossfire there really was no need to look at the over-priced, under-performing storage heaters with an nVidia badge.
But oh my how things have changed. The GTX580 was released and although it was priced definitely at the enthusiast market it is unbelievably powerful. The GTX570 is even better being considerably cheaper but having the capability to overclock up to GTX580 levels. It's easily the best graphics card for the "normal" people on the planet.
We waited with baited breath for the AMD response and it was, shall we say misguided. With the curious decision to alter their naming convention just enough to introduce confusion across the marketplace, and then release products that seemed to be the tiniest increment better than those they replaced there seemed to be a lot of laurel-resting going on in Sunnyvale, CL.
Now fresh to the OC3D Test Bench is the little brother to the big behemoths, the GTX560. Today we're looking at the Ti variant which reminds us of the fabulous GeForce 3 and GeForce 4 cards that had Ti versions.
So have nVidia completed the clean sweep of the graphics market or is this a reduction too far?
|Model||GeForce GTX560 Ti|
|Pixel Fillrate||33.6 GB/s|
|Memory Size||1024 MB|
|Memory Bandwidth||140.8 GB/s|
|GPU Clock||823 MHz|
|Memory Clock||1002 MHz|
Let's take a look at the new card up close.
By virtue of its reference nature the GTX560 is fairly plain to look at. One of the things we like straight away is the central placing of the cooling fan which always makes more sense to us than shoved up one end.
There is a bit of brilliance even on this reference design. Something that's very hard to photograph but hopefully you get the idea. Anyway the main bit of the shroud is concave to help maximise air intake on a single card and also, and this is the genius bit, in an SLI system.
These 'smaller' cards are always popular as a great value gaming solution but naturally being sandwiched together you get a reduction in the airflow around the top card. Which is also the one that does most of the work and gets hottest with the age old 'heat rises' problem.
At the business ends of the GTX560 all is as you'd expect to find. Twin PCIe 6pin power and twin DVI side alongside a mini-HDMI.
Under the cooler we can see it's a far cry from the standard "lump of copper" as we have plenty of fins and heat-pipes to keep things frosty. Hopefully this should allow us to have a nice choice between heat and overclocking.
Speaking of overclocking, onwards Macduff.
nVidia GTX560 Ti
Intel Core i7-950 @ 4GHz
ASUS Rampage III Extreme
Muskin Joule 1200w
6GB Mushkin Redline
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Overclocking and Temperatures
When we first got the GTX560 Ti we hoped that it would be typical of the lower end cards in that it would be cool and quiet at stock and have quite a serious amount of overclocking capability.
We can say it definitely has both. Just take a look at the GPUz. A 227MHz overclock on the GPU core is frankly ridiculous. This isn't a suicide shot either. This is utterly stable. Rock solid. 100%.
The reference card doesnt officially support voltage tweaks, but as its only 'hidden' we felt the need to use the hidden voltage options as this represents what the main vendors such as MSI, Asus, Gigabyte and EVGA do.
Either we've won the silicon lottery, or these are absolute barn burners. It will be interesting to see what the nVidia partners manage as normally a super-clocked card might go to 900MHz, but to be honest we'd expect at least a 1GHz GPU.
It's not only GPU Core either. The GDDR5 managed an extra 98MHz too. All in all this was one of the best overclocking cards we've ever had through our offices.
It isn't as if this performance comes at a major heat and noise cost either. The highest temperature we saw on the core at these speeds was 81°C with the fan on auto. Speaking of the fan the days of noisy reference coolers are definitely behind us with the latest set of nVidia heat-sinks. Even when the fan spun up it was quiet as a church mouse.
Fantastic stuff all around.
3D Mark Vantage
Starting off as ever with the synthetic test that is 3D Mark Vantage we find the GTX560 Ti at stock performs about where we'd expect it to given the price tag. It's roughly the same as a HD5870. However once we apply the overclock, and this will be a common thread throughout this review, it absolutely flies, being ahead of the much more expensive AMD HD6970 and not much behind the GTX570.
3D Mark 11
As we up the ante with the more shader driven 3D Mark 11 the results are even more impressive. Although at stock once again the card is hindered by its detuned clock speed, with everything overclocked we're on a par with the vastly more expensive GTX570 when that's at stock. It's close enough to the HD6970, the current flagship of the AMD line, that you can't deny its power.
The Unigine Heaven benchmark is something that has always been determined to use every ounce of performance available to it and so it's no surprise to see the little GTX560 Ti struggles a lot compared to the other cards on test.
What you have to bear in mind through the Unigine results is that the card is being put up against much pricier cards. We originally were going to put it against the similarly priced AMD offering but it was so far ahead that it would have been a very tedious review to both read and write. So considering the price differential its putting up a very sturdy performance.
With the increase in Image Quality comes a subsequent decrease in performance, although it's good to see that the GTX560 Ti is only dropping by an equivalent percentage to the rest. Enough synthetic, let's move into the real world.
Once we're away from the demands of Unigine and into the, albeit differently, demanding world of Crysis Warhead we can see the GTX560 Ti returning to its slot just above the HD6970 and just below the stock GTX570.
This level of performance is almost ridiculous. Go back a year and if someone said you could 60FPS in Crysis on a single sub-£200 card you'd lock them up.
Alien vs Predator
With such heavy lighting effects going on it's not a surprise to see the GTX560 Ti lagging behind at stock. Again though the overclock unleashes the beast with it keeping neck and neck with its bigger brother and not a significant amount behind the rest.
Far Cry 2
Sometimes you get very curious results and this is one of those times. Far Cry 2 uses a DX10 engine and so should be easily handled by anything with a modicum of performance. Admittedly the stock GTX560 Ti isn't the fastest thing on the planet in pure stock trim but with over one gigahertz on the core we'd expect it to at least hit 60 FPS. Strange, but that's why we do the testing.
As if to emphasise the uniqueness of the Far Cry 2 result we find that Metro 2033 overclocked performance is on a par with the GTX570 and HD6970 when overclocked. If that's not a stonking result we don't know what is.
The low to mid-range cards are always a tough thing to sum up. On the one hand you have the attractive pricing which means that we have to take into account lower performance, but the methods in which the cards are cut-down to reach that price-point vary so much that it isn't always easy to decide if the losses are worth the price or if you're giving up too much to be affordable.
Thankfully the GTX560 Ti gives us no such problems.
At stock it's a good performer throughout all of our testing. Considering we run at 1920x1200 and normally with very high anti-aliasing levels the GTX560 Ti still proves playable, but with a slight resolution drop if you're on a 22" monitor, or an acceptance for 4x AA rather than the 8x we test at you'll easily be banging out very smooth performance indeed.
Overclocking though. Overclocking turns the GTX560 Ti into quite a different beast altogether. If it wasn't impressive enough at stock, and it is, then the performance once it's overclocked is in another league. It's not only on a par with its big brother in some tests, but often ahead of the AMD HD6970. The thing that took us completely by surprise is how easily it could be pushed far beyond what we would expect it to be stable at, but without becoming a toaster or deafening your neighbours.
This perhaps needs emphasising, because it really is the definitive example of both how quickly nVidia have turned things around, and how quickly AMD have lost their way. The HD6970 is currently the top of the range AMD card. This GTX560 Ti is the current bottom of the GTX 5 series from nVidia. Price-wise there is a hundred quid between the two, but performance wise they're pretty inseparable in the tests that matter.
There is no question that if you are in the market for a new graphics card, be it an ultra high-end GTX580, a more sensibly priced GTX570, or the stunning value GTX560 Ti we have on test here, that nVidia are the recommended choice in all three brackets now. They deserve huge kudos for not pretending the GTX480 was anything other than what it was and returning to their R&D department with renewed vigour.
We especially need to point out the concave shroud design and how it easily solves the problem of airflow in a dual-card system. We're sure this will be adopted by all the cards soon.
The GTX560 Ti is damn good just at stock, when overclocked it's mind-blowing. Not only is it worthy of the OC3D Gold award, but also our Performance Award for its overclocking abilities. The nVidia GTX560 Ti completes nVidia's domination of the graphics card market.
Thanks to nVidia for supplying the GTX560 Ti for review. Discuss in our forums.