NVIDIA, ASUS GTX 560 Ti Reviewccokeman - January 25, 2011
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The first AIB partner card we have to look at is the ASUS GTX560 TI DirectCUII TOP, its top of the line GTX 560 at launch. The packaging of the DirectCUII TOP card uses the same theme that ASUS has used for some time with a warrior on his stallion ready for war — NVIDIA cards have a green background and AMD red or orange. This box is a pre-release version that contains a typo on the size of the heat pipes, so if I mention it and you read the box differently, just skip it — the truth is that the heat pipes are 6mm in size. The front panel shows that this card comes factory overclocked to 900MHz on the core — a pretty sizable increase showing some potential of the GTX560 Ti as many of the TOP cards' clock speed increases are not so high right from the factory. Other mentions include DX 11 support, GDDR5 memory, and ASUS-exclusive Super Alloy Power components. The rear panel goes into detail on the DirectCUII cooling system, the factory-overclocked nature of this card, the display configuration, and a brief explanation of the Super Alloy Power design.
The sleeve comes off to show off the black internal box with a golden ASUS logo. Aesthetically, this looks much better than a standard cardboard box. The GTX 560 Ti DirectCUII sits in a form-fitted foam enclosure, much like you would see with a custom gun case. It keeps your weapon of choice safe in shipping or transit. The accessory bundle includes a quick start guide, driver and utility disk, dual 6-pin PCIe power adapters, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a mini HDMI to HDMI adapter — basically everything you need to get started.
The GTX560 Ti DirectCUII TOP is ASUS's top of the line GTX 560 Ti offering at launch and is equipped with additional cooling and a host of ASUS-exclusive technologies. Things such as GPU Guard, double over current protection, EMI shielding, dust proof twin fans, DirectCUII cooling, Super Alloy components, and more. From the front view of the GTX560 Ti DIrectCUII TOP, you have a large metal shroud with dual fans to keep the GPU and board components cool - already an improvement over the reference design. The black and red design goes well with the new Maximus IV or even the Rampage series ROG motherboards. The back has SAP (Super Alloy Power) surface mount capacitors for the voltage circuits that have a lower electrical noise signature, which is said to increase overclocking stability by 28%. From the top view of the card, you can see the structural reinforcement that works in tandem with the GPU Guard technology to keep the card from being flexed or cracked when installed in the chassis, potentially shortening the life span of the card. This is one of the ASUS Xtreme Design elements and shows a 211% increase in the rigidity of the PCB and a 238% increase in the rigidity of the GPU area.
Connectivity options follow the reference design with a pair of Dual Link DVI ports and a single mini HDMI port that supports Bitstreaming support for Dolby Tru HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Behind the connections, ASUS uses EMI Shielding technology to reduce EMI interference to the output cabling. As with the reference design, to run a surround setup, you must use a pair of cards in SLI. With an SLI setup, you can add another part of the NVIDIA ecosystem in its 3D Vision setup for a 3D Surround experience. The power connections on this card follow the reference version with two 6-pin PCIe connections. These connections are on the spine of the card instead of the rear end like the reference card, making the connections easier to use in a tight chassis. The airflow through the heat sink is exhausted mainly in the chassis, so good case airflow is a must.
The ASUS GTX560 Ti DirectCUII requires two 6-pin PCIe power connections. A 500 watt power supply is recommended for the reference card and should be fine for this card from ASUS. SLI technology is supported, but only for a pair of cards due to the single bridge connection point on the card. SLI allows you to move up to a surround or 3D Surround setup for a more immersive gaming experience. Across the spine of the card is a stiffening bracket that provides protection from card flex that can crack traces and render your expensive card worthless. If you have not seen this, take a look at some card pictures with an aftermarket heat sink. This bracket works in conjunction with ASUS's GPU Guard technology.
When you pull the DirectCUII heat sink off of the board, you can get a look at the layout and how the Super Alloy chokes, capacitors and MOSFETs are arranged. The Super Alloy Power technology is an ASUS exclusive. Its chokes use a high temperature and pressure process that uses a concrete core inside a solid sealed alloy shell to eliminate buzzing and run up to 36 degrees Celsius cooler without the buzzing associated with a standard design. The Super Alloy capacitors have a 2.5x longer lifespan and have an increase in the voltage threshold of 30%, while the Super Alloy MOS have an increased voltage threshold of 30% as well. The Super Hybrid Engine optimizes the switching between high and low power switching. By the fan header is a fuse that provides redundant over current protection.
The DirectCUII cooling solution used on the ASUS GTX 560 Ti DirectCUII TOP gets its name from the fact that the three heat pipes are in direct contact with the core, hence the DirectCU (Copper) name. There are a total of three 6mm heat pipes that run through the aluminum heat sink that covers the GPU, with the heat pipes running to a separate fin array. The fin array sits over the heat sink on the VRM components so the down draft fan blows air over both to keep them cool. This Double Airflow design can operate quieter and allow cooler running than the reference cooling solution.
The contact patch on this cooler is similar to many direct contact-type heat sinks that have the heat pipes separated by an aluminum structure. Like every one I have seen, the surface is not mirror smooth and you can feel the gaps, so an additional amount of thermal paste is required to fill the gaps if you take the card apart. ASUS has done well on this count, as the contact patch was great when the heat sink was pulled off. The fans used on this DirectCUII implementation are by Everflow and are model number T128010SH. This fan runs on 12V, has a voltage range of 7-12V, is 80x10mm in size, and based on a few searches, runs at a maximum of 4200 RPM to generate the airflow needed to cool the card. This fan was chosen for its dust proof design, which adds additional life span to the card by not having to worry that the fan will slow down or stop in the middle of generating a 3D load.
The GF114 core is built using a 40nm process at TSMC. The GF114 uses the same SM configuration as the GF104-based GTX 460. There are a pair of Graphics Processing Clusters each with four Streaming Multiprocessors, providing a total of eight. Each SM has a total of 48 CUDA cores, a single Polymorph engine, eight texture units, and special function units. There are two raster engines and 32 ROPs. The Fixed Function units on this card from ASUS are clocked at 900MHz, the CUDA cores at 1800MHz, and the 1GB of GDDR5 memory is clocked at a conservative 1050MHz. The 1GB of memory runs through four 64-bit memory buses (256-bit). The memory used on this card is by Samsung and is rated at 5Gbps or 1250MHz. If you look at the corners of the core, you will see what looks to be a small bit of liquid, but this is an adhesive that fills the gaps under the GPU, adding structural rigidity to the connections to the tune of a 238% increase in rigidity over a design without that feature. This is part of the ASUS advantage and is part of its Xtreme design feature set.
ASUS has continued to bring innovation to the game on top of what NVIDIA has offered, now let's see if this innovation makes the card a point of difference when it comes to performance.