NVIDIA, ASUS GTX 560 Ti Review

ccokeman - 2011-01-21 20:08:44 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 25, 2011
Price: NVIDIA $249, ASUS $269

Introduction:

When introduced last year in July, the GTX 460 was NVIDIA's card that hit the right performance points for the right price and really shook up the mid-range segment by running the latest DX 11 games at frame rates that approached (if not surpassed) the performance of AMD's flagship single-GPU cards, the HD 5870 and HD 5850. This for a much more appealing price point, offering the gamer on a budget the ability to step up to the plate and get big league performance for minor league pricing. The GTX 460 fell into what NVIDIA calls the "Hunter" class of video cards that don't have all the firepower, but use their speed to help close the performance gap. When the GTX 460 dropped, the board partners quickly had a multitude of hopped up cards with better cooling and non-reference PCB designs that took the performance to another level. You had ECS with a massive cooler from Arctic Cooling, Palit with its Sonic version, MSI with the Hawk that featured an overbuilt beast of a board with additional voltage regulation capabilities for the enthusiast, to EVGA with its FTW edition card with an 850MHz core clock right out of the box. These cards helped boost the stature of the GTX 460 as a worthy successor to the 8800GT in terms of price-to-performance. But I digress — let's fast forward a scant six months later and we have what should be the replacement for the GTX 460, the GTX 560 Ti. The Ti stands for Titanium, which is lighter and stronger than steel, referencing that you get more for less. The size of the card comes in at a mere nine inches, which looks to deliver brutal performance for its price point.

The GTX 560 Ti features a revamped GF114 core that has been redesigned down to the transistor level to make the core more efficient so that the amount of hardware on board could be increased without creating a hot-running beast. This allowed NVIDIA to bump the CUDA core count up to 384 while also increasing the clock speeds. The GTX 460 that the GTX 560 Ti is replacing was an overclocking beast, so NVIDIA made sure this line has the same capabilities, providing better power regulation and better cooling on the reference design. Let's take a look at what NVIDIA and its partners have to offer with the introduction of the GTX 560 Ti, the latest rendition of its "Hunter" class card.

Closer Look:

The first card I will be looking at is the reference card from NVIDIA. Since this one comes without any retail packaging, we'll get right to the card. The GTX 560 Ti measures a smallish nine inches in length and features a central fan blowing through a heat-pipe based cooling solution. The shroud has been designed with the center portion in a dish shape to allow plenty of airflow into the card even when running two of the GTX 560 Ti's in an SLI configuration. The fan blades sit up higher than the shroud to increase the airflow into the card without increasing the noise signature. The back side has little of interest, but it looks like a series of Hi-C caps are in use around the bottom of the GPU socket for the four phase power circuit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectivity comes in the form of two Dual Link DVI ports and a single mini HDMI port that offers Bitstreaming support for Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. To run a surround setup, you will still need to use a pair of cards since the GTX 560 Ti only supports two outputs being used at one time, so the third monitor must be connected to a second card. NVIDIA's stance is, if you are going to run a three monitor setup, the company wants you to have the best possible experience and that takes more than a single card to deliver great performance at a resolution of 5760x1080. The power requirements for the GTX 560 TI are two 6-pin PCIe power connections. The TDP on the reference card is 170 watts with a 500 watt power supply recommended.

 

 

The shroud comes off to show the heat pipe-based cooling solution employed by NVIDIA for the GTX 560 Ti. This cooling solution is a two part system with the cooling assembly for the GPU and a plate-style system to provide cooling for the VRM circuit components and the 1GB of memory. The whole assembly comes off when you remove the 15 screws that hold it onto the PCB. The GPU heat sink can then be removed once the plate is off the card. The cooling plate has a small set of fins cast into it above the VRM circuits for added cooling from the airflow passing over them. With the overbuilt four phase power design, cooling was significantly upgraded as well to take advantage of design. This seems to help with the clock speeds this card was capable of reaching. The power monitoring hardware that was introduced with the GTX 580 has been incorporated into the GTX 560 Ti and, as before, NVIDIA states that this will not affect overclocking, but is meant to prevent damage to the power subsystems from the loads imparted by programs such as Furmark and OCCT.

 

 

 

The cooling solution has a copper plate with three heat pipes running through it that transfer the heat from the GPU to the fin arrays. The three heat pipes are 6mm in diameter and spread out to a pair of aluminum fin arrays. In the center is still a large solid aluminum heat sink that is the base for the cooling fan from AVC. About the only information I can glean from a few quick searches is that the info on the back of the fan is all I have — the fan is 80mm in diameter, 15mm thick, runs on 12V, and uses ball-type bearings. When pushed, the fan was not loud at its 75% maximum indicated speed.

 

 

The GF114 GPU is the latest in NVIDIA's Fermi arsenal. As such, it has benefited from all the latest tweaks all the way down to the transistor level, much like the work done to its more powerful cousins, the GTX 580 and 570. These increased power efficiency, allowing NVIDIA the ability to increase the clock speeds while at the same time reducing leakage. While the GTX 560 is the successor to the wildly popular GTX 460, it also caries with it the same streaming multiprocessor configuration used in the GTX 460's GF104 core. The GF114 is built using a 40nm process and has two GPC (Graphics Processing Clusters), eight Streaming Multiprocessors, 384 CUDA cores, 64 Texture units, and 32 ROP units. Each SM is equipped with a polymorph engine for a total of eight with a total of two raster engines. On board is 1GB of 5Gbps rated GDDR5 memory from Samsung that runs through four 64-bit (256-bit) memory controllers. The clock speeds delivered on this reference card are 822MHz on the Fixed Function units, 1644MHz on the CUDA cores, and 1000MHz (4000MHz QDR).

 

 

Sure the reference card is nice and will certainly be popular, but let's see what an AIB partner has to offer as a point of difference from the reference design. Usually this includes a hopped up PCB and better cooling to increase performance even further than what is available from the OEM. Let's find out.

Closer Look:

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.

Specifications:

NVIDIA Reference Card:

 
Graphics Card
GTX 560 Ti
Processing Units
Graphics Processing Clusters
2
Streaming Multiprocessors
8
CUDA Cores
384
Texture Units
64
ROP Units
32
Clock Speeds
Graphics Clock (Fixed Function Units)
822MHz
Processor Clock (CUDA Cores)
 
Memory Clock (Clock rate / Data rate)
1000/4000MHz
Memory
L2 Cache Size
512KB
Total Video Memory
1024 MB GDDR5
Memory Interface
256-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth
128.3 GB/s
Fillrate
Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear)
52.6 GigaTexels/sec
Physical & Thermal
Fabrication Process
40 nm
Transistor Count
1.95 Billion
Connectors
2 x Dual-Link DVI-I
1 x Mini HDMI
Form Factor
Dual Slot
Power Connectors
2x6-pin
Recommended Power Supply
500 Watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP)1
170 Watts
Thermal Threshold
100 ºC

 

ASUS GTX560 Ti DirectCUII TOP:

Model
ENGTX560 Ti DCII/2DI/1GD5
Graphics Engine
NVIDIA Geforce GTX560 Ti
Bus Standard
PCI Express 2.0
Video Memory
1GB GDDR5
Engine Clock
900MHz
Cuda Core
384
Memory Clock
4200MHz (1050MHz GDDR5)
Memory Interface
256 bit
DVI Max Resolution
2500*1600
D-Sub Max Resolution
2048*1536
DVI Output
DVI-I  x 2
HDCP Compliant
Yes
HDMI Output
Mini HDMI x1
Adapter Bundled
Mini HDMI to HDMI adapter x1
DVI to D-Sub adaptor x1
Power Cable x2
Software bundled
ASUS Utilities and Driver
Dimension (LxBxH)
9.0" x 4.4" x 1.58"

Features:

NVIDIA Features:

 

ASUS Features

Testing:

Testing of this trio of GTX 560 Ti cards from ASUS and NVIDIA will consist of running them and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where they fall on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles to give you an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark Vantage testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA control panel. I will test the cards at stock speeds, then overclocked in order to see the effects of any increases in clock speed. The cards are placed in order from highest to lowest performing in the graphs to show where the cards fall by comparison.

 

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Reference card:

The NVIDIA reference card scaled very well with the voltage available in MSI Afterburner 2.1.0 Beta 6 and allowed the clocks to reach up and over 1GHz. NVIDIA says it overbuilt this card so that it would have some outstanding overclocking and it was not wrong. NVIDIA included a four phase power circuit, heavy duty copper heat pipe cooling, 5Gbps memory, and two 6-pin power connections to make sure the current is available to the card. I started conservatively with this card since the reference GTX 580 and 570 I tested were not the best overclocking cards I have seen. In fact, they were a bit toward the lower end of the bell curve in terms of clock speed. The GTX 560, on the other hand, just kept going all the way up to 1040MHz when the voltage was cranked up to 1150mv. This was stable for most games, but would not pass through Unigine's Heaven benchmark with any reliability. The card scaled well up to about 960MHz, where it needed more voltage to get stable and then each step took a bit more voltage, so I had to drop the final speed on the core to 1017MHz, where it could pass any benchmark all day long. The memory scaled as well as the GF114 core and hit speeds of 1175MHz or QDR 4704MHz. You can choose not to increase the fan speed when adding voltage to the core, but I increased the fan to its highest level to keep the temperatures down to see the highest clock speeds on air. With the voltage maxed out and the fan at its maximum indicated 75%, the temperatures hit a relatively cool 75 degrees Celsius under load. The fan made a little noise, but that noise was barely audible outside the case. When the testing was all said and done on the NVIDIA card, I saw an increase of 195MHz on the core and 176MHz on the memory — both of these in the realm of 20+ percent. Now let's see what the ASUS TOP and MSI offerings have up their sleeve.

 

ASUS GTX560 TI DirectCU II TOP:

Seeing as how this card from ASUS looks like it was built for balls-out overclocking, that is the expectation I had when I first laid eyes on this card. With clock speeds 80MHz on the core and 50MHz on the memory faster than the reference card specifications, out of the box, the question was how much head room was going to be left? What I found out was that there was some head room, but not as much as I had hoped for with the ASUS-designed PCB and cooling solution. That really comes down to what the silicon will yield more so than anything with the build quality. By using ASUS's Smart Doctor utility, I was able to boost the clock speeds up to 1004MHz on the fixed function units, 2008MHz on the CUDA cores, and 1202MHz (4808 MHz QDR). To do this required the voltage to be increased up to the 1150mv limit in Smart Doctor. The clock speeds I reached were stable throughout the entire test suite, not just a quick run through a single benchmark, so this may seem a little lower than some of the other numbers seen, but stability is where it's at. When it came to cooling, the DirectCUII cooling solution benefits from the installation of a second fan delivering temperatures better than the reference card in both stock and overclocked scenarios. When it comes down to it 100+MHz out of the core and 150+MHz out of the memory, that's not a bad trade off for your time on a factory-overclocked card. You may see results that are similar, higher or lower, but regardless, if this is the median, the 1GHz on the core ain't to bad.

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

In the past, I had used MSI's Kombuster utility to check for stability coupled with the ability to run through the entire test suite. I have found that some game tests would still fail with this utility, so I have moved to testing with several games at maximum settings through several resolutions to verify the clock speeds that are listed below. Why the change? I have found some cards will play fine at a 4xAA setting, but fail when using 8xAA due to the increased graphics load. If it fails, then the clock speeds and tests are rerun until they pass.

   

 

  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Metro 2033
  3. Crysis Warhead
  4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  5. Just Cause 2
  6. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.1
  7. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  8. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  9. 3DMark 06 Professional
  10. 3DMark Vantage
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species, the Alien, the Predator, and the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

Performance-wise, the GTX 560 Ti delivers performance above the HD 6870 (its direct targeted competitor) and the GTX 470 that it is replacing.


 

Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied — in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses — chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

In Metro 2033, the GTX 560 from ASUS is flirting with the level of performance delivered by the HD 6950.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The ASUS GTX 560 Ti delivers the goods against the HD 6870, but it has some trouble with the GTX 470 at the highest resolution.

Testing:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an iteration of the venerable first person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking. You start off the single player missions playing as Private Allen and jump right into a serious firefight. This is the point where testing will begin. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The performance of the ASUS GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP is easily ahead of the stock clocked card showing the benefit of a factory overclocked card in this scenario. When overclocked, the performance differential between the two cards shrinks, but still delivers performance above the HD 6870 and similar to that of the HD 6950.

Testing:

Just Cause 2 is a third-person shooter that takes place on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. In this sequel to 2006's Just Cause, you return as Agent Rico Rodriguez to overthrow an evil dictator and confront your former boss. When you don't feel like following the main story line, you're free to roam the island, pulling off crazy stunts and causing massive destruction in your wake, all beautifully rendered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0. In the end, that's what the game basically boils down to — crazy stunts and blowing things up. In fact, blowing things up and wreaking havoc is actually necessary to unlock new missions and items.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The performance of the two GTX 560 Ti cards is easily above that of the HD 6870 and just slightly below that of the HD 6950.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes — Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10 and OpenGL. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

Again we see the GTX 560 Ti from ASUS and NVIDIA easily deliver a significant performance advantage over the HD 6870, while staying either equal to or below the HD 6950.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

In Batman, the Asus GTX 560 Ti is faster than the reference card across the board at stock clocks. Overclocking evens the field up somewhat, but the AMD cards are outperformed in this game.

Testing:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3 and XBox. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, allowing for destructible environments. You can play the single player campaign or multiplayer with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has so far sold in excess of six million copies.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The GTX 560 Ti offers a significant performance advantage over the HD 6870 and, depending on the resolution, the HD 6950.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the upcoming date in number (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11 so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode whereas Vantage only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark and the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing, one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests but unlike the tests, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and have a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and is similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story, they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides with the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The ASUS GTX 560 Ti TOP comes close to the level of performance of the HD 6950 and, again, out-distances the HD 6870.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The ASUS Card again shows that the factory overclocked card has the ability to step up a level to compete with the HD 6950.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using MSI Kombuster, which is paired with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using the stability test set to a resolution of 1920x1200 using 8xAA. I will use a 15 minute time frame to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will be a 20 minute cool down with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running the overclocked idle and load testing. For load testing the GTX 580 and GTX 570, I will use Crysis Warhead run at 2560x1600 using the Gamer setting with 8xAA looping the Avalanche benchmark scenario, as I have found this to put a load close to that of Kombuster on a video card. This is needed as a way around the current limiting ability of the GTX 500 series when it detects programs that put an unrealistic load on the GPU, which Kombuster does.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Lower = Better

 

With the fan speeds controlled by the driver, the ASUS GTX 560 Ti DIrect CUII TOP had one of the lowest load temperatures at stock clock speeds at 64 Celsius. This is six degrees Celsius lower than the reference cooler while still having a higher core voltage applied from the factory. Even when overclocked and overvolted, the ASUS design was the better cooling solution.

Testing:

Power Consumption of the system will be measured in both idle states and loaded states and will take into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use MSI Kombuster to load the GPU for a 15 minute test and use the peak load of the system as my result for the maximum load. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. For load testing the GTX 500 series, I will once again use Crysis Warhead run at 2560 x 1600 using the Gamer setting with 8xAA looping the Avalanche benchmark scenario.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

Lower = Better

 

The GTX 560 TI cards deliver almost identical performance numbers at idle with the higher core voltage on the ASUS card making the difference at idle as well as under load with stock settings. The higher core voltage allows the ASUS card to scale to 382 watts while the NVIDIA card is at 342 watts. When overclocked, the scenario plays out a little differently, with the ASUS card using less current, most likely due to its design features.

Conclusion:

The GTX 560 Ti is a card that is in a position to really make a case for an upgrade. You get performance that is better than the HD 6870, GTX 470, and GTX 460 — all cards that at one point had been or are currently at the $250 price point. The thought process with the naming leads you to believe that the GTX 560 Ti is going to replace the GTX 460, when in fact it is the drop in replacement for the GTX 470. On its own merits, the reference card offers considerable performance improvements due to its revamped architecture and increased clock speeds that allow it to be a game changer for those working on their 3-year upgrade cycle looking to save some loot. The success of the GTX 460, with its serious overclocking credentials, led NVIDIA to really design this offering for the gaming enthusiast. The GTX 560 Ti gets a four phase power circuit, 5Gbps rated GDDR5 memory, all the transistor level tweaks of the GF110, and a cooling solution that really keeps the GF114 core running cool. Even when the voltage and clock speeds were maxed out, the core never went higher than 75 degrees Celsius under load. That alone is impressive for a Fermi-based card. My, how times have changed! As a card designed to hit the right price point for gamers, the rest of the NVIDIA ecosystem needs a mention as well since combining two of the GTX 560 Ti's will bring additional options to get you into an immersive gaming environment. You have 3D Vision to give you that stereoscopic 3D rush, Surround that can be combined with 3D Vision to add to that experience, PhysX for added realism in games that support it, and the GF114's parallel computing architecture that can use CUDA for accelerated image processing in games. All in all, a win.

Not only did I look at the stock-clocked reference card from NVIDIA, but also the ENGTX560 Ti DirectCUII TOP from ASUS that takes the performance to another level with its 900MHz core clock speed right out of the box. What I got with this card was a card jam-packed with ASUS-exclusive features that make the card like the Bionic man — Better, Faster, Stronger! ASUS built this card with its Xtreme Design feature set as well as its new SAP (Super Alloy Power) components that include proprietary construction methods for the chokes, MOSFETs, and capacitors. This technology uses highly magnetic, heat resistant, and anti-corrosive metals to reduce power loss, enhance durability, and in the end, have a cooler running component. The end results are chokes that run 35 °C cooler, capacitors that see a 2.5x increase in useful life, and a Super Hybrid engine that gets a 15% performance boost. Lowering the heat output and increasing component life are good things. ASUS took care of the heat from the GPU with its DirectCUII heat pipe, direct contact cooling solution. Instead of a single fan, ASUS equipped this version with dual dust-proof fans that should allow you to keep the card cooler for an extended duration. Everything about this card from ASUS is meant to increase reliability for the long term. You also get GPU Guard, which includes a method of preventing PCB flex with both an adhesive under the GPU socket and a structural brace attached to the spine. These are all features available for a slight upcharge over the suggested e-tail cost of the reference GTX 560 Ti. By slight, we are talking $20. Improved cooling alone is worth that!

The performance was good right out of the box with both of these cards and when it came time to overclock them, I was able to hit over 1GHz on the GF114 cores of both cards and well over 1150MHz on the GDDR5 memory. These bumps in performance from overclocking were not just small bumps, but significant jumps in performance, allowing the GTX 560 Ti from NVIDIA and ASUS to wipe the floor with the HD 6870, its direct competitor. Either AMD has some price drops coming soon or it will be conceding the $250 price point to the performance of the GTX 560 Ti.

 

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