Galaxy’s GTX 560 Ti GC – Introducing Nvidia’s Titanium Hunter
Not long ago we reintroduced Nvidia’s “Tank”, the GTX 580, as a much leaner, meaner and faster machine – all the while improving on the thermals, power draw and noise of the reference GTX 580. Shortly thereafter, another brand-new lighter tank, the GTX 570 launched bringing with it all of the features of its big brother but at a lower price and with somewhat reduced performance. The Tank refers particularly to Nvidia’s flagship video cards which are equipped to handle any gaming situation at high resolution and with maximum details and with maximum filtering and anti-aliasing applied.
However the Tank is certainly not mainstream gaming and it is not the “sweet spot” for enthusiasts money-wise. But there is a new kid on the block, the “Hunter”, Ti. Last July, Nvidia introduced the first Hunter, GeForce GTX 460. To describe the capabilities of the GTX 460 when talking with gamers, Nvidia drew an analogy between a Hunter class unit from an RTS/RPG game. The Hunter combines devastating firepower with dizzying speed for success and now Nvidia is introducing a new GeForce Hunter for gamers that’s even more powerful, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti! Yes, Ti stands for Titanium and it brings back fond memories of the old GeForce Ti series which offered excellent bang for buck back then.
Let us introduce Nvidia’s brand new reconfigured “Hunter”, the new GTX 560 Ti; the new GPU set to replace GTX 470 but priced around $250 like the GTX 460 at launch and built for 1920×1200 gaming. Ti is going to take direct aim at especially the HD 6870 and even the HD 6950, which are etail-priced around $250 and $300 respectively. In fact, AMD is already making preparations to counter the arrival of Nvidia’s new Hunter by introducing a 1 GB version of HD 6950 priced around $250 and already their prices on the HD 6870 appear to be dropping to around $220.
Evidently the prices in the USA on the Radeon cards are higher comparatively than they are in Europe and so our conclusions are mostly based on USA pricing. So let’s see if the GTX 560 Ti lives up to Hunter expectations. To do this, we bring you our expanded benchmark suite of 29 games and 3 synthetics to evaluate the performance of sixteen (16!) video card configurations.
Above we see the Galaxy GTX 560 Ti GC (Galaxy Clock) version pictured below the reference version. Nvidia advertises their new high-performance GPUs as “the World’s Fastest DX11 GPUs” and we now bring you the details of our GTX 560 Ti’s performance showdown with HD 6950 and HD 6870. We also compare performance with the reference GTX 580, the reference GTX 570 and GTX 480; the reference Diamond HD 5870 and the reference HD 6970 to see if we can verify Nvidia’s claim.
On top of that, we also added in our HD 6850, three GTX 460s; 1 GB and 768 MB versions, as well as the highly overclocked EVGA FTW GTX 460, for a total of 16 video cards to see where the new GTX 560 TI sits in terms of value for dollar as we test performance in 29 modern games. In fact, we added 7 games to our usual benchmark suite to bring you this special evaluation of the upper midrange in video cards.
Here is the brand new reference GTX 560 TI (lower right side) and Galaxy GTX 560 GC (upper right) compared with the overclocked Galaxy GTX 460 (upper left) and highly overclocked EVGA FTW GTX 460 (lower right) released a few months ago for the same approximate prices as the new cards. Nvidia claims that you will get about one third more performance for the same price. You will also note that the new GTX 560 PCB at 9 inches is 3/4 inch longer than the GTX 460.
It is good to see that, like the GTX 570, the GTX 560 only requires two 6-pin PCIe connectors – unlike the GTX 580 (and the GTX 480/470) which require the 8-pin+6-pin PCIe connectors. Below we see just some of our family of 16 card configurations that we will benchmark for you.
The reason we are benching 16 video card configurations is to give you relative price to performance and we would also like to show you how top cards of two generations ago – the GTX 280 and the HD 4870 – will fare; they will also represent the GTX 275 and HD 4890 class of cards as the performance is very similar.
Of course, the cards that we will be most closely comparing is our GTX 560 Ti with the GTX 460 and AMD’s two cards in the same class/price range – the HD 6870 and the HD 6950. Clearly the GTX 560 Ti is designed to be outclassed by its bigger brother, the GTX 570, but it will be interesting to see how the performance of a $249 GTX 560 – perhaps overclocked – compares with the performance of the GTX 570 – a $320 video card released just a couple of months ago that has the performance of the formerly $500 GTX 480.
AMD’s HD 5870 was released about 16 months ago and until the HD 6970, it was their fastest single-GPU video card; the HD 6870 was only intended to replace the HD 5850 performance-wise for less money. So what we really have is the battle of the bang-for-buck cards in the $200-$300 price range. And of course, some versions of the GTX 460 can be got for way less money, months after their release.
Nvidia released its long awaited GeForce GTX based on its brand new Fermi DX11 GF100 architecture back in April of this year, six months later than AMD’s own DX11 Cypress video cards. This new Fermi GPU – Graphics Processing Unit – a term originally originated by Nvidia is a continuation of their strategy since their G80 which launched over three year ago to create a General Purpose Processor – co-equal with the CPU – that also renders amazing graphics. The culmination of Nvidia’s efforts with their GF100 DX11 Fermi architecture was the GTX 480 with the caveat that it runs rather hot and the cooling solutions based on the reference design are rather noisy.
Things changed very rapidly as Nvidia’s introduced a new refined GTX 400 series ‘Tank’, the Galaxy GTX 480 SuperOverclock on a mature process which we covered in this review. Shortly thereafter, enter the completely redesigned Nvidia Tank – at $499 suggested etail pricing and designed to be faster and more efficient than even the super-overclocked GTX 480s.
We saw AMD introduce their new line up, HD 68×0 series to replace HD 58×0 series in our review here. We found out that the “Barts” GPU it is based on is only a mid-range launch so far with the HD 6870 only slightly faster than the HD 5850; the best part is that it replaces it for less money. And about five weeks ago we saw AMD’s Cayman release in the form of HD 6970 and HD 6950. Nvidia took aim at the HD 6970 with the GTX 570, and today the GTX 560 Ti takes on the HD 6870 and the HD 6950. So we ask the following questions:
Since, Nvidia’s new GTX 560 Ti now comes with a MSRP of $249, Is it worth the $30 premium over the $220 or so dollars that one would currently spend for AMD’s HD 6870? And also, is it close in performance to the HD 6950 which runs from about $259 for the 1 GB version to about $300 for the 2 GB version?
To properly bring you this review, we are using our reference HD 6970, HD 6950 and HD 6870 which we put through their paces this week with the very latest Candidate Release drivers which will be released to the public as WHQL in a few days, Catalyst 11-1a. We also added HD 5870, HD 6950, HD 6850, and HD 4870 using the WHQL drivers from this month (still current as of the writing of this article), Catalyst 10-12, to give you a more complete picture of performance.
For Nvidia cards, we are using 3 versions of the GTX 570 – reference stock clocks (822/2004 MHz), Galaxy Clocks (GC – 835/2004 MHz), and what we call “super overclocked” (SOC) at the maximum core that the card can handle without raising the voltage or changing the fan profile from automatic. Together with the GTX 560 Ti, we also test GTX 580 and GTX 570 with the latest WHQL and Candidate Release Drivers that were also released this week for the GTX 560 launch. Using the drivers from the last set, we tested the GTX 480, the reference GTX 460 and the GTX 460-768M (675/1800 MHz), plus the GTX 460 FTW (850/2000 MHz). We are also tossing in a GTX 280 into the mix; the approximate equivalent of the GTX 275 from the last generation to see how the new GTX 570 Ti compares.
We bench with 29 modern games and with 3 synthetic benchmarks generally using 1680×1050, 1920×1200 and/or 2560×1600 resolutions. Since we are using fast single-GPU video cards, it makes sense to test them at the highest resolutions and with the most demanding playable settings that they can handle. Since we are matching the top single-GPU video cards to each other in a performance showdown, we do not include the dual-GPU HD 5970, nor CrossFire, nor SLI configurations.
Before we do performance testing, let’s take a look at the original Fermi GF100 GTX 480 and quickly recap its new DX11 architecture and features of the original Fermi GF100 which we covered in our reviews of the GTX 480, published here, here and here. Senior Editor BFG10K reviewed GTX 470 here and here and Senior editor MrK covered GTX 465 here.
We also recently examined the performance of Galaxy’s GTX 480 SuperOverclock and we also reran GTX 480 against stock and overclocked versions of HD 5870, HD 6870 and HD 6850 here just a few weeks ago. A recent review covered the GTX 580 a few months ago. We also covered GTX 570 and the launch of the HD 69×0 series against GTX 460. And Senior Editor Leon Hyman covered GTX 460-768M vs. HD 5830 here last week. Now you are up to date.
The GeForce GTX 560 Ti was designed from the ground up to deliver exceptional tessellation performance, which is a key component of Microsoft’s DirectX 11 development platform for PC games. Tessellation allows game developers to take advantage of the GeForce GTX 560 GPU’s tessellation ability to increase the geometric complexity of models and characters to deliver far more realistic and visually rich gaming environments. You will soon see that although the clocks of Nvidia’s GTX 560 Ti are clocked higher than the reference GTX 460 version, Nvidia kept their headroom for the new GPU! Because of that, we were also able to go much further than the reference core clock that Nvidia set for the GTX 560 Ti or the mild overclock of the Galaxy GTX 560 Ti GC while still remaining cool and quiet. Here is the specification chart for the GTX 560 Ti at a glance. Right away we notice its CUDA cores are increased over the GTX 460 from 336 to 384, its clock is way up and now the new GPU supports the new HDMI 1.4a connector standard.
Needless to say, the new Fermi GF114 GTX 560 Ti brings a lot of features to the table that current Nvidia customers will appreciate, including improved CUDA’s PhysX, 2D and 3D Surround to drive up to 3 LCDs with GTX SLI and Tri-SLI, superb tessellation capabilities and a really fast GPU in comparison to their GT200 series and even their hot running GF100 series variants like GTX 465 and GTX 470 .
The GTX 560 has improved performance on a clock-per-clock basis that increase efficiency of up to 5% or more in many cases over the GTX 460. Besides that, Nvidia has increased the clock frequencies and the number of CUDA cores in the GTX 460 from 336 cores to 384 in the GTX 560 Ti and there are also more texture units and SMs all operating more efficiently. We can expect that the GTX 470 and the GTX 560 Ti will perform very similarly to each other and the newer GPU will be about 33% faster than the GTX 460.
Beauty is more than skin deep
The GTX 460 was completely re-engineered at the transistor level into the GF114 GTX 560 Ti. Through a complete Fermi redesign on a mature process on TSMC’s 40 nm, the GTX 560 GPU achieves higher clockspeed than the GTX 460 with +21% more performance per watt and with fewer transistors. In other words, Nvidia increased the CUDA core count from 336 to 380, upped the clock speed and lowered the power requirements. This has also lead to a reduction in noise from the VGA cooling fan that was already quiet on the GTX 460. And the dual 90 mm Galaxy VGA fans are much quieter – even near full load – than the reference version.
Of course when you put an open design like the Galaxy’s GTX 560 Ti GC together with the reference version in SLI, it should work together as in the picture below. That way the open design will get sufficient air and the reference version can pull air from in-between the cards if you have a good side case fan. Also, note that we like where Galaxy locates the PCIe slots instead of on the reference version. Locating them on the end of the card defeats the purpose of having a short card. The GTX 560 Ti is 9 inches long – more with the reference version’s PCIe connectors. In contrast, the competing AMD HD 6870 and HD 6950 are eleven inches long.
Should you SLI your GTX 560 Ti?
SLI is supported by GTX 560 Ti and there is improved scaling. There are also recently more compelling reasons besides increased performance to consider GTX 560 Ti SLI which includes being able to experience Nvidia’s multi-display 2D/3D Surround. You will also require a less powerful PSU to run your GTX 560 Ti SLI than with powering GTX 470 SLI. Also, by using the latest GeForce 260 drivers, each card can keep its own unique clocks or they can be set asynchronously. Because of severe time constraints on this article, SLI will be examined in depth in an upcoming article as well as 3-panel 2D Surround versus Eyefinity.
New Power Monitoring Hardware – or no more Furmark!
Nvidia has added a power draw limitation system to their card beginning with the GTX 580 and also with the GTX 570 and GTX 560 Ti. When either Furmark or OCCT are detected, sensors measure the incoming current and voltage to calculate the total power draw. If the power draw exceeds a certain predetermined limit, the GTX 560 Ti will automatically downclock to avoid damage to hardware components. After the power draw drops back to safe limits, the GPU returns to normal clocks much the same as with thermal management.
Because of this, we will no longer use Furmark for showing power draw and will return to using games to illustrate real world situations. Currently, this power management only switches on when Furmark or OCCT are detected and it should not limit overclocking unless Nvidia extends this management to regular PC games. Evidently this works by having the GeForce driver detect the program and treat it as a virus. In the case of the GTX 580 and the GTX 570, this power limiting circuitry implementation is mandatory by Nvidia’s parners. In the case of the GTX 560 Ti, Nvidia allowed their partners to choose to include it – or not. We asked Galaxy to share their thoughts with us:
As you may already know, the only usage for this feature is to throttle down (slow down) the card when running those so-called thermal virus software like FurMark and OCCT, and does not have any impact on real game performance and power consumption at all.
Galaxy is confident with our Twinblade Triple Copper HeatPipe cooling solution, even without the power monitoring feature, it is more than enough to cool down the card while running the most demanding applications.
We like the way they think. Let’s flip the GTX 560 TI 0ver and check out the other side:
The Galaxy GTX 560 Ti video card comes in a suitable box which protects it in shipping, but it is not a fancy package nor are there a lot of “frills” – Galaxy concentrates on bringing you a great video card with superb support. Inside the box, you will find the driver CD, the most basic of printed instructions, the warranty information and a toll-free 24-hour telephone number where you are guaranteed to talk to someone if you have any issues for the two years that your card is warrantied.
Since the Galaxy GTX 560 Ti is also sold in retail, the box clearly states the specifications and the contents of the box (GTX 560 video card, driver CD, and quick start guide) on the outside of the box. They actually give you more then you bargain for as they actually include the HDMI cable, not just the adaptor.
Galaxy also gives you eight excellent reasons to upgrade to their GTX 560 Ti. There are more reasons; they just ran out of room on their box:
Check out the removable fan design that offers 10 degrees Centigrade better cooling over reference while simultaneously providing a 10 db quieter solution:
Let’s sum up what Galaxy offers us over the reference version with their GTX 560-Ti GC:
- Galaxy proprietary design “TwinBlade” dual 90mm silent fan cooler
- 1.8x more cooling fin than reference cooler
- 10C (plus) cooler than reference cooler
- 11dB quieter than reference cooler
- 3rd generation detachable fan design
The Galaxy GTX 560 Ti GC is factory overclocked with a Dual BIOS which can be a card-saver if a flash goes bad. Galaxy included their Xtreme Tuner HD overclocking software on the driver CD or as a download on their site; you can even raise the voltage. Best of all, with their 24 hour manned telephone support, Galaxy offers great service!
Galaxy, established in 1994, is a Nvidia Add-in-Board (AIB) partner which manufactures products from the low-end GeForce 7200 series to the high-end GTX 500 series. They manufacture products based on Nvidia’s reference design as well as using their own in-house production facilities to manufacture graphic cards based on their own designs using high-end coolers from Arctic Cooling and others.
Galaxy has shipped to the US for a long time as they built video cards for many of the tier 1 brands in the market today. They realized they could create a brand for themselves and save the end customer the middleman fees. Two years ago they launched Galaxy in the US and their products are now available at Best Buy, Microcenter, Fry’s, Dell.com, Newegg, TigerDirect and many other sites. They have excellent quality and toll-free tech support with a 2 year transferable no-registration warranty.
As a total package, the new GTX 560 Ti looks (and sounds) great! It looks and feels solid. Let’s show you the results of our one week hand’s on test drive, shall we? We will put it to the test in 29 PC games and in three synthetic tests. But first, head to the next page to check out our test bed configuration.