The year 2011 has seen Nvidia and AMD trade blows thick and fast, in the form of multiple graphics card releases at different price segments. While the budget and high-end segments certainly have new products on offer, the prime ground (and mindshare) to occupy is the mainstream space - the one that most early-adopter gamers buy into.
With the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, Nvidia has a juicy product that is sufficiently powerful to run games with full visual effects enabled at pretty decent screen resolutions, yet is affordable at the upper-midrange price spectrum. It offers a reasonable performance upgrade over the older GeForce GTX 460, and gives AMD's top-end single-GPU graphics card a fair run for its money, which is great for Nvidia fans.
The resurrection of the "Ti" suffix (last seen in GeForce 4000 series), along with the "GTX" prefix is seemingly meant to indicate the positioning of this GPU. But this added layer onto the naming pattern also ensures Nvidia gets enough leeway to confuse those who do not fully know their way around the current GeForce naming pattern.
The GPU of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, codenamed GF114, is a so-called second generation Fermi GPU (the GeForce 400 series was the first). It claims better temperatures and output per shader, besides higher clock speeds. This graphics card from Zotac has 1GB of GDDR5 video memory clocked at 1002 MHz and a GPU core clocked at 822 MHz. It has a 256-bit memory interface and 384 unified shaders that support DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.1, OpenCL and CUDA/PhysX.
For more first-hand information, a GPU-Z screenshot above shows the GPU's specs in detail.
Zotac has used a color scheme of black sheath and dark-yellow grills on this card's cooler, in keeping with its brand logo. The fan feels plasticky, but that is to keep it light enough to do the job well. Beneath the fan, there is a large chunk of metal (heatsink) and even two cooling pipes. This card utilizes a dual-slot cooler and stays within manageable temperature limits.
As with any current graphics card, the cooler is geared to exhaust heat through the heat vent/grill at the back (positioned alongside the display outputs). Of course, the fact that the cooler is not closed on the inside-facing surface means a bit of heat may escape occasionally, so having at least a midsized ATX cabinet would be a good thing.
Particularly nice, is the fact that the Zotac card is as short as any other mainstream one, and thus will fit into smaller desktop PC cabinets without causing a space crunch.
Make sure to use a good power supply, to feed this card's two 6-pin PCI-E power input slots.
Display outputs at the rear consisted of the standard formula - one port each of HDMI and DisplayPort, and two DVI ports.
We are glad that Zotac cared to keep the DisplayPort output, since that will allow you to connect a third monitor.
The Zotac GeForce GTX560 Ti graphics card's package contents included one DVI-to-VGA port adapter, two 6-pin PCI-E power input connectors (each connecting to two 4-pin molex connectors), a quick installation guide, and a user manual. The mandatory CD offered the Nvidia ForceWare drivers, manual, and an application called FireStorm, besides a software bundle that was called "Zotac Boost Premium". This bundle is claimed to offer apps to enhance (vReveal), edit (Nero Vision Extra), experience (Cool Iris), entertain (XBMC) and enjoy (Kylo) your multimedia content.
To eliminate bottle-necks to the extent possible, the test-bed consisted of an Intel Core i7 965 processor, Intel DX58SO motherboard, Intel X25-M 80GB SSD, 12GB of Silicon Power DDR3 RAM, Tagan BZ-1300W PSU and Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit edition. We used the latest driver for the GeForce GTX 560Ti available at the time of testing - Nvidia ForceWare 266.66. Note that PhysX was enabled wherever supported by the benchmark or game.
The graphs here show performance numbers selected from a wider set of tests conducted. To put the results in context and help you compare, we juxtapose the benchmark scores of the card being tested, against other similar graphics cards. In addition, to enable you to see its price/performance in context, graphics cards positioned one level below and above this one are also included in the graphs.
Below is a graph of how the Zotac GTX560 Ti fared in synthetic benchmarks:
Benchmarks: 3D Mark 2006 (DirectX 9.0c) and 3D Mark Vantage (DirectX 10).
Benchmark: 3D Mark 11 at all presets (to test DirectX 11 performance).
Benchmark: Unigine Heaven 2.1 (DirectX 11) at Full-HD resolution with 7 GPUs in the race.
Below is a graph of gaming performance showing frame-rates, to reflect what you would see in real-world usage patterns:
Benchmark: Crysis and Far Cry 2.
Benchmark: Metro 2033 (DirectX 11) at three different resolutions.
At any chosen resolution (1920x1080 or Full-HD in the case above), averaging 30 fps (frames/second) or higher is a good sign that the game would be fluid on-screen, without choppy play. Across all benchmarks and games, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti consistently trumped the older generation GTX 460. Also, the GTX 560 (mid-range GPU) kept harassing AMD's Radeon 6970 (high-end GPU), sometimes managing to even beat it. In brief, the GTX 560 put on an admirable show.
The cooler on this card may not be a custom-designed high end one, but it did manage to keep the heat down. This was important, because the claimed TDP on the GTX560 is 170W, as against the 150W of the GTX460, an increase of 20 Watts.
Temperature load tested using FurMark.
Notice the 10°C temperature drop at idle, going from the GeForce 460 to the 560. At full blast, the 560 lost its edge to the 460. That is not a problem, considering that the true comparison of the GTX560 has got to be with the GTX570 and Radeon 6970, and the GTX560 wins that contest hands-down, on both idle and full-load counts. Moreover, the Radeon 6850 that ran at about the same temperature, performed a fair bit lower than the GTX560.
Nvidia has made a powerful statement with the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, of exactly the sort desired to foster competition. The performance, market positioning, and price are all of an aggressive tone, a welcome change from the Nvidia that (for a time) resorted to making minimal changes and re-badging old products with new names. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti seems to love going head-to-head against the Radeon 6970, and performs pretty well.
We are happy with the direction of the Zotac GeForce GTX560 Ti, and look forward to driver updates that could improve this GPU's performance further. If you are in the market for an upper-midrange graphics card, or have a budget in the vicinity of Rs. 15,000, go right ahead and purchase this card.