by Sergey Lepilov
12/27/2011 | 06:28 AM
It’s no secret that Nvidia’s new graphics card GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores uses the same GF110 GPUs as the top-end products GeForce GTX 580 and GTX 570. In other words, the GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores seems to be closer in its design to the GTX 570 than to the GTX 560 Ti. It fits snugly into the previously unoccupied price niche between these two products which come at $349 and $249, respectively. It features in-between specs as well:
The only question is for how long will this graphics card be produced? It is labeled “Limited Edition” even at Nvidia’s official website. We suspect it is meant to close the gap between the two neighboring products until the upcoming announcement of the next wave of Nvidia’s solutions. But whatever market life lies ahead of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores, we are curious about its performance. We'll benchmark two products from Palit and MSI to check this out.
Palit’s new GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores comes in a large cardboard box with a Battlefield 3 picture on its front.
However, the game itself is not included into the box as is explained in the small print. In other words, the Battlefield 3 picture and title are just a marketing trick. The product's accessories are scanty including but a single DVI->D-Sub adapter, a power cable (one 6-pin-> two PATA connectors), a CD with drivers and an installation guide.
The card is manufactured in China and costs about $280 in retail shops.
The Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores looks attractive with its cooler’s stylish plastic casing that borrows some elements from Battlefield 3, too. The reverse side of the PCB is open.
The card measures 228 x 112 x 45 millimeters. It weighs no more than 1 kilo. A gorgeous selection of connectors is offered: two dual-link DVI ports, one HDMI version 1.4a and one DisplayPort.
There is also a vent grid in the card’s mounting bracket. On its PCB, there are two 6-pin power connectors and two MIO connectors for building 2- and 3-way multi-GPU configurations.
The Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is declared to have a peak power draw of 219 watts which equals that of the reference GeForce GTX 570. According to Nvidia’s specs, the power draw of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores should be no higher than 210 watts. One may infer that Palit's version has pre-overclocked frequencies, yet this is not the case.
Having unfastened the cooler’s screws, we can take a closer look at the PCB:
The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is closer to the GTX 560 Ti rather than to the GTX 570 in its PCB design. The PCB is shorter and simpler, at least in Palit’s implementation, than the GTX 570's. The power system follows the 4+1 formula with 4 phases for the GPU and 1 phase for the graphics memory.
The 40nm GF110 revision A1 chip was manufactured in Taiwan on the 52nd week of 2010 (end of December).
You could view a table with comparative specs in the Introduction to this review, but I want to remind you that the GPU of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores has, as its name suggests, 448 unified shader processors as well as 56 texture-mapping units and 40 raster operators. The GPU clock rate is 732/1464 MHz in 3D applications. In 2D mode it is reduced to 51/101 MHz.
There are ten FCFBGA-packaged chips of GDDR5 memory from Samsung on the face side of the PCB. The total amount is 1280 megabytes. The chips are labeled K4G10325FG-HC04.
The rated access time is 0.4 nanoseconds, which corresponds to a clock rate of 5000 MHz. However, the Palit card clocks its memory at 3800 MHz, in full compliance with Nvidia's official specs. This gives us some hope for good overclocking. The memory voltage is 1.5 volts; the bus is 320 bits wide; the clock rate in 2D applications is 270 MHz.
Thus, the Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is identical to the reference card in its specs:
What is original about the Palit version is its cooling system. It consists of a copper base, copper heat pipes, an aluminum heatsink, and a metallic plate with thermal pads.
There are four heat pipes, each with a diameter of 6 millimeters, piercing the dual-section heatsink.
The main section is right above the GPU whereas the additional one is at the back of the card. The pipes are soldered to the heatsink in points of contact. There is a layer of thick gray thermal grease between the cooler’s base and the GPU.
The whole arrangement is cooled by two 80mm fans hanging in the plastic frame:
The fans are made by an obscure firm Apistek and labeled as GA82S2U.
I couldn’t find any specs other than what is written on the fans themselves. According to my monitoring tools, their rotation speed varied from 1000 to 3000 RPM.
I checked out the card’s temperature while running Aliens vs. Predator (2010) in five cycles at the highest settings (1920x1080, with 16x anisotropic filtering, no full-screen antialiasing). I used MSI Afterburner 2.2.0 Beta 9 and GPU-Z 0.5.6 as monitoring tools. This test was carried out with a closed system case at an ambient temperature of 25°C. I didn’t replace the card's default thermal interface material.
Let’s see how efficient the Palit’s cooler is with its fans being regulated automatically:
Well, the result is good. The peak GPU temperature is only 71°C at a fan speed of 2610 RPM. The cooler is efficient, yet the fans are audible in an otherwise quiet system case at such a high speed.
Checking out the overclocking potential of the new Palit card, I found the latter to be stable at 820/1640/4560 MHz.
This overclocking performance is far from extraordinary but I didn't try to increase the GPU voltage. The GPU temperature only grew by 3°C, reaching 74°C, when the card was overclocked. The fan speed increased by a mere 150 RPM.
Now we can move on to the second graphics card.
The picture on the MSI N560GTX 448 Twin Frozr III Power Edition OC box shows the graphics card flying somewhere in the infinite vistas of the universe.
The number of shader processors is indicated right in the product name, so you can’t confuse it with its predecessor. On the back of the box you can find product specs, descriptions of the card's key features and a list of accessories included with it.
The card is manufactured in China and costs $309, which is $20 higher than Nvidia’s recommended price for GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores.
Let’s take a look at the new card:
The MSI N560GTX 448 Twin Frozr III Power Edition OC resembles the recently reviewed N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition but is shorter (243 as opposed to 293 millimeters).
The new card is equipped with a couple of dual-link DVI-I outputs and one mini-HDMI connector. There is an MSI-style vent grid in the card's mounting bracket.
The MSI card is no different from the reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti and the above-discussed Palit in terms of power and MIO connectors.
The PCB is of unique MSI's proprietary design:
Like high-end products from MSI, the PCB of the N560 GTX 448 Twin Frozr III Power Edition OC is classified as Military Class II. It uses high-quality components with increased service life, tantalum-core capacitors and Super Ferrite Chokes.
MSI claims that the 6+1 power system, together with the improved PCB design, boosts overclocking potential by 29%.
The card supports Triple Overvoltage technology that helps adjust GPU, memory and PLL voltages by means of the MSI Afterburner tool.
The GPU was manufactured on the 48th week of 2010.
The GPU frequency is 750/1500 MHz in 3D applications, which is a mere 2.5% higher than that of the Palit card or the reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores. There are no other differences in terms of GPU specs.
The MSI card comes with the same memory chips (Samsung K4G10325FG-HC04) as the Palit.
The memory frequency is pre-overclocked by 2.6% to 3900 MHz. Here are the full specs of the MSI N560GTX 448 Twin Frozr III Power Edition OC:
Let’s take a look at the card’s cooler:
This is the well-known Twin Frozr III design with five heat pipes, three of which are 6 millimeters in diameter. The two outermost pipes are 8 millimeters (this is referred to as SuperPipe technology). Slim aluminum fins are soldered to the pipes and cooled with two 80mm fans.
The nickel-plated pipes and heatsink look splendid. There is a metal plate with thermal pads on the power system components:
The fans are made by Power Logic Tech Inc. (it’s the PLD08010S12HH model with sleeve bearing).
MSI suggests that the originally shaped impeller blades help the fan generate a 20% stronger air flow compared to fans of the classic design. The cooler is expected to produce no more than 30 dBA of noise at the maximum speed of the fans.
I tested the Twin Frozr III under the same conditions as the Palit’s cooler and it proved to be very efficient, keeping the GPU temperature as low as 64°C.
This is 7°C lower than the maximum GPU temperature of the Palit despite the MSI card having slightly pre-overclocked frequencies. The fans were rotating at 3120 RPM but seemed to be quieter than the fans of the Palit's cooler at 2620 RPM.
The MSI card is comparable to the Palit in terms of overclocking potential, notching 825/1650/4500 MHz.
There's nothing exceptional about this result. This must be due to the fact that the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores employs GF110 chips which have not met the frequency requirements of the more advanced graphics card models.
The MSI didn't get much hotter when overclocked. Its GPU temperature was 66°C at a fan speed of 3210 RPM.
So, the Twin Frozr III cooler proved to be highly efficient.
All graphics cards were benchmarked in a closed system case with the following configuration:
Besides the two above discussed new products, we also included three graphics cards on Nvidia GPUs: MSI N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition, Gainward GeForce GTX 570 and MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC, which frequencies were adjusted to match the reference ones.
We also included two graphics cards on AMD GPUs represented by Sapphire products: Radeon HD 6970 DualFan and Radeon HD 6950 Toxic Edition.
In our opinion, adding these five graphics accelerators will allow us not only to perform fully fledged performance analysis for the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores cars, but also draw some end-of-year conclusions about the graphics cards performance in the $250+ price segment.
In order to lower the dependence of the graphics cards performance on the overall platform speed, I overclocked our 32 nm six-core CPU with the multiplier set at 25x and “Load-Line Calibration” (Level 2) enabled to 4.5 GHz. The processor Vcore was increased to 1.46875 V in the mainboard BIOS:
The 6 GB of system DDR3 memory worked at 1.44 GHz frequency with 7-7-7-16_1T timings and 1.5V voltage. Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading technologies were disabled during our test session.
The test session started on December 12, 2011. All tests were performed in Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 with all critical updates as of that date and the following drivers:
The graphics cards were tested in one today’s most popular resolution - 1920x1080. The tests were performed in two image quality modes: “Quality+AF16x” – default texturing quality in the drivers with enabled 16x anisotropic filtering and “Quality+ AF16x+MSAA4(8)x” with enabled 16x anisotropic filtering and full screen 4x anti-aliasing (MSAA) or 8x if the average framerate was high enough for comfortable gaming experience. We enabled anisotropic filtering and full-screen anti-aliasing from the game settings or configuration files. If the corresponding options were missing, we changed these settings in the Control Panels of Catalyst and GeForce drivers. There were no other changes in the driver settings.
The list of games and applications used in this test session includes two popular semi-synthetic benchmarking suites, one technical demo and 14 games of various genres:
If the game allowed recording the minimal fps readings, they were also added to the charts. We ran each game test or benchmark twice and took the best result for the diagrams, but only if the difference between them didn’t exceed 1%. If it did exceed 1%, we ran the tests at least one more time to achieve repeatability of results.
The graphics cards are grouped by the GPU maker in the diagrams: Nvidia and AMD. They are sorted in the descending order of their recommended price within each group. The MSI N560GTX 448 Twin Frozr III Power Edition OC was additionally benchmarked at the overclocked frequencies (its results are colored dark-turquoise).
Let’s take a closer look at the obtained results now.
The 3DMark Vantage results are quite a surprise. First of all, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores enjoys a hefty 15% advantage over the ordinary GTX 560 Ti. Second, it is as close to the more expensive GTX 570 as 5% or less, undermining the GTX 570's market position. Third, the overclocked MSI beats the GeForce GTX 570 and Radeon HD 6970 and comes close to the expensive GeForce GTX 580 3GB. The latter might be overtaken as well if I had more success overclocking my samples of the Palit and MSI cards. Of course, the rest of the cards can be overclocked, too, but that's a different story.
Looking at the results of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores and Radeon HD 6950, one may wonder what might be the purpose of AMD’s new Radeon HD 6930. Well, let’s check out the other tests before we jump to any conclusions.
It’s hardly any different from 3DMark Vantage. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores enjoys a larger advantage over the GTX 560 Ti here. It amounts to 20% now. The gap from the GTX 570 is no wider than 5% again. The overclocked MSI takes second place, but the GTX 580 feels more confident in its top position than in the previous test.
The resource-consuming tech demo Unigine Heaven agrees with both versions of 3DMark. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is faster than the ordinary GTX 560 Ti by 20% in the lower-quality mode and by 24% in the FSAA mode. The gap from the GTX 570 shrinks to 3.4% and 2%, respectively.
By the way, Nvidia-based solutions look better in this test than their AMD counterparts although Unigine Heaven used to prefer AMD-based solutions at first. Unigine patches and driver updates have changed the situation.
It is in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat that the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores enjoys the highest advantage over the GTX 560 Ti in this entire test session: 33% in the lower-quality mode and 26% in the FSAA mode. The gap from the GTX 570 is still no wider than 5% whereas the Radeon HD 6950 falls behind the revised GTX 560 Ti. When overclocked, the MSI card is superior to the Radeon HD 6970 and slightly slower than the flagship GTX 580.
We’ve got the same standings as in the previous tests. The new card is 13-16% ahead of the GTX 560 Ti.
Metro 2033: The Last Refuge has nothing new to tell us. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is again much faster than the GTX 560 Ti and somewhat slower than the GTX 570.
Except for the excellent performance of both Radeon HD 69xx cards, we don’t see anything new here. Well, one fact is worth mentioning: the overclocked MSI is 1 fps ahead of the GTX 580 in the lower-quality test mode!
The same goes for Aliens vs. Predator (2010). It looks like the GTX 570 is about to retire if there’s enough GF110 chips suitable to produce the GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores in mass quantities.
The green team has the same standings as before while the reds have fallen behind. The Lost Planet 2 engine prefers Nvidia GPUs. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is good again, beating the regular GTX 560 Ti and getting very close to the more expensive GTX 570.
The only exception of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty from the previous tests is that the Radeon HD 69xx cards slow down too much when FSAA is enabled. We've seen this ever since the game entered our toolkit, though. The situation hasn’t changed even after a few updates of the AMD Catalyst driver.
The Radeon HD 69xx cards feel okay in this real-time strategy. The new GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is 15-17% ahead of the regular GTX 560 Ti and 5-7% behind the GTX 570.
Although the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is 12-13% ahead of the regular GTX 560 Ti, just like in the other tests, it is as close as 2% to the more expensive GTX 570 here. The overclocked MSI is even close to beating the GTX 580 3GB!
Like in Lost Planet 2, both Radeon HD 69xx cards are losers in this game.
The Caymans strike back in the resource-consuming Total War: Shogun 2. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores performs exactly as in the previous tests, though.
We can see the same gaps between the regular GTX 560 Ti and the MSI on one side and between the latter’s default and overclocked versions, on the other side. The MSI N560GTX 448 Twin Frozr III Power Edition OC beats the GTX 570 at the default frequencies and gets close to the GTX 580 when overclocked.
World of Planes is the only game where the GTX 570 is more than 10% ahead of the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores. The latter, in its turn, is 8-10% ahead of the GTX 560 Ti.
The results suggest that most of the tested graphics cards are limited by the performance of the CPU and platform at large in the lower-quality test mode (we're going to upgrade our testbed dramatically for our next review, by the way). With 4x MSAA turned on, the graphics cards differ, yet have the same standings as in the previous tests.
This test doesn’t have anything new to tell us, either.
The first summary diagram shows how faster the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores (from Palit) is in comparison with the regular GeForce GTX 560 Ti (from MSI). Both cards work at their default frequencies.
So, the average advantage of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores 1.28GB over the GTX 560 Ti 1GB is 14.9% in the FSAA-less mode and 15.6% in the FSAA mode. The largest gap can be observed in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat; the smallest gap is in Total War: Shogun 2.
The next summary diagram compares the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores 1.28GB with the more expensive GeForce GTX 570 1.28GB:
The largest gap can be seen in World of Planes and in the lower-quality mode of Just Cause 2. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores gets closer to the GeForce GTX 570 in Left 4 Dead 2 and Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2. The new card is slower by an average 4.8 and 4.9% in the FSAA-less and FSAA mode, respectively. Considering the standings we can see in these two summary diagrams, the new card might as well be called something like GeForce GTX 568 Ti instead of the long and awkward "GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores".
Let’s see what changes if the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is overclocked while the GeForce GTX 570 is left at its default clock rates:
The new card wins everywhere! Even though the MSI sample did nothing exceptional at overclocking, it beats the GTX 570.
Finally, let’s compare the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores with the Radeon HD 6950 which currently has the same recommended price of $289.
The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores wins more tests than its rival. The Radeon HD 6950 is only ahead in Just Cause 2 and in one test mode of Civilization V and World of Planes. The other tests end in a tie or are won by the new Nvidia-based solution. The gap is especially large in such games as Lost Planet 2, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2.
Here is a table with full test results for your reference:
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores is not just a slightly improved GTX 560 Ti but a much better card, closer to the GTX 570. It is an average 15% faster than the GTX 560 Ti and no more than 5% slower than the more expensive GTX 570. Being roughly halfway between the two other products in terms of recommended price ($249->$289->$349), the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores seems to offer a very attractive price/performance ratio. It’s unclear how AMD is going to compete with it using the Radeon HD 6930. It would be better to reduce the price of the current HD 6950, without confusing the user with too many graphics card models. AMD’s marketing department knows better, though.
The two graphics cards I’ve tested in this review – Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores and MSI N560GTX 448 Twin Frozr III Power Edition OC – are very similar to each other. Each features an original and efficient cooler with two fans. They have the same number and type of video outputs and are bundled with similar accessories. They even reached similar frequencies in the overclocking test. They are close in performance too, notwithstanding the higher default frequencies of the MSI card. Both are quiet in 2D applications, but MSI's Twin Frozr III cooler seems to be somewhat quieter in 3D mode than the Palit's cooler. The MSI can also boast high-quality components, improved PCB design, and increased frequencies but the Palit is slightly cheaper. So, you can choose flexibly what you need.