Hunter Squad: Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti Overclocked Roundup

According to Nvidia’s classification, GeForce GTX 560 Ti is a “hunter”. Today we are going to meet an entire squad of hunters from different manufacturers: EVGA, MSI, Palit and Zotac. Which one is going to be the best?

by Alexey Stepin , Yaroslav Lyssenko
04/18/2011 | 12:10 PM

As you may have learned from our earlier reviews, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 560 Ti is quite deservedly considered one of the best graphics cards (or even simply the best one) in the $250 price category. Officially priced at $249, it hasn’t really met with worthy opponents up till now. The comparably priced Radeon HD 6870 was slower whereas the Radeon HD 6950 delivered the same performance in 3D applications as the GTX 560 Ti but cost $299. The recent developments have changed the market situation, though. AMD now offers a cheaper version of Radeon HD 6950 with 1 gigabyte of onboard graphics memory (instead of 2 gigabytes as in the original version) for a recommended $259 and, according to our tests, it beats the GeForce GTX 560 Ti by 8 to 30%, depending on the particular game and resolution.

 

However, Nvidia has some elbowroom for maneuvering thanks to the high frequency potential of the GF114 chip. A regular GeForce GTX 560 Ti clocks its GPU at 823 MHz, the shader domain having a clock rate of 1654 MHz at that. And there is no reason for us to think that this is the frequency ceiling for the GeForce GTX 560 Ti card. Indeed, not only our readers who’d like to see this card tested at overclocked frequencies but also graphics card makers who have released a number of pre-overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti’s will not agree to such limitations.

Nvidia classifies its GeForce GTX 560 Ti as Hunter and it’s the company’s main weapon in its market wars with AMD, so we've collected a hunting squad to benchmark a few GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards in overclocked mode. The particular products to be tested are listed below:

So we are going to see which of these hunters offers the best combination of consumer properties as well as the highest overclocking potential. Instead of trying to find a single overall winner, we will try to focus on revealing the highs and lows of each particular product. Let’s take a closer look at each of them now.

Testing Participants

EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti Superclocked

First goes the GeForce GTX 560 Ti Superclocked card from EVGA. It is shipped in a rather small box.

EVGA is not into artistic experiments when it comes to product packaging design. So, like the rest of the company’s products, this one is packed into a box designed in a restrained and even rather elitist way. The yellow color denotes a GF114-based product while the SC sticker informs us that this is a pre-overclocked graphics card. As usual, there is a small window in the back of the box for you to be able to see the card's PCB with serial number.

Inside the box there is a cardboard tray with cover. That's not as good protection as polyurethane foam, but anyway. The card is additionally fixed in place with a foam-rubber bar. It comes with the following set of accessories:

The poster looks rather gloomy, depicting a Terminator or something. Young gamers are going to like it. If you hang it on the outside of your room door, it may demoralize your old-fashioned parents quite effectively.

The accessories are up to the price category of GeForce GTX 560 Ti. There is everything you want to use the card normally. As for free games, graphics card makers don't usually include them with their products nowadays.

EVGA does not design custom PCBs for its graphics cards, which may be an indication of insufficient R&D resources. Whatever the reason, the EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti SC is a copy of Nvidia's reference sample.

The single difference we can see is the EVGA sticker on the cooler casing. We won’t take the device apart to examine it closely because we studied and described the reference PCB in detail in our very first GeForce GTX 560 Ti review.

The card is rather long. It also has power connectors at its shorter edge, so you may have problems installing it into a small system case. The GPU voltage regulator has four phases which is quite enough to power a GF114 chip even when it’s working at an overclocked frequency.

NCP5388 and RT8101 chips are used as power system controllers.

The GeForce GTX 560 Ti is usually equipped with Samsung Semiconductor's memory which is rated for 1250 (5000) MHz but works at a much lower clock rate. The memory frequency of the reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti is 1002 (4008) MHz but the EVGA card clocks its memory at 1053 (4212) MHz.

The GPU incorporates 384 ALUs, 64 texture-mapping units, and 32 raster operators. The GPU frequency is pre-overclocked from the reference card’s 823/1645 MHz to 900/1800 MHz. The card lowers the GPU clock rate to 405/810 MHz when decoding HD video and to 51/101 MHz in 2D applications to save power.

The standard connectivity options offered by a GeForce GTX 560 Ti include a couple of DVI-I ports, a mini-HDMI and a MIO connector for building SLI configurations. You have to join two such cards in SLI mode in order to use more than two monitors simultaneously.

As opposed to top-end GeForce series products, the GTX 560 Ti model does not have an evaporation chamber although the latter proved its efficiency in cooling GeForce GTX 580s and 570s.

Instead, Nvidia’s reference cooler for this graphics card features as many as three heatsinks. The central round heatsink resembles Intel's boxed coolers and has dual fins. Its copper base is connected to the additional circular heatsinks by means of heat pipes. The cooler’s aluminum base also serves as a heat-spreader for the memory chips and power circuit components. This solution is quite effective but we are yet to see how it will cope with an overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti.

MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC

This product comes to market in the same box as the MSI R6870 Hawk we tested in an earlier review. It is painted mild violet colors.

The picture on the box shows the graphics card itself, putting the “Twin Frozr II” caption into the foreground. Of course, we see a number of marketing claims and slogans here. The manufacturer says the graphics card uses military-grade components and its GPU temperature is reduced by 20°C compared to the reference sample. The front flap can be opened to reveal a window through which you can see the graphics card. This also makes the place for the marketing slogans much larger. :)

There is a foam-rubber tray inside the box. The graphics card lies in one compartment of the tray while its accessories in the other:

The accessories are going to be sufficient for most users. If you are into overclocking, you may like that the manufacturer includes a copy of the 3DMark 11 benchmarking suite with this product.

The N560GTX-Ti resembles the R6870 Hawk but its fans are obviously different, their blades being shaped in a more conventional way.

The graphics card being so unmistakably targeted at enthusiasts, MSI just couldn’t use Nvidia’s reference design for its N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II. We can see that when the cooler is removed:

The PCB bears but a general resemblance to the reference one. Despite the rather modest power requirements of the GF114 chip, the GPU voltage regulator has been reinforced with two additional phases for a total of six phases. Like other MSI products of this class, the card features high-quality components, e.g. ferrite-core chokes which are not prone to produce high-frequency noise at high loads.

It is a uP6213 controller from uPI Semiconductor that manages the power circuit here. The memory voltage regulator is based on a uPI uP6101 chip which should be familiar to anyone who has ever tried to do any volt-modding with graphics cards. The PCB design provides for V-Check control points but the appropriate connectors are not soldered to the PCB. Like the reference sample from Nvidia, the card has two 6-pin PCI Express 1.0 power connectors.

There is a total of 1 gigabyte of GDDR5 memory on board this graphics card. These K4G10325FE-HC04 chips from Samsung Semiconductor have a capacity of 1 gigabit each (32 Mb x 32) and a rated frequency of 1250 (5000) MHz but their actual clock rate is 1050 (4200) MHz here, which is somewhat higher than the memory frequency of the reference card and leaves quite a lot of elbowroom for overclocking.

The markings on the GPU are implemented in a different way than before. It seems to be laser engraving. As a result, it is rather difficult to see the numbers and letters in the photograph. The information about the GPU model and revision is written in the old way, though, so you can see it clearly. So, we know that this GF114 chip was manufactured on the 51st week of 2010. It has the standard configuration with 384 shader processors, 64 texture-mapping units, and 32 raster operators. The clock rates are somewhat increased from the reference card’s 823/1645 MHz to 880/1760 MHz. There is no point in benchmarking this graphics card at its default frequencies, so we will try to overclock our N560GTX-Ti as hard as we can, like the rest of the cards in this review.

There is a cutout shaped like the company’s logo in the mounting bracket of the N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II but the selection of connectors is perfectly standard: two DVI-I ports and a mini-HDMI. More than two monitors are supported simultaneously in SLI mode only; there is a MIO connector to build SLI configurations. These are in fact the standard connectivity options for all midrange Nvidia-based products.

The Twin Frozr II cooling system is somewhat simpler than version III which cools the R6870 Hawk, yet it is still a rather impressive contraption with four heat pipes, a massive heatsink and a couple of 80mm fans.

We do not doubt the efficiency of this cooler. It is cleverly designed and properly assembled, but when you install an N560GTX-Ti into your computer, you must make sure that no expansion card blocks its cooling fans.

Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic

Next goes Palit’s GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic. This card is shipped in a rather small box whose design is already familiar to us from our Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum review. The color scheme is somewhat milder here:

The box looks quite attractive but not very informative, which is typical of today's hardware components. The only information you can find here is the type and amount of onboard graphics memory.

There is a plain cardboard box inside which can hardly be much of protection. The graphics card is accompanied with the following accessories:

This is the scantiest set of accessories in this review but it is hard to find fault with that. At the current moment, each more or less modern computer has at least one 6-pin power connector while today's monitors are most often attached via DVI-D. After all, it comes down to your not having to pay for accessory items you will never need.

This graphics card is cheaper than the previous “hunter” and will easily fit into almost any system case. You only have to make sure that its cooling fans are not blocked by anything.

It is hard to say anything about the design of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic without removing its cooler, so we did just that:

The owner of the Gainward trademark, Palit Microsystems is one of the companies that can afford to develop a rather complex PCB from scratch. Indeed, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic features a unique design that has nothing in common with Nvidia's reference sample. The GPU power circuit seems to have five phases but the fifth phase is actually a memory voltage regulator.

The main four-phase voltage regulator is managed by a four-channel NCP5395 controller from ON Semiconductor whereas an RT8108 chip from Richtek Technology is responsible for memory power supply. Like the other graphics cards in this review, the Palit is powered via two 6-pin PCIe 1.0 power connectors.

Like the rest of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards that we have, this one employs GDDR5 memory from Samsung Semiconductor. The K4G10325FE-HC04 chips have a capacity of 1 gigabit each and make up a graphics memory bank with a total capacity of 1 gigabyte and with a 256-bit bus. The memory frequency in 3D mode is 1050 (4200) MHz, providing a peak memory bandwidth of 134.4 GBps.

It was even harder than with the MSI card to scrape the thermal grease off the GPU of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic and make out its markings. Well, the date of manufacture is not a crucial factor whereas the revision number is legible enough. Besides, we can run our GPU-Z tool to learn that the card’s GPU is overclocked to 900/1800 MHz. This pretty-looking round number promises a nice performance boost compared to Nvidia's reference sample. Like the GPU of any other GeForce GTX 560 Ti, this GPU has 384 ALUs, 64 TMUs and 32 RBEs.

One of the distinguishing features of the Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic is its nonstandard configuration of interfaces. There is even an old-fashioned 15-pin D-Sub connector in its mounting bracket, which explains the lack of a related DVI-I adapter in the box. The full-size HDMI is better than its mini variety because it doesn’t call for an adapter. You should keep it in mind that you cannot connect more than two monitors simultaneously to a single Nvidia card. To enable multi-monitor configurations and panoramic display modes you have to buy another GeForce GTX 560 Ti and connect the two cards in SLI mode.

The cooling system is not as large as MSI’s Twin Frozr II, yet the dual-section heatsink with three heat pipes looks quite promising to us.

A pair of 80mm fans (Power Logic PLA08015S12H) is set to blow at the heatsink. The cooler seems to be capable of cooling an overclocked GF114 and the rest of the card’s components like voltage regulators and others. The only thing that may let this cooler down is the quality of contact between the heat pipes and the heatsink, but we'll check this out later on.

Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti/GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP!

Finally, we’ve got two graphics cards from Zotac which can be called cousins but not twins. They are shipped in same-size compact boxes with different design:

 

The box of the ordinary model is embellished with a picture of Zotac’s traditional liquid-metal creature with blazing eyes whereas the AMP! model’s box is all about Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, even though a copy of that game is included with each of these graphics cards.

There is nothing extraordinary about the packaging. There is a simple cardboard tray inside, with compartments for the graphics card and accessories. The accessories are the same for both models:

Well, the Zotac products turn to be superior to their opponents in terms of accessories. The ordinary version doesn't come with a mini-HDMI->HDMI adapter because it already has a native full-size HDMI port. The game Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is not physically present in the box, but the serial number coupon allows you to download it for free, even though it may not be so easy to do for users with low-speed Internet.

Zotac’s GeForce GTX 560 Ti and GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP! are not identical, yet similar to each other thanks to the cooler casings that both have a characteristic yellow mesh.

 

  

The AMP! model is longer and doesn't use such an exotic fan as its cousin. The component layout differs as well. The ordinary Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti carries the power drivers of the voltage regulator transistors on the reverse side of the PCB and its power connectors are near the top edge of the PCB. The Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP!, on its part, has the GPU power controller on the reverse side of the PCB while the power connectors reside at the shorter edge, which means that you have to add the length of the power connectors on your PSU cables to the length of the graphics card when calculating whether it can fit into your system case.

We removed the cooling systems from both Zotac cards to have a closer look at their design:

Oddly enough, it is the ordinary model (without the AMP! suffix) that has the more advanced GPU power circuit with as many as six power phases whereas the GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP! has only four phases. Moreover, the latter card is based on Nvidia’s reference design which we described in detail in our very first GeForce GTX 560 Ti review. If Zotac’s developers consider Nvidia’s design the best option for overclocking, it is unclear why they have taken the trouble of developing a unique PCB with advanced power circuit for a GeForce GTX 560 Ti that has standard specifications.

 

 

An eight-channel CHL8318 controller from CHiL Semiconductor is used on the Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti to manage the GPU voltage regulator. The memory voltage regulator is based on an uP6161 chip. The Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP! employs an NCP5388 together with an uP6101 controller. Interestingly, the reference card from Nvidia has a Richtek RT8101 instead of the latter.

 

Each of these cards comes with eight memory chips (Samsung K4G10325FE-HC04) for a total of 1 gigabyte of memory accessed across a 256-bit bus. They differ in memory frequency: the ordinary Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti complies with Nvidia's specs and clocks its memory at 1002 (4008) MHz whereas the AMP! version is pre-overclocked to a memory frequency of 1100 (4400) MHz. This is the highest factory overclocking among the graphics cards included into this review and it boosts the memory bandwidth to 140.8 GBps.

 

 

The GPU markings are more readable here than those on the MSI and Palit cards. The GPUs of the Zotac cards were both manufactured on the 51st week of the last year. The GPU configuration is the same for both cards, of course: 384 shader processors, 64 texture-mapping units and 32 raster operators. The clock rates in 3D applications differ: 823/1645 MHz with the ordinary card and 950/1900 MHz with the AMP! version. Like the memory frequency, this is the highest factory overclocking among all the GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards in this review.

 

The two Zotac cards differ in their connectivity options. The junior model gives you somewhat more flexibility as it adds a DisplayPort to the conventional selection of two DVI-I ports and a full-size HDMI connector. The AMP! model provides two DVI-I ports and one mini-HDMI as is typical of the reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti. You can connect two monitors simultaneously to either of these cards. They support Nvidia SLI technology.

The cooling system of the AMP! version differs from the reference sample in its cooler casing but below it we can see a familiar cooling system with two circular heatsinks connected with three heat pipes.

 

The Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti, on its part, employs a similar cooler but its additional heatsink sections are smaller. There are only two heat pipes here and the fan's blades are shaped in an original way. Nvidia’s reference cooler seems to be more effective due to the larger heatsink surface. We will check this out right now.

Temperature, Noise, Overclockability

Two out of the five GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards included into this comparative review are equipped with a reference cooler whereas the other three sport original coolers from MSI, Palit and Zotac. We are going to find out which cooler is more effective in practical applications. At an ambient temperature of 24°C we’ve got the following results for 2D and 3D modes:

As you can see, the reference cooler on board the EVGA card is far from impressive. It is about as effective as the reference card's cooler in 3D applications. The Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP! is close to a failure in this test although we must make allowances for the factory overclocking. The Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic cannot impress us, either, notwithstanding its two 80mm fans. It seems to be let down by its heatsink which has a small surface area. So, it is the ordinary Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti and the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC that deliver the best results. The former card works at the standard frequencies whereas the MSI is pre-overclocked, so it is the MSI card that seems to have the most efficient cooler. With the Twin Frozr II you shouldn’t be wary of overheating when doing some daring overclocking experiments.

Now, let’s see how noisy these graphics cards are. At an ambient noise level of 38 dBA, they have these acoustic characteristics:

The EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti SC has the lowest noise level among the tested cards in 3D mode. Although it is a couple of decibels noisier than the reference card, we shouldn’t forget about its factory overclocking. The Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic won’t disturb you with its two fans, either. The Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti and the MSI N560GTX-Ti Frozr II/OC are rather quiet, too. The latter has a higher result than the others, but only according to our noise level meter. As a matter of fact, the MSI card is subjectively as quiet as its opponents. The fan management system of Zotac's GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP! is set up very aggressively, making the card audible in 3D mode. This is due to its factory overclocking (the card has the highest default clock rates among the products included into this review) and the increased GPU Voltage (1.142 V). Here is how the fans of the tested cards behave:

It is not surprising that the last “hunter” is so noisy in 3D mode. So, if you are looking for a fast but quiet GeForce GTX 560 Ti, you may want to consider the products from EVGA or Palit, yet the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC seems to be the overall leader to us in terms of its consumer properties.

Now our hunting squad has reached the most difficult trial. Let's see how they perform in terms of overclocking.


EVGA

MSI

Palit

Zotac

Well, the advanced hunting outfit of the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC shows up in this test, making it the only graphics card to overcome 1 GHz in terms of the main domain frequency at a voltage of 1.075 volts. The shader domain frequency is 2.1 GHz, which is a record-breaking number. We also hoped to reach the rated frequency for the memory chips but the best result was only 1210 (4840) MHz. This is good enough, though. Nvidia’s solutions are not very compatible with high-speed GDDR5 even if they have a 256-bit bus with simpler wiring than the 384 and 320-bit buses of top-end GeForce GTX 580s and 570s.

Second place goes to the EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti SC which boasts GPU clock rates of 975/1950 MHz at a voltage of 1.050 volts. Its memory frequency could only be overclocked to 1200 (4800) MHz, though. The Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic is third with GPU clock rates of 950/1900 MHz and a memory frequency of 1100 (4400) MHz. This result is achieved at a GPU voltage of 1.050 volts, too.

The Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti could not reach 950/1900 MHz in terms of GPU frequency at the same GPU voltage as the two abovementioned products. On the other hand, it has the best memory overclocking result, 1225 (4900) MHz, which is just a little lower than the desired 5 GHz. Its elder cousin Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP! refused to overclock altogether, losing stability as soon as we tried to increase its clock rates. Perhaps we’ve been unlucky with our sample because its core has the highest default voltage, as high as 1.142 volts, among all the tested cards. On the other hand, its default GPU frequency is 950 (1900) MHz. The Palit card could only reach that level through overclocking. Recalling the high noise level of the Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP! in 3D applications, we have to name it the worst graphics card among all these in terms of such properties as temperature, noise and overclockability.

Now let’s see what the graphics cards can do in gaming benchmarks at the frequencies they have reached in our overclockability test.

Testbed and Methods

We are going to investigate the gaming performance of five overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards using the following universal testbed:

We used the following ATI Catalyst and Nvidia GeForce drivers:

The ATI Catalyst and Nvidia GeForce graphics card drivers were configured in the following way:

ATI Catalyst:

Nvidia GeForce:

Below is the list of games and test applications we used during this test session:

First-Person 3D Shooters

Third-Person 3D Shooters

RPG

Simulators

Strategies

Semi-synthetic and synthetic benchmarks

We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game. If the application supported tessellation, we enabled it for the test session.

For settings adjustment, we used standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. The games configuration files weren’t modified in any way, because the ordinary user doesn’t have to know how to do it. We ran our tests in the following resolutions: 1600x900, 1920x1080 and 2560x1600. Unless stated otherwise, everywhere, where it was possible we added MSAA 4x antialiasing to the standard anisotropic filtering 16x. We enabled antialiasing from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia GeForce drivers.

Besides five GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards discussed above, we also included the following products:

Performance was measured with the games’ own tools and the original demos were recorded if possible. We measured not only the average speed, but also the minimum speed of the cards where possible. Otherwise, the performance was measured manually with Fraps utility version 3.3.2. In the latter case we ran the test three times and took the average of the three for the performance charts.

Performance in First-Person 3D Shooters

Aliens vs. Predator

If overclocked to a main domain frequency of 1 GHz, the GF114 turns to be quite competitive to the graphics card with a GF110 chip, even though the latter has a cut-down configuration. The question is how our overclocking will affect the product’s service life. MSI's card passed our tests without problems but we can't be sure how long it may last under such stress conditions. The rest of the standings depend on the overclocking results. The EVGA takes second place while the Palit and Zotac have a shared third.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

The best overclocking we achieved with our GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards provides a 25% performance boost. This is a rare occasion when overclocking can indeed be very useful in a practical sense. With a GPU clock rate of 1050 MHz, a GTX 560 Ti can outperform a GeForce GTX 570 here. The EVGA, Palit and Zotac AMP! cards match the latter’s performance. Even the ordinary Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti that has the lowest overclocking result delivers impressive performance in comparison with the AMD products.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Overclocking a GeForce GTX 560 Ti is most rewarding in this game, too. The reference model looks rather poor compared to the overclocked cards but the gap between the models that have the highest and lowest overclocking results is smaller here than in the previous games. Overall, our hunting squad leave no chance to their opponents in Black Ops.

Crysis Warhead

At a resolution of 2560x1600 this game is only playable on top-end graphics cards, the memory bandwidth being a crucial factor. That’s why our GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards cannot beat the GeForce GTX 570 despite the overclocked frequencies. On the other hand, this is one of the most difficult tests on our list. And when it comes to the Full HD mode, the overclocked MSI is just as good as the GeForce GTX 570 or Radeon HD 6950. The rest of the 560 Ti cards were not so lucky at overclocking and allow playing this game at 1600x900 or 1280x1024.

Metro 2033

This game is tested with the tessellation option turned on.

Metro 2033 is almost as heavy an application as Crysis Warhead, especially if you enable tessellation. No wonder that a GeForce GTX 560 Ti needs to be overclocked to a GPU clock rate of 1050 MHz to match a GeForce GTX 570 here. And even this overclocking can’t help avoid the occasional slowdowns to 10 fps.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

This game runs with enabled tessellation.

Alas, even our best overclocking efforts cannot help our GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards deliver a playable frame rate at 2560x1600. As for the lower resolutions, it doesn’t make much sense to overclock them since they perform well enough even at the reference frequencies at 1920x1080. So, we can again see that the GF110 and GF114 processors can deliver the same performance if the latter is overclocked to its limit.

Performance in Third-Person 3D Shooters

Just Cause 2

The clock rate that GPU subunits work at is often more important in this game than the number of those subunits. As a result, the overclocked MSI is somewhat faster than the GeForce GTX 570. On the other hand, the resolution of 2560x1600 remains unplayable. And when it comes to the lower resolutions, a GeForce GTX 560 Ti can ensure a comfortable frame rate without any overclocking, even at 1920x1080.

Lost Planet 2

Our GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards find it hard to compete with the GeForce GTX 570 here. Well, they can indeed match the GTX 570 in those display modes where the frame rates are already high enough. But when it comes to the Ultra-HD modes, the bottom speed is too low even if the GPU clock rate of a GeForce GTX 560 Ti is increased to 1/2 GHz. We can only see some benefits from our overclocking in the Full-HD mode.

Performance in RPG

Dragon Age II

Each of our GeForce GTX 560 Ti cards has problems in this game. The GeForce GTX 570, on its part, is not so disappointing, yet its performance is inferior to that of the Radeon HD 6950. The latter is in fact the only graphics card in this review to deliver a comfortable frame rate at 1600x900 with the highest graphics quality settings and FSAA.

Mass Effect 2

We enforced full-screen antialiasing using the method described in our special Mass Effect 2 review.

Like in the other tests, the best speed is delivered by the MSI card but the game doesn’t really call for such heavy overclocking. The reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti is more than enough for comfortable play even in the Ultra HD mode. Of course, it is quite an achievement to beat the GeForce GTX 570, but one of little practical worth.

Performance in Simulators

F1 2010

Our best overclocking provides a 22% performance boost to the GeForce GTX 560 Ti at 2560x1600. This is good, especially as the higher average frame rate may be useful in ensuring your comfort because the reference card produces only 30 fps. There is no point in putting your GeForce GTX 560 Ti under stress conditions at the low resolutions, though. The frame rate is at a playable level without any overclocking there.

Performance in Strategies

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

The MSI card is the only one to deliver a bottom speed of 20 fps and more at 2560x1600. Although its frame rate of 22 fps is not really satisfactory, it does ensure a higher level of comfort than the reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti which can only give you 16 fps. Besides, the overclocked MSI is competitive to the more expensive GeForce GTX 570 across all resolutions and beats the Radeon HD 6950. That’s a nice reward for our overclocking efforts especially as we didn't have to use any extreme overclocking methods like GPU volt-modding or something.

Total War: Shogun 2

This game makes us choose between FSAA and a full set of special effects. We prefer to enable the effects at the expense of FSAA.

This test highlights the benefits you can enjoy by overclocking your GeForce GTX 560 Ti. The reference version of that card can barely keep the frame rate above 20 fps even at 1600x900. There is no reserve of speed at all. However, when the card is overclocked even a little, like our Zotac, the bottom speed grows up to 30 fps, allowing you to play without any slowdowns. Moreover, it is going to be uncomfortable to play the game on a GeForce GTX 560 Ti without overclocking it. The Ultra HD modes should be enjoyed on a higher-class graphics card, though.

Performance in Synthetic and Semi-Synthetic Benchmarks

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

We minimize the CPU’s influence by using the Extreme profile (1920x1200, 4x FSAA and anisotropic filtering). We also publish the results of the individual tests across all resolutions.

Interestingly, the EVGA and MSI cards have almost the same scores in this benchmark. The MSI does not enjoy as large an advantage as it had in the gaming tests. This is true for the overall scores, but the difference is perfectly clear in the individual tests. On the whole, the 3DMark Vantage results agree well with what we’ve seen in the gaming tests above.

Futuremark 3DMark11

We use the Extreme profile here. As opposed to 3DMark Vantage, this profile uses a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.

When overclocked to GPU frequencies of over 1/2 GHz, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti sets a new record of 1,700 points. The more expensive GeForce GTX 570 scores 23 points less, so the MSI card comes out the winner of this test.

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2 Preview Benchmark

This benchmark makes wide use of tessellation to render the surface of the earth. The number of polygons per one frame can be as high as 1.5 million!

The two models of GeForce GTX 560 Ti with highest overclocking results catch up with the GeForce GTX 570 at a resolution of 1600x900 but the MSI remains the only one to compete with the leader at the higher resolutions. We've seen the same picture in many other tests, though.

Unigine Heaven 2.5 Benchmark

We use Normal tessellation in this test.

When overclocked, a GF114 chip has a chance to compete with a GF110 at 1600x900 in this test. Starting from 1920x1080, the overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti falls behind in terms of bottom speed, though. And it has no chance at all at 2560x1600 even if its GPU is overclocked to 1 GHz. This is the natural result of the difference in active GPU subunits: 15 tessellation units and 480 ALUs in the GeForce GTX 570 against 8 tessellation units and 384 ALUs in the GeForce GTX 560 Ti.

Conclusion

The five “hunters” have successfully passed our trials and reached the finish. What have we learned from this test session? We knew the GF114 to be a very capable chip, yet the average performance increase of 20-25% is quite a surprise. We do not often enjoy such benefits from overclocking. Of course, the conditions were rather harsh: the GPU had to be overclocked to 1 GHz. We don’t think that many samples of GeForce GTX 560 Ti can achieve such a high clock rate, even though the GF114 chip itself has rather high overclocking potential.

Anyway, if you are lucky enough, your overclocking can lead to this performance:

Of course, the Radeon HD 6950 has no chance against such a heavily overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti. Most impressively, the latter even competes with the GeForce GTX 570, a product from a higher category.

Overclocking is lottery, yet you can increase your chances of winning by getting as much information about graphics cards as you can. Talking about the samples we’ve tested, the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC is an unrivalled winner. It is a well-made and high-quality product which could overcome the 1GHz barrier without our using extreme overclocking tools or methods. Even though not very quiet, its effective cooler Twin Frozr II facilitates overclocking. We can see no reason why we shouldn't award the MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC with our Editor's Choice.


MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC

The EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti SC may be interesting for conservative enthusiasts who are not into newfangled technologies. Being a copy of Nvidia’s reference card, it turned out to have high overclocking potential. It is also quiet, even though not very cold. EVGA's reliable warranty makes it even more appealing. The EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti SC is perhaps the best choice in terms of reliability.

The Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic is rather ambiguous. Its good GPU frequency growth was spoiled by its poor memory overclocking results whereas its impressive-looking cooler turned out to be but slightly better than Nvidia's reference one. The advantages of this product are its low noise and compact size. You can install it into any system case.

The same goes for the Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti. It is a compact graphics card with a quiet and efficient cooler. Its rather modest GPU frequency increase is made up for by its best result in terms of memory overclocking. Other samples of this card may even be better in terms of GPU overclocking. So, like the Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic, this card is surely a Recommended Buy.


Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti Sonic and Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti

The Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMP! is rather a disappointment of this review. Yes, this GeForce GTX 560 Ti comes overclocked right out of the box, so you don’t have to do anything to speed the card up. However, its cooling system has an aggressive setup and, consequently, produces a lot of noise in 3D mode. This card also has the highest GPU voltage among all the products included into this review, which contributes to its high heat dissipation. Our sample of this card refused to overclock above its default clock rates although the similarly designed EVGA could achieve a higher clock rate at a lower GPU voltage and at a more comfortable level of noise. Thus, this product can be interesting for people who do not want to bother about manual overclocking and who don’t mind high noise, for example because they prefer to wear headphones when playing video games.

So, here are our preferences regarding these pre-overclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards, starting with the best:

We hope this roundup will help you make an informed shopping choice.