It's time for another big-ticket graphics card launch by NVIDIA, presenting the GeForce GTX 560 review. Hang on, don't confuse this with GeForce GTX 560 Ti
, which is a different, higher-end part, that was released way back in January. Why exactly did NVIDIA think of giving the GeForce 560 Ti a smaller sibling and this "late"? Among other things, it's because of a host of changes that took place in rival AMD's $150 to $250 lineup after the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, changes that took place over a period of time, warranting NVIDIA to respond with the new GeForce GTX 560.
First, as of January, NVIDIA may have had a healthy inventory of GTX 460 to clear, and that SKU was quite competitive at the time following some price cuts that made it a good deal against the Radeon HD 6850. AMD used a two-pronged market strategy against GTX 560 Ti by introducing a cheaper Radeon HD 6950 1 GB graphics card that ended up with high cost-performance ratio; and by slashing prices of HD 6870 and stepping up pressure on lower-end NVIDIA SKUs. Later, AMD introduced HD 6790, a sub-$200 SKU that ended up with higher performance than GTX 550 Ti.
The GTX 560 first surfaced some time last month, though it was always speculated that NVIDIA will milk the GF114 beyond just one SKU (GTX 560 Ti). Hence, the GeForce GTX 560 was born. While the name is bound to create some confusion, NVIDIA only stands to benefit from it. GTX 560 Ti earned the reputation of striking the gamer's sweet-spot, and so the GeForce GTX 560 will be perceived as a good SKU by the lesser-informed buyers.
Based on the same exact GPU as the GTX 560 Ti, the 40 nm GF114, the GTX 560 has 336 of the 384 CUDA cores enabled, the same number as on GTX 460, but leads with clock speeds without disturbing the power draw much, a characteristic of NVIDIA's second-generation Fermi GPUs. On the reference design the core is clocked at a zesty 810 MHz, CUDA cores at 1620 MHz, and memory at 1 GHz. Compare that to 675/1350/900 MHz on the GTX 460. So the GTX 560 is in essence a super overclocked GTX 460.
On the chopping block today is a custom design GeForce GTX 560 non-Ti card, the Palit GTX 560 2 GB, which is an all-out custom design graphics card by the company. It adds an extra gig of graphics memory and comes at the NVIDIA reference design clock speeds.
GeForce GTX 560 Market Segment Analysis
GTX 560 Ti
|Memory Bus Width
You will receive:
- Graphics card
- Driver CD + Documentation
- PCIe Power Cable
Palit is following their typical color scheme with a red PCB and a black high gloss cooler. The fan is a new development and uses more fan blades in an optimized shape to reduce temperatures and noise.
The card requires two slots in your system.
Display connectivity is two DVI ports, one full size HDMI port and one analog VGA output. Due to NVIDIA's display output logic design you are limited to two active displays at any time. AMD GPUs have a more flexible configuration and allow up to six active outputs at the same time.
An HDMI sound device is included in the GPU, too. It is HDMI 1.4a compatible which includes HD audio and support for Blu-ray 3D movies.
You may combine up to two GTX 560 cards from any vendor in a multi-GPU SLI configuration.
Pictured above are photos of the front and back, showing the disassembled board. High-res versions are also available (front
). If you choose to use these images for voltmods etc, please include a link back to this site or let us post your article.
A Closer Look
Palit's cooler consists of two pieces. The first that comes off during disassembly is the component which contains the fan. As mentioned before, Palit has optimized its design over previous models and promises increased air flow, lower temperatures, less vibration and less noise.
The heatsink component of the cooler is just a simple slab of metal with fins on it. There are no expensive heatipes.
Two six-pin power connectors can be found near the back of the card. Combined with the power delivered via PCI-Express slot, this input configuration is good for up to 225 W power draw.
The GDDR5 memory chips are made by Samsung, and carry the model number K4G10325FE-HC04. They are specified to run at 1250MHz (5000 MHz GDDR5 effective).
A cost effective NCP5395 voltage controller is responsible for creating the GPU voltage. While it does not offer voltage control via I2C, NVIDIA's driver exposes a limited range VID based API.
NVIDIA's GeForce 114 graphics processor is made on a 40 nm process at TSMC Taiwan. It uses the same architecture as NVIDIA's GF 104 but with improvements on the transistor level to reduce power consumption. Compared to the GTX 560 Ti, which uses the same GPU, the shader count has been reduced and clock speeds are different.
Benchmark scores in other reviews are only comparable when this exact same configuration is used.
|Test System - VGA Rev. 15
||Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.8 GHz
(Bloomfield, 8192 KB Cache)
||Gigabyte X58 Extreme
Intel X58 & ICH10R
||3x 2048 MB Mushkin Redline XP3-12800 DDR3
@ 1520 MHz 8-7-7-16
||WD Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500 GB
||Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1
GTX 560: 275.20
ATI: Catalyst 11.4
LG Flatron W3000H 30" 2560x1600
- All video card results were obtained on this exact system with the exact same configuration.
- All games were set to their highest quality setting
Each benchmark was tested at the following settings and resolution:
- 1024 x 768, No Anti-aliasing. This is a standard resolution without demanding display settings.
- 1280 x 1024, 2x Anti-aliasing. Common resolution for most smaller flatscreens today (17" - 19"). A bit of eye candy turned on in the drivers.
- 1680 x 1050, 4x Anti-aliasing. Most common widescreen resolution on larger displays (19" - 22"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 1920 x 1200, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical widescreen resolution for large displays (22" - 26"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 2560 x 1600, 4x Anti-aliasing. Highest possible resolution for commonly available displays (30"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
Aliens vs. Predator
Aliens vs. Predator is based on a merger of the Aliens and the Predators franchise: two legendary alien species that are in conflict with each other, fighting to the death with human marines caught in between. The first person shooter game was developed by Rebellion Studios, who also developed the first AVP PC title and released in February 2010. It is one of the first DirectX 11 games with support for new features like tesselation, which is why AMD heavily promoted it at the time of their DX 11 card launches. We use the AVP benchmark utility with tesselation and advanced DX11 shadows enabled.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Battlefield: Bad Company 2, released in March 2010 by Electronics Arts, is the most successful DirectX 11 title so far. Even though it contains a full single-player campaign during which the player has to work with a squad to secure a secret weapon, the game is most well known for its fast paced, exciting multiplayer squad action. Thanks to a CPU-based Havok physics engine and skillful use of scripting, the game has destroyable objects, vegetation and terrain without requiring NVIDIA PhysX.
Our testing uses the truck chase scene of the second single-player mission at maximum settings with DirectX 11 enabled.
BattleForge, a card based RTS, is developed by the German EA Phenomic Studio. A few months after launch the game was transformed into a Play 4 Free branded game. That move and the fact that it was included as game bundle with a large number of ATI cards made it one of the more well known RTS games of 2009. You as a player assemble your deck before game to select the units that will be available. Elemental force choices can be from forces of Fire, Frost, Nature and Shadow to complement each other.
The BattleForge engine has full support for DX 9, DX 10 and DX 10.1, we use the internal benchmark tool in DirectX 11 mode with highest settings to acquire our results.
Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 4 is a first-person shooter that is built on the award winning Call of Duty Series. It is the first version to play in modern times. In a near-future conflict between the United States, Europe and Russia you get to play as a United States Marine and a British SAS operative. The engine is Infinity Ward's own creation and has true dynamic lighting, depth of field, dynamic shadows and HDR. Even though the game plot is scripted you will find yourself in intense battles, often working together with computer controlled team mates. Later installments of the Call of Duty Series use the same game engine, so this test is also representative of Call of Duty: Black Ops performance.
Sid Meier's Civilization V (or Civ 5 in common jargon), is the latest addition to the franchise of masterfully-crafted realtime strategy games that let you play God to a nascent civilization of your choice all the way up to the space-age. Civilization V uses large 3D worlds that are procedurally-generated, and takes advantage of hardware tessellation features offered by DirectX 11 to exponentially step up complexity of cities, models, terrains, and objects. It is also expected of this generation of GPUs to handle the larger texture loads that come with the eye-candy.
After the tremendous success of Far Cry, the German game studio Crytek released their latest shooter Crysis in 2007. The game was by far the most hyped and anticipated game in 2007, and forums were full of "Can my system run Crysis?" threads because of the high hardware requirements of this game. Just like in Far Cry the plot evolves on a small island with a thick and richly detailed jungle world. A lot of attention has been given to small details like accurate physics. For example when you fire on a tree trunk, it will shatter and the tree will fall over leaving a stump behind. Enemies in a car can be stopped by shooting the tire of the car. The game graphics are top notch, even today, yet the game still runs well on most computers.
Crysis 2 takes the player into an alien-infested New York City. The game adds a tactical options mode that allows several approaches to attack a heavily infested enemy location. The new Nanosuit 2.0 that the player uses offers more freedom in ability use, for example multiple abilities can be used at the same time. To better accomodate a given play style weapons can be customized with silencers, laser sights or even a sniping scope.
For rendering Crytek's CryEngine 3 is used which comes with reduced system requirements compared to the first Crysis game. Since Crysis 2 is a multi-platform game, with major development focus on console, so the graphics are only DirectX 9, yet look beautiful using complex shadow and lighting effects. Unlike the original Crysis, which allowed the user to change various graphical settings Crysis 2 provides fewer and more limited options.
Dragon Age II
Dragon Age II is the second game in BioWare's Dragon Age franchise and was released in March 2011. As player, named Hawke, you will be able to pick your hero from several classes and grow him over the course of the adventure. Gameplay takes you through a linear narrated story of Hawke's rise to become the legendary "Champion of Kirkwall".
BioWare's Lycium Engine has support for DirectX 11, using tesselation, advanced dynamic lighting and camera effects like depth of field. We benchmark the DX11 version with details set to highest.
Formula One 2010
F1 2010 is an official implementation of the Formula One 2010 season with accurate teams, drivers and cars. Highlights of the game are extensive realism options and detailed weather effects. You pick a driver and get to race over several seasons, constantly improving your skill and trying to impress the big teams to score a contract with them to enjoy the faster car to race for the world championship. The game is based on an improved Dirt 2 engine and features the latest in DirectX 11 technology. Our testing is performed in DirectX 11 mode at Ultra settings.
Far Cry 2
Four years after the success of Far Cry, Ubisoft has published the sequel called Far Cry 2. While the first part was set on an island, Far Cry 2 takes you deep into Africa with game play that resembles Grand Theft Auto much more than the original Far Cry, which was a classical 3D shooter. Ubisoft engineered a completely new 3D engine called "Dunia" which offers a large amount of popular features like DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 support, destructible environments, physics and non-scripted AI while not being as much of a resource hog as Crytek's CryEngine. We test the Ranch Medium level at DirectX 10 with highest details.
Tom Clancy's HAWX
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is one of the very few recent flight simulator games on the market. Being a console conversion it emphasizes "flight" more than "simulator". It is set in a near future in which private military companies have begun fighting conflicts for nations with their own military gear. You are playing an elite pilot who was recruited by such a private company. During the game you get to fly over 50 different aircrafts, ranging from MIG 21 to the mighty F22 Raptor. One notable feature of its engine is the use of GeoEye satellite imagery for terrain generation which offers one of the most realistic incarnations of battlefield terrain ever seen.
Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter game that is set in a post apocalyptic Moscow - as the name suggests inside the metro system. You will fight mutants or other humans who like to take away your shelter. The game has many gameplay elements similar to STALKER, also the engine has similar features. This is because two STALKER engine programmers left GSC Game World and started their own company which is now making Metro 2033.
The engine has support for all the latest eye candy like DirectX 11 and Tesselation. Unfortunately it leaves a less than optimized impression, making it a candidate to surpass Crysis for the highest hardware requirements. We test in DirectX 11 mode with details set to "Very High".
STALKER: Call of Pripyat
STALKER: Call of Pripyat takes places shortly after the events of the previous game STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. The player is one of many stalkers who are attracted by the Zone in hope of finding fame, wealth and artifacts. Over the course of the game you meet Strelok, the protagonist of the first STALKER game and team up with him to progress through the Zone.
An updated X-Ray Engine 1.6 powers the game with support for DirectX 11 using Compute Shaders for improved shadow rendering and tesselation to improve model quality.
StarCraft II, released in July 2010, is a sequel to Blizzard's award-winning strategy game StarCraft. In the 26th century three species Terrans, Protoss and Zerg are at war. The campaign takes you through many missions on different planets where you have to face the various enemy factions, sometimes several of them. StarCraft II features a similar number of units as the original game, some of them new. Due to the massive success of the first game, Blizzard chose to focus large aspects of the game on multiplayer combat through Battle.net. The campaign serves as a good introduction to units and concepts and competitive multiplayer is where the action is at.
The StarCraft 2 engine supports only DirectX 9, but several patches have improved rendering quality and available options considerably. We test using a recorded 1 vs. 1 multiplayer replay in the late game phase.
Total War: Shogun 2
Set in 16th century feudal Japan, Total War: Shogun 2 takes the player on a quest for domination to conquer and unite the warlords of Japan. Moving away from the European setting of previous Total War games, the game is now designed around principles of the brilliant Chinese general Sun Tzu and his book "The Art of War". Gameplay is switched between real-time battles during which units on the battlefield are controlled and turn-based strategy which enable diplomacy, economy and production management. Taking control of a castles is comprised of several different stages which adds more complexity to warfare.
At this time only a DirectX 9 mode is available, DirectX 11 support is promised to be released soon. We test using the highest details settings in DirectX 9.
Unreal Tournament 3
The fourth game in Epic's highly successful Unreal Tournament Series is simply called Unreal Tournament 3. It is based on the Unreal 3 engine which is a major step forward from the previous engine. The game principle is centered about an arena style gameplay where several contestants try to reach a certain kill count or capture a flag, for example. For its time, the graphics are top notch, with large and detailed textures. Unreal Tournament 3 is an important benchmark because its engine is being used in a large number of other titles, and there are even some in development using it. One major drawback of the way the engine is designed is that there is no support for Anti-Aliasing.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
World of Warcraft is the most successful massively multiplayer online game in the world with far over 12 milion monthly subscribers. The game is centered around the epic battle between the Horde and Alliance factions with many other races getting involved in a long and complex story line. Even though it has been released in 2004, Blizzard has always added incremental improvements to the graphics, especially with new expansions. One key success of World of Warcraft is that it will run on a large number of slower systems, but also delivers a decent graphics experience on high-end systems. We test in DirectX 11 mode with details set to "Ultra".
3DMark 11 is the very latest from the house of Futuremark, which has given out some of the most comprehensive benchmark applications for PC enthusiasts and gamers. 3DMark 11, as the name might probably suggest, makes use of Microsoft DirectX 11 API, and puts every feature at its disposal to use, creating astonishingly-realistic visuals. In the process, it evaluates DirectX 11 compliant GPUs, and lets gamers know what to expect from games from the near future that make use of the API, in terms of visual realism. The tessellation and depth of field tests are particularly of interest here.
Unigine Heaven 2.0
Unigine Heaven was one of the first demos that supported DirectX 11. Heaven is a technology demonstration for Unigine engine which supports DirectX 9 through 11 and OpenGL too. Version 2.0 adds more scenes and optionally more complex tesselation features. While there is some controversy surrounding the benchmark whether it is an accurate representation of what to expect from future games in regards to DirectX 11 we still chose it as test to get an insight into potential future gaming.
Cooling modern video cards is becoming more and more difficult, especially when users are asking for quiet cooling solutions. That's why the engineers are now paying much more attention to power consumption of new video card designs. An optimized fan profile is also one of the few things that board vendors can do to impress with reference designs where they are prohibited to make changes to the thermal solution or components on the card.
For this test we measure power consumption of only the graphics card, via PCI-Express power connector(s) and PCI-Express bus slot. A Keithley Integra 2700 with 6.5 digits is used for all measurements. Again, the values here reflect card only power consumption measured at DC VGA card inputs, not the whole system.
We chose Crysis 2 as a standard test representing typical 3D gaming usage because it offers: - very high power draw - high repeatability - is a current game that is supported on all cards due to its DirectX 9 nature - drivers are actively tested and optimized for it - supports all multi-GPU configurations - test runs a relatively short time and renders a non-static scene with variable complexity.
Our results are based on the following tests:
- Idle: Windows 7 Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024 32-bit) all windows closed, drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle until power draw is stable.
- Multi-Monitor: Two monitors connected to the tested card, which use different display timings. Windows 7 Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024 32-bit) all windows closed, drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle until power draw is stable.
- Average: Crysis 2 at 1920x1200, Extreme profile, representing a typical gaming power draw. Average of all readings (12 per second) while the benchmark was rendering (no title/loading screen).
- Peak: Crysis 2 at 1920x1200, Extreme profile, representing a typical gaming power draw. Highest single reading during the test.
- Maximum: Furmark Stability Test at 1280x1024, 0xAA. This results in a very high non-game power consumption that can typically be reached only with stress testing applications. Card left running stress test until power draw converged to a stable value. On cards with power limiting systems we will disable the power limiting system or configure it to the highest available setting - if possible. We will also use the highest single reading from a Furmark run which is obtained by measuring faster than when the power limit can kick in.
- Blu-ray Playback: Power DVD 9 Ultra is used at a resolution of 1920x1200 to play back the Batman: The Dark Knight disc with GPU acceleration turned on. Playback starts around timecode 1:19 which has the highest data rates on the BD with up to 40 Mb/s. Playback left running until power draw converged to a stable value.
Power consumption of the Palit GTX 560 2 GB is pretty much the same as other GTX 560 cards we tested today - that only have 1 GB of memory. Overall GTX 560 is comparable to GTX 560 Ti in power consumption.
In the past years users would accept everything just to get more performance. Nowadays this has changed with people being more aware of the fan noise and power consumption of their graphic cards.
In order to properly test the fan noise a card emits we are using a Bruel & Kjaer 2236 sound level meter (~$4,000) which has the measurement range and accuracy we are looking for.
The tested graphics card is installed in a system that is completely passively cooled. That is passive PSU, passive CPU cooler, passive cooling on the motherboard and Solid-State HDD.
This setup allows us to eliminate secondary noise sources and test only the video card. To be more compliant with standards like DIN 45635 (we are not claiming to be fully DIN 45635 certified) the measurement is conducted at 100 cm distance and 160 cm over the floor. The ambient background noise level in the room is well below 20 dbA for all measurements. Please note that the dbA scale is not linear, it is logarithmic. 40 dbA is not twice as loud as 20 dbA. A 3 dbA increase results in double the sound pressure. The human hearing is a bit different and it is generally accepted that a 10 dbA increase doubles the perceived sound level. The 3D load noise levels are tested with a stressful game, not Furmark.
In idle Palit's fan is exceedingly quiet which makes this card a good candidate for a quiet media PC system card. Under load the fan ramps up significantly to 37 dBA which is a bit more than I expected for a card in this performance class.
The graphs on this page show a combined performance summary of all tests and resolutions from previous pages. Each graph shows the tested card as 100% and all other cards' performance relative to it. A sixth graph summarizes all tests in all resolutions to calculate the total relative performance of the review sample.
Performance per Watt
Using the relative performance scores from the previous page and the typical gaming power consumption result, the following graphs show efficiency of the cards in our test group.
Performance per Dollar
If you are looking for the best bang for the buck, then you will love this graph. We looked up the current USD price of each card on the popular online shop Newegg and used it and the relative performance numbers to calculate the Performance per Dollar Index.
The overclocks listed in this section were achieved with the default fan and voltage settings as defined in the VGA BIOS. Please note that every single sample overclocks differently, that's why our results here can only serve as a guideline for what you can expect from your card.
Maximum stable clocks of our card are 958 MHz core (18% overclock) and 1202 MHz Memory (20% overclock).
Overclocking potential is similar to most other GTX 560 cards tested today, the percentage is higher though since the Palit GTX 560 is not overclocked out of the box. Memory does very well with 1200 MHz considering the card has 2 GB instead of 1 GB but can still deliver the same meomry overclocking potential.
Using these clock frequencies we ran a quick test of Call of Duty 4 to evaluate the gains from overclocking.
Actual 3D performance gained from overclocking is 12.7%.
Temperatures are alright, well within safe margins.
Modern graphics cards have several clock profiles that are selected to balance power draw and performance requirements.
The following table lists the clock settings for important performance scenarios and the GPU voltage that we measured. We measure on the pins of a coil or capacitor near the GPU voltage regulator.
Value and Conclusion
- According to Palit, their GTX 560 2 GB will retail for USD 225.
- 2 GB of memory
- Quiet in idle
- Full size HDMI output included
- Support for DirectX 11
- Support for CUDA / PhysX
- Reference design clocks
- Additional memory does not help with performance
- Could be quieter under load
- Higher power consumption than similar AMD cards
- Limited to two active display outputs
||NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 560 non-Ti sets out to fill the void in NVIDIA's lineup at $200. While GTX 560 Ti performs great around $230, its price does turn away some potential customers who will find a good alternative with AMD's $200 HD 6870. NVIDIA's new card provides a good solution, yet can not shatter existing offers in this segment. It offers decent performance for up to, including, 1680x1050 gaming, comes with improved performance and overclocking potential when compared to GeForce GTX 460 and features improved performance per Watt. AMD's HD 6870 can offer a tiny bit more performance and better efficiency, on the other hand NVIDIA's drivers seem more mature and refined.|
Palit's GeForce GTX 560 is the only GTX 560 we reviewed today that comes with 2 GB of GDDR5 memory vs. 1 GB on the reference design. Unfortunately the memory capacity increase can not result in any significant performance difference in our testing. It seems that 1 GB of memory is enough for all our games at resolutions up to 2560x1600. Even if there was a difference at more demanding settings, it would make no sense for a card like the GTX 560. Even if you could somehow crank up settings to see a difference between 2 GB and 1 GB you would also end up with unplayable framerates due to the limited processing power of the GTX 560 graphics processor. This does not mean that the GTX 560 is a slow card, it simply means that the optimum memory configuration for it is 1 GB. Actually I could imagine a hypothetical 768 MB variant end up being competitive considering the reduced price it would come at.
Since Palit clocks their GTX 560 at reference design clocks, the card falls behind quite a bit when compared to the other GTX 560 cards we reviewed today, which are all overclocked. Overclocking potential on Palit's card is decent and right where we expect the maximum for a typical GTX 560. It is nice to see that the added memory had no impact on memory overclocking potential, 1200 MHz was no problem, just like on the 1 GB variants. Palit's new thermal solution uses an increased fan blade density and optimized geometry to increase air flow and lower temperatures. As a result the Palit GTX 560 2 GB is super quiet in idle which makes it a great candidate for a low noise media PC - the added full-size HDMI output helps in that area. Under load the card does get noisier than other cards tested today, with 37 dBA under load it reaches just-bearable noise levels for a card in the GTX 560 performance class. I think the key point to take away from this review is that a 2 GB midrange card does not make any sense with today's games. I'd rather suggest a card like the Palit GTX 560 Sonic 1 GB, which comes with increased clock speeds out of the box that will really make a performance difference.