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The Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Review: Take Off Your Ti

Meet The GeForce GTX 560

Nvidia and AMD go to great lengths to make sure they offer an alternative to every single one of their competitor’s products. No price point gets dominated by one graphics card for very long.

Cases in point: Nvidia recently launched its GeForce GTX 550 Ti to compete with the Radeon HD 5770/6770, and AMD just introduced the Radon HD 6790 to compete with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 768 MB.

Today, Nvidia throws another reactionary jab: GeForce GTX 560. Note the lack of a ‘Ti’ designation. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti is pitted against AMD's Radeon HD 6950 1 GB. So, this new product is destined to do battle with the slightly cheaper Radeon HD 6870, a card that exists for roughly $200 online.

How exactly does Nvidia turn a GeForce GTX 560 Ti into a GeForce GTX 560? Yes, it involves more than removing the suffix. Its GF114 ASIC ends up taking a slight beating from the Nerf bat.

That is to say Nvidia disables a single Streaming Multiprocessor (SM). The GeForce GTX 560 operates using seven of GF114’s eight SMs. Each functioning SM has 48 shader cores, four dispatch units, and eight texture units. All four 64-bit ROP partitions are enabled, each capable of handling eight 32-bit integer pixels per clock cycle. As a result, the GeForce GTX 560 has 336 shader cores, 56 texture units, and 32 ROPs, with a 256-bit memory interface. 

If those specs sound vaguely familiar, that's because they’re the same as Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 1 GB. It makes sense; after all, the GF114 is functionally identical to GF104. It was simply reworked to deliver higher clocks while using less power. With this in mind, you might assume that GeForce GTX 560 is intended to replace the GeForce GTX 460. But there's one more variable to consider: clock rates. The reference GeForce GTX 460 has a 675 MHz core and 900 MHz GDDR5 memory. But GeForce GTX 560 sports an 810 MHz core and 1002 MHz memory—much closer to the GeForce GTX 560 Ti’s 822/1022 MHz core and memory combination. 

Now, we all remember that the GeForce GTX 460 scales incredibly well when it gets overclocked. So, we expect the GeForce GTX 560 to give AMD's Radeon HD 6870 a run for its money. Speaking of the competition, let’s consider the similarly-priced options:

GeForce GTX 460 1 GBGeForce GTX 560 1 GBGeForce GTX 560 Ti 1 GBRadeon HD 6870 1 GB
Shader Cores3363363841120
Texture Units56566456
Full Color ROPs32323232
Graphics Clock675 MHz810 MHz822 MHz900 MHz
Shader Clock1350 MHz1620 MHz1644 MHzN/A
Memory Clock900 MHz1002 MHz1002 MHz1050 MHz
GDDR5 Memory1 GB1 GB1 GB1 GB
Memory Interface256-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit
Memory Bandwidth115.2 GB/s128.2 GB/s128.2 GB/s134.4 GB/s
Texture Filtering Rate37.8 GTex/s45.4 GTex/s52.5 GTex/s50.4 GTex/s
Connectors2 x DL-DVI, 1 x mini-HDMI2 x DL-DVI, 1 x mini-HDMI2 x DL-DVI, 1 x mini-HDMI2 x DVI, 1 x HDMI, 2 x DisplayPort
Form FactorDual-slotDual-slotDual-slotDual-slot
Power Connectors2 x 6-pin2 x 6-pin2 x 6-pin2 x 6-pin
Recommended Power Supply450 W450 W500 W500 W
Thermal Design Power160 W160 W170 W151 W

The chart makes it easier to see that GeForce GTX 560 is essentially a GeForce GTX 460 overclocked to GeForce GTX 560 Ti levels.

Nvidia didn't provide a reference board for this launch. Instead, it directed us to a couple of its board partners. We have two cards in the lab for this introduction: Zotac's GeForce GTX 560 AMP! Edition and Asus' GTX 560 DirectCU II TOP.

Nvidia’s New 275.20 Driver

In addition to the new graphics card, Nvidia is also taking advantage of today's launch to introduce its next GeForce driver iteration. In addition to the usual claims of performance increases—specifically for Crysis 2, Portal 2, and Bulletstorm—there are some interesting new features included.

You may be familiar with the update notifications included in the 270-series drivers, where you're told when a new driver is available for download. According to Nvidia, over 90% of users with that driver opt to enable this feature. In the new 275.20 release, SLI and AA updates can be set to automatically download. Then, you can see which updates were installed by looking at a history tab in the driver control panel. 3D Vision profiles are scheduled to be added in a future driver revision, but Nvidia didn’t commit to a date for this.

Speaking of 3D Vision, there are also few enhancements included in the driver. More than 525 game profiles are now included, the 3D Photo viewer now has windowed support, and the Portal 2 profile is tweaked to fix some issues, so the game now carries an Excellent rating.

Nvidia also ties in improvements to the driver’s desktop scaling options. The new interface shows a much-needed preview of what you can expect to see after picking new settings. Moreover, there's an option to override game settings for Windows 7, an OS that has a bad habit of ignoring driver settings in the past. Nvidia dedicated significant effort to guiding users through disabling overscan on their televisions. And where overscan cannot be disabled, the driver creates a custom-resized resolution with 1:1 pixel mapping, in addition to resizing standard resolutions for games that don't support custom values.