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ASUS (NVIDIA) GeForce GTX 560 graphics-card review

by Tarinder Sandhu on 17 May 2011, 14:00 4.0

Tags: ASUSTeK (TPE:2357), NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qa5w3

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Borrowing from the GTX 560 Ti

The rapid deployment of new graphics processing units (GPUs) has finally caught up with AMD and NVIDIA. We can tell this when both firms continually resort to rebranding older cards as newer models with barely a difference in the specifications.

Understanding that a genuine shift in graphics-card architectures now moves on, roughly, a two-year cycle, the two companies are presently using a fundamentally different tack in promoting new cards. You see, the focus is on establishing that the new GeForce or Radeon is 2x faster than a three-year-old card and complete with DX11 trickery, rather than concentrate on how it compares against last year's largely-equivalent card.

AMD and NVIDIA cite these longer upgrade cycles as an opportune time for users to upgrade, while not forgetting to woo brand-new customers with a healthy ration of marketing-speak, then.

Just recently, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 550 Ti was introduced at a smidge above the £100 price point. A couple of months on, the £150 market is now being primed for another GPU. GeForce GTX 560 is the name and giving the Radeon HD 6870 a good spanking is very much the game.

But surely that's a typo, because we've seen the GTX 560 Ti strut its stuff for four months, you may be thinking? Nope, NVIDIA is bringing in a slower card at a lower price point.

Now, GTX 560 Ti and last year's GTX 460 1GB have significant commonality. NVIDIA won't enjoy me saying this, but its current execution schedule mirrors Intel's tick-tock., where a brand-new architecture is brought in one year and a refinement to that design is followed in the subsequent year. GTX 560 (Ti) is that GTX 460 refinement - boasting higher frequencies and a power-efficient core.

The GTX 560 (non-Ti) slots right in between the GTX 460 and 560 Ti, both from price and performance points of view, and here is how:

GPU GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1,024MB GeForce GTX 560 T1,024MB GeForce GTX 460 1,024MB
Transistors 1.95bn 1.95bn 1.95bn
Die size 367mm² 367mm² 367mm²
Fermi revision GF114 GF114 GF104
General clock 822MHz 800MHz+ 675MHz
Shader clock 1,645MHz 1,600MHz+ 1,350MHz
Memory clock  4,008MHz 4,000MHz+ 3,600MHz
Memory interface  256-bit, 1,024MB GDDR5 256-bit, 1,024MB GDDR5 256-bit, 1,024MB GDDR5
Memory bandwidth 128.3GB/s 128GB/s + 115GB/s
Shaders 384 336 336
GFLOPS (FMA) 1,264 1,075 907
Texturing 64ppc bilinear
64ppc FP16
56ppc bilinear
56ppc FP16
56ppc bilinear
56ppc FP16
ROPs 32 32 32
ROP rate 26.3 25.6+ 21.6
GTexel/s bilinear 52.7 51.2+ 37.8
Board power (TDP) 170W 150W 160W
Power connectors 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin
HDMI 1.4a 1.4a 1.4a
Retail price  £180+ £150+ £135

GTX 560 analysis

Looking at the GTX 560 Ti and non-Ti shows the largest difference lies with the arrangement of the cores. The non-Ti card drops one of the Ti's eight SM units. As each unit is home to 48 shaders and eight texture units, 'losing' one SM means that the total number of shaders drops to 336 and texture units to 56. Coincidentally or not, that's exactly the same number as on the GTX 460 1GB, and as both GPUs' shaders are practically identical in performance, the GTX 560 is an interesting proposition.

All three GPUs share an identical back-end setup of 32 ROPs and a 256-bit link to GDDR5 memory. What this means is that, on a clock-for-clock basis, GeForce GTX 460 1GB and GTX 560 are very similar.

Interestingly, NVIDIA isn't mandating specific reference frequencies for the GTX 560. Rather, its partners will be given a free hand in deciding the core and memory speeds, though, when pushed, company representatives suggested they expect partners to launch retail cards clocked between 810MHz-950MHz core and 4,000MHz-4,800MHz memory. Partners, too, will have minimal qualification work to undertake on this £150-plus card, for GTX 560 Ti or, even, GTX 460 1GB coolers will work just fine.

First-page summary

Put in layman's terms, NVIDIA has created this new graphics card by removing - whether for yield or economic reasons - one of the eight core blocks present on the GTX 560 Ti. Doing so means the GeForce GTX 560 1GB appears very much like an overclocked GTX 460 1GB, and that's no bad thing once you factor in just how well that particular card has done in the last year.