Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 review

17 May 2011

Hot, loud and with average speed, it’s an unnecessary addition to an already crowded line-up

Price when reviewed: 
169(£170 inc VAT)
3

Nvidia’s GTX 550 Ti and GTX 560 Ti used the “Titanium” suffix to show they were mainstream cards – powerful, but not as strong as the real big guns. That’s been dropped for the new GTX 560, even though it sits right between those two cards in Nvidia’s pecking order.

Random naming strategies aside, the GTX 560 uses a tweaked version of the GF1144 core that powered the GTX 560 Ti. It has 1.95 billion transistors – around two-thirds the number included in the GTX 580 – but deactivates one of the chipset’s eight graphics cores, making for 336 working stream processors to the 384 of its Ti sibling.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 560

In an unusual step, Nvidia hasn’t produced a reference model of the GTX 560. Instead, it’s punted the design out to board partners so they can churn out overclocked versions. As such, there aren’t any base clock speeds: the core can be anything from 810MHz to 950MHz, and the 1GB of GDDR5 starts at 4,000MHz. Our review sample, a Zotac AMP! card, sits at the high end of this envelope, with a core clock of 950MHz and a memory clock of 4,400MHz.

That massive clock boost means the GTX 560 is actually slightly faster than its bigger brother. In our 1,920 x 1,080 Very High quality Crysis test, the GTX 560 scored 41fps, dropping to 34fps with 4x anti-aliasing: that’s 1fps ahead of the GTX 560 Ti in both tests. It trades blows with AMD’s chips, too, sitting just between the HD 6870 and HD 6950. In Just Cause 2, it wasn’t quite so fast: at 1,920 x 1,080 and Very High quality with 8x anti-aliasing, it managed 48fps to the GTX 560 Ti’s 55fps.

The GTX 560 was less impressive when we clocked it down to its minimum 810MHz. An average of 30fps in the Very High Crysis test is 4fps behind the HD 6870, and Just Cause 2 dropped to 42fps.

Either way, heat issues quickly appeared thanks to the increased voltage used to cater for that wide overclocking envelope. At 950MHz, the core quickly hit its thermal limit of 90°C, which is far too hot for our liking. There was no respite at 810MHz, either, with the same temperatures achieved within a similar timeframe.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 560

The two fans on our Zotac AMP! test model quickly drew comparisons to the infamous GTX 480 thanks to the racket they produced. And the final nail was the card’s power draw: a peak of 396W for our test rig is higher than the 331W required by the GTX 560 Ti and the 302W of the HD 6950.

So the speed comes at a price, and that applies to real money too. Nvidia puts its new chip at £170 inc VAT, an area crowded with exceptional cards. Add £10 to your budget and you’ll be able to afford a GTX 560 Ti. An extra £20 should get you an AMD Radeon HD 6950. Both offer comparable or better performance while being cooler and quieter.

If board partners can reduce the voltage, noise and heat, then a slightly cheaper GTX 560 could feasibly become a valid mid-range option. For now, though, the woeful thermals and uncompetitive price make it impossible to recommend.

Details

Price ex VAT £141
Price inc VAT £169
Performance 4
Features & Design 2
Value for Money 3
Overall rating 3

Core Specifications

Graphics card interface PCI Express
Cooling type Active
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GTX 560
Core GPU frequency 950MHz
RAM capacity 1,024MB
Memory type GDDR5

Standards and compatibility

DirectX version support 11.0
Shader model support 5.0

Connectors

DVI-I outputs 2
DVI-D outputs 0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
7-pin TV outputs 0
Graphics card power connectors 2 x 6-pin

Benchmarks

3D performance (crysis) low settings 154fps
3D performance (crysis), medium settings 104fps
3D performance (crysis) high settings 69fps