Gigabyte & MSI GeForce GTX 560 Launch Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/MSI_Gigabyte_GTX_560/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

When Nvidia launched the GTX 560 Ti we assumed it would only be a matter of time before a non-TI model hit the market. Well, it turns out we didn’t have to wait long because as of today Nvidia has officially launched their latest mid-range graphics card, the GTX 560. In terms of market positioning the GTX 560 fits between the GTX 460 and GTX 560 Ti in both price and performance. This places card in a sweet spot for mid-range gamers looking for excellent HD 1080p performance, while not spending an arm and a leg.

When looking over the specifications of the GTX 560 you can see that it is essentially a GTX 460 with faster clock speeds. Of course the GPU has undergone the same transistor level optimizations as other cards in the 500-series, which serve to reduce leakage and improve the boards' overall efficiency, but other than that it has similar specifications to that of the GTX 460. This is due to the GTX 560 using the same GF-114 GPU found on the GTX 560 Ti, but with one Graphics Processing Cluster (GPC) disabled the 560 has a total of 336 CUDA cores, down from the GTX 560 Ti's 384.

In this review we are going to be looking at two GTX 560 graphics cards from some of the biggest names in the business; MSI and Gigabyte. Both of these companies were generous enough to send us samples of their custom designed cards which feature dual fan heatsinks and increased clock speeds. The faster clocks will further increase the overall performance in comparison to the GTX 460 and potentially make this card a real bargain in the $200 graphics market.

Join us as we examine Nvidia's latest "Hunter Class" GTX 560 graphics card

The Gigabyte GTX 560 comes packaged in a sleek looking box that has a large robotic eye on the front, along with icons of the graphics cards key features. The features list the use of the Windforce 2x thermal solution, Gigabyte's Ultra Durable VGA design, the length of the warranty period, the size of the frame buffer, along with a few icons listing Nvidia technologies. The back panel of the packaging details similar features, but dives a little deeper into how the features are utilized and beneficial.

The accessories come packaged with the graphics card in a black inner box, consisting of two 6-pin power adapters, a VGA-to-DVI convertor. a Mini-HDMI to HDMI convertor and a software CD.

The Gigabyte GTX 560 has a very unique look, which is in large part due to the Windforce 2x cooling solution. This design includes dual Parallel-inclined 100mm fans that direct air over a large heatsink array. Judging by the looks we are really expecting a lot from this cooler, and we will be examining some of the technologies utilized by the design shortly. Along with the robust cooler, the Gigabyte board also includes their Ultra Durable technologies such as a 2oz copper PCB, all Solid Japanese Capacitors, Ferrite core chokes, Low RDS (on) MOSFET and Tier 1 memory. With these technologies, the Gigabyte board will have increased overclocking headroom along with decreased power switching loss and core temperatures.

The reference GTX 560 has a GPU clock speed of 810MHz, whereas the Gigabyte GTX 560 has a clock speed of 830MHz and a shader clock of 1660MHz. This means that the card is overclocked out-of-the-box performance. In addition, the Gigabyte GTX 560 also includes a 1GB GDDR5 fame buffer that runs on a 256-bit interface and is clocked at 1002MHz (4008MHz effective).

As you would expect, the Gigabyte GTX 560 has nice layout, which is clearly evident from the back of the PCB. Starting from the left you can see this card has solder points for dual 6-pin power connectors along with a single SLI bridge connector and a PCI-Express 2.0 bus type. The inclusion of a single SLI connection point indicates that Nvidia has not expanded the SLI support for this board, meaning it only has 2-way SLI support.

The Gigabyte GTX 560 comes equipped with two 6-pin PEG power connectors which will supply the board with power up to it's 150 watt TDP. However, since this is a non-reference design it will have a slightly higher TDP than 150W, but as the clock speeds on this model are not aggressively overclocked the difference will be minimal. The two power-connectors are located at the back of the PCB and are rear facing.

The video outputs included on the Gigabyte board use the standard dual DL-DVI connectors with a Mini-HDMi connector. While this combination is not quite as expandable as some cards on the market, the output configuration is capable of utilizing features such as 3D Vision, 3D Surround (requires dual graphics cards) and it also has the ability to support a single 30-inch display with resolutions up to 2560x1600.

The Windforce thermal solution is Gigabyte's latest cooling technology which utilizes advanced features to enhance the cooling performance and reduce the acoustics. The top of the heatsink consists of a thin shroud that connects the two 100mm fans to the cooler. The fans utilize an Anti-Turbulence inclined fin design that minimizes the flow turbulence between the fans, enhancing the fans' output range and creating effective airflow within the chassis. Each fan runs up to 2000RPM and has a maximum sound rating of 30.5dBA.

The heatsink itself use four 6mm pure copper heatpipes with DHT (direct heatpipe touch) technology. This allows the pipes to make direct contact with the GPU toimprove the thermal transfer rate, thus reducing the time it takes for the heat to travel away from the core. The heatsink also uses a large aluminum fin array made from a solder free process to enhance heat dissipation.

With the heatsink off, you can see that the Gibgayte GTX 560 includes eight Hynix based memory chips surrounding the GF-114. The board also features six Ferrite core chokes which are found toward the rear of the PCB, along with a small heatsink that is attached to the boards VRM. It's always nice to see additional on-board cooling, so in all we really like Gigabyte's design.

The MSI NGTX560 comes packaged in a box with visual flair. Along with a large image of the tail-end of the Twin Frozr II cooler, MSI has listed the main features for the card at the upper right hand portion of the box, like PhysX, SLI, 3D Vision support and so on. Below that, MSI lists the warranty period of the card, the total sound rating of the Twin Frozr II heatsink and the use of "Military Class" components. Don't miss in the large sticker on the left indicating that the card comes with a free copy of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.

The MSI graphics card comes encased in a large foam insert that also houses all the accessories. MSI has included two 6-pin power adapters, a VGA-to-DVI adapter, HDMI-to-Mini-HDMI converter, and a quick start users guide and manual. The accessories are very similar to what Gigabyte included with their offering, but the free game really helps this card stand out.

The MSI card uses the manufacturer's dual fan Twin Frozr II heatsink along with their Military Class II components. This gives this model high quality parts such as SFC (Super Ferrite Chokes) to provide better current to the GPU and improve the overclocking ability. As part of the Military Class II design, the NGTX560 includes Hi-C Capacitors for the GPU for more precise voltage, and of course All Solid Japanese capacitors.

Like the Gigabyte model, the NGTX560 comes with a factory set overclock, but MSI has tweaked their clock speed up to 870MHz. This gives this model an additional 40MHz in comparison to the Gigabyte card and and 60MHz in comparison to the reference models. With the clock speed set to 870MHz, the CUDA engine is set at 1740 MHz. Additionally, the NGTX560 comes equipped with a 1GB frame buffer of GDDR5 memory that is clocked at 1020MHz (4080MHz effective).

The MSI NGTX560 comes on a brown PCB that includes a single SLI connector and a PCIe x16 2.0 bus type connector.

The NGTX560 has two rear mounted 6-pin PEG power connectors. At 870MHz, the MSI card will have a slightly increased TDP over the reference GTX 560 with a TDP of 150 watts. However, with dual 6-pin connectors this card can potentially be supplied with over 200W of power, so even with the factory overclock there is still plenty of power available to the board.

Like most Nvidia based graphics cards, the NGTX 560 includes dual DVI-I ports along with a single Mini-HDMI connector. With these connections the user will be able to utilize technologies such as 3D Vision and 3D Surround. The HDMI port utilizes the 1.4a standard which features bitstreaming support for Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master audio.

The NGTX560 uses MSI's Twin Frozr II thermal solution that includes dual 80mm PWM fans that supply up to 50% more airflow through the heatsink. Even though the fans supply improved airflow, they still only operate at 30dBA. This is exceptionally quiet for a graphics card, especially when comparing to louder reference models. The Twin Frozr II heatsink also utilizes SuperPipe technology, as their are four nickle-plated heatpipes that connect the base to the fin array. Lastly, the Twin Frozr heatsink includes a large base that is also nickel-plated copper, which will improve the total heat dissipation

The NGTX560 has a very robust design that includes a 6+1 Super Ferrite Chokes surrounded by all Solid Capacitors, and a finned heatsink on the VRM. This design will increase the overall efficiency of the card, improving stability and the total overclocking potential. The board also includes eight Samsung-based memory chips that each have a 128MB capacity.

To overclock the GTX 560 graphics cards, we used the latest GPU overclocking utilities released by Gigabyte and MSI. For stability testing, we used the Unigine heaven 2.1 benchmark with the highest in-game settings, and only considered the clocks stable if it could run the benchmark in its entirety and without errors.

Gigabyte GTX 560 Overclocking:

When overclocking the GTX 560 we were able to increase the GPU clock speed to 955MHz, which gave it a total shader clock speed of 1910MHz. This is an increase of nearly 20%, so we expect to see excellent scaling at these speeds. The memory was also able to be increased substantially was well, and in our testing we were able to reach a stable speed of  1165Mhz (4.5Gb/sec effective).

MSI NGTX560 Overclocking:

The MSI NGTX560 was able to overclock higher than the Gigabyte model for the simple reason that we were able to increase the voltage level of the MSI graphics card when using the Afterburner utility. This allowed up to push the GPU clock speed nearly 25% higher than the 810MHz clock speed of the reference models. This gave us a final clock rating of 1010MHz, which also increases the Shader clock to 2020MHz. This is an excellent overclock and it should net us some nice performance increases across the board. The memory on the other hand overclocked to the same level as the Gigabyte model, as the NGTX560 was able to reach a stable memory frequency of 1160MHz before we started to notice errors.

Hardware Configuration:

Drivers:

Benchmarks DX11:

Benchmarks DX10:

Test Settings:

All in game benchmarks were performed at resolutions of 1280x1024, 1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600. Vsync is disabled in the control panel, the AA is set to x4 with AF set to x16 and all the in-game settings are turned up to high.

Usage:

 

Comparison Specifications AMD:

 
AMD Radeon HD 6870
AMD Radeon HD 6850
ATI  Radeon
HD 5750
ATI Radeon HD 5770
ATI Radeon HD 5830
ATI Radeon HD 5870
AMD Radeon HD 6950
AMD Radeon HD 6970
Processing Cores
1120
960
720
800
1120
1600
1408 1536
Core Clock
900MHz
775MHz
700MHz
850MHz
800MHz
850MHz
800MHz
880MHz
Memory Clock
1050MHz
1000MHz
1150MHz
1200MHz
1150MHz
1200MHz
1250MHz
1375MHz
Memory Interface
256-bit
256-bit
128-bit
128-bit
256-bit
256-bit
256-bit
256-bit
Memory Type
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
2GB GDDR5
2GB GDDR5
Fabrication Process
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm

 

Comparison Specifications Nvidia:

 
Nvidia GeForce GTS 450
Nvidia Geforce GTX 460 FTW
Nvidia GeForce GTX 470
Nvidia GeForce GTX 480
Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti
Nvidia GeForce GTX 570
Nvidia Geforce GTX 580
Processing Cores
192
336 448 480 384 480 512
Core Clock
783MHz
850MHz
607MHz
700MHz
822MHz
742MHz
782MHz
Memory Clock
900MHz
1000MHz
837MHz
924MHz
1002MHz
950MHz
1002MHz
Memory Interface
128-bit
256-bit
320-bit
384-bit
256-bit
320-bit
384-bit
Memory Type
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1.25GB GDDR5
1.5GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1.25GB GDDR5
1.5GB GDDR5
Fabrication Process
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm

3DMark Vantage is the stunning sequel to 3DMark 06. Futuremark's benchmarking programs have always been at the center of every bragging match. The best way to show that you've got the greatest gaming rig, is to show that you've got the highest 3DMark score. Vantage does just that. It puts your system through a series of strenuous tests, and provides you with a score to brag about!

In our first synthetic benchmark both the MSI and Gigabyte GTX 560 graphics cards performed very well. At stock they were both able to achieve a higher score than the similarly priced HD 6870, and once overclocked the performance fell between two of AMD's high-end models.

Futuremark's latest 3DMark 2011 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

Both the GTX 560 graphics cards again had good performance for their price range, but in this benchmark they fell short of achieving the same performance as the HD 6870. However, once the cards were overclocked they were able to again compete with more expensive graphics cards, and were even able to outperform the GTX 560 Ti.

Unigine Heaven became very popular very fast, because it was one of the first major DirectX 11 benchmarks. It makes great use of tessellation to create a visually stunning...heaven.

We continue to see the GTX 560 performing at roughly the same level as the HD 6870 when run at stock settings, but when overclocked the card essentially becomes a GTX 560 Ti.

Aliens vs Predator is a DX11 Benchmark that runs though a scene straight out of the classic 80’s movie, Aliens. Since it uses DX11, it can often be more than a graphics card can handle.

In Aliens vs Predator, the HD 6870 was able to squeeze out a victory across all resolutions, but the overall difference was miniscule at best. When frame rates are this close it is not going to effect the overall gaming experience, as your eye will not be able to tell the difference between 42FPS or 44FPS. Once again, the overclocked GTX 560 is able to surpass its more expensive sibling at all tested resolutions.

DiRT 2 is the sequel to Colin McRae: Dirt and it was one of the first games to incorporate DX11 features such as tessellation, accelerated high definition ambient occlusion and Full Floating point high dynamic range lighting. This makes it a perfect game to test the latest DX11 hardware.

The frequency rating of the GPU made a noticeable difference in terms of frame rates. As you can see, the Gigabyte card performs noticeably slower than the MSI model, with the two lower resolutions showing the most difference. Since this game appears to run best with higher clocked graphics cards, the overclocked settings really helped push the GTX 560 to the top of the pack, as it was able to perform between the HD 5870 and GTX 570. Quite impressive for a mid-range graphics card.

Lost Planet 2 is a sci-fi action-adventure game from CAPCOM that puts players on a fictional planet called E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. Like the other new games added to our reviews, Lost Planet 2 includes support for DX11 features to enhance the lighting, charters and environments.

The GTX 560 graphics cards show impressive performance in Lost Planet 2. In our testing the both the Gigabyte and MSI models were able to achieve a higher frame rate than the HD 6870 in all the tested resolutions. We are also continuing to see excellent scaling when we test the card without overclocked settings, and this is yet another benchmark that shows how the GTX 560 can perform at the same level as the GTX 560 Ti when overclocked. In fact, it actually performs better than the Ti at its target resolutions of 1080p or below.

Metro 2033 puts you right in the middle of post apocalyptic Moscow, battling Mutants, rivals and ratio-active fallout. The game is very graphics intensive and utilizes DX11 technology, making it a good measure of how the latest generation of graphics cards performs under the latest standard.

The overall performance of the GTX 560 was good at its target resolution, but the card really struggled when gaming above 1680x1050. Alas, overclocking did little to improve performance in the higher resolutions, but there was a noticeable increase at the lowest settings of 1050p.

F1 2010 is a video game based on the 2010 season of the Formula One world championship and is a mutli-console port. It was developed by Codemasters and released released in September 2010 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, with the PC version including DX11 features.

F1 2010 is part of AMD's Gaming Evolved program and as you can see, AMD based hardware stood ready to reap the rewards. The GTX 560's overall performance was at the lower end of our comparison charts and overclocking did little to increase the total performance level.

Dragon Age II is a role-playing video game created by Bioware's Edmonton studios and is a follow up to the highly successful original Dragon Age: Origins. In this game players take the role of Hawke, who has just fled fled the nation of Ferelden with his family after it was destroyed. The PC version of Dragon Age II includes DX11 features such as tessellation for enhanced geometric detail and Compute shader for post process rendering like blur, bloom film effects.

Dragon Age II is another title that scales best when using an AMD graphics card, so it is not surprising to see the performance of the GTX 560 near that of the HD 6790.

Batman: Arkham Asylum mixes extraordinary visuals with great gameplay, in order to make an excellent benchmark. It's not a stressful as Crysis, but it can still push cards to their limits.

Here the results flip in favor of Nvidia, as the GTX 560 graphics cards are able to outperform even the HD 6950.

Crysis Warhead is one of the most graphically intensive games on the mainstream market. It's graphically breathtaking, and can bring any system crashing to it's knees.

The results in Crysis were a bit surprising. I thought the GTX 560 would fare better than it did mainly because it has a 1GB GDDR5 frame buffer that matches the cards in the 6800 series. However, this doesn't translate into actual performance here, as the GTX 560 doesn't perform as well as the HD 6850 even when overclocked.

Just Cause 2 places you in Panau, Southeast Asia as Agent Rico Rodriguez. The game is a third-person shooter that pits you against countless enemies with the opportunity for plenty of environment destruction. With explosions and gun fire galore, this game is perfect for testing out the latest hardware.

In Just Cause 2 the overall performance was good, but if you set aside the 2560x1600 resolution, the performance can be shown in a better light. This graphics card is not designed to play games on 30-inch displays, but rather give gamers a great gaming experience at 1080p. At this resolution the GTX 560 excels and is able to perform right at the same level as the HD 6870 in the majority of games on the market.

Temperature:

To measure core GPU temperatures, we run three in-game benchmarks and record the idle and load temperature according to the min and max temperature readings recorded by MSI Afterburner. The games we test are Crysis 2, Lost Planet 2 and Metro 2033. We run these benchmarks for 15 minutes each. This way we can give the included thermal solution and GPU time to reach equilibrium.

Both the Gigabyte and MSI GTX 560 graphics cards had excellent thermal performance thanks to their aftermarket heatsinks. While both card were able to maintain a lower core temperature rating than the majority of cards we have tested, they were also virtually silent even during our most demanding benchmarks.

Power Usage:

To measure power usage, a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter was used. Note that the numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings after running the system through the same in-game benchmarks we used for the temperature testing. This way we are list real-world power usage, as opposed to pushing a product to it's thermal threshold.

The total power consumption rating of the GTX 560 was good, but both the models we tested used more power than a HD 6870. Still, the GTX 560 even after overclocking uses less power than the GTX 560 Ti.

 

Conclusion:

When Nvidia launched the GTX 560 Ti it was evident that they would eventually release a non-Ti version based on the same GF-114 GPU, which itself was an improved version of the GF-104. This gives Nvidia a few graphics cards on the market that have similar specifications, as both the GTX 460 and GTX 560 have 336 enabled CUDA cores, 56 TMUs and run on a 256-bit GDDR5 memory interface. The difference, however, is that the GF-114 GPU has been improved down to the transistor level to increase the overall efficiency and facilitate higher overclocking. This allowed Nvidia to increase the reference clocks on the GTX 560 to 810MHz, which will give this card a decent performance boost in comparison to the GTX 460.

With an MSRP of $200, the GTX 560 is positioned directly between the GTX 460 and GTX 560 Ti, which also sets it up to compete against the AMD HD 6870. For this price range the GTX 560 actually does quite well, as it was able to stay within a frame or two of the HD 6870 in most of our tested games. Since the GTX 560 has considerable overclocking headroom, it was also able to beat the HD 6870 outright once we increased the clock speeds to their maximum threshed. This helps to increase the overall value of the graphics card, and allows it to nearly rival the GTX 560 Ti's performance once overclocked despite the GTX 560 being $50 cheaper.

In this review we looked at two models based on the SKU, one from MSI and the other from Gigabyte. Both included a very robust design that utilized high quality parts, improved thermal solutions and were clocked faster than the reference design.

The MSI model is the NGTX560 Twin Frozr II, which like its name suggests uses their highly efficient dual-fan Twin Frozr heatsink. Their model also includes MSI’s Military class II components, giving it increased power efficiency via on-board Hi-C Capacitors, Super Ferrite chokes and all Solid Japanese Capacitors. These components greatly increase the quality and lifespan of the NGTX560, as well facilitate higher overclocking.

At the stock frequencies the MSI NGTX560 is clocked at 870MHz, which is an increase of 60MHz in comparison to the reference design. The additional clock speed improved the performance of the MSI model, and in our testing it proved to be the faster of the two GTX560’s when benchmarking at the stock settings. This makes this card an excellent option for anyone looking for good out-of-the-box performance. Also, since this model uses the dual fan Twin Frozr heatsink it was extremely quiet, even while testing the most demanding games in our test-bed.

The Gigabyte model is another excellent example of how Nvidia’s AIB partners take a design and improve upon in it just about every aspect possible. Gigabyte utilizes their Ultra Durable VGA design, which like MSI’s Military Class II components increase the graphics cards lifespan and power efficiency. The Ultra Durable technology includes features such as a 2oz copper layer embedded in the PCB, all Solid Japanese Capacitors, the use of Tier 1 memory, Ferrite Core chokes and lower RDS (on) MOSFET.

The Gigabyte GTX 560 also comes overclocked, but to a slightly lesser degree than the MSI model. This means the performance slightly lags behind when testing at stock settings, but usually there was only a few FPS separating the cards, so the performance difference will not have a large impact on the overall gaming experience. The Gigabyte was able to overclock quite well, though we would have preferred overvoltage tweaking to be added in their software overclocking utility.

So, in all you really can’t go wrong with either of these cards, as both include high-quality components, are factory overclocked and have a thermal solution that more efficient that the majority of coolers currently available on the market.

Overall the GTX 560 is a good graphics card that fills in the gaps for Nvidia, and performs right where it should considering its $200 MSRP. Additionally, this card offers all the latest high-end feature available to the Fermi architecture such as 3D Vision support, CUDA processing and PhysX.

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