Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti SONIC Edition Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, January 31st, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/Palit_GTX_560_Ti_Sonic/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

NVIDIA released their latest GeForce GTX 560 Ti just a week ago, and since that time the new card has already managed to build quite a reputation for itself. This is in part due to the card's excellent performance relative to its price segment and an improved power consumption rating. The card's strongest aspect though is its excessively high overclocking capabilities. During our testing of the reference model, we were able to push the stock 822MHz base clock up by 27%, which gave it a final rating of 1040MHz. At that frequency the GTX 560 Ti was able to compete aggressively with the high-end GTX 570, which added even further to the already excellent price-to-performance ratio.

The GTX 560 Ti is the older brother of the GTX 460, as both are based off the same core architecture and use similar internal specifications. The GF114 GPU used in the GTX 560 Ti is in fact an optimized version of the GF104 GPU. However, NVIDIA has improved the performance and efficiency of the GF114 GPU by making transistor-level changes, increasing the reference clock speeds and enabling all available 384 CUDA cores. These changes account for up to a 33% total performance increase and a 21% better performance-per-watt increase in comparison to the GTX 460.

The GTX 560 Ti that we are looking at today comes from Palit, and is part of their Sonic series. As part of the Sonic line, the graphics processing and CUDA clocks speeds have been increased to 900MHz and 1800MHz respectively. This is a boost of nearly 11% over the reference design. The memory on the model is also overclocked, as the card comes with 1GB of GDDR5 memory rated at 1050MHz (4200MHz effective). In addition to the increased frequencies the Palit GTX 560 Ti Sonic is built on a custom PCB that reduces the size of the graphics card down to just 7.5 inches, and includes a updated dual fan heatsink.

Palit will be releasing three versions of the NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti. We are looking at their overclocked Sonic version in this review, but they will also ship a model that utilizes the reference clock speeds and one that includes 2GB GDDR5 frame buffer.

                                              (Below is a diagram of the GF114 GPU)

Specifications
CUDA Cores
384
Gfx/Processor Clock
900/1800MHz
Memory Config 1024MB GDDR5 / 256-bit
Memory Speed
4200MHz
Power Connectors
2 x 6-pin
SLI
2-way
Length
7.5 Inches
Thermal
Dual-Slot Fansink
Outputs
SL-DVI, DL-DVI,HDMI,VGA

The Palit GTX 560 Ti Sonic comes packaged in a relatively standard sized box for a mid-range graphics card. Palit has included a depiction of a very robust and powerful engine with the Palit logo on the front of the packaging. Surrounding the engine, Palit lists the features of the 560 Ti such as DX11, 3D Vision, PhysX, CUDA and SLI support. Below these is a Sonic series logo along with the memory size and included video output options.

The back of the GTX 560 Ti Sonic packaging includes the minimum system requirements, technical specifications and a short description of the using a GeForce GTX product. While most of the packaging is done in English, Palit lists the technical specifications in twelve different languages.

When it comes to accessories Palit has taken a minimalistic approach and only included a drivers disc, quick installation guide and a dual 4-pin to 6-pin power adapter.

The Palit GTX 560 Ti is built on a custom red PCB that measures only 7.5 inches and uses a dual slot fansink. The cooler used by Palit is also a custom design that includes a low-profile heatsink with dual intake fans.

The GTX 560 Ti Sonic uses NVIDIA's latest GF114 GPU which is an updated version of the GF104 seen in the GTX 460 graphics card. Internally the difference between the architecture is very small, as they both include the same level of transistors and GPCs, but the GF114 has been optimized for better performance-per-watt, has all available streaming multiprocessors enabled and has faster reference clock speeds. The Palit Sonic edition, however, increases the clock speed even further as this model comes with a graphics processing clock speed of 900MHz and a CUDA engine set at 1800MHz. That is an increase of 88MHz (or just over 10%) in comparison to a standard GTX 560 Ti. The Sonic Edition card includes 1GB of GDDR5 memory that also comes overclocked, rated at 1050Hz (4200MHz QDR).

The back of the graphics card gives us a better view of the custom PCB and in the upper left portion you can spot a ONSemi NCP5388 voltage controller. You can also see that Palit has placed the warranty sticker directly on top of one of the GPU retention screws. This means that any alterations to the heatsink or thermal paste will result in voiding the warranty.

The Palit GTX 560 Ti Sonic uses some additional power compared to a reference GTX 560 Ti, but with power consumption being just over 170W, it is still easily powered by dual 6-pin power connectors. The on-board connectors are found under the heatsink shroud toward the rear of the PCB and are side facing. Though this is a mid-range product that isn't as power hungry as some of the high-end models, it is still recommended that at least a 500W power supply be used to adequately run the card.

The card uses the PCI-Express 2.0 interface compliant with any PCI-E x16 slot. This means it is backwards compatible and it can be used on older motherboard models as well newer ones via a PCI-E x16 slot.

SLI is supported, but only in a limited 2-way configuration. Still, even with only dual card SLI support, the GTX 560 Ti has proven to scale very well and in some instances can surpass the performance of the high-end GTX 580.

The on-board I/O options of the Palit card also differs from the reference models. Here Palit has included dual-DVI outputs, a full-size HDMI 1.4a connector and a single VGA port. Even with four physical video options available, only two can be used at any given time. So dual cards will still be needed to run 3D surround, or more than two monitors.

The card has an integrated HDMI sound device, so the HDMI port is capable of supporting both HD video and audio. It also includes bitstreaming support for Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master audio.

The cooler used on the Palit GTX 560 Ti Sonic is comprised of a two part solution that features dual intake fans on the heatsink shroud and a low profile heatpipe cooler. This design should be very efficient, but it is smaller than the cooler used on the reference model, so the Sonic edition might have a slightly hotter core temperature than NVIDIA's stock GTX 560 Ti.

Attached to the shroud are dual intake fans that share a single 4-pin PWM fan header. The fans will bring in air from under the card and exhuast it back into the case.

The heatsink used on the Palit card is a low-profile design that has three copper heatpipes extending from the base into an aluminum array. The fins on the cooler are separated into two thermal zones, each having its own fan atop of it. The base of the cooler also uses a solid copper design to improve the heat transfer rate. Overall the design is very good, but the Sonic card is lacking any cooling on the memory and PWM.
 

The custom design used by Palit consists of the same memory and GPU configuration as the reference model, but Palit has enhanced the VRM as the Sonic card has a robust 5 phase unit design. This should improve the power efficiency of the card and possibly allow it to overclock higher than a stock 560 Ti. The card also uses all solid capacitors that are found toward rear of the PCB and a ONSemi NCP5388 chip to regulate the voltage.

 

Overclocking:

The Palit GTX 560 Ti comes with clock speeds of 900/1800MHz which are already in excess of 105 over the reference models, but given the excellent overclocking headroom of the GF114 GPU we were still able to squeeze out an additional 100MHz. This gives us a 12% increase from the Sonic's base clock speed, and a 22% increase over the reference NVIDIA model. The final value for the GPU clock was 1000MHz which puts the CUDA cores at 2000MHz. This was done using the latest version of MSI Afterburner and adjusting the core voltage to 1075mV. Additionally we were also able to increase the memory speed by 100MHz, which gave it a final rating of 1100MHZ (4400MHz effective).

Hardware Configuration:

Software:

All the ATI cards released prior to the 6800 series will be tested using AMD's Catalyst 10.8 drivers, while the 400 series NVIDIA graphics cards will be tested using their 260.89 drivers. The GTX 570 and GTX 580 were tested with the release drivers. The Palit GeForce GTX 560 Ti, however, will be tested with NVIDIA's latest 266.66 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 and AA is set to x4 with AF set to x16. The only benchmarks performed with lower AA and AF is Street Fighter IV and the Futuremark test which either showed better scaling when AA and AF were disabled, or have their own built in settings.

Usage:

MSI's Kombuster will be used to gauge the power requirement and temperature of the graphics cards. The program applies a very heavy load to the GPU and as such will push the card beyond that of a game or benchmark. For the minimum temperature and power consumption the system will be left in an idle state for 15 minutes and for load Kombuster will be left on for 15 minutes.

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!

With factory settings of 900MHz, the Palit GTX 560 Ti Sonic was able to easily outperform the reference model and even achieve higher scores than the GTX 480.

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.

In 3DMark 11 the GTX 560 Ti Sonic is again ahead of the reference model, but in this benchmark its performance fell behind the HD 6950.

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.

In the Heaven benchmark the Palit card does very well, but the limiting factor proves to be the 1GB frame buffer as it comes up shy of the HD 6950 in the highest resolution.

Aliens vs Predators 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.

Again we are looking at performance that is improved over the reference card's speeds, but it still has a hard time outperforming the 2GB HD 6950. Once overclocked though, the performance increased to the point where it did surpass its competition from AMD.

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.

In Metro 2033 the performance results switch in favor of NVIDIA as the Palit GTX 560 Ti was able to achieve a higher frame rate at both stock and overclocked settings.

Street Fighter IV doesn't necessarily push a graphics card to the limits, but it is a good benchmark to gauge the overall performance. This test is run at default settings to show the best scaling possible.

The GTX 560 Ti smashed the performance ratings of all single GPU graphics cards in the Street Fighter IV benchmark.

Batman: Arkham Aslyum 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.

Batman Arkham Asylum has a strong bias for NVIDA graphics cards and the results enforce that trend perfectly. In this test the GTX 560 Ti Sonic was able to perform better than even the HD 6970.

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.

Crysis is another game where the limited frame buffer of the GTX 560 Ti negatively effects the overall performance. In this benchmark the performance of the Sonic was more or less equal to that of the HD 6870.

Call of Duty is one of the most successful game franchises of all time and Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration in the series. The games combine modern-day settings and locations with jaw-dropping graphics and explosions.

In Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, the Palit GTX 560 Ti performed incredibly well when playing the game at or below 1920x1200 pixels. Its 1GB of memory limits performance when the resolution was increased beyond that point, however,

Darkest of Days puts the player in historic battles to ensure the survival of key figures from the past. It is a very interesting concept and the use of real life conflicts keeps the title engaging. The in-game options does not allow PhysX to be disabled, so it can often favor NVIDIA graphics cards over those from ATI.

A solid showing by the GTX 560 Ti Sonic, as it managed to perform roughly at the same level as the GTX 570.

Resident Evil 5 is the latest installment of the Resident Evil series. The game comes with a built in benchmark that features a bunch of zombies walking around the center of a village. Believe it or not this seemingly simple benchmark can push video cards way out of their comfort zone!

Both the stock and overclocked performance results are very good in Resident Evil 5, and at 1000MHz the Palit GTX 560 Ti Sonic is able to perform better than the HD 6970 in the lower resolution settings.

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.

The GTX 560 Ti performed very well in Just Cause 2, but again this appears to be a title that delivers optimal performance when more on-board memory is available to the graphics card.

Temperature:

To measure core GPU temperature, MSI's Kombustor was used. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running for up to 15 minutes. The load temperature was taken 15 minutes after starting Kombuster for Multi-Core graphics cards

The core temperature of the Sonic edition graphics card was higher than that of the reference model, but with higher clock speeds and a shorter heatsink this is to be expected. The Sonic was able to handle the additional voltage level with ease, but to be safe I adjusted the fan speed to the maximum level which is the reason the overclocked temperature reading was lower than the stock temperature.

As for the acoustics, the dual fan solution was very quiet when the GPU was idle, but as the fans ramped up the noise level increased so the Palit card seemed to be louder in general than the reference model.

Power Usage:

To measure power usage, a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter was used. Note that the above 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 at the end of a 30 minute Kombustor run.

At the stock settings the Palit GTX 560 Ti consumes 25W more power than the reference model. Once overclocked, the power rating jumped significantly as it consumed more power than both the GTX 570 and HD 6970.

Conclusion:

The GTX 560 Ti is a product positioned in the higher-end segment of the mid-range market. At this price point the 560 Ti has a lot to live up to as $50 more would buy a HD6950 with a larger 2GB frame buffer, and $50 less would get you a GTX 460. Luckily the GTX 560 Ti is positioned perfectly as the performance is well above the GTX 460 and at times competes evenly with the HD6950. The Palit Sonic edition graphics card comes with better out-of-the-box performance than a standard GTX 560 Ti due to its 900MHz stock frequency. During our internal testing of the Sonic edition card, it was able to perform better than the reference model across all of our in game and synthetic benchmarks. This further increases the graphics card's price to performance ratio as it offers a higher degree of performance, and with this model there is no additional premium!

Even though the card has excellent stock performance due to the increased factory settings, there was still plenty of headroom left for overclocking. In all we were able to increase both the GPU clock and memory speeds by an additional 100MHz. This gave the Palit a 1000MHz frequency rating, which is 40MHz shy of the 1040Mhz achieved by the reference model, but impressive nonetheless. At these speeds the Sonic edition graphics card achieved excellent frame rates across our benchmarks and at time competed aggressively with the likes of the HD 6950 and GTX 570.

Another aspect of the Palit GTX 560 Ti that was improved from the reference model was the total length of the PCB. The reference card from NVIDIA has total length of 9 inches and uses a dual slot fansink. While the Palit card also uses a dual slot design, its dimensions have been reduced down to just 7.5 inches, which makes it an ideal solution for gamers with small to mid sized cases and HTPC systems.

Most of the complaints I have with the Sonic edition graphics card are the same I would level against any GTX 560 Ti. These are that the 1GB frame buffer can be limiting and will impact the in-game performance when playing at high settings and resolutions. Also, the inclusion of only 2-way SLI support is disappointing as NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture scales very well in SLI so it would be nice to have the ability to use more than two cards together.

I did have one issue with the Palit card itself: this was that the warranty sticker is placed directly over one of the GPU retention screws, so changing the cooler or using aftermarket thermal paste will void the card's warranty. Most gamers leave the thermal solution of a video card intact, but there is a segment of the market that prefers to use after market solutions. For this group the loss of a warranty might direct their hard earned dollars to different manufacturer.

Overall, the Palit GTX 560 Ti is an outstanding graphics card that is faster and shorter than the reference model, making it a perfect option for anyone looking for increased out-of-the-box performance. Currently the Palit GTX 560 Ti is has a MSRP of $249.99 USD, so again, there is no additional premium for the increased performance!

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