The past year has been exceptionally quiet in the world of enthusiast-class graphics cards, largely because of a decision by the leading GPU chip foundry, TSMC, to cancel its 32-nanometer fabrication process—and because of TSMC's further struggles to bring the replacement 28-nm process up to speed. We haven't had a truly new entry since the introduction of the GeForce GTX 560 back in May, and that was simply a lower-speed version of the GTX 560 Ti released last January.
We may have to wait a little longer for 28-nm GPUs to arrive, but in the interim, Nvidia has decided to inject a bit of freshness into its GPU lineup this holiday season in the form a new product dubbed the "GeForce GTX 560 Ti with 448 cores." As is too often the case these days, the product name has everything to do with positioning and marketing concerns and little to do with reality, as in, you know, what chip is involved. The GTX 560 Ti 448 actually has a lot more in common with the GeForce GTX 570 than it does with the 560 Ti, both in terms of specifications and key performance tendencies. The 560 Ti 448 is based on the larger GF110 chip that powers the GTX 570 and 580, not the GF114 chip behind the rest of the GTX 560 series.
In fact, the difference between the GTX 570 and the GTX 560 Ti 448 is simple. In the GTX 570, one of the GF110's 16 shader multiprocessor clusters has been disabled, while in the GTX 560 Ti 448, two of the 16 SMs have been disabled. As a result, the GTX 560 Ti 448 has slightly lower peak shader arithmetic and texture filtering rates. In virtually every other respect, including clock speeds and memory bandwidth, the two products are the same. Here's a quick look at the key graphics throughput rates versus other current video cards:
| Peak bilinear
| Peak bilinear
| Peak shader
|GeForce GTX 560 Ti||26.3||52.6||52.6||1263||1644||128|
|Asus GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP||28.8||57.6||57.6||1382||1800||134|
|GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448||29.3||41.0||41.0||1312||2928||152|
|GeForce GTX 570||29.3||43.9||43.9||1405||2928||152|
|GeForce GTX 580||37.1||49.4||49.4||1581||3088||192|
|Radeon HD 6870||28.8||50.4||25.2||2016||900||134|
|Radeon HD 6950||25.6||70.4||35.2||2253||1600||160|
|Radeon HD 6970||28.2||84.5||42.2||2703||1760||176|
As you can see, the GTX 560 Ti 448 is just a little slower than the GTX 570 in several places. However, thanks to the architectural differences between the GF110 and GF114, the GTX 560 Ti is sometimes faster than the newcomer, especially in terms of texture filtering rates. The 560 Ti looks even more competitive when you factor in the widely available hot-clocked versions of the card, like the Asus TOP model we've included in the table above. Despite that fact, the GTX 560 Ti 448 has a pronounced lead in the all-important memory bandwidth department. Also, true to its GF110 roots, the 560 Ti 448 is nearly twice as fast in terms of triangle rasterization rates—a capability of questionable utility in today's games, but still a matter of superior hardware being present and available.
The 560 Ti 448 has a couple of other advantages over the regular 560 Ti, including a little more onboard RAM, 1280MB, and the ability to participate in three-way SLI configurations.
At the end of the day, the GF110's additional memory bandwidth ought to win out most of the time. Nvidia reckons the GTX 560 Ti 448 should be roughly 10-15% faster than the GTX 560 Ti and about 5% slower than the GTX 570.
That's not a bad place to land in terms of performance, but the better news is that the GTX 560 Ti 448 splits the difference in terms of price. A nice GTX 560 Ti card will run you about $240 these days, while the GTX 570 will set you back another 100 bucks, or $340. The 560 Ti 448 lands in the middle, with a suggested price of $289.99. Not coincidentally, that price also puts the GTX 560 Ti 448 right in between two Radeons: the 6950 2GB at ~$250 and the 6970 at ~$350. We'd expect Nvidia's new entry to offer compelling value at this price point, taking the shine off of the prospect of paying more for a GTX 570 or a Radeon HD 6970.
Here's an example of an in-the-flesh version of the GTX 560 Ti 448 that landed in Damage Labs recently. Zotac's version is relatively short, at 9", and requires two six-pin auxiliary power inputs. Although it will list for $299.99, ten bucks more than Nvidia's suggested price, the U.S. version of the Zotac card will come with a copy of Battlefield 3.
So, you may be wondering, what's the catch? Glad you asked. Nvidia tells us the reason this card doesn't have a more sensible name like, say, GeForce GTX 565, is that it's a temporary model slated to be available in limited quantities and only in select markets—North America and Europe, basically. Only select Nvidia partners will be selling these cards, including Zotac, Inno3D, EVGA, Palit, Gainward, Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI. Even if it's well-received, the 560 Ti 448 may be gone before you know it, the Black Friday deal of the GPU world.
If that pitch has given you a get-it-while-can fever whose only cure is 448 ALUs, the cards should be available at online retailers starting today.
We've had the Zotac version on hand for a little while now, and so far, our impressions are positive. The cooler isn't horribly loud, and it runs most games very well, even on our four-megapixel monster display. We'd hoped to have a full review of the product for you today. However, we only received final drivers from Nvidia last Tuesday evening, and we decided to spend our Thanksgiving weekend doing something other than cramming to put a review together at the last minute. Rest assured Damage Labs will be churning away in the coming days, though, with all of the latest games and video cards, including the GTX 560 Ti 448.