Zotac turbo-charges the GeForce GTX 560 Ti
Of the two cards we're looking at today, the Radeon has the bigger engine. Cypress is a larger GPU than the GF114 behind the GeForce, after all. To stay competitive, Zotac employs much more aggressive tuning with its hot-clocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti. The card's 950MHz core clock is a whopping 16% faster than stock, and the memory clock has been increased by 100MHz—a 10% jump.
To keep consumers from confusing this card with a modestly juiced Zotac model with an 850MHz core, the faster variant has been tagged the AMP! Edition. Apparently, an all-caps suffix wasn't enough to convey the extremeness of what's going on here, so Zotac added an exclamation mark. I suppose we should be thankful it didn't resort to blink tags.
Incidentally, that 850MHz model will set you back only $240. For an extra $30, Zotac offers a much bigger step up in clock speeds than XFX.
Despite substantially faster clocks, the AMP! Edition has the same single-fan cooler as the 850MHz card. Heck, Zotac even sells a stock-clocked version of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti with an identical-looking cooler. The single fan makes me a little wary, but I quite like the look of the cooler overall. Matte black makes another appearance, and this time the fan matches the shroud. There's also a healthy splash of color thanks to metal grills painted a rich shade of yellowy orange.
The cooler's lone fan is the same diameter as what's used in the XFX card, although it has fewer blades. Each of the Zotac's blades is larger, so there probably isn't much of a difference in airflow... apart from the fact that the Radeon has a second fan. Like the XFX card, the Zotac's underlying heatsink features three copper heatpipes that link the GPU to a finger-grating array of cooling fins.
Because its heatpipes don't protrude from the shroud, the Zotac card is a little squatter than the XFX at 4.4" from the bottom of the PCI Express connector to the top of the cooler. The GeForce is only 9" long, making it half an inch shorter than the XFX in that dimension.
Like the Radeon, the GeForce is equipped with dual 6-pin PCI Express power connectors. There's also a nice open space above the power jacks to facilitate airflow when cards are packed side by side.
With only three display outputs, the GeForce has enough back-plate real-estate for a generous exhaust vent, as well. There's more missing than a couple of DisplayPort outs, though. While a single Radeon HD 6950 is capable of powering a multi-screen Eyefinity array, Nvidia's comparable surround technology requires a second graphics card running in SLI. If you don't mind wearing dorky glasses and splurging on 120Hz LCDs, that SLI setup will support 3D Vision Surround.
We've long taken shots at Apple for using obscure "mini" connectors types for standard expansion ports and then charging a fortune for an adapter you'll invariably need. Zotac gets a pass for using a Mini HDMI on the AMP! Edition because it throws in the necessary adapter for free.
There are more goodies in the box, including PCIe power adapters for older PSUs and a VGA adapter for ancient CRTs and budget LCDs. None of extra plugs is all that exciting, but it's nice to see them included, especially since similar adapters aren't provided with the Radeon.
The AMP! Edition's accessory bundle has an ace up its sleeve in the form of a download code for Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. Game bundles were all the rage a while back, but they rarely included recent and critically acclaimed titles. Brotherhood hit the PC at the end of March, so it's still a new release. The game has also racked up a MetaCritic score of 88 with an impressive 8.5 user rating. If you're interested in playing Brotherhood, the download code could add a lot of value to the AMP! Edition. The game typically sells for $40-50 online.