The video card market has been surprisingly static in the second half of 2011, so Nvidia's recent introduction of a new product—the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448—was a happy occasion on several counts. First, it was a chance for something different to perhaps offer a little extra value to Christmas shoppers. Second, it was an opportunity for us to revisit some fancy new GPU testing methods with the latest games. Thus, we fired up the graphics test systems in Damage Labs, installed titles like Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City, and set to work. Finishing up this review has taken a little longer than we'd have liked, but we've managed to include some fresh insights on several fronts. Read on for our take.
Above is a picture of the video card that prompted this little get-together, Zotac's version of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448. As you may know, today's video cards are carefully calibrated beasts, based on one of several different chips and tailored to deliver a particular mix of price and performance. This newcomer slots in between two very well established offerings, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti and the GeForce GTX 570. One artifact of this product's late addition to the Nvidia lineup is its awkward name, which is meant to signify its place in the world using an especially long accumulation of letters and numbers. In fact, the "448" in the name refers to the number of shader ALUs enabled on the card's GF110 GPU.
Yep, that's right. Although the rest of the GeForce GTX 560 series is based on the smaller GF114 chip, this new card packs the big daddy, the GF110. We've already described the Fermi graphics architecture, on which the GF110 chip is based, in some detail. The fundamental building block of this architecture is a unit known as the SM, or shader multiprocessor, which is nearly a complete GPU unto itself. The GF110 has 16 SMs, along with six memory interfaces and six corresponding ROP partitions. Nvidia has spun out several products based on the GF110 chip, including the pricey GTX 580, with all units enabled, and the GTX 570, with 15 SMs and five memory interface/ROP partition pairs enabled.
The GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 takes this selective trimming operation a tiny bit further. Only 14 of its SMs are enabled, but in every other way—clock speeds, the number of memory interfaces and ROP partitions, the works—the GTX 560 Ti 448 is similar to the GTX 570. The consequences of this change are so minor as to be nearly imperceptible. The loss of an additional SM means the GTX 560 Ti 448 will have a little less shader arithmetic throughput, texture filtering capacity, and geometry processing ability than the 570. However, the Ti 560 448 has the exact same memory bandwidth, pixel fill rate, and triangle rasterization rate. Combine that with the fact that the Zotac card we're reviewing is clocked higher than Nvidia's baseline speed, at 765MHz rather than 732MHz, and the GTX 560 Ti 448 becomes vanishingly close to the GTX 570 in terms of key graphics throughput rates.
| 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|
|Zotac GTX 560 Ti 448||30.6||42.8||42.8||1371||3060||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|
Then again, the hot-clocked Asus GTX 560 Ti card that we've included in the table above—and in our tests on the following pages—is theoretically faster in several key categories, including texture filtering and shader arithmetic, thanks to its even higher clock speeds. You can see how the small amount of daylight between these different products tempted Nvidia to call this card a GTX 560 Ti, even though it's based on a different chip.
Both the GTX 570 and the GTX 560 Ti 448 have several other advantages over the regular GTX 560 Ti, however. Chief among them is more memory bandwidth, which will likely translate into better performance. Also, the GF110 has substantially higher peak polygon rasterization rates and a little bit more geometry processing potential, all told. This property doesn't generally affect current games, unless they have strange polygon-count inflation problems, but it may impact performance in future games that put DirectX 11 tessellation to truly good use. For now, we can show you the difference between the GF110-based 560 Ti 448 and the GF114-based vanilla GTX 560 Ti using a quick, synthetic tessellation benchmark.
Note that even the GF114-based card produces much higher scores than today's fastest Radeons. Since those same Radeons are altogether competitive with the Nvidia cards in current games, you can probably surmise that the difference between the GF110 and GF114 may not amount to much for a while. Still, it is a real, hardware-based distinction between the chips that matters for a specific sort of performance.
As you can see in the picture of the Zotac card above, the GTX 560 Ti 448 sports dual SLI connectors that will allow it to participate in three-way SLI teams, something the regular GTX 560 Ti cannot do. The 560 Ti 448 card also has a little bit more video memory, 1280MB instead of 1024MB, which may help occasionally at very high resolutions, when video memory is running low.
Another perk of grabbing Zotac's GTX 560 Ti 448: like newer versions of the GTX 570, it's been squeezed into a more reasonable 9" card length, versus the 10.5" length of the first wave of 570s. That change may help with fit in mid-sized cases.
Nvidia's suggested price for the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 is $289.99; the Zotac card above will run you $299.99 at Newegg and comes with a copy of Battlefield 3. Such pricing not only lands squarely between the GTX 560 Ti (~$240) and the GTX 570 (~$340), but also between the Radeon HD 6950 (~$250) and 6970 (~$350). Like Toyotathon, though, Nvidia insists the GTX 560 Ti 448 is a limited-time offer. These cards will only ship to North America and Europe, and only via select board makers. When this allocation of GPUs is exhausted, that's all she wrote. In fact, Nvidia tells us the limited nature of the product run is one reason it didn't pull out a more suitable name, like GeForce GTX 565, to assign to these cards.