Nvidia has just launched a brand new card, the GTX 560 Ti, and they were kind enough to send us one to test out. Now, this is my first time reviewing hardware and I don’t have a crazy testing bench or all sorts of reference systems and parts. However, I have a fairly capable system that I built a little over 2 years ago. I don’t see this as a disadvantage. In fact, I think this just might make this review even more relevant because my setup is probably similar to yours and I use it day in and day out. So when I upgrade my video card, it needs to count. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much a new card in my relatively old computer would boost performance. I was worried the rest of my system might not be able to keep up. Let’s find out how it fared.
Since, hardware is a new thing for us and I only have my personal computer to work with, I'm going to leave the review to the pros. I’ll have links at the bottom to reviews that you can geek out. This will primarily focus on my experience in WoW.
About the Card
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q940
- Video: NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX
- Memory: 4GB
Installing the card was simple, just pulled out the old 9800 and popped in the 560 and plugged in the 2 6-pin power connectors. The 560 Ti was noticeably smaller even though both cards are the double slot form factor, which should help with case airflow. It also shows noticeably cooler temps on the GPU than my 9800.
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 TiSpecs:
- CUDA Cores: 384
- GPU Clock Speed: 822MGz
- Total Memory: 1024MB GDDR5
- Recommended Power Supply: 500 Watts
- Connectors: 2x Dual-Link DVI-I, 1x Mini HDMI
- Starting Price: $249
The GTX 560 Ti is specfically designed to hit gamer’s sweet spot, meaning it’s intended as a high performance card that is also affordable. Last year NVIDIA released the GTX 460 to address this need and the 560 Ti is the next iteration of that line. According to the Steam survey of millions of gamer's systems, one of the most popular NVIDIA cards continues to be the 8800/9800GT. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I still have my 9800GTX after all. So what does the 560 mean for all of us folks hanging on to our older graphics cards?
Out of the gate you get DirectX 11. According to that same Steam survey 84% of you guys haven’t upgraded to a DX11 compatible card yet, hell, I hadn’t either. This card was designed to deliver the best performance with DirectX 11 games first and foremost. NVIDIA has put 8 PolyMorph Engines that are dedicated to DX11 tessellation. All of us WoW players should be able to reap the benefits of DX11 with the next patch. There as been experimental DX11 code in place since Cataclysm. So, even if WoW is the only game you’re playing, you’re going to see a lot of improvement with DX11. And if, somehow, you have time to play other games, you're going to be ready to take advantage of the DX11 improvements in the most modern games out there as well.
Compared to the 8800 GT
Here are some screenshots NVIDIA provided comparing the performance of the 8800 GT with the new 560 Ti. NVIDIA provided these shots and the way they conducted the test was to crank the settings up as high as they would go while still maintaining a playable game.
Crysis (Click for larger image)
WoW (Click for larger image)
The 560 Ti comes stock at 822MHz, which is a significantly higher frequency than it's cousin, the GTX 460 which shipped from the factory at 675MHz. When NVIDIA created the GPU for the 560 Ti, they didn't get that higher frequency by just eating into your overclock though. NVIDIA says you're still going to be able to push this thing up into the 1GHz range. Lots of their partners will have cards available that are factory overclocked as well.
World of Warcraft Performance
You don’t see World of Warcraft in a lot of benchmarks these days. But, this is a WoW site and I imagine you guys want to know if this card will help out your gaming experience. One thing that has always amazed me about WoW is how well it scales across hardware. You can get a decent framerate on a crazy wide range of computers, but on less capable systems you have to make some sacrifices in other departments. My 9800GTX played wow very capably on the “Good” setting. I was content with that for the past years, until I saw how much more detail and draw distance you can get at the “Ultra” setting. Here are a few screenshots I have taken comparing the two settings.
*A Note about these screenshots. The "Good" setting was as high as my 9800GTX would play the game reasonably well, so I am comparing my experience to the highest level the 560 Ti can handle, which is Ultra to show the differences.
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In this screenshot over Org, you can see the detail and shading is far superior and gives the world a richer feel overall.
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On top of overall quality and feel, in this one notice the draw distances. In the Good setting you can see you are missing an entire mountain from your field of view!
In the Ultra setting I maintain right between 20-30 frames per second in a big, crowded city like Orgrimmar. While questing in a less crowded zone like Twilight's Hammer the frame rates are appreciably better and I maintain between 30 and 60 generally. Dropping the setting down to High I easily maintain between 30-40fps in Org and hover right at the 60fps cap when in less crowded regions. So, I've found Ultra to be a nice setting for most all regions even if big cities can get slightly choppy from time to time.
I hoped in a few BGs just to see how the card would perform on the Ultra settings.
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In Arathi Basin I never noticed my framerates to drop below 50 even with the settings maxed out. The extended draw distance also makes it much more clear where your opponent is and exactly what they are doing. I'm pretty sure you see player name plates at the same distance no matter what quality settings you have (someone confirm or deny in this thread?), but with Ultra you can see their environment and where they are positioned much better.
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I also did Isle of Conquest to see how the card would handle the 40 man battleground on ultra in comparison. As expected the framerates, on average, were a bit lower. In this case I never noticed them drop below 30. They seemed to trend from 30-45fps. For me, those numbers are acceptable and I will continue to run BGs at these settings. Not to mention the fact that the detail is so much richer and more immersive.
Thoughts and Conclustions
I've been very impressed with NVIDIA's new 560 Ti. My fear that I wouldn't reap any benefits from a new card because my computer couldn't keep up were completely unfounded. I've been able to crank games up into some of their highest settings and experience far more visual detail. The price, at $249, is also right in my tolerance for a new video card, and down the road I could easily see myself adding a second one for SLI.
That being said, I think that my overall gaming experience would be much improved by upgrading the rest of my system as well. My current plan is to rebuild this system in the coming month or so to bring it up to par with the 560 Ti. Intel, just this month, announced their new second generation Core chips, going by the moniker Sandybridge, so it seems like an ideal time to upgrade. The main bottlenecks for my gaming right now are the load screens. I have a 750GB 7200 RPM drive and it's takes games a long time to load up off that thing. So on my next machine I build will also have a solid state system drive to boost the load performance of games.
I'll be publishing a writeup on NVIDIA's 3D kit they sent me with the card shortly. If you have any questions that I might be able to answer about the card, either reply to this thread or send me a PM.
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