Asus GTX 560 Ti 448 Core DirectCU II £250
29th Nov 2011 | 14:01
An early graphical Christmas pressie from Nvidia and Asus
Asus is the first company to get this limited edition GTX 560 Ti 448 Core graphics card onto our testbench.
Now the dreaded limited edition tag has been handed to graphics cards many times over the years and generally it doesn't make for good things.
Most of the time, in the GPU world, it means a graphics card being thrown out to see how many of the general public will take the bait and pick up a hobbled version of a decent card.
Recent history has seen the fantastic GTX 460 getting that treatment with the GTX 460 SE in the November of 2010.
At a time when the GTX 460 was in great demand this slightly cheaper, weaker card hit the distributors and I'll wager a great many missed the SE tag in the name and simply thought they were getting a bargain.
Nvidia though, and by extension graphics card manufacturers like Asus, haven't taken the same route this time. The GTX 560 Ti 448 Core is not a hobbled version, in fact it's quite the contrary.
This new version of the GTX 560 Ti is a far superior beast than it's older sibling.
So what makes it so much better?
The reason the GTX 560 Ti 448 Core makes good use of the 'limited edition' moniker is down to a much smarter bit of marketing than Nvidia usually uses.
Really this card is nothing like the old, vanilla GTX 560 Ti at all, in fact it's actually got much more in common with the GTX 570.
It's running the same GF 110 GPU instead of the GTX 560 Ti's GF 114. That gives it 14 of the streaming microprocessors to the other card's 8 and comes with a good chunk more ROPs. Eight in fact. It's also got a full 1,280MB frame buffer too.
If the GPU configuration of 448 cores, 56 texture units and 40 ROPs sounds familiar, you probably ought to get out more. That and you're probably recognising the layout of the original GTX 470.
So in essence this latest card is a hybrid of the GTX 470 and the GTX 570, and has little to do with the GTX 560 Ti that it's taking the name of.
That's no bad thing at all. If Nvidia had followed tradition and brought this card out around the holiday period calling it the GTX 570 limited edition we might have been baying for blood.
As it is we're far happier at the thought of a mainstream card getting some more technical loving.
The Heaven 2.5 benchmark is a great indicator of raw graphical performance, and shows what the extra technical goodness of the GF 110 GPU offers over the vanilla card's GF 114 chip.
The Metro 2033 score is also a good indicator of DX11 performance, and also shows what the extra tessellation engines in the 14 streaming microprocessors offers the consumer.
These scores aren't far short of the GTX 570 and with the Asus card's impressive cooling the overclocking results can surpass it.
DirectX 11 tessellation performance
DirectX 11 gaming performance (2560x1600)
DirectX 11 gaming performance (1920x1080)
DirectX 10 gaming performance (1560x1600)
In older titles the extra graphical hardware in the GF 110 GPU doesn't really add up to a huge boost in performance between the vanilla and 448 core versions of the GTX 560 Ti. When you look at the DirectX 10 Just Cause 2 we saw between 10-13% boost over the older card.
For the extra cash that's no great shakes, but when you look at more recent or more taxing titles, like Crysis 2 or Metro 2033, then things start to look more impressive.
In Crysis, in its full high-res texture and DirectX 11 glory, we saw improvements of 20%. That's in both the more standard 1080P resolution and at the eye-popping res of 2560x1600.
In Metro, while it still couldn't get above a single frame per second at 2560x1600, we managed to get almost a 50% boost in frame rates at 1920x1080 with 4x anti-aliasing – a notorious resource hog.
Part of the reason for this improvement at the higher resolutions is the extra graphics memory and the wider 320-bit bus.
The only issue, hardware-wise, is the knowledge that this is very much a stop-gap part.
It's a limited edition part because Nvidia is trying to ship out as much of its outstanding high-end chips as possible. If that means making them cheaper without impacting on the sales of the full high-end cards then that's alright.
The shelf-life then is limited as once this batch of GPUs has gone there wont be any more manufactured.
Nvidia is currently working on its range of next-gen Kepler graphics cards, which ought to come to light sometime Spring 2012. So that's its main focus right now.
AMD will also have its next generation of cards out early 2012 too, probably before Nvidia.
While it's always the case that the new range of faster cards is practically just around the corner, it still makes it tough to drop £250 on a card when that same money will probably get you much more in a very short space of time.
But still, you are getting a bit of kit that's only just shy of the excellent GTX 570.
And this Asus version is one hell of a proposition too.
It's redesigned PCB and power layout means that the Asus GTX 560 Ti 448 Core DirectCU II (phew) is an overclocking powerhouse too.
We pushed the GPU clockspeed up to the levels of the GTX 560 Ti (immediately surpassing the stock speed of the GTX 570 in the process) without the card breaking a sweat. The Asus GTX 560 Ti 448 Core actually topped out just over the 900MHz mark, a cool 170MHz over the stock clocks.
That overclocking prowess means it's also capable of taking on the vanilla Nvidia GTX 570 in a straight pixel-pushing fight.
The only down-side of the this Asus design is that, thanks to the chunky cooling solution allowing that insane overclocking, it's a triple-slot card. And that means you're going to need a likewise chunky case to house it.
The big issue though for this, effectively, slightly cut-down GeForce GTX 570 is that you can actually pick up a full GTX 570 for only a little more than the price of this hobbled version.
The enhanced cooling gives it a bit of an edge, but the triple slot GTX 570 DirectCU II is available for only £259. And that's the card we'd recommend over this one.
The fact you are getting a slightly cut-down GTX 570 for a little more than a standard GTX 560 Ti has to be a positive thing.
Coupled with the fact that Asus sure can design a graphics card's cooler, making for overclocking nirvana, makes that doubly so.
As we've said, the only real issue with the hardware is the sheer size of that triple slot cooler. You will need a big chassis to give you space for everything else in your rig.
The major problem though is that it's too expensive considering you can pick up an actual GTX 570 for only a little bit more
A cooling masterclass by Asus, but the real GTX 570 can be picked up for around £260-odd.