Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti (GV-N560OC-1GI) vs. 9800GT review

Note: Folks reading the below review may also want to read my entry titled GV-N560OC-1GI hardware failure, where the same card after ~3-4 months of occasional gaming (6-7 hours a week) experienced artefacts as a result of GDDR5 RAM that went bad.

I’ve been using an nVidia GeForce 9800GT for quite some time now, and prior to that a 9600GT. When going from my 9600GT to my 9800GT, I was disappointed by the extreme jump in temperature, as well as power use — but the major performance increase made it worthwhile. I was also quite fond of my 9800GT since it was one of the BFG cards which didn’t have a PCIe power connector (it was powered completely off the PCIe bus) and only took up the space of one physical slot.

The reason I stayed with my 9800GT was that none of the newer cards impressed me. Sure, performance-wise they were superior, but I kept reading horror stories about temperatures reaching 90-100C (and people justifying that this is normal), in addition to fans reaching 55-65dB while the card was under load. Why were consumers accepting this garbage?

When it comes to video cards, my focal points are noise, temperatures, power usage, then performance. When I read reviews, I always look for sections associated with those attributes first. I’ll often swap the positions of power use and performance too; depends on the overall impression I have of the card.

Also, I want to make something clear in advance: as of this writing I tend to stick to nVidia cards given my horrible experiences with ATI/AMD Radeon cards having 2D/GUI driver bugs (I spend far more time using my desktop than I do playing games). And I only buy cards with dual DVI connectors (I eventually plan on getting a 2nd monitor).

Early last week, Gigabyte announced RTM of their new nVidia GTX 560 Ti cards: the GV-N560OC-1GI and the GV-N560SO-1GI. For those unsure of the the differences between cards: the former is overclocked with core/shader/memory clocks of 900MHz/1800MHz/1002MHz, while the latter is SOC (super overclocked) with core/shader/memory clocks of 1000MHz/2000MHz/1145MHz. The nVidia reference specifications are 822MHz/1645MHz/1002MHz.

I started reading reviews of the SOC version and became ecstatic:

  • Noise: idle = 30-32dB, load = 32-34dB.
  • Temperatures: idle = 30-35C, load = 60-65C.
  • Power usage: hard to judge, but looked lower than my 9800GT during idle, yet higher during load.
  • Performance: would destroy my 9800GT. :-)

Was this for real? Most gamer-centric review sites tend to use chassis that contain absurd amounts of fans, and their reviewers don’t have ears as sensitive as mine; would I see similar numbers using my Antec P182?

I immediately ordered the GV-N560OC-1GI from NewEgg (since I couldn’t find any other online vendors who had them for sale at the time); I never take chances with SOC cards. It arrived Friday. Installation went fine, as my Antec TruePower 650W has dual PCIe power connectors on a single cable. The new card took up two physical slots compared to my 9800GT but that wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.

The first thing I noticed was the level of noise. It was quieter than my 9800GT, and as an indirect result I found that one of my case fans was making an audible clicking noise. Once I booted up and installed the latest nVidia drivers, I ran GPU-Z to check things out. My jaw hit the floor:

  • Noise: idle = fan at 40% (1750rpm), load = fan at 60% (2450rpm). I couldn’t hear any difference between the two, which greatly impressed me. 9800GT: idle = 30%, load = 80-90% (and extremely loud).
  • Temperatures: idle = 28-30C, load = 55-57C. 9800GT: idle = 55-60C, load = 72-75C.
  • Power usage: idle = roughly 20W lower than the 9800GT, load = roughly 60W higher than the 9800GT. This is actually an improvement, since 90% of the time my workstation idles, so overall I’m probably saving power!
  • Performance: I’m not going to review this attribute. The simple version is that the new card stomps all over the 9800GT in every way.
  • Three-tier clock throttling — when at the desktop, the clock frequencies would drop to literally 50MHz/101MHz/68MHz, but when under load the frequencies would jump up to their maximum. There was also a mid-level tier in between the minimum and maximum, providing somewhat of a “mid-level” performance tier.
  • More monitoring attributes available under GPU-Z — now I could see actual fan RPMs, VDDC, memory controller load, and shader clock rate.

I imagine the extreme temperature difference between these two cards can be attributed to going from 55nm to 40nm TSMC manufacturing, since the 9800GT has 754 million transistors while the GTX 560 Ti has 1950 million.

I’m an extremely happy camper. This card is amazing and is exactly what I was hoping it would be. Well worth the money!

Reviews of GTX 560 Ti cards: