When it comes to building a gaming computer, most people really tend to cheap out on the GPU without realizing the importance of having a good GPU. There is no doubt that you still need a good CPU and RAM as those will cause bottlenecks as well, but for most gamers the GPU is the most important factor in their rig. As such, many gamers overlook too many GPUs as a result of price.

Zotac, though, has been able to deliver a relatively good NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti graphics card for a very reasonable price. Today we will be reviewing that card and taking a look at how it performs against the competition as well as older generation higher performance cards.

Specifications
The Zotac GTX 560 Ti OC [ZT-50303-10M] is an overclocked version of Zotac’s non-reference GTX 560 Fermi based graphics card. The GeForce 500 series is the updated, higher performance version of NVIDIA’s GF100 also known as GF110. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti, though, is a GF 114 chip unlike the GTX 570 and GTX 580. There are versions of the GTX 560 Ti that have 448 shader cores instead of the standard 384 cores. This is because the 448 core version is really a GF110 GTX 570 that couldn’t quite make the cut to be a 570.

Nevertheless, this card is a GTX 560 Ti and it does come pre-overclocked. NVIDIA’s stock clocks for the GTX 560 Ti are listed at 822 MHz core clock and 1645 MHz shader clock with an effective 4 GHz memory clock on 1GB of GDDR5. This card, though, comes pre-overclocked at 850 MHz core and 1800 MHz shader clock. We will take a look at this overclock and see if there’s any additional overclocking headroom built into this non-reference card later in the review.

Because of the non-reference nature of this card we also wanted to check out the cooler and see how effectively it cooled the card as well as remained quiet while doing so. In the next section of the review we will cover this aspect of the card.
Accessories and Design

When it comes to accessories, this card comes with the expected amount of accessories. The included accessories are pretty straight foward. You’ve got a two CDs with one of them being the included driver disk and the other being the included copy of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.

There is also some included literature including a flier that gives you discounts on NVIDIA optimized software. There is also a quick installation guide as well as a generic troubleshooting guide from Zotac.

In terms of hardware accessories, though, Zotac includes the bare minimum in terms of two Molex to 6-pin PCIe graphics card power adapters. They also include the obligatory DVI to VGA adapter as well as a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter to enable you to connect your HDMI monitor or TV to the graphics card easily.

The card itself, though, is pretty simply designed along the standard Zotac color scheme with a custom cooler design. This card is actually standard length, but Zotac’s standard GTX 560 ti is actually a much shorter custom PCB design, and with this longer PCB this card is designed for better performance and better cooling.

If you look at the backplate, you’ll notice the two DVI ports as well as the mini-HDMI port, when we installed this card on our bench we did notice that we could not plug in the adapter into the card. This was a result of our bench’s IO bracket interfering with the GTX 560′s mini-HDMI port.

That aside, the card’s fan is a relatively large fan which is extremely capable of cooling the GPU and surrounding memory and VRM as a result of the cooler’s design. This design does exhaust some hot air back into the case, but a lot of air still does get pushed out the back due to the orientation and location of the fan.


We also took off the shroud around the heatsink and fan in order to show you what kind of a cooler the Zotac card really has and how much of it is actually cooler since its hard to tell under that shroud. Judging by the design, this cooler appears to be a pretty hefty design with three separate heatpipes which are then dissipated by a series of fan shaped fins. Note that the heatsink is thicker towards the back of the card and longer and wide towards the back.


Performance and Benchmarks 

System Setup
Our system that we did this review with was based on the following parts:

Intel Core i7-3960X Processor @ Stock clocks
Gigabyte X79-UD7 Motherboard
Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC (Asetek LCLC-HP OEM)
Kingston HyperX Genesis 16GB (4x4GB) 1600MHz 1.65v CL9 DDR3 RAM
Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti OC Graphics card
EVGA GTX 480 FTW HC
XFX Radeon HD 6950 2GB graphics card flashed with 6970 BIOS

Patriot Pyro 120GB SSD
CoolerMaster UCP 1100W PSU
Dimastech Bench

Synthetic Benchmarks

3DMark 11 Scores

In 3DMark 11, we decided to run all 3 different tests in our cards and compare them against eachother. Looking at our results, the EVGA GTX 480 FTW HC pretty much handily beat both our GTX 560 Ti OC as well as our unlocked HD 6950 graphics cards. In all 3 benchmarks, actually the GTX 560 Ti loses to the other GPUs, but considering the price differences, the GTX 560 Ti OC is actually a pretty good performer per dollar.

PCMark 7 Score

In PCMark 7 we tested the cards against each other and noticed that most of the graphics cards we had tested really didn’t illustrate much of a difference as most cards performed within about 3% of each other which indicates this benchmark isn’t as GPU dependant as you’d think, but it does demonstrate daily use performance expectations.

Cinebench R11.5 GPU OpenGL Benchmark

In this test, we were able to check the OpenGL capability of the various GPUs that we tested against the GTX 560 Ti. Looking at the benchmark results, the GTX 560 Ti actually just outperformed the GTX 480 from EVGA which means that the 500 series GeForce cards have a performance increase for open GL going from the 400 series to the 500 series since the 560 Ti is a upper-mid range card.
Gaming Benchmarks

DiRT 3



In DiRT 3, we managed to run the game at absolutely maxed settings at 1920×1080 on all of the cards that we tested. In the graph, we showed the minimum, average, and maximum FPS. The minimum framerate is, to us, the most important one since if it dips below around 30 FPS, there is a chance of lag. In this game, though, none of the cards really got even close to 30 FPS. Looking at the average frame rates, though, all of the cards were within 13 FPS of eachother, indicating to us that the performance difference in this game really wasn’t that huge and the GTX 560 Ti OC would be a much better value.

Battlefield 3



In Battlefield 3, we tested all of our cards for their maximum, minimum and average speeds. Interestingly enough, we noticed that once again the average frame rates really did not vary greatly, nor did the minimum frame rate. In this game, we ran the settings at High presets at 1920×1080 instead of Ultra in order to make sure that the game was actually playable. Looking at these figures, though we can clearly see that all of the cards tested stayed well above 30 FPS in their low, and the AMD Radeon HD 6950 unlocked card actually maxed out at 113 FPS even though the average was somewhere much lower at 76 FPS. If you take a look at the Zotac card’s average frame rate, though, you’ll see it was around 60 FPS which is really quite perfect and indicates that this card is a great value.

Metro 2033

In Metro 2033 we took a look at the maximum, minimum, and average again while running the game at the high preset at 1920×1080. Judging by our results, this game is pretty biased against the NVIDIA cards since their minimum FPS were extremely close together with the GTX 560 Ti actually coming in 1 FPS faster than the GTX 480 FTW HC and only 4 FPS under the unlocked HD 6950 in minimum FPS. Interestingly, though, none of the cards really was above 30 FPS minimum, so there’s a good chance that you could experience lag in this game regardless of which of those cards you purchased and you would likely be better off with two cards as we’ve seen perform quite well before.
Overclocking


In terms of overclocking, we were able to squeeze an additional 52 MHz out of the already overclocked 850 MHz overclock from NVIDIA’s stock 822 MHz. At 902 MHz we were essentially running at about a 10% total overclock and the card actually did a very good job of keeping the GPU cool as the chip on the GPU never went over 72C when under full load and overclocked. We believe that we could have attained better results if Zotac included an overclocking utility, but we were forced to use EVGA’s instead.

As you can see from the Battlefield 3 results, this 10% overclock resulted in an increased minimum FPS of one, an increased average FPS of three and an increased maximum FPS of one. Admittedly, these results are not necessarily very astonishing since we are only dealing with a 10% overclock, but a 3FPS improvement is quite considerable when you take into account the maximum and minimum barely increased. It is quite clear that overclocking this GPU does not result in linear performance increases.

Value


Taking into account the included software and accessories and the fact that this card comes pre-overclocked as well as has additional overclocking headroom, we are pretty happy to say that this card does provide quite a bit of value. If you are looking for a card that can essentially play all games at fairly reasonable settings and at a fairly reasonable price, this card may just be it. Currently, the Zotac GTX 560 Ti OC sells on newegg for $209 after a $20 mail-in rebate. Prior to rebate, it sells for $229 which is okay when you consider the HD 6950 goes for about $225 after a similar mail-in rebate.

Based on these findings, the Zotac GTX 560 Ti OC isn’t necessarily a crazy good deal, but at the same time it does deliver a reasonable level of performance. With AMD releasing the 7950, the prices of the 6950s have dropped quite a bit and we expect the GTX 560′s to do the same very soon.

Conclusion

The Zotac GeForce GTX 560 Ti OC is not the best performing card out of the cards that we tested, but it definitely gave us a pretty reasonable level of performance. There are a lot of cards on the way right now, so there’s a very good chance that the price of the GTX 560 Ti may actually drop even further in order to clear stock. So, if the performance level of the GTX 560 Ti satisfies you and $200 isn’t too rich for your gaming blood, we’d definitely recommend taking a look at this graphics card.

This card should pretty much satisfy any gamer’s desire to play any game with NVIDIA’s up to date drivers which have resolved any issues that may have existed with any games. We had considerable issues playing Skyrim with our 6950 and as a result had to drop the benchmark entirely. Such issues we simply did not encounter.