Review: Gainward GeForce GTX 560 Phantom

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A note before the review: while we understand that products like videocards and motherboards are highly technical in nature, we’ll try and explain everything as plain as we can. We understand that a majority of our readers are casual technologists and not overclocking monsters, and as such the wording and the way the review is made is targeted at our main audience. Alright, on with the review.

Nvidia is patching up all the holes in its product line, as evidenced by the release of the GTX 560 lineup. Not to be confused with the GTX 560 Ti, the GTX 560 is targeted at the $199 to $220 range – it’s a card that’s built for gamers that have extra cash to spare, but don’t want to go all in with either the GTX 570 and its bigger and brasher brethren.

The GTX 560 nixes the Ti suffix, and while it uses the same GF114 GPU (think processor, but for videocards) it takes a hit with the removal of one Streaming Multiprocessor. The standard clock speed for a reference GTX 560 places it at around 810 MHz. The GTX 560 Phantom has a stock clock speed of 822 MHz, indicating that it’s slightly overclocked straight from the factory – a usual occurrence with cards nowadays.

Other specs of the Gainward GeForce GTX 560 Phantom include 1024MB GDDR5 (256 bits) memory, clockspeed of 2020 MHz and a custom cooling solution that combines heatpipes, heatsinks and dual fans.

The overall appearance of the Gainward GTX 560 is eerily similar to its bigger brother, the 560 Ti. The package includes the card and a 6-pin connector plus the display driver, but other than that it’s pretty sparse. The Gainward GTX 560 is also a bit wider than a reference 560, occupying 2.5 PCI-E slots as opposed to 2 slots.

Our test rig for this particular card is a second generation Intel Core i5 2500K (3.30GHz, 6MB cache) on a reference Intel DH67 Intel motherboard with 8GB of DDR3 memory. For comparison’s sake, we also conducted benchmark tests with an Inno3D GTX 570, a card that’s one tier higher than the GTX 560, running stock. Two benchmarking software were used during the test: Unigine’s Heaven and Futuremark’s 3D Mark Vantage. Identical settings were used for benching both cards (same resolution, Anti-aliasing settings, etc.) to keep a level playing field for both cards.

After installing the driver with the card (the card was under press embargo when we reviewed it, so no online drivers from NVIDIA), we ran Unigine’s Heaven benchmark twice – an initial run with the resolution set to 1680×1050, 4X Anti-aliasing and anisotropy set to 4. The initial pass yielded good results, netting a nice 32.3 average FPS (frames per second), with an overall score of 814. In comparison, the GTX 570 got an understandably higher FPS of 41.4 with an overall score of 1044. A higher resolution of 1920×1080 (with everything else being unchanged) netted the GTX 560 a lower overall FPS of 28.4, and a lower score of 715.

Futuremark’s 3D Mark series of benchmarking tools has long been a reviewer’s staple and 3D Mark Vantage isn’t an exception. We ran 3D Mark Vantage at a resolution of 1920x1080p, with the presets set to performance and Anisotropy on 16 and the multi-sample count at x4. The GTX 560 scored a nice overall score of 10,825, with the first test grabbing a nice 38.5 FPS, and the second test netting a 35.46.

Of course, all the benchmarks in the world won’t real world game performance, so we loaded up Battlefield Bad Company 2, EA’s definitive multiplayer shooter. With the resolution set to 1920×1080, the game never dipped below 55 FPS, even with all the frenetic shooting and stabbing going on around me. It also performed well on my current MMO addiction World of Tanks; netting a nice 50-30 FPS average (my previous 460 only managed an average of 30-40 FPS).

 

What’s Hot:

Cheaper than the GTX 560 Ti without a large compromise on performance.

Includes comprehensive overclocking software.

What’s Not:

Virtually similar to the GTX 560 Ti externally, a bit of variance would have been nice.

Bottomline:

While we’ve not heard a word on local pricing, if online pricing is any indication, the Gainward GTX 560 Phantom is a good compromise for gamers who can’t afford the higher tier GTX 560 Ti that the company is offering.

BTW, we’re giving away a Gainward GeForce GTX 560 Phantom to a lucky Gadgets Magazine Fan! Stay tuned for the contest mechanics.