NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 560 Ti: Upsetting The $250 Marketby Ryan Smith on January 25, 2011 9:00 AM EST
Wrapping things up, for the last week now I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time going over two thoughts: 1) What do I make of the GTX 560 Ti, and 2) What do I make of the name? The latter may sound silly, but I’m almost positive it’s the more important question. After all, why would NVIDIA resurrect the Ti suffix after an 8 year absence?
The answer I believe is a matter of momentum. There was a reason we called the GTX 460 the $200 King at its introduction: it was an aggressively priced card that shifted the market overnight, delivering a very high quality midrange card to a market that AMD failed to hit during their reign as the king. With a number of very quick price drops following its launch, it quickly became the $200 card of choice until AMD could fire back with the Radeon HD 6800 series. I would not classify it as the kind of legendary card that NVIDIA’s Ti 4200 became, but it had a good shot at it.
NVIDIA is now faced with a question of how they should follow-up on the GTX 460 only 6 months later. It would be difficult to recreate the GTX 460’s launch at this time – the market doesn’t have any gaping holes and NVIDIA does not have a brand-new chip. But NVIDIA wants to recreate July of 2010 anyhow – and with any luck April of 2002 while they’re at it. And that is why we have Ti.
To get a 30% performance improvement out of what’s fundamentally the same GPU is quite an accomplishment. I do not believe NVIDIA was originally intending for it to be this way (rather they’d launch something like the 560 back in July of 2010), but the result is nevertheless remarkable. Since the launch of the GTX 460 NVIDIA’s launches have been mostly solid, and the GTX 560 Ti adds to that list. Price/performance is not quite as aggressive as the GTX 460, but NVIDIA is still being aggressive enough to reshape the market – why else are we seeing Radeon HD 6800s for so cheap, and the very sudden launch of the 1GB Radeon HD 6950?
So what do I make of the GTX 560 Ti? There’s the question I haven’t quite answered. It seems like the video cards that go down in history as being truly great are aggressively priced cards the competition has no immediate answer for. I firmly believe that NVIDIA deserves most of the credit for the recent shakeup in video card pricing between $200 and $300 due to the launch of the GTX 560 Ti. But credit is not the same as a solid recommendation.
AMD’s scramble to launch the Radeon HD 6950 1GB has produced a card with similar levels of performance and pricing as the GTX 560 Ti, making it impossible to just blindly recommend the GTX 560 Ti. With sufficient case cooling both the GTX 560 and the Radeon HD 6950 1GB are good cards for the price, and represent a meaningful step up from where we were just 2 weeks ago. Ultimately I think the situation is very similar to December’s launch of the 6900 series, and the match-up between the GTX 570 and the Radeon HD 6970: we have two very similar cards in almost all respects. The GTX 560 Ti ultimately has the edge: it’s a bit faster and it’s quieter than the 6950, and if that’s all you care about then there’s the answer you seek. But you could grab the 6950 1GB and you’d be doing no worse. The deciding factor seems to come down to just how much to value noise and cooling (560) versus power consumption (6950), what games you play, and whether you’re currently invested in the NVIDIA (CUDA, 3D Vision) or AMD (Eyefinity) ecosystem.
In the long run I suspect pricing pressures will make things clearer. Based on what we’ve seen with the GTX 460, NVIDIA clearly has more pricing latitude than AMD with products in this range and with GPUs between 300mm2 and 400mm2. A stalemate is only 1 price drop away from being a clear victory for NVIDIA, so it may simply come down to just how badly NVIDIA wants to win.