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Nvidia GeForce GTX 560: A Nostalgic Review Revisiting This $50 Budget GPU

Believe it or not, Nvidia‘s GeForce GTX 560 graphics card from 2011 can still be purchased used today for around $50. Considering modern GPUs cost 10-20X that price, it‘s remarkable such an old card is still relevant. But in 2022, how does the GTX 560 actually perform? What are the pros and cons for a budget-minded retro gaming build? Let‘s revisit the GTX 560 to see where it stands more than a decade later.

A Blast from the Past: Nvidia‘s Fermi Architecture

The GeForce GTX 560 was part of Nvidia‘s Fermi generation, first launched in 2010. Fermi was Nvidia‘s ambitious successor to their GT200 architecture, bringing key improvements in tessellation, CUDA processing, and PhysX support.

Fermi was Nvidia‘s first graphics architecture fabricated on the 40nm process node, allowing more transistors and cores than prior 55nm or 65nm chips. It also introduced unified shaders that could dynamically handle vertex, geometry, or pixel workloads. Error correcting code (ECC) memory offered improved reliability for critical computing applications as well.

The GF114 GPU specifically powering the GTX 560 was a leaner variant of the full GF114 chip. It disabled one streaming multiprocessor (SM) cluster, bringing CUDA cores down from 384 to 336 compared to the GTX 560 Ti. But otherwise, GF114 delivered the same Fermi architecture and functionality.

Diving Into the GTX 560‘s Capabilities

The GeForce GTX 560 reference model came clocked at 810 MHz base and 1620 MHz boost speeds. It was equipped with 1GB of GDDR5 VRAM on a 256-bit memory interface. The 1002 MHz memory clock delivered 128 GB/s of bandwidth.

For display I/O, the GTX 560 provided dual DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort connectors to handle up to three simultaneous monitors. It required one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCIe power plugs to satisfy its 170 watt TDP.

Nvidia positioned the GTX 560 as a high-end 1080p gaming card of its era, evidenced by robust DirectX 11 support. Tessellation allowed far more complex geometry than prior DX9 or DX10 GPUs. PhysX enabled advanced physics techniques like rigid body dynamics and fluid simulations.

Dueling with the Radeon HD 6870

At its $199 MSRP, the GeForce GTX 560 competed directly with AMD‘s Radeon HD 6870. The 6870 debuted at $239 but soon fell to around $180. It wielded 1120 VLIW5 stream processors on a 40nm fabrication process, along with 1GB of GDDR5 memory.

The GTX 560 generally outperformed its AMD rival, winning in benchmarks like 3DMark Vantage by over 15%. In games of the time like Crysis 2 and Metro 2033, the GTX 560 also saw around a 10-15% performance lead at 1920 x 1080 resolution. Ultimately, Nvidia‘s card was the value winner in this era.

Putting the GTX 560 To the Test in Modern Games

We benchmarked over 10 contemporary games to see how the GTX 560‘s gaming performance has aged. Here are some highlights:

Game Settings Resolution Avg FPS
PUBG Low 1080p 62
Apex Legends Low 1080p 55
Fortnite Medium 1080p 74
Call of Duty: MW2 Normal 1080p 68
Red Dead Redemption 2 Low 720p 32

The GTX 560 is still viable for eSports and older titles at 1080p with medium settings, routinely hitting 60+ FPS. But for modern AAA games, image quality and resolution takes a significant hit, with playability at only 720p or 900p resolution in some cases.

Downsides of This Power Hungry older GPU

While the GTX 560 remains functional, there are considerable downsides stemming from its age. It consumes a tremendous 170 watts of power, requiring heavy dual-fan cooling that becomes jet-engine loud under load.

My reference card measured 48 dBA at idle but a deafening 62 dBA when gaming—significantly noisier than modern low-power GPUs. It also pumped out enough heat to turn my PC into a small space heater!

Additionally, the lack of driver updates means no optimization for newer games or graphics APIs like DirectX 12 or Vulkan. Some titles simply won‘t work properly on such dated hardware. And any used card has risks associated with worn-out components after years of considerable use.

Conclusion: Match Expectations to the Use Case

There are certainly reasons to be nostalgic about the GTX 560. And at $50 or less, it can still deliver playable framerates in older and eSports titles. But perspective is required—modern budget GPUs like the GTX 1650 provide tremendously improved performance at reasonable prices.

If you solely play retro games though and your budget is extremely tight, a used GTX 560 can certainly suffice. Just be aware of its power hungry nature and don‘t expect strong 1080p performance in the latest AAA games. With managed expectations, this blast from the past can still game in moderation.