A new flavour of Fermi
Sure, we've seen card manufacturers attempt something different - ASUS's RoG MARS II, PowerColor's 6870 X2 and Colorful's GTX 560 Ti Kudan are all testament to that - but genuinely new GPUs have been few and far between.
You have to go back to May 2011 for the last major launch from NVIDIA, the GeForce GTX 560, but even that was little more than an existing GPU tweaked to form something slightly different. AMD, meanwhile, hasn't served up any major high-end propositions since the Radeon HD 6990 way back in March.
It's been a slow end to the year, but while AMD and NVIDIA won't be introducing new architectures until the first quarter of 2012, the latter has opted to give us another flavour of Fermi - dubbed the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 - just in time for Christmas.
What is the GTX 560 Ti 448?
NVIDIA's nomenclature can be confusing at the best of times, so let's start by explaining what the GTX 560 Ti 448 really is.
While the branding suggests that this "new" GPU is a beefier version of the existing GTX 560 Ti, it is in fact a less-meaty derivative of the GTX 570. Let's lay out the specification to see where exactly NVIDIA's latest introduction fits in.
|GPU||GeForce GTX 580
|GeForce GTX 570
|GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448
|GeForce GTX 560 Ti
|GPU Clock (MHz)||772||732||732||822|
|Shader Clock (MHz)||1,544||1,464||1,464||1,645|
|Memory Clock (MHz)||4,008||3,800||3,800||4,008|
|Memory Bus (bits)||384||320||320||256|
As depicted by the table above, NVIDIA's GTX 560 Ti 448 has a lot in common with the GTX 570 launched almost a year ago.
Managed to spot the one-and-only difference between the two? The answer's in the name - the GTX 560 Ti 448 has 448 CUDA cores, compared to the GTX 570's full complement of 480. The reduction in cores is achieved by disabling a single Streaming Multiprocessor (SM) unit, resulting in the loss of 32 cores and four texture units.
What are the chances of re-enabling that unused SM unit for full GTX 570-like performance? Not good, as NVIDIA has assured us that the 15th SM unit is fused at the factory and cannot be brought back to life.
Why take a backward step at all? Well, only NVIDIA knows for certain, but the GTX 560 Ti 448 will be launched as a limited edition product and we can think of a few reasons why. The company may be trying to offload excess GTX 570 stock, there could have been yield issues that forced a shift in GF110 specification, or it could be simpler than that - a new product in time for the holidays just makes a lot of sense.
Whatever the reason, the awkwardly-branded GTX 560 Ti 448 is essentially a GTX 570 with one streaming multiprocessor culled at the factory, and should therefore be thought of as a GTX 570 on a diet, not a GTX 560 Ti on steroids.
The product could certainly have been named more appropriately, but the GTX 560 Ti 448's specification shows potential and it's poised to fill the sizeable gap between the GTX 560 Ti and GTX 570. According to NVIDIA, the new 448-core part is up to 15 per cent faster than a GTX 560 Ti, and only five per cent slower than a GTX 570.
Based on those claims, performance should be very decent, and if the $289 MSRP translates to a UK street price of around £220 including VAT, the GTX 560 Ti 448 could become hot property this Christmas. NVIDIA claims to have a limited supply of the 448-core GPUs, and the product will only be available to a few select partners (ASUS, EVGA, Gainward, Gigabyte, Inno3D, Palit, MSI and Zotac) for sale in just a few specific regions (UK, France, Germany, Russia, Nordics).
Does a tweaked variant of a year-old GPU have it what takes to spark an interest? To find out, we're taking a look at custom-cooled derivative from Gigabyte.