In the current video card market, all eyes are on the Radeon HD 7000 series and the GeForce GTX 600 series. They are the latest and greatest series of GPUs from AMD and nVidia respectively. And they both have great offerings with the high end Radeon HD 7970 and the GeForce GTX 680. Right now, AMD has offerings from the Radeon HD 7000 series that extend from low to high price points, and the same thing will happen with nVidia in the near future. Now that new generations of GPUs have been released, it's out with the old.
During this time of transition between generations, there is a sweet spot in the mainstream video card market at around the $150 price point ...and it features cards based on the Radeon HD 6870 and the GeForce GTX 560. While I haven't reviewed AMD's current flagship mainstream offering, the Radeon HD 7770, I've been keeping track of articles and reviews on the websites of our colleagues. What I've generally found is that the 7770 is consistently slower than both the 6870 and GTX 560, and it's also a bit more expensive.
From the standpoint of a value oriented consumer, I bought specimens based on AMD's Radeon HD 6870 and nVidia's GeForce GTX 560. With the 6870, I bought a video card manufacturered by XFX. With the GTX 560, I bought a video card manufactured by Zotac. Both offerings were $150 based on sales, mail-in rebates, and before sales tax. There is nothing fancy about either card, as both are no frills packages and are not factory overclocked. Keep in mind that with either the 6870 and GTX 560 from many other manufacturers are currently available at the $150 price point, it's not just the XFX and Zotac cards I purchased.
As these GPUs are relatively old technology, especially true when we're talking about gaming hardware, there is no need to reiterate technical details. There are many launch reviews you can take a look at for that. What I'll do instead is just give you readers a quick look at the cards themselves, then review the performance they offer.
Zotac's base GTX 560 based video card is pretty long at a little over 9.5", and at first glance it looks more like a higher end nVidia reference card with it's shroud and blower. The PCB and shroud are both black, and the card looks good. The GPU, shader and memory clocks are close to stock at 820MHz (810MHz stock), 4000MHz (QDR) and 1640MHz (1620MHz stock), respectively.
Two PCIe 6-pin power connectors are on the side of the video card, which is a good design trait for a longer card like this. Zotac's logo is oddly upside down based on the typical video card orientation of most cases.
The expansion card backplate contains a good variety of outputs: 2x DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. A DVI to VGA adapter is also included in the package. The little grill is an exhaust vent for the blower based cooler.