Less than a fortnight ago we tested nVidia's latest midrange performance offering; the GeForce GTX 460. The product in question was of reference design, sporting its default clock frequencies and cooler. However it became clear that a number of Add In Board partners had developed their own versions of the graphics card. We are fully aware that many of you readers are less fond of the trusty but more basic reference designs so today we're going to test something with all of the bells and whistles attached. This is the Asus GeForce GTX 460 1GB graphics card.
Asus are well known for their customised graphics card designs, from modified PCBs to factory overclocks and upgraded cooling solutions. The DirectCu edition that we are reviewing is no exception but is it worth the price premium that it carries? Let's find out.
|Model||GeForce GTX 460 ||GeForce GTX 460 DirectCu||GeForce GTX 465|
There are a number of things to pay attention with this particular graphics card. As the Asus GTX 460 is of the 1GB variety, it sports a wider 256bit memory interface and 32 ROPS as opposed to the 768MB's 192bit and 24 ROPS.
The differences that I've mentioned apply to any 1GB graphics card, however the Asus GTX 460 boasts from three additional features. First of all, the DirectCu TOP edition boasts a 100MHz increase in Core Frequency, a 200MHz increase in Shader Frequency and a 400MHz increase in Memory Frequency. Moreover, it might be possible to push this particular variant as it allows the user to manipulate its core Voltage. As far as cooling a heavily overclocked graphics card is concerned, Asus were kind enough to implement an all new cooling system. We will discuss this at great length with the pictures.
Packaging & Initial Impressions
Asus certainly don't believe in the conservation of trees as the DirectCu arrived in a rather elaborate set of packaging. Aside the use of Asus' recent white and green livery, it is also both wide and deep. I say...what lurks inside..?
Removing the flimsy white/green layer of packaging reveals a thicker black box. It would surely command the package to fall in the hands of a delivery man with the mental capacity of Family Guy's Opie to cause any damage to the equipment that lies inside.
Inside you will find a further three boxes. The box at the top contains a leather wallet to store your favourite CD's, a Driver Disc and Installation manual. To the right you will a narrow box that conceals a Molex to PCI-Express adapter plus DVI → HDMI and DVI → VGA adapters. Finally, below the former box lies the GeForce GTX 460.
For those who have read our review of the reference GTX 460, you will have noticed two things. Different PCB and different Cooler. Despite the graphics card being of the same length as the reference design, the new cooler stretches beyond the PCB by as much as one inch.
Consequently the placement of PCI-Express 6pin connectors have moved to the top of the graphics card rather than the rear.
Now lets take a closer look at the cooler itself. As the name “DirectCu” suggests, Asus' cooler sports heatpipes that make direct contact with the GPU Core. It's clear that no compromises have been made with the design, with the use of thick 8mm heatpipes, a huge area of fins and a larger 92mm fan. We will find out very shortly if it makes the impact that it suggests.
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition
Gigabyte MA770T UD3P Motherboard
4GB Corsair Dominator GT DDR3-1600 C7 AM3
Samsung Spinpoint F1 320GB SATA II Hard Disk Drive
Asus GeForce GTX 460 DirectCu TOP 1024MB GDDR5
nVidia GeForce GTX 460 768MB GDDR5
Samsung 22x DVD+/-RW SATA
Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Forceware 258.96 Drivers
Our testing procedure entails a 30 minute period of idle testing from cold, followed by a 30 minute period of Furmark's Stability Test. Temperatures are noted with the fan set to Automatic and at a fixed speed of 50% for the sake of a fair test.
Our first observation was that the 1GB version of the card runs slightly warmer with all of its ROPs and Memory Interface enabled. Another reason for the higher temperatures is the graphics card's higher core frequencies but more importantly, its higher default voltage of 1.01V vs the 0.97V recorded on our 768MB Reference card.
With the fan set to Auto, we reached a maximum Load temperature of 64*c with a maximum duty speed of 54%. Reducing the fan speed to a fixed 50% lowered the motor noise of the fan quite noticeably, however the load temperature had risen to a more toasty 71*c. These results were a little higher than we expected, however on the basis of the card's higher operating voltage and its fully enabled specification, it is certainly reasonable.
This is where things get a little interesting. Without manipulating Core Voltages, we reached a maximum stable frequency of 852MHz. We weren't entirely happy with this so after a 0.05V voltage increase, we finally found ourselves with a speedy 881MHz Core and a consequent Shader Frequency of 1762MHz. The memory on the Asus DirectCu was also impressive as we obtained a maximum frequency of 4160MHz. Great results all round!
So without further ado, lets whack out the benchmarks!
Folding@Home GPU3 Client
In the second quarter of 2008, the Folding@Home group launched their first CUDA supporting protein folding client. Having fully harnessed the capabilities of stream processing, the client remains to be many times faster than similarly priced processors. However recently we saw the release of the GPU3 client, offering full support for GF100/GF104 GTX 400 series graphics cards. With 336 stream processors at our disposal, lets see what it has to offer!
Straight from the box, the Asus GTX 480 holds a 1000PPD lead over the reference 768MB graphics card. The fun doesn't end here as once overclocked, the graphics card was pulling just short of 11000PPD in the above 611 point projects.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Recently Unigine produced the fantastic Heaven Benchmark. Based around a ficticious floating village the benchmark makes full use of the Direct X 11 API, most notably with the implementation of Hardware Tesselation.
These midrange graphics cards fair reasonably well in this particularly demanding benchmark. All configurations suffer from low minimum framerates in certain tests however the results are still respectable.
3DMark Vantage is Futuremarks flagship gaming oriented benchmark at present and is considered to be a demanding one at that. Our tests were carried out under the "Performance" prefix.
In this benchmark, the Asus GTX 460 has a clear lead over the 768MB version. It must be mentioned that nVidia have an artificial lead in Vantage due to the way CPU tests are conducted but these results are very promising regardless.
Crysis Warhead is without a doubt one hard nut to crack, especially at higher resolutions and a dash of Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering.
Some interesting results here. Out of the box, the Asus GTX 460 is just slightly behind our overclocked 768MB reference card. Once overclocked it sails well ahead towards the realms of stock HD 5850 performance.
DiRT2 is a very recent race driving game, known for it's Direct X 11 support. Let's crank up the settings and give it a whirl...
Unlike Warhead, DiRT2 can be maxed out without top end hardware. As such, both graphics cards are playable with all settings set to full. Again, the stock Asus card and the overclocked 768MB card exchange punches, while the overclocked Asus maintains its lead.
Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2 is among the most popular games available at present. With plenty of explosions and densely (polygon) populated maps, it should prove to be an interesting test for our setup.
Modern Warfare 2 campaign sends the gamer through sparse and densely populated regions and as such it comes to no surprise that there is always such a large difference in minimum and maximum framerates. The story of the previous two games are repeated here.
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead is a very popular hit and should be an interesting choice to take our testbed for a spin. Let's see how well it performs
Left 4 Dead simply doesn't do these graphics cards justice. You will struggle to notice the difference between the two within this game, even with the sliders set to full.
Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 is based on a rather demanding engine and also has a fair level of GPU dependancy at higher resolutions. For this test, we used the game's comprehensive benchmarking tool.
Again, a notable lead is observed over the reference card. While minimum framerates remain quite close, the overclocked 1GB edition appears to hold its own in terms of average framerates. Again it seems quite evident that an overclocked 768MB can keep up very well.
Aliens vs Predator
This game is a very recent hit that utilises many Direct X 11 features, including Tesselation. What a perfect way to stretch our GTX 460's legs.
This particular DX11 hit generally requires a fairly capable graphics card. The differences aren't large enough to make a significant difference in game play however the Asus may offer more fluid visuals in areas with explosions and larger hordes of aliens.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
For those who wish to purchase this graphics card for FSX, you will find that it performs no different to the reference card. Here, the premium of the Asus is not required.
That's all folks!
It can be safely said that the GTX 460 1GB is a very capable graphics card. None of the games in our testing regime were unplayable and for most of the part, it is a serious threat to ATi's Radeon HD 5770, 5830 and 5850 graphics cards.
Out of the box, the Asus GeForce GTX 460 TOP offered framerates that are quite similar to our heavily overclocked 768MB sample, while further gains were obtained once the Asus was pushed to its limits. It seems quite evident that the uprated cooler and voltage tweaking facilities have paid off. Here however lies a serious problem; at what price are these extras still worthwhile?
For those who are interested in motors, let's talk about the Ford Fiesta ST150; a 150bhp petrol “warm” hatch. It is possible to buy factory approved kits from aftermarket manufacturers to take it's engine to the realms of “hot” hatch territory. Induction kits, exhausts, turbo chargers, you name it; it can all be purchased. Technically it might be possible to push over 200bhp out of its engine but you will have spent thousands of pounds making this happen. In hindsight, it might have made more sense to purchase the Ford Focus ST, which offers better performance out of the factory but thanks to its 2.5 litre turbocharged engine, it has the potential to reach silly speeds once modified, leaving the little Fiesta in the dust. This is the trap that the Asus GTX 460 DirectCu falls into.
With a RRP of ~£195, Asus' heavily modified GTX 460 has a plain and simple competitor. That's right folks, its the Radeon HD 5850. A reference HD 5850 will perform very similarly straight from the box for a similar outlay but once overclocked, there is simply no comparison; the ATi will win every time.
In theory this graphics card is a real winner. It offers a sizable factory overclock that will entertain anyone too afraid to tweak a graphics card themselves, yet has the facilities to wet the appetite of those who really push their computer hardware to their limits. Furthermore, the build quality is fantastic and the cooler is also effective. Sadly this has all come at a high price and now Asus' range topping GTX 460 swims with much bigger fish. However, if money or the competition isn't of great concern to you, then this is the nVidia graphics card to buy. Well done Asus.
- Voltage Tweak Feature
- Relatively Quiet Operation
- Overclocking Ability
- Price is too close to HD 5850
Thanks to Asus for the sample on test today, you can discuss our results in the forums.