Over the last 12 months, nVidia have been all about one thing - delays. Month after month, I'm sure many of you had waited for the range topping GeForce GTX 470 and 480 graphics cards. Indeed, nVidia were late to the DirectX 11 party but today no one seems to care. The bottom line is that team green have taken back the performance crown and are succeeding in their catch up endeavours. Not so long ago, we also saw the release of nVidia's eyefinity competition, known as 3D Vision and Surround. Step by step, it may seem that light is at the end of the tunnel.
One slight problem though. Not everyone on the market today can afford to drop upwards of £300 on a new DX11 graphics card. With ATi enjoying healthy sales figures from Radeon HD 5670, 5750 and 5770 SKUs, it is about time that nVidia returned with some more competition. Today we are pleased to present to you exactly that; meet the nVidia GeForce GTX 460.
I have lied slightly, in that nVidia already have a "mid range" offering on the market today known as the GTX 465. As my colleague highlighted, the cut down GTX 470/480 graphics card suffered from all of the power and heat based issues of its larger siblings but without any of the performance that made them worthwhile. To make matters worse, it is priced well above the £200 mark, making it terrible value for money. Not good news at all.
This is where the GTX 460 comes into the picture. Like the observant chaps that nVidia are, they went away and reworked the GF100 architecture to offer a native mid range graphics card. That's right, no added baggage and no inflated price tags. I think we're all eager to see what it has to offer so let's jump straight to the specifications.
|Model||GeForce GTX 460 ||GeForce GTX 460||GeForce GTX 465|
First of all, we would like to make it clear that there are two versions of the GTX 460. If you decide to save £30 and purchase the 768MB version, not only will you lose out on 256MB video memory, data will be transmitted via a slightly narrower memory interface. It remains to be seen if this causes significant harm to performance but it's safe to say that downgrades such as these are never good news.
Next, I would like to point out the specifications of the GTX 460 relative to the preceding GTX 465. Despite a £80 and £40 price difference, the GTX 460 has just 16 less stream processors but considerably higher memory, shader and core clocks. Is that value for money we smell? Let's find out.
The Graphics Card
Due to logistical issues with our original GTX 460 supplier, we had to request a nVidia Reference GTX 460 sample instead. While this is not really an issue, I must warn that there are no pretty photographs of decorated packaging or accessory sets.
So here it is in the flesh. Sitting at 9" in length, the GTX 460 is no shorter than the more expensive GTX 465 or 470. This is where the similarities end however as you can see that it's a completely different product. For starters, the fan has been shifted to the centre of the shroud sitting just short of 1cm proud of the card's plastic shroud (rhymes not intended). Underneath there is a smaller aluminium cooler with two copper heatpipes.
To the rear you will find two DVI-D ports and a single Mini HDMI. One would suspect that retail samples will come with DVI to VGA and Mini HDMI to HDMI adapters. On the opposite side you will find two PCI-Express 6 pin ports in order to supply as much as 150W to the GTX 460. We never said it was power efficient...
That pretty much covers it. With the latest drivers installed it is now time to run stability tests and carry out some overclocking!
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
nVidia GeForce GTX 460 768MB GDDR5
Samsung 22x DVD+/-RW SATA
Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Forceware 258.96 Drivers
In order to determine maximum load temperatures, we run Furmark's stability test for an extended period of time. The test is carried out with the graphics card operating with automatic fan control but also at 50% fixed fan duty for a fair test.
What an improvement! With the graphics card set to automatic fan control, we reached a maximum temperature of 66*c with a maximum fan speed of 46%. The cooling mechanism was not noticeable over our low RPM 120mm fans, suggesting that the cooler is very quiet indeed. Raising the fan speed to 50% saw a mild temperature drop however a slight whine could be heard from the graphics card. On the basis that our testbed is an open air system, we would gather that under standard conditions its fan would not be noticeable.
The fun didn't end with the temperatures as our GTX 460 proved to be an eager overclocker! Following a number of steady increments, we finally found ourselves with a smoking 864MHz on core, 1728MHz on shaders and 3824MHz on memory. This overclock was verified as stable and will be included in the results that follow.
Do note that GPU-Z currently misreads the Stream Processor count of the GTX 460 as 224. Our sample definitely comes equipped with 336 stream processors.
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!
While we were unable to process the same work unit twice for a fair test, both projects were 611 points in value. Our £150 GTX 460 is throwing higher PPD figures than the mighty GTX 285 and after verifying our overclock, we were able to exceed the 10000PPD barrier. For those who want a mid range F@H cruncher, then this is it.
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.
The Heaven benchmark is awfully demanding but regardless, nVidia's new midrange offering has come out of it with pleasing results.
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.
nVidia certainly tend to have the edge in 3DMark Vantage, however these results are commendable regardless. Note that once overclocked, the overall GTX 460 score is entering the realms of faster graphics cards such as the Radeon HD 5850.
Crysis Warhead is without a doubt one hard nut to crack, especially at higher resolutions and a dash of Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering.
Perhaps it was unfair to throw the GTX 460 into the deep end with all settings maxed out but the card performed admirably well regardless. For most of the part, the game play was fluid, with only the occasional stutter during intense explosions. Also note how the GPU and Memory overclocks offered a 50% increase in minimum framerates. It's a shame that we didn't have a HD 5850 to hand as it's quite clear that the overclocked GTX 460 isn't far from it!
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...
Once again some significant performance gains are to be had with the extensive overclock. Even at default frequencies, the game play was smooth with full graphics settings applied.
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 features huge gaming environments, where some areas are sparsely populated while others are filled with action. Here we saw drops to around 30fps in explosive regions of the map however there were no stutters to report.
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.
Unsurprisingly the GTX 460 eats Left 4 Dead zombies for breakfast!
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.
The GTX 460 shows no sign of trouble in this game although once again, respectable performance gains are seen from the overclock.
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.
In regions containing explosions and hordes of Aliens, we saw significant framerate dips in the range of 20fps. At times the game felt a little choppy however the overclock remedied this issue.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
Flight Simulator X is performing as well as it can due to the game being terribly CPU bound. This is a shame as the GTX 460 has much more to offer than this.
With the tests now complete, it is now time to wrap this review up.
In terms of performance, the GTX 460 has much to offer. Straight from the box, you can expect performance that (at least) matches the previous range topping GTX 285 but with the ability to utilise Direct X 11, nVidia's 3D Vision as well as triple monitor support with the addition of a second graphics card. We are also pleased to report that the graphics card is cool, relatively quiet and if our sample is a valid representitive of retail samples, it also overclocks heavily and with ease.
Now let's discuss pricing. Today you can purchase GTX 460 768MB units for £139.99 and 1GB units for £188.87 available from CCL Online. Depending on the version that you pick, it is either slightly cheaper or slightly dearer than the Cypress based HD 5830. On the basis of the card's performance and that it's as much as £80 less than the preceding GTX 465, we are almost onto a winner here.
Based on the results that we have obtained, we believe that the GTX 460 768MB represents excellent value for money. For those who cannot quite afford ATi's "bang per buck" HD 5850 graphics card, then this new offering may just fit the bill. One things for sure is that if we were in the market to buy one, we certainly wouldn't say no. Fantastic work nVidia.
- Competitive Performance
- Good Overclocker
- Competitive Price
Thanks to nVidia for the sample tested today, you can discuss our findings in the forums.