Nvidia Geforce Gtx 460

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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460

Today NVIDIA is answering the demands of money conscious gamers by introducing the new GeForce GTX 460. The GTX 460 is a refinement of the Fermi architecture, designed to land significant performance improvements for gamers resting in the $200 USD sweet spot. I will find out if this truly does deliver gaming bliss on the cheap and why NVIDIA is calling the GTX 460 an “Overclocker’s Dream.”

Introduction

Today NVIDIA is launching their newest Fermi family GPU, the GeForce GTX 460. The first two Fermi products were released on April 12th of 2010, and included the GeForce GTX 480 flagship and GeForce GTX 470. On May 31st, NVIDIA then launched the GeForce GTX 465 which was met by less enthusiasm and debated merit. Now I have the true gaming sweet spot contender being launched, the GeForce GTX 460 at $199-$229.

A New Class of Fermi

During our briefings, NVIDIA repeatedly referred to the GeForce GTX 460 (which bears the alternate moniker “GF104”) as “A New Class of Fermi.” It seems that NVIDIA is suggesting to us that they are trying to set the GTX 460 apart from the GTX 480/470/465, and give it a life of its own in several key categories. NVIDIA is setting it apart in performance, price, power, noise and heat. I will of course test all of this, and I think you will be pleased with our findings.

NVIDIA likened the GTX 480 to the “Tank” character archetype found in many MMORPGs. The GTX 480 is big and expensive, representing some of the most powerful characters around. The GTX 460, according to NVIDIA, is more like a “Hunter” class. It is smaller, leaner, less complicated, and more approachable, which is a good thing when we’re talking about lower-cost video cards.

Compared to the GTX 480’s 480 CUDA cores and 15 polymorph (tessellation) engines, the GTX 460 packs 336 cores and 7 tessellators. The GTX 480 features 60 texture mapping units to the GTX 460s 56, while the GTX 460 is 2.25″ shorter, uses 90W less power at full load, and costs less than half as much.

NVIDIA designed the GTX 460 to meet the needs of those gamers operating in the single largest price domain, right around $200 USD. According to Steam’s May 2010 hardware survey, 31% of its customers use a video card in the $200 range.

NVIDIA recognizes that geometry performance scaling between the GeForce 9800 GT and the GTX 260 was not ideal, so they sought to improve that scaling with the GTX 460, allegedly bringing a performance increase of 4.5X, while scaling shader performance by about 3X. NVIDIA also believes that their performance scaling throughout their DX11 lineup is between 1.5X and 2X that of AMD’s lineup. During our previous testing, I have found performance scaling to be less dramatic than that, with some games running better on the Radeon HD 5800 counterpart to NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 400 series.

Specs, Pricing and two different models

NVIDIA’s reference specification for the GeForce GTX 460 calls for the Graphics cores to be clocked at 675MHz, while the CUDA Processors are bound to that clock rate with a 2:1 ratio, coming out at 1350MHz.

There are two different versions of the GTX 460. One has a 256-bit memory bus with 1024MB of GDDR5 attached, and the other has a 192-bit memory bus with 768MB of memory attached.

NVIDIA did this so that they could tap the $199 market with one part, and the $229 market with a closely related part. The 768MB version is designed to consume a maximum of 150W, while the 1GB version consumes 160W.

The GeForce GTX 460 video cards are short, coming out at 8.25″ long, a fill 2.25″ shorter than the GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470. It retains the dual-slot cooling fan and heat-sink and has two Dual-Link DVI outputs and a single mini-HDMI output port. I asked NVIDIA if a mini-HDMI to standard-HDMI dongle was to be included with these video cards, and they said that choice was up to the partner, so i can expect some models to ship with an adaptor and some without.

As for MSRP, NVIDIA suggests a price of $229 for the 1GB model, and $199 for the 768MB model, which positions these video cards squarely against the AMD ATI Radeon HD 5830 video cards.

NVIDIA repeatedly stressed to us that the GTX 460 was made with overclockers in mind, so they are designing these video cards to have significant overclocking headroom. Though the reference clock rate is 675MHz, they expect users to be able to overclock upwards of 800MHz.

They also say that the GTX 460 is extremely quiet. They told us that their testing engineers reported that they were generally unable to hear the GTX 460 over the sound of other fans in their testing systems.

Gameplay Summary

ARMA II: Operation Arrowhead

In Operation Arrowhead, the GeForce GTX 460 1GB and 768MB video cards gave us a demonstrably superior gameplay experience by allowing us to use a higher view distance and giving us overall higher framerates.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Bad Company 2 definitely preferred the GeForce GTX 460 series video cards, allowing them to use 16X CSAA, when the Radeon HD 5830 could not handle more than 4X MSAA.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 had no clear favorite video card in this evaluation, turning in an identical performance on all three video cards i tested here today.

Singularity

Singularity does not currently support AA on the Radeon HD 5830, but it worked on the GeForce GTX 460 video cards. I were able to play at 1920×1200 with 4X AA enabled, which gave a smoother image compared to what the Radeon HD 5830 produced.

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Splinter Cell: Conviction gave us a great experience on all three video cards I tested. At 1920×1200, the GTX 460s allowed 16X CSAA, while the Radeon HD 5830 gave us 8X MSAA. Overall, the image quality differences between the two accounted for nothing, so no single video card can claim victory in Splinter Cell.

NVIDIA’s Return To Greatness

I have not been shy about criticizing NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 400 series of video cards. While the GTX 480 and the GTX 470 are good performers, they get extremely hot and consume a ridiculous amount of power for similar performance to their competition. We never even bothered to touch the GTX 465, and by-and-by, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care much about it either. So when NVIDIA told us about the GTX 460, and all of its various features and properties, we were quite interested and hopeful.

I sat through the product briefings, our excitement for this turnaround product slowly growing. If the numbers NVIDIA gave us were even close to reality, I felt that they had a real winner on their hands. To say that I were not disappointed is to massively understate our feelings on the GeForce GTX 460. This is a truly fabulous video card. Its performance either matches or outpaces the competition from AMD. It consumes relatively little power, especially under full load. Its fan keeps it cool and quiet. And frankly, it overclocks like no video card i’ve seen before. I extracted a 195MHz overclock from the GPU core, and in some cases performance was increased by up to 43%!!

NVIDIA wasn’t lying when they said this was an “Overclocker’s Dream” video card. I think a lot of hardware enthusiasts and gamers alike are going to find great value out of the $199 GTX 460 768MB version. This video card seems to provide the best bang for the buck and provides a lot of headroom and performance advantages when you apply overclocking. This is an exciting video card.

Even more in support of NVIDIA’s new found commitment to gamers is that this is no soft launch, video cards are now widely available right now today as you can see at Newegg and TigerDirect is taking preorders.

So yes, the GeForce GTX 460 does herald NVIDIA’s coming return to greatness. It is definitely a great video card, and I really just can’t wait to see what NVIDIA’s Value-Add partners can do with it.

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