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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 Debut: ZOTAC, EVGA
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Date: Jul 12, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

The road leading up to the release of their Fermi architecture-based GF100 GPU, which powers the first wave of GeForce GTX 400 series cards, was a rocky one for NVIDIA. Hampered by a number of delays, and design and manufacturing issues, the GF100 hit the scene much later than NVIDIA would have liked. Since the initial arrival of the flagship GeForce GTX 480 and its sibling the GeForce GTX 470 a few months back, however, NVIDIA has expanded their GF100-based graphics card line-up to include a third family member, the more mainstream GeForce GTX 465.  Of course, all three cards are widely available now.

Today, NVIDIA is unleashing yet another Fermi-architecture based graphics card, but unlike its predecessors, this one isn't based on the GF100. The GeForce GTX 460 we'll be showing you today is actually based on a new-class of Fermi-based GPU, the GF104. The GF104 borrows heavily from the GF100 design, but it features fewer CUDA cores and is pared down in a couple of other areas as well. In fact, it features over a billion fewer transistors than the GF100. Overall though, as you'll see on the pages ahead, the new GeForce GTX 460 is surprisingly potent given its relatively affordable price point and scaled down GPU.

Take a gander at the specifications and features of the two GeForce GTX 460 variants being introduced today directly below, and then we'll move on to show you some retail-ready cards from ZOTAC and EVGA, complete with a full battery of performance tests on both, along with some competing cards from the AMD camp...

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460
Specifications & Features



  


As you can see in the specifications above, there are two GeForce GTX 460 cards hitting the scene today, a 768MB model and a 1GB model. If you look more closely though, you'll see that the cards actually differ in a few other meaningful ways as well. For example, the 768MB card features a smaller L2 cache, a narrower memory interface, and 8 fewer ROP units. We'll show you how these differences affect performance a little later on in the article, but the most obvious difference is that the 768MB model offers less peak memory bandwidth, which will obviously impact performance in bandwidth bound situations. Other than the items we've mentioned, however, the two GeForce GTX 460 cards are nearly identical in terms of their specifications.

Before we show you the actual cards, we should probably talk a bit about the GF104 GPU at the heart of the GeForce GTX 460. The GF104 is manufactured using TSMC's advanced 40nm process, and features 1.95 billion transistors--the GF100 features over 3 billion. In the configuration powering the GeForce GTX 460, the chip sports 2 graphics processing clusters, 7 streaming multiprocessors, 336 CUDA cores, 56 texture units, and 24 (768MB card) or 32 (1GB card) ROPs. It also sports a 256-bit memory interface, which can obviously be scaled back by disabling channels.

Each of the streaming multiprocessors in the GF104 GPU features 48 CUDA cores, 8 texture units, various registers and cache, and its own PolyMorph engine. You can see each functional block outlined in the diagram above. What you'll also notice is that the GF104 is actually comprised of 8 streaming multiprocessing units, so there's a possibility for more powerful cards based on this GPU design at some point in the future.

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ZOTAC and EVGA GTX 460 Cards



In addition to having different specifications, the 768MB and 1GB GeForce GTX 460 variants also have different cooler configurations. As you'll see below, the EVGA and ZOTAC cards featured here sport completely different cooling solutions, both of which conform to NVIDIA's reference designs. However, we should also note that a number of NVIDIA's board partners will also be introducing GeForce GTX 460 cards with custom coolers.

 

 
EVGA's GeForce GTX 460 768MB SuperClocked Edition

The EVGA card you see here is the GeForce GTX 460 768MB SuperClocked Edition. It has a single, large cooling fan right about in the center of the card, that rests above a large aluminum cooler that's affixed to the GPU. The PCB used for the GeForce GTX 460 is nice and small by today's standards, measuring in at about 8.25". And the cards are outfitted with a pair of dual-link DVI outputs, along with a mini-HDMI output.

This SuperClocked edition ships with a 763MHz Core GPU clock, with 1526MHz shaders, and 768MB of GDDR5 memory running at 950MHz (3800MHz effective) on a 192-bit interface. NVIDIA's reference specs call for a 675MHz core clock, with 1350MHz shaders, and 900MHz memory, so EVGA's SuperClocked edition will obviously offer significantly increased performance over stock models.

 

 
Zotac's GeForce GTX 460 1GB

ZOTAC's GeForce GTX 460 1GB card is a reference model through-and-through, save for the custom decal that adorns its fan shroud, that is. This 1GB card sports a different cooler than the 768MB variant, which is more reminiscent of GeForce GTX 200 series cooler--only smaller. The PCB is the same length as the 768MB model, but the ZOTAC 1GB card's output configuration is different. The Zotac GeForce GTX 460 1GB has a pair of dual-link DVI outputs, a full sized HDMI output, and a DisplayPort output. Only two of these outputs can be used at any given time, however. ZOTAC's card also conforms to NVIDIA's reference specs with its 675MHz core clock, 1350MHz shaders, and 900MHz memory.

Both of the GeForce GTX 460's being introduced today have dual-slot coolers, and both require dual 6-pin PCI Express power connectors. The 1GB card's TDP, however, is slightly higher--160W (1GB) versus 150W (768MB).

 

The accessories included with the EVGA and ZOTAC GeForce GTX 460 cards are similar. Both cards include case badges, driver discs, users manuals, a pair of dual-Moles to 6-pin PCI Express power connectors, and DVI-to-VGA adapters. EVGA goes a step further and also throws in a GeForce GTX 400 series bumper sticker and mini-HDMI to full-sized HDMI adapter, while ZOTAC tosses in a copy of the latest Prince of Persia game. Normally we'd be excited by the prospect of a full gaming being included with a graphics card, but the obtrusive, and frankly bothersome DRM, that's incorporated into this title ruins its appeal in our opinion.

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Test System and Unigine Heaven v2.1

 

How We Configured Our Test Systems:

We tested the graphics cards in this article on a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard powered by a Core i7 965 quad-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3-1333 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

We tested the graphics cards in this article on a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard powered by a Core i7 965 quad-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3-1333 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

 

HotHardware's Test Systems
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 965 (3.2GHz)

Gigabyte EX58-UD5
(X58 Express)

Radeon HD 5830
Radeon HD 5850
GeForce GTX 470
GeForce GTX 465
GeForce GTX 460 768MB
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 768MB SC
ZOTAC GeForce GTX 460 1GB

6GB OCZ DDR3-1333
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX June 2010 Redist
ATI Catalyst v10.6
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers 258.80

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v2.1
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
H.A.W.X.
FarCry 2
Just Cause 2
Alien vs. Predator
Left 4 Dead 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*

* - Custom benchmark

Unigine Heaven v2.1 Benchmark
Synthetic DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven

The Unigine Heaven Benchmark v2.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion), and it also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering. Due to the fact that we tested Heaven in DX11 mode, no NVIDIA GT200 series cards are represented in the graph below.


The new GeForce GTX 460 smoked the Radeon HD 5800 series cards in the Unigine Heaven benchmark, due to the GeForce's superior geometry and tessellation performance. We also find the the new 460s perform about on par with the more expensive and more power hungry GeForce GTX 465 cards here.
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Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1200 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.



The new GeForce GTX 460 768MB and 1GB cards continued to perform right in-line with or somewhat better than the more expensive GeForce GTX 465. Even though the newer 460 cards have fewer CUDA cores than the 465 (352 vs. 336), the 460s have more texture units (56 vs. 44), which will offer better performance with many games. The similarly priced GeForce GTX 460s and Radeon HD 5830 are fairly evenly matched according to 3DMark Vantage. But let's see what happens with some actual games...
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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance


Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on a radically enhanced version of id's Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many smaller textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering


The GeForce GTX 460 card from EVGA and Zotac significantly outpaced the Radeon HD 5830 in our custom Enemy Territor: Quake Wars benchmark, and the 1GB and overclocked 768MB variants were even able to overtake the GeForce GTX 465.
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FarCry 2 Performance

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions with 4X AA enabled.

FarCry 2 really shows the difference additional memory bandwidth can make, as is evidenced by the reference-clocked 768MB card getting trounced by EVGA's SuperClocked edition. All of GeForce GTX 460 cards, however, had no trouble outpacing the Radeon HD 5830. And once again, the overclocked and 1GB GTX 460 cards snuck past the more expensive GeForce GTX 465.

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Left 4 Dead 2 Performance

Left 4 Dead 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


Left 4 Dead 2

Like its predecessor, Left 4 Dead 2 is a co-operative, survival horror, first-person shooter that pits four players against numerous hordes of Zombies. Like Half Life 2, the game uses the Source engine, however, the visual in L4D 2 are far superior to anything seen in the Half Life universe to date. The game has much more realistic water and lighting effects, more expansive maps with richer detail, more complex models, and the list goes on and on. We tested the game at various resolutions with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled and all in game graphical options set to their maximum values.


Left 4 Dead 2 tells a story very similar to those on the previous pages. The new GeForce GTX 460 cards perform right in-line with the GeForce GTX 465, but measurably ahead of the similarly priced Radeon HD 5830.
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Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
DirectX Gaming Performance


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is an aerial warfare video game that takes place during the time of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.  Players have the opportunity to take the throttle of over 50 famous aircrafts in both solo and 4-player co-op missions, and take them over real world locations and cities in photo-realistic environments created with the best commercial satellite data provided by GeoEye.  We used the built-in performance test at two resolutions with all quality settings set to their highest values, using the DX10 code path for the GeForce GT 200 series cards, and DX10.1 path for the Radeons and GeForce GTX 400 series.


The new GeForce GTX 460 cards, once again, perform right on par with the GeForce GTX 465, but well ahead of the Radeon HD 5830. Heck, they perform more like the much more expensive Radeon HD 5850 here.
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Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2
DX10.1 Gaming Performance


Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 was released in March 2010, from developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. The game makes use of the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the similarly named original. It is set on the fictional island of Panau in southeast Asia, and you play the role of Rico Rodriquez. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article using one of the built-in demo runs called The Concrete Jungle.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions and settings. This game also supports a few CUDA-enabled features, but they were left disabled to keep the playing field level. 


The performance trend we've seen throughout this article continues in the Just Cause 2 benchmark. Here, the new GeForce GTX 460 cards perform much like the more expensive GeForce GTX 465, but somewhat better than the Radeon HD 5830.
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Alien vs. Predator

Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Alien vs. Predator

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion and high-quality shadow features, available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11 related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested.


The results from the Alien vs. Predator DirectX 11 benchmark mirror many of the previous tests we've already covered. With this game, the new  GeForce GTX 460 cards perform right in-line with the GeForce GTX 465, but markedly better than the Radeon HD 5830.
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Total System Power Consumption

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet


The new  GeForce GTX 460 cards put up relatively good power consumption numbers. While idling, the cards were amongst the most power friendly, consuming about the same power as the Radoen HD 5830. Under load, the GeForce GTX 460s consumed somewhat more power than the Radeon HD 5830, but a bit less than the 5850--which is in-line with their performance.

As you probably expect looking at the relatively manageable power consumption scores here, the GeForce GTX 460 runs relatively cool and quiet. In fact, throughout testing, the cooling fans on the GeForce GTX 460 cards we tested never spun up to levels taht were audible over the rest of our system components. If you're looking for an affordable, relatively quiete DX11-class graphics card, the GeForce GTX 460 should fit the bill.
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Our Summary and Conclusion

 

Performance Summary: NVIDIA made summarizing the GeForce GTX 460's performance relatively easy. Throughout all of our benchmarks, the GeForce GTX 460 performed about on par with the more expensive GeForce GTX 465, but measurably better than the similarly priced Radeon HD 5830. The GeForce GTX 460's leads over the Radeon HD 5830 are largest in the DX10.1 and DX11 titles, but even in the DX9 and OpenGL games we tested, the GTX 460 fared better than 5830.

We won't beat around the bush; we really like the new GeForce GTX 460. In just about every regard, the cards are appealing. With street prices ranging from about $199 to $220 for the 768MB and 1GB cards, respectively, their value proposition is excellent versus the similarly priced Radeon HD 5830. The new GeForce GTX 460 cards also feature a relatively small form factor, thanks to a petite (by today's standards) 8.25" PCB, power consumption is in-line with performance, and their coolers are nice and quiet.

The only thing we're not fond of is the naming of the 768MB and 1GB cards. Considering the fact that the 768MB GeForce GTX 460 cards feature a narrower memory bus, less memory, few ROPs, and a smaller L2 cache, it would have been preferable for NVIDIA to give the card a different name, to more easily differentiate it from 1GB card. Even still, performance of the 768MB card isn't all that far off t he 1GB model, especially if its overclocked from the factory, like the EVGA model we tested.

In the end, we have to commend NVIDIA for this one. The GeForce GTX 460 is simply one of the most appealing DirectX 11-class graphics cards out there. They're affordably priced, perform very well, and they're relatively small and quiet, not to mention they fully support all of NVIDIA's proprietary technologies like PhysX and CUDA.

If you've got $200-$220 to spend on a new graphics card, we'd strongly recommend checking the GeForce GTX 460 out. For that kind of money, you can't do much better currently.

 

 

  • Good Performance
  • DX11 Support
  • PhysX and CUDA Support
  • Relatively Small
  • Quiet

 

  • Questionable Namin
  • 768MB cards have narrower memory interfaces, fewer ROPs, and less L2




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