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Mid-Range NVIDIA GPU Battle: GTX 460 vs. GTX 470
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Date: Nov 02, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction

You have to love competition. With the release of AMD's affordable HD 6870 and 6850 graphics cards, the folks over at NVIDIA decided to respond with a move of their own. In case you missed it, the same day the Radeons launched, NVIDIA dropped the price of their mid-range GeForce products to gain a competitive advantage in the market, and more importantly, to try an rain on AMD's parade. And when it comes to price wars, you won't hear us complaining.
 
Even before the Radeon launch, the GTX 460 was getting a lot of industry attention for being fast and affordable, with tons of overclocking headroom to spare. If you're planning a new system build or just want to upgrade your graphics performance, there are more options than ever at this specific market segment. DX11 cards are in full bloom, and we can only benefit from the NVIDA vs. AMD battle going on, especially with the holiday season coming up.


Today we're looking at a trio of video cards designed to give enthusiasts like you the best bang for your buck. These factory overclocked GeForce GTX 400-series graphics cards are from Gigabyte, MSI, and Zotac. Each one has taken the original reference design from NVIDIA, and gone a step further so consumers have additional options to choose from. In addition to higher GPU speeds set by the manufacturer, they provide unique features such as improved cooling solutions, customized PCB layouts, and higher memory capacity. Read on to find out how well they perform, and if one of them has what it takes to be your next upgrade.



Overclocked NVIDIA GeForece Mid-Range GPU Battle
Let's Get It On!

Gigabyte Super Overclock GTX 470
700 MHz Core / 837 MHz Memory
$309*
MSI Hawk GTX 460
780 MHz Core / 900 MHz Memory
$214*
Zotac GTX 460 2GB
710 MHz Core / 900 MHz Memory
$269*

 

                 * Current street pricing


When compared to reference design models, these cards command a higher price due to their improved features and performance. The Gigabyte Super Overclock GTX 470 sells for $309 at the moment, considerably more than a stock GTX 470, which we've seen as low as $239. MSI's Hawk GTX 460 can be purchased for $214, a relative bargain in its own right, but price cuts have brought reference design 460s down to $159. The Zotac GTX 460 2GB is one of only two cards that offer more than 1GB of on board video memory on a GTX 460. It goes for $269 and targets users who want the larger frame buffers to better handle high resolutions. Now let's take a closer look at each one to see how they differ and how much of a boost you can expect to see from them in various benchmarks.

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Gigabyte Super Overclock GTX 470

The first GeForce graphics card we're looking at today is from Taiwan based hardware manufacturer, Gigabyte Technology. Well known for their motherboards, Gigabyte has expanded their product line up to include cases, coolers, power supplies, notebooks, and peripherals as well as graphics cards. During the past couple of years, we have seen a steady stream of reference and overclocked versions of video cards from both ATI and NVIDIA featuring Gigabyte logos. And here we get our hands on the latest release from the Super Overclock line.  


Gigabyte GTX 470 Super Overclock Graphics Card

 Gigabyte Super Overclock
 Specs and Features

Model
GV-N470SO-13I

Core Clock
700 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
837 MHz / 1.28 GB

Ports
Two DVI
One HDMI
Accessories
OC Guru Overclocking Utility
User Manual
Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable
DVI to VGA Adapter
Molex to 6-pin PCIe Power Adapters

Warranty
3 years

Price

$279

Gigabyte offers three different models based on the GTX 470. The base model follows the reference design from NVIDIA, sporting a dual slot, single fan cooling solution, and offers a core clock of 607MHz. We've noticed Gigabyte is normally a cost leader when it comes to their stock cards, and that's the case here. This product goes for $249 and is currently one of the most affordable GTX 470 available. There's a slightly overclocked model that bumps GPU frequency to 630MHz, and sells for $299. Of course, the fastest of the group is the Super Overclock model. As we find with almost every Super Overclock card that lands in our test bed, this one provides the highest GPU frequency available in its class. With a core clock frequency at 700 MHz, and memory at 837 MHz right out of the box, no other GTX 470 on the market can touch it.




The Super Overclock GTX 470 features a dual slot cooler with three fans sitting on a very long heatsink. We normally don't see a video card sporting three fans, but the SOC GTX 470 is able to pull it off mainly due to its extended length of 11", compared to the stock version at 9.5". Gigabyte claims this design aids in heat dissipation and is quieter. In addition, three copper heat pipes carry heat from the center of the heatsink to other areas. Like the reference design, this card requires two 6-pin PCI Express connections from the power supply.  



Furthermore, the card comes with a small bundle of accessories. Gigabyte includes two Molex to 6-pin PCI adapters, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a mini HDMI to HDMI cable. Of course, there's also an installation guide and utilities disk included.

 


On the disk, Gigabyte bundles its OC Guru software. This is an overclocking and monitoring utility  that provides three profiles for quick configuration: Gaming, Standard, and Power Saving Mode. In addition, you can modify core clock, memory clock, GPU voltage, memory voltage, and fan speeds independently, along with the ability to save up to two profiles. OC Guru also displays GPU temperature and allows for OSD adjustments.

 

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MSI N460GTX Hawk

Micro Star International (MSI) manufactures a variety of computer components. Established in 1986, they originally focused on the motherboard and graphics card market, but now produce a variety of notebooks, barebone systems,and wireless networking devices. The Hawk sports MSI's attractive Twin Frozr II heatsink and is arguably the best looking GTX 460 on the market.


MSI Hawk GTX 460 Graphics Card

 MSI Hawk
 Specs and Features

Model
N460GTX Hawk

Core Clock
780 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
900 MHz / 1 GB

Ports
Two DVI
One Mini HDMI
Accessories
MSI Afterburner Utility
User Manual
DVI to VGA Adapter
Mini HDMI to HDMI Adapter
Two 6-pin to 8-pin PCIe Power Adapters


Warranty
3 Years Parts / 2 Years Labor

Price

$214


MSI offers several versions of the GTX 460. The N460GTX Hawk features a core clock of 780 MHz, a 16% boost from the stock speed of 675MHz. There's also the Hawk Talon Attack, clocked at 810MHz, and the Twin Frozr II SOC at 750MHz. These cards look identical but provide different GPU clock speeds. The Hawk uses a 7+1 phase PWM design which increases the maximum current capabilities to 120 amps. That's 30 more amps than the 4+1 phase design found on the reference model, and potentially increases the overclocking potential of the GTX 460 Hawk. 



As previously mentioned, Twin Frozr II is the name of MSI's cooling system. It's here we find dual 80mm PWM fans on top of the Lightning's cooler which directs airflow to cool down the GPU, memory, and power module components at the same time. They circulate through a series of aluminum fins that transfer heat from four shiny chrome heat pipes that measure 8mm in diameter. Like the reference design, the N460GTX features two 6-pin PCIe connectors.



The bundle includes a user's manual, utility disk featuring MSI's Afterburner software, a DVI to VGA adapter, mini HDMI to HDMI adapter, three voltage check point adapters, and a couple of PCIe power adapters.

 

MSI includes the Afterburner overclocking utility with the GTX 460 Hawk. Out of all the OC software available, Afterburner is one of the best on the market. The program interface looks very sleek and polished. In this version, users can adjust core voltage, memory voltage, and PLL. MSI markets this as the world's 1st triple over voltage capable card, so overclockers have even more options at their fingertips. 

 

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Zotac GTX 460 2GB

Established in 2006, Zotac is relatively new to the industry. The company manufactures graphics cards, motherboards, and mini-PCs. It derives its name from two words, zone and tact. On the graphics side, they are a premiere NVIDIA AIB partner and regularly offer overclocked Amp! Edition models.


Zotac GTX 460 2GB Graphics Card

Zotac
Specs and Features

Model
ZT-40406-10P

Core Clock
710 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
900 MHz / 2 GB

Ports
Two DVI
One HDMI
One DisplayPort
Accessories
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
StarCraft II Trial
User Manual
DVI to VGA Adapter
Molex to 6-pin PCIe Power Adapters

Warranty
2 years  

Price

$269


Zotac makes several GTX 460 models. There's the basic reference design card, the Synergy model clocked at 710MHz, and their Amp! Edition which is set to 810MHz. Although the card we have isn't necessarily built for record breaking speed, the Zotac GTX 460 2GB also comes moderately overclocked at 710MHz. Its claim to fame lies in the 2GB memory buffer that gives it a capacity advantage over most 460s on the market sporting only 768MB or 1GB on board memory. It'll be interesting to see if the extra memory translates to improved performance in our gaming benchmarks, especially in higher resolutions.


This card and the Amp! Edition GTX 460 share the same cooling solution. It's a dual slot, single fan design with a black plastic shroud. The 80mm fan is located directly above the GPU and circulates air within the case since the shroud doesn't fully surround the heatsink assembly.



 

Zotac's GTX 460 2GB offers four outputs: two DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort. In comparison, reference design 460 normally provide only two DVI ports and a mini HDMI connector.


 

The bundle includes user guides, utilities disk, two PCIe power adapters, a DVI to VGA adapter, Prince of Persia full game, and a StarCraft II trial. The disk provides several programs such as the Firestorm OC utility, vReveal 2.0, Nero Vision Xtra, Cooliris, XBMC, and Kylo.


 



Zotac's GTX 460 2GB came with the Firestorm overclocking utility. In comparison to Afterburner from MSI and Gigabyte's OC Guru, Firestorm offers minimal adjustments. It allows you to modify core clock, shader, memory and fan speed. But it doesn't offer voltage adjustments and for some reason, we were unable to save any profiles. Futhermore, GPU and shader clocks were not locked, so we manually had to set each, where other utilities have them synced automatically.

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Test System and 3DMark Vantage

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: In order to provide comparable results, the graphics cards featured here were installed on the same, high end X58 based test system. The components used consisted of the Asus Rampage III Extreme motherboard, Core i7 980X Extreme Edition processor, and 6GB of OCZ Blade memory.

Within the BIOS, we configured the processor to an overclocked speed of 4.27GHz and memory to 1869MHz. We feel these settings will minimize the occurrences of non-GPU related performance bottlenecks during benchmark runs and allow the graphics cards to show their true potential. Furthermore, our Crucial M225 solid state drive entered the testing process with a clean copy of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit installed. Once installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest drivers and applications relevant to the review article.

HotHardware's Test System
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition
Overclocked 4.27GHz

Asus Rampage III Extreme Motherboard
X58 Express Chipset

MSI Hawk GTX 460
Gigabyte Super OC HD 5870 1GB
Gigabyte Super OC GTX 470 1.28GB
Zotac GTX 460 2GB
Zotac Amp Edition GTX 480
XFX HD 6870 1GB

6GB OCZ Blade DDR3-1869
(3 X 2GB) 7-8-7-20 1T


Crucial M225 128GB SSD
Firmware 1916

Display:
Dell 3008WFP LCD Monitor
2560 x 1600 Resolution

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
NVIDIA GeForce Driver Release 260.63
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 10.10

Benchmarks Used:

3DMark Vantage
Dirt 2
Far Cry 2
Just Cause 2
Lost Planet 2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat


In order to find out where these cards fit in the graphics market, we put them up against some serious competition. The comparison group consists of three other models. In place of a reference design HD 5870, we used Gigabyte's Super Overclock HD 5870 1GB and dialed it down to stock speeds. The Zotac Amp Edition GTX 480 was also tested using reference design clock frequencies. Of course, we don't necessarily expect Gigabyte's overclocked GTX 470 to keep up with 480 numbers, but it will still be interesting to see how they compare. Equally important, the overclocked GTX 460s should be competitive with the HD 6870 as they fall in the same price range.


Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DX10 Performance


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 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.

Right off the bat, we get some interesting results. The Gigabyte GTX 470 goes toe to toe with the HD 5870. It scored a bit higher using the performance preset, and a little lower with extreme settings. On the other hand, MSI's Hawk GTX 460 almost mirrors the performance of the HD 6870.

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Dirt 2 - DX11

 Dirt 2
 DX11 Gaming Performance


Dirt 2

Dirt 2 was released in September 2009 and provides a sequel to the original Colin McRae: Dirt racing game. Codemasters delayed the PC version of Dirt 2 so that they could enhance their Ego engine with DirectX 11 effects. Dirt 2 is also a solid benchmark for multi-core processors since DX11 is designed to take advantage of multi-threaded system architectures.



For the most part, Dirt 2 results confirmed our 3DMark Vantage results. The overclocked GTX 470 was faster than the stock HD 5870 using 1920x1080 and 1680x1050 resolutions, but slower at 2560x1600. The MSI Hawk wasn't far behind either, as it beat the HD 6870 in 2 out of the 3 resolutions we tested.

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Lost Planet 2 - DX11

 Lost Planet 2
 DX11 Gaming Performance


Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2 is a third person shooter developed by Capcom. It is the sequal to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, and takes place ten years after the events of the first game. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates, while featuring major boss battles, extreme terrain, and the ability to pilot mechanized armor suits. We tested the game engine using the stand alone benchmark provided by Capcom, at 2560 x 1600, No AA, and high image settings.





In the past, we've noticed that the Lost Planet 2 benchmark heavly favors NVIDIA GPUs, versus AMD's offerings. With that said, we get surprising results from our test cards. The overclocked GTX 470 from Gigabyte showed better than expected frame rates as it led all cards in performance, beating out the stock GTX 480 in 1680x1050 and 2560x1600 resolutions.

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat - DX11

 S. T. A. L. K. E. R. - Call of Pripyat
 DX11 Gaming Performance


S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Call of Pripyat is the third game in the STALKER series and throws in DX11 to the mix. This benchmark is based on one of the locations found within the latest game. Testing includes four stages and utilizes various weather conditions, as well as different time of day settings. It offers a number of presets and options, including multiple versions of DirectX, resolutions, antialiasing, etc. SunShafts represents the most graphically challenging stage available. We conducted our testing with DX11 enabled, 2560 x 1600 resolution, no anti-aliasing, and ultra settings.





After testing STALKER in various resolutions, the HD 6870 was the slowest card in every case. The MSI Hawk GTX 460 was impressive here, as it edged out the more expensive HD 5870 in 2 of the tests.

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FarCry 2 - DX10

 FarCry 2
 DX10 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 a built-in demo run recorded in the Ranch Map. The test results shown here were run at a resolution of 2560 x 1600, 8x AA, and maximum image settings.





FarCry2 offers more good news for the Gigabyte Super Overclock GTX 470. It showed consistently higher frame rates than the HD 5870 in all tests, and trailed only the GTX 480 within the comparison group. And once again, the MSI Hawk GTX 460 flexes its muscles by providing better performance than the HD 6870 in 2 out of 3 tests.

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Just Cause 2 - DX10

 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 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 Dark Tower.  The test results shown here were run at 2560 x 1600, no AA, 2x aniso, and high image settings.





At 2560x1600, the SOC GTX 470 mirrored the HD 6870s performance at 38 FPS. The other two resolutions showed the card was a touch faster than the HD 6870, but slower than the HD 5870. And in all tests, the GTX 460s trailed the rest of the group, with the MSI Hawk being the faster of the two due to higher clock speeds.


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Overclocking Performance

Overclocking 
Push it to the limit

Overclocking is not an exact science. When it comes to overclocking headroom, every GPU is different. And just because your friend's GTX 460 hit 900MHz doesn't mean that yours will, even when using the same settings and other hardware. Many factors can influence what a video card is capable of, starting with the unique characteristics of each GPU. Other factors may also include complementary components within the system, but we find the primary influence depends on the type of cooling used on the graphics card and the GPU voltage.

The graphs below show the performance from three of the games we used to test the NVIDIA-based video cards in this round-up. With each game, we're displaying the average frame rates of each card at their designated frequencies straight out of the box, along with the FPS recorded using the overclocked settings we were able to hit in our lab environment.







First, let's have a look at the Super Overclock GTX 470 from Gigabyte. Recall that the stock GTX 470 has a core clock of 607MHz. The SOC comes set at 700MHz, a decent 15% clock increase. Using Gigabyte's OCGuru software, we pushed the card even further and hit a stable 820MHz core, 900MHz memory frequency. That's 35% higher than reference design, and 17% more than the factory overclocked settings, which translates to a 14% performance hike in these particular games.

MSI's Hawk GTX 460 is up next. This speed demon arrives factory overclocked at 780MHz core, 900MHz memory. That's up from the 675MHz core clock of the reference design, which equals to a 16% increase before we even start to adjust any settings. Once we did, the Hawk soared to 910MHz core and 975MHz memory. On average, the higher frequencies landed us an additional 14% frame rate increase.

We also pushed Zotac's GTX 460 2GB model up a notch. From the factory overclock of 710MHz, we landed at 825MHz core and 1025MHz memory speed. This resulted in a 15% gaming performance boost.

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Power Consumption, Noise, and Temps

Power Consumption and Operating Temperatures
How low can you go?


When it comes to power consumption, the GTX 460s obviously have the edge over the GTX 470. We found that the 460s used almost the same amount of juice during testing, with the Zotac model edging out the MSI card by a few watts.




Using Furmark's stability test, the Super Overclock GTX 470 hit 81 degrees Celsius under load, while maintaining 40 degrees at idle. Naturally, it ran considerably warmer than the GTX 460s. We found MSI's Hawk GTX 460 operated at much lower temps than Zotac's 2GB model. This is largely due to superior performance from MSI's Twin Frozr cooling solution, which sports two fans versus only one on Zotac's GTX 460.


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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Now that we have all the data, let's take a moment to analyze the numbers. First up, we'll discuss the Gigabyte Super Overclock GTX 470. Throughout testing, we found this card's performance was comparable to the more expensive HD 5870. Actually, it beat the 5870 in most cases. With a triple fan cooling design, the SOC never got loud, even as we pushed its GPU frequency to 820MHz. While it trailed the GTX 480, it's obvious the SOC GTX 470 is a powerful card that competes directly with AMD's fastest single GPU product, but at a lower cost.

Next, the GTX 460 Hawk from MSI did very well in our testing. It consistently led the HD 6870 in most tests, and had an edge over Zotac's 2GB card. The Hawk was fast, quiet, and ran the coolest out of the three cards we tested, thanks to MSI's superior Twin Frozr II heatsink and dual fan assembly. And although you can run MSI's Afterburner on almost any video card, the triple over voltage option provided by the Hawk is a bonus for users looking to gain an edge while overclocking.

Finally, Zotac's 2GB GTX 460 turned in a decent performance, as it remained competitive with the HD 6870. Although it never surpassed the aggressively overclocked MSI Hawk at higher resolutions, users who require the extra video memory now have a GTX 460 that fills the void. 



The Recommendation:  For $200 - $300, which mid-range GeForce card would we choose for our next build? Strictly from a performance perspective, Gigabyte's Super Overclock GTX 470 has the edge. Within the enthusiast scene, users typically consider the overall muscle of a product above all, followed by cost, design, and accessories. In this regard, the Super Overclock is the obvious choice, if you can afford it. But at $309, it costs almost $100 or 44% more than the MSI Hawk GTX 460. Consequently, we found the SOC GTX 470 was 26% faster than the Hawk throughout our testing. In other words, the GTX 460 Hawk provides 74% of the performance offered by Gigabyte's SOC GTX 470, while costing $95 less. And as you saw with our overclocking results, the performance gap narrows even further once you fire up Afterburner and massage GPU settings. With that said, it's hard to top the MSI Hawk GTX 460 with its new low price, excellent overall performance, and cooling ability. As a result, we're giving it our Editor's Choice award and highly recommend it to anyone in the market for a new graphics card in its price range.


 



 



  • MSI Hawk GTX 460
 


  • Gigabyte Super Overclock GTX 470
 
 
  • Zotac GTX 460 2GB

 



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