Maximum PC Staff Nov 11, 2010


At A Glance


Factory overclocked; good cooling; low power use; great performance on midrange monitors.


Priced like the 1GB cards, but can't quite keep up with stock 1GB GTX 460.

Budget Fermi gets an overclock

It’s been interesting watching the evolution of Nvidia’s Fermi graphics. We’ve seen a range of cards, all built using variations of the original chip—a 3 billion transistor monster that runs hot and consumes power like a vampire sucking blood from a hapless victim.

Now Nvidia is shipping a new Fermi, previously code-named GF104. Aimed at the hearts and minds of mainstream PC gamers, the GTX 460 is a new chip, ringing in at just under 2 billion transistors and substantially more power-efficient. Two versions of the chip are available, a low-end and a high-end version.

Is Nvidia's latest budget card the second coming of the GeForce GT 8800?

If you compare the GF104 to the GF100, the 1GB GTX 460 has 144 fewer shader cores than the 480 found in the GTX 480 and 16 fewer ROPs, but the same number of texture units. Even the lower-end 768MB GTX 460 offers more texture units than the pricier GTX 465, but the memory width is narrower. So we’d expect the GTX 460 to perform very well on older games and still pretty well with current-generation, shader-heavy titles at resolutions up to 1920x1200.

Asus’s ENGTX460 TOP card takes the budget 768MB version and pushes the core clock frequency to 700MHz (25MHz higher than stock) and the memory clock to 920MHz (20MHz higher than stock.) Beefing up the memory clock might make up a bit for having only three 64-bit memory controllers. We compared the card’s performance to stock 768MB and 1GB cards, the PNY GTX 465 , and a Radeon HD 5830 .

The overall performance looks pretty good relative to the reference 768GB card, but in most of the benchmarks, the 1GB card still wins out—that additional memory controller makes a difference. The margins are negligible, though. The Asus card does ship with the SmartDoctor voltage-tweaking utility, which even allows voltage tweaks to the core. The card also has direct heat-pipe contact with the GPU to facilitate cooling. Those two features will likely allow users to push clock speeds even higher, but as usual with GPUs, be cautious.

What’s really encouraging is the power-draw numbers—the GTX 460 ties the Radeon HD 5830 on the power-consumption side, which means the GTX 460 isn’t quite the space heater that the GTX 480 is.

At around $230, the ENGTX460 costs about the same as reference-clocked versions of the 1GB card, while offering performance almost on par with those cards, better cooling efficiency, and the potential for more overclocking. Whether you want the BMW features of the Asus card or higher memory bandwidth makes for a tough choice.



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