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.
Asus ENGTX460 TOP
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.
Dare to Compare
GTX 460 768MB
GTX 460 1GB
Radeon HD 5830
GDDR5 memory clock
*AMD shader cores and Nvidia CUDA cores not directly comparable.
Asus ENGTX460 TOP
GeForce GTX 460 768MB Reference
GeForce GTX 460 1GB Reference
PNY GeForce GTX 465
Radeon HD 5830
Unigine Heaven 2.0 (fps)
Battle Forge (fps)
Dirt 2 (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Action (fps)
Tom Clancy's HAWX (fps)
Just Cause 2
Aliens vs. Predator DX11
STALKER: Call of Pripyat (fps)
System power usage (idle)
System power usage (load)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA.