It will please your gaming soul without breaking your budget
Does a paltry 256MB of RAM matter? Apparently, it does, if you’re talking about Nvidia’s GF104-based GTX 460 cards.
In the October issue, we took a long look at Asus’s sweet GTX 460 768MB card. While that card impressed us for the most part, it did seem a little weak in a few areas, especially when you turned up antialiasing. This 1GB version isn’t just the same chip with another 256MB of GDDR5 memory slapped on.
The memory bus is actually wider than the 768MB card, at 256 bits wide instead of 192 bits wide. That extra bus width is managed by a fourth memory controller on board the chip (the 768MB card has only three memory controllers.) If you’re thinking that the 1GB version of the GeForce GTX 460 should have had its own model—perhaps GTX 463—you’re not alone. A lot of people have wondered why Nvidia would use the same nomenclature for these two different beasts. The chip itself is the same. The 1GB chip is based on TSMC’s 40nm process technology, and has the same 1.95-billion transistor count as the 768MB version.
Despite dual fans, the 1GB Gigabyte GTX 460 is actually fairly quiet.
Gigabyte’s card also offers up a customized cooling solution, with two fans running on top of two copper heat pipes. Despite the extra fans, this is by no means a noisy card, even under heavy load. The two fans keep the factory-overclocked GTX 460 GPU running cool; the core clock runs at 715MHz (stock is 675MHz) while the shader clock hums along at 1,430MHz (the standard shader speed is 1,350MHz). Gigabyte keeps the memory clock at the reference 900MHz (3,600MHz effective). Despite the faster core clock, Gigabyte suggests the GPU actually runs 5 percent to 10 percent cooler due to its customized cooler, which the company calls “WindForce.”
The combination of higher core and shader clocks, plus the wider memory bus and added memory controller definitely has an effect on performance. That’s evident in our benchmarks, which put the Gigabyte GTX 460 ahead of the 768MB Asus version as well as a pricier PNY GeForce GTX 465 and ATI’s Radeon HD 5830 card. The larger frame buffer and higher clocks also cost you in power consumed, but it’s still far short of the PNY GeForce GTX 465.
You can find the Gigabyte GV-N460OC-1GI for roughly $230 online. That’s actually close to the Nvidia suggested price for standard-clocked cards, so it’s a superb value. Pop in two of these in SLI mode, and you get excellent scalability for higher resolutions with antialiasing turned up—all for less than the cost of a single $500 GTX 480.
It’s looking like Gigabyte’s take on the GTX 460 1GB is a real winner. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re building an affordable gaming rig. This card seems to hit the price/performance sweet spot in spades.
Gigabyte GV-N460OC-1GI GTX 460
Factory overclocked; excellent performance for its price; relatively quiet under load.
Batman and Robin
You’ll want a second card if you want to hit 45fps or better at higher resolutions.
Gigabyte GTX GV-N460OC-1GI
Asus ENGTX 460 TOP
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.