Most people don’t need 2GB of frame buffer—if they’re gamers. Palit’s GeForce GTX 460 Sonic 2GB card isn’t aimed solely at gamers, however. Like any GTX 460 card, it does a bang-up job in most modern 3D games. But at roughly $250, it’s about $20 more than the equivalent 1GB card from Palit—which also runs at a higher core clock.
Don’t think of that 2GB of RAM as just frame buffer, though. The card was designed for the emerging class of applications that take advantage of GPU compute.
Palit's GeForce GTX Sonic 2GB is about an inch shorter than most GTX 460 cards.
The Palit Sonic 2GB offers a core clock speed of 700MHz—just 25MHz above the reference clock and 100MHz slower than the 1GB Palit Sonic Platinum card. The memory clock runs at the standard 900MHz—which is actually fairly impressive given the frame buffer size.
We tested the Sonic 2GB against a Gigabyte GTX 460 that we reviewed in November and the differences in normal games was minimal at 1920x1200. It’s close enough that we’re not even going to report those scores here although we should mention that you do pay a power penalty. (For our standard games benchmark chart, see the online review of the card at MaximumPC.com). The 2GB frame buffer pushes total system consumption to 281 watts compared to 256 watts for the Gigabyte card.
But how does the 2GB Palit card perform in GPU accelerated apps? There aren’t a lot of existing benchmarks to test this, but we tried one test called ComputeMark. We also tried a real-world, GPU-accelerated app: CyberLink’s MediaExpresso 6.0, which uses the GPU to accelerate video transcodes.
In addition, we ran two game benchmarks: Batman: Arkham Asylum with Nvidia PhysX GPU-accelerated physics maxed out and Just Cause 2, with two additional, Nvidia-specific options turned on. These two options, Bokeh and GPU-accelerated water, put additional load on the GPU. We ran both of these at 2560x1600 with 4x AA to really punish the card, and compared those results to a 1GB reference card.
Note that ComputeMark’s “extreme” setting simply wouldn’t finish on the 1GB card. It would crash, or we’d get the dreaded “Your graphics driver has stopped working and restarted” error. So not only did the 2GB card get somewhat higher numbers (even though the core clock is lower), but it could actually complete ComputeMark on its “extreme” setting. The results with the two games were pretty much a wash, so loading in compute-rich features, even with AA and high resolution, doesn’t have much impact.
However, the Palit card took longer with MediaShow Expresso. What’s probably going on is that MediaShow is streaming the data to the GPU, so the extra memory doesn’t come into play—but the higher core clock in the Gigabyte overclocked GTX 460 does help.
So is the Palit Sonic 2GB GTX 460 for you? At only a $20 differential, we’d give it a cautious thumbs up. It may be the right card to have as we see more GPU compute–intensive apps come on line. Although it might be hard to justify buying a card based on potential future uses, it’s only about $20 more than a 1GB card—and it plays games quite well.
Palit GeForce GTX Sonic 2GB
2GB GDDR5; smaller than the stock card; future potential.
No real performance gain in today's apps; slightly more expensive than overclocked 1GB cards.
Palit Sonic 460 GTX
GeForce GTX 460 Reference
ComputeMark / Normal
ComputeMark / Complex
ComputeMark / Extreme
MediaEspresso 6.0 / HD to iPhone H.264 (sec)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (fps)
Just Cause 2 / Bokeh + Water (fps)
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.