Roundup: 14 GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards! - BeHardware
>> Graphics cards

Written by Damien Triolet

Published on January 24, 2011

URL: http://www.behardware.com/art/lire/809/


Page 1

Introduction



From launch, the GeForce GTX 460 was a unanimous hit, with NVIDIA finally offering a decent price/performance ratio. With the arrival of the Radeon HD 6850, which has a similar level of performance, the GeForce GTX 460s were drastically cut in price, making them an even better buy. Mamy models have come onto the market from NVIDIA’s various partners and we wanted to give you a report on them, concentrating on the 1 GB models that we see as offering the best value for money.


The GF104
All these GeForce GTX 460s are based on the GF104, a derivative of the Fermi archictecture optimised to offer a good price/performance ratio for gamers.


The GF104 has 384 processing units and 64 texturing units organised into 8 partitions and a 256-bit memory bus. All the GeForce GTX 460s are however cut down, to a lesser or greater extent, depending on the model, as NVIDIA is selling different versions with different specs under the same name. We’ve concentrated on the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards which are the highest performance cards in the range and are equipped with enough memory to avoid any problems in the future, including in SLI systems which are more sensitive in this respect.

You can find more details in our GeForce GTX 460 test and more recent performance readings in the Radeon HD 6800s test.


Page 2
Specification, GDDR5 Samsung

Specifications
Given that several different models are marketed under the same name, you need to be attentive to the specs of the various GeForce GTX 460s on the market. Here we looked at the 1 GB models on sale in retail outlets.



GDDR5 Samsung for all?

All but one of the GeForce GTX 460s that we’ve seen use Samsung GDDR5 K4G10325FE HC05 128 MB memory, certified at 4 Gbps or 1 GHz for commands and 2 GHz for data, the clock that we use to compare with GDDR3 more easily. In terms of the clocks, NVIDIA has clocked this GDDR5 at 900 MHz, keeping a certain margin in hand for security, which some partners have used for overclocking.


Page 3
Test protocol

Test protocol
For this test, we used the protocol we introduced in our report on graphics cards and thermal characteristics, which allows us to make a detailed analysis of the various choices NVIDIA’s partners have made here.


We measured the temperature of the GPU and various components under actual usage conditions, in an Antec Sonata 3 case and we also took an infrared shot, opening the cas for as short a time as possible. We also measured noise levels under actual usage conditions, namely with the cards in a closed casing. For this we placed a sonometre 60 cm from the casing.


When several variants (in terms of overclocking) of the same model were available, we tested just one of them, as the overall analysis would be the same. There’s no need for a detailed analysis of the performance of the different solutions because all the cards would give identical performances at identical clocks. This is therefore dealt with briefly in the report.

We concentrated on the most common models and, for now, we’re able to present results on 13 of them, in addition to the stock card. We will of course add models in the future if need be.

Crysis Warhead was used to measure performances as it has the advantage of being well balanced between the AMD and NVIDIA solutions and should therefore make it easier to compare the performance of these cards with the different Radeon HD 6850s that we’ll be testing soon.


Page 4
Reference GeForce GTX 460 1 GB

The GeForce GTX 460 reference board
The reference board was the card originally developed by NVIDIA, both in terms of the PCB and the cooling system chosen. Whatever the make, the first series of any cards after the launch are reference cards and they are only personalised later. However this reference model can still be found widely in shops, either among the unlabeled cards with the largest resellers or manufacturer cards with manufacturers who have decided to keep the original design, exclusively or not. A manufacturer can moreover decide to move over to a customised design while stocks of the first series based on the stock model still exist.

Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards based on this design which are available from various brands, to which of course unbranded cards need to be added:

EVGA GeForce GTX 460 FPB 1 GB
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 SuperClocked 1 GB
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 FTW 1 GB

Point of View GeForce GTX 460 1 GB
Point of View GeForce GTX 460 TGT Charged 1 GB
Point of View GeForce GTX 460 TGT Ultra Charged 1 GB
Point of View GeForce GTX 460 TGT The Beast 1 GB

PNY GeForce GTX 460 1 GB
PNY GeForce GTX 460 Overclocked 1 GB
Zotac GeForce GTX 460 OC 1 GB

Reference GeForce GTX 460 1 GB cards are currently on sale for between €160 and €230, depending on the brand, bundle and level of overclocking. Note that the overclocked models, in italics, will function slightly differently given the higher temperature levels. Note that numerous stock GeForce GTX 460 768MB cards also use this design, as do GeForce GTX 460 1 GB OEM cards and some GeForce GTX 460 SEs.


The card



The stock cooler is radial and has a copper base with two 2 heatpipes. It’s very similar to one of the MSI Cyclone models but smaller. The sheilding allows some of the air to be directed out the casing. Only some however given the central positioning of the fan.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

At idle the GeForce GTX 460 remains nice and cool. In load it’s mainly the power stage which heats up.


Temperature and noise readings

The GPU temperature at idle is very low at just 33 °C, the card remaining pretty quiet all the same. As the card pushes hot air to its two extremities, the temperature of the hard drives increases a bit during load but not to serious levels.

There’s no particular reproach to make against the NVIDIA stock model which is very effective in every way.


Page 5
The reference board at 850 MHz?

The reference board at 850 MHz?
The GeForce GTX 460 has very high overclocking capacity, but does the reference board allow you to fully take advantage of it without damaging the board? This is something we’ve been wondering about since the problems we came across on the Point of View TGT The Beast and EVGA FTW cards.

They both use the reference PCB and cooler and are specially selected by the manufacturers who validate them at the very high clocks of 850 MHz and 855 MHz. In comparison to the stock clocks, this represents a factory overclocking of 26%! This is pretty unusual for cards based on the reference design…

We have no doubts about the GF104’s being able to stabilize at this clock, nor about the stock cooler’s capacity to handle the temperature levels. Our tests have however highlighted a problem around the power stage, which hasn’t been designed to stand up to such clocks. Compared to the stock card clocked at 675 MHz, energy consumption is similar at idle but hits great heights in load. For example, on the EVGA FTW model, from 145W in 3DMark06 (PS), we were up to 202W, and from 151W in Furmark, we’re at 217W.

Athough NVIDIA did provide for a significant overclocking margin, this does have its limits and here we’re talking energy consumption increases of 39% and 44% respectively. Obviously, the power stage’s three phases struggle at this sort of stress. To remedy things a bit, EVGA has put a small radiator under the sensitive components:


With the EVGA card, the 3 stock PCB phases for the GPU power supply have a small radiator. The 4th phase, top right, supplies the memory.

We tested the heat and noise levels on these cards in a closed casing, with a surrounding temperature of 26°C, using the 3DMark06 Pixel Shader for 45 minutes straight to give a continuously high graphics load. When we measured the temperature, the CPU was also in load, with Prime95, which has the effect of bringing performance down a bit (5%) in 3Dmark06 and therefore also reducing graphics load. We were, then, a long way off an extreme test in which the card would be saturated by Furmark or OCCT.

When run through this test, the Point of View TGT The Beast failed after 35 minutes. One of the power stage capacitors detached itself from the PCB… probably trying to run off. We thought this was probably a one-off and asked a second card of the same model. We’re still waiting for it. A little later, EVGA supplied us with a similar FTW model. It kept crashing after 5 minutes of the test. EVGA then supplied us with another FTW card, but the verdict was the same. EVGA did tell us that they had also observed this issue but said that it hadn’t come up in the games and benches recommended by NVIDIA, which is considered to be sufficient to validate the card at these clocks.

To confirm our suspicions about the power stage at these extreme clocks, we launched the same test with the casing open and used the infrared camera to follow temperature developments. The temperature at the back of the graphics card, where the power stage is, rapidly rose over 130 °C. After ten minutes, it was in excess of 150 °C! Things didn’t stop there however and just before the card failed we recorded a temperature of 160 °C. Remember that this is measured at the back of the PCB and that the components at the front of it could be even hotter. We managed to get a picture of the temperature at 158 °C:


We observed similar behaviour with a reference board that we overclocked ourselves at 850 MHz. Some models which display a lower GPU voltage and/or leakages, will have a slightly reduced energy consumption and may be able to survive this test, but most won’t.

Of course, during gaming, the power stage isn’t run through its paces so extremely. Energy consumption is lower in general and less constant, which reduces stress on the components. That said, some of the power stage components have been designed to function at maximum temperatures of 125 °C (150 °C for the MOSFETs), which can be exceeded after playing a demanding game for some time, which does put a question mark over how long these models will last, even if you’re not using the sort of heavy test tools we’ve used here.

We therefore strongly advise you against these cards. More especially, we advise you not to put your trust in models based on the stock PCB and clocked beyond 800 MHz, if they haven’t at least been provided with a dedicated radiator for the power stage. If this has been provided, going up to 825 MHz is probably alright and gives you a small safety margin.

To go beyond that, you’ll need a better adapted design. This is something that we neglected to comment on at first with respect to models such as the MSI GTX 460 Hawk, which, with six phases for the GPU, won’t have any problem at 850 MHz. We’re thinking about how we can improve our test protocol in the future, for example by putting all the cards through temperature tests when overclocked.


Page 6
Asus ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP

Asus ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP
Asus quickly got a custom and overclocked GeForce GTX 460 on the market with the ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP 1 GB, on sale at €195. Note that the non-TOP versions as well as the TOP 768 MB version uses a slightly different, less evolved cooling system.

As usual with the Asus TOP variants, it is overclocked, with clocks of 775 MHz for the GPU and 1000 MHz for the memory against 675 MHz and 900 MHz for stock boards.


The card



For this card, Asus has developed its own PCB, which differs from the reference board mainly in terms of the power stage. Asus has however retained the same connectivity as the reference board with 2 DVI Dual-Link outs and a mini-HDMI out.

For the cooling system, Asus has gone for a fairly long double slot, longer than the card itself, from its DirectCU models. This one is based on a big copper heatsink from which come 3 copper pipes which are in contact with the GPU heatspreader. A central fan takes care of cooling all this and a casing to channel the air as well as finish off the overall look. A small heatsink has been positioned on the sensitive components on the power stage on the front of the PCB and a small plate is positionned at the back of the PCB.

Given that this cooling system, though quite large, is only fixed on by four screws around the GPU, Asus has added a bar to strengthen it so as to ensure the rigidity of the board as a whole.


The bundle

A CD with drivers and a manual, a quick installation guide, a DVI to VGA adaptor, a DVI to HDMI adaptor, a double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertor and a disk holder came with the Asus card.

The card is guaranteed for three years in Europe.

Asus also supplies the SmartDoctor overclocking/tweaking software. This allows you to control the fan and the protection mechanisms as well as modify the GPU voltage, on top of the overclocking of course.




Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

The ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP is relatively well cooled though, like on the reference board, the power stage is rather hot in load.


Temperature and noise readings

Overall, the Asus model is pretty well managed with similar temperature levels to the reference model, though no hot air at all is expelled from the casing. It is however pretty noisy, whether at idle or in load, where it becomes quite annoying


Our opinion
With the ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP, Asus hasn’t really managed to do any better than the reference model. The cooling system is too noisy and takes up too much space, when you see what it gives in terms of results.


Page 7
Club3D GTX 460

Club3D GTX 460
The GeForce GTX 460 1 GB from Club3D is a sort of alternative version to the reference card that we imagine has been optimised to reduce costs. This is a design used by several manufacturers:

Club3D GeForce GTX 460 1 GB: €190
Club3D GeForce GTX 460 1 GB Overclocked Edition: €200
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1 GB: €190
Twintech GeForce GTX 460 1 GB: €180

We tested the standard Club 3D 1 GB version. Note that the same design is used for the 768 MB Club3D models.


The card



The PCB used by Club3D is identical to the reference one, with just a different brand and a few different components. Instead of the usual black its in the more standard green.

The cooling system is pretty similar to the stock cooler, but with a more standard, rectangular design. 2 copper heatpipes lead up from the base of the cooler and are in direct contact with the GPU heatspreader. A slightly bigger fan, 9cm against 8cm for the reference card, handles cooling.

The cooler is only fixed around the GPU with four screws and small cushions have been placed at either end of the PCB so that there’s not too much pressure when the card is handled as this might damage the PCB. Here again, it mirrors the reference design.


The bundle

Club3D sells its card with both a minimalist packaging and bundle: a CD with drivers and the manual, a quick installation guide and a DVI to VGA adaptor are supplied in the bundle.

Club3D offers a standard 2 year guarantee.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

The Club3D model is very close to the reference model and is therefore well cooled. Its power stage however gets slightly hotter.


Temperature and noise readings

The full readings confirm that the card has a very similar functioning to the reference model, both in terms of heat and noise, which is well managed.


Our opinion
Although this model doesn’t give anything on top of what you get with the reference card, it isn’t any worse in terms of effectiveness. Both are good solutions and only differ in terms of pricing.


Page 8
EVGA GTX 460 EE

EVGA GTX 460 EE
With its GeForce GTX 460 EE, standing for External Exhaust, EVGA is one of the only manufacturers to offer models with a fan that expels the hot air out of the casing:

EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1 GB EE: €190
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1 GB SuperClocked EE: €200
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1 GB FTW EE: €230


All are overclocked, the basic model just slightly, which sees its GPU clock raised from 675 to 720 MHz.. The SuperClocked model GPU is clocked at 763 MHz, while the memory is also overclocked from 900 to 950 MHz. The FTW model has a GPU clock of no less than 850 MHz and 1 GHz for the GDDR5 memory. Setting the GPU clock so high can be a problem as we’ve seen on other cards. We tested the smallest model from this EE series.


The card



For its EE cards, EVGA is using a reference PCB but has modified the power stage somewhat. While there are still 3 GPU phases and one phase for the memory, the components are different.

The blower expels the air across a radiator with three heatpipes running through it. The heatpipes are in direct contact with the base. A plate fixed to the radiator is used to for fixing the PCB and enters into contact with the memory chips, but not the power stage components. There is therefore no radiator for the power stage but a little of the air sucked by the blower passes over it.


The bundle

The EVGA card supplies a CD for drivers, a manual, a quick set-up guide, a DVI to VGA adaptor, a mini-HDMI to HDMI adaptor, 2 double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertors.

EVGA guarantees the EE and SuperClocked EE models for ten years in Europe via a guarantee extension as long as you register your card within thirty days of purchase. The EE FTW model has a standard guarantee of two years.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

Although the card is well cooled at idle, its power stage gets very hot in load.


Temperature and noise readings

The temperature readings highlight the benefits of expelling hot air out of the casing. The hard drive and CPU temperatures are much lower than on other cards. The GPU is not quite as well cooled because EVGA has calibrated its cooling system so as not to make any more noise than the reference card.


Our opinion
The EVGA GeForce GTX 460 EE expels hot air from the casing without making too much noise. It will be particularly worth looking at in the framework of a multi-GPU system. Given the already high power stage temperatures, we don’t however advise you to overclock it too much. The same goes for the FTW EE model, which we advise you to avoid.


Page 9
Gainward GTX 460 GS

Gainward GTX 460 GS
As of the GeForce GTX 460 launch, Gainward was already marketing a fully customised model. We have already tested it and criticised it for its excessive noise levels, that Gainward rapidly tried to reduce as much as possible with a new bios. We did of course retest the model with the new bios. Gainward is selling several models based on the same design:

Gainward GeForce GTX 460 1 GB GS: €160
Gainward GeForce GTX 460 2 GB GS: €190
Gainward GeForce GTX 460 1 GB GS-GLH: €200

They are all overclocked, slighty for the GS models, which go from 675 to 700 MHz for the GPU, and more drastically for the GLH (Goes Like Hell) model, which has been pushed up to 800 MHz. The GDDR5 on the GLH is up to 1 GHz from 900 MHz. The Gainward GeForce GTX 460 768 MB is the same as the GS model, but hasn’t been overclocked. We tested the GS 1 GB model.


The card





A particularity of the Gainward Golden Sample, in addition to a slight overclocking of the GPU, up from 675 to 700 MHz, is that it has excellent connectivity, directly on the card itself: 2 DVIs, a VGA and an HDMI. As a result, Gainward doesn’t need to include any adaptors in the bundle.

The custom PCB is relatively short at only 18.5 cm and the two PCI Express connectors are on top. The double slot cooling system is based on a relatively small and light heatsink, with a copper base and two heatpipes. There’s no heatspreader for the memory chips and power stage and they have to make do with exposure to the air under the shielding panel.


The bundle

As all the outs are included on the card itself, Gainward doesn’t supply any video adaptors, which makes the packaging minimalist: a CD with drivers, a small manual, a voucher for a reduction for some CUDA accelerated video editing software and a double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertor.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

The Gainward card is well cooled overall, however there is a hot point at idle and the power stage gets very hot in load, as do all GeForce GTX 460s.


Noise and temperature readings

The new Gainward bios has reduced noise levels but the GPU temperature in load is up from 73 to 79 °C. Although the noise levels have dropped from 50.7 to 48.2 dB, the card isn’t as quiet as the reference model.


Our opinion
The Gainward GeForce GTX 460 1 GB GS has low pricing on its side as well as more practical connectivity than the reference board in spite of being smaller. On the other hand, it makes quite a bit more noise than many other models, including the reference one.


Page 10
Gigabyte GTX 460 OC

Gigabyte GTX 460 OC
Gigabyte uses a custom design for all its GeForce GTX 460s. The OC model exists in two variants:

Gigabyte GV-N460OC-1GI: €170
Gigabyte GV-N460OC2-1GI: €190


They have different GPU clocks: 715 MHz for the OC model and 760 MHz for the OC2 model. We tested the OC model; it also exists in a 768 MB version.


The card



Gigabyte started with the reference PCB for its GeForce GTX 460 OC card and modified slightly the power stage, now the manufacturer’s own Ultra Durable VGA brand. Connectivity is unchanged retaining two DVI Dual-Link outs and a mini-HDMI out.

the WindForce2X cooling system is based on a wide aluminium heatsink equipped with two heatpipes and cooled by two relatively thin fans. A small heatspreader is also included for the sensitive power stage components. The housing sticks out slightly beyond the PCB, with the only justification for this being aesthetic, to maintain symmetry. It is fixed with just four screws around the GPU, which makes the card feel slightly fragile when you’re handling it.


The bundle

Gigabyte delivers its card with a CD for the drivers, a manual, a user guide, a DVI to VGA adaptor, a mini-HDMI to HDMI adaptor and 2 double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertors.

Gainward guarantees its card for 3 years in Europe.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

There are no particular problems with the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 OC. It performs similarly to the reference card, except that slightly more hot air is sent towards the hard drive bays.


Temperature and noise readings

The full readings confirm what you can see in the infrared thermography. At 1 dB less than the stock model, the Gigabyte card is also quite quiet.


Our opinion
With its GeForce GTX 460 OC, Gigabyte is offering a pretty good and pretty good value GeForce GTX 460, especially as it’s guaranteed for three years. In spite of a slight 5% overclocking, this is the only GeForce GTX 460 tested that’s quieter in load than the reference model.


Page 11
Gigabyte GTX 460 SOC

Gigabyte GTX 460 SOC
After the excellent Gigabyte OC model, Gigabyte is now marketing an SOC version, revised for higher clocks. This GeForce GTX 460 SuperOverClock is on sale at €210 with clocks of 815 MHz for the GPU and 1 GHz for the GDDR5 memory against 675/900 MHz for the reference card.


The card



The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 SOC is based on a PCB that has an entirely redesigned power stage. In addition to better quality components, it now has 6 phases for the GPU rather than 3, which should avoid too much pressure here at high clocks. This more complex power stage takes up more space and so the PCB has been lengthened from 21 to 24 cm.

At the back of the card, note the Nec-Tokin Proadlizer, a chip which replaces a whole lot of decoupling capacitors, used to reduce electronic noise, and facilitates implementation of higher clocks. Still looking at the back of the PCB, a small LED comes on for each GPU phase.

Although the cooler still uses two fans, as with the OC model, it has been entirely revisited. The radiator, which is bigger, has a copper base and 4 heatpipes running off it. With 6 phases, the power stage components suffer less and Gigabyte has therefore been able to remove the small radiator dedicated to the power stage, especially as some air is expelled straight towards them.

In contrast to all the other cards tested, this card uses Samsung memory certified at 1.25 GHz.


The bundle
As Gigabyte delivered the card to us on its own, without its box or packaging, we don’t know exactly what the bundle contains. It is however probably similar to the OC model bundle, namely: a CD for the drivers, a manual, a user guide, a DVI to VGA adaptor, a mini-HDMI to HDMI adaptor and 2 double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertors.

Gigabyte guarantees this model for 2 years in Europe.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

In spite of significant overclocking, the GeForce GTX 460 SOC is very well cooled, both in idle and load where it benefits from having a 6 phase power stage. It never gets any hotter than 85 °C where other cards, even cards which aren’t overclocked heat up over 100 °C.


Temperature and noise readings

The GPU is well cooled. Not much hot air is expelled from the casing, which has an impact on the temperature of the other components in the system. Although the card is very quiet at idle, in load it's slightly noisier than the reference card.


Our opinion
Gigabyte has brought out another excellent GeForce GTX 460. This SOC, or SuperOverClock, model benefits from very high clocks without excessive temperatures and noise, thanks to a sturdy power stage.


Page 12
MSI N460GTX Cyclone

MSI N460GTX Cyclone OC
Since the GeForce GTX 460 launch, MSI has been marketing models equipped with its Cyclone cooling system:

MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1 GB: €165
MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1 GB OC: €170

We tested the 1 GB OC version. The GPU clock is up from 675 to 725 MHz. Both models also exist in the 768 MB version.


The card



Note that although the PCB is indeed the same as the one used on the stock model, it’s made by MSI. MSI says that it uses military class components and this is one of their major sales arguments. Although the components do seem to be of high quality, whether they give anything extra remains to be seen, especially as they seem to us to be identical to those used on other cards based on the reference PCB…

The cooler used by MSI is relatively similar to the reference one, except that no shielding panel is used here. This model is however larger and accompanied by a 9cm rather than 8cm fan.


The bundle

The MSI card comes with a CD for the drivers, a manual, a quick set-up guide, a DVI to VGA adaptor, a DVI to HDMI adaptor (probably cheaper than a mini-HDMI to HDMI adaptor) and two double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertors.

The card is guaranteed for two years in Europe.


In terms of software, MSI is including Afterburner for overclocking and Kombustor for overclocking stability.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

The MSI Cyclone model is very well cooled but expels quite a bit of hot air towards the hard drive bay.


Temperature and noise readings

These readings confirm the decent performance of the card which cools the GPU a bit better than the reference model in spite of being slightly overclocked. It is however somewhat noisier, while this wasn’t really the case with the 768 MB model we tested at launch.


Our opinion
The MSI Cyclone card gives a 7% overclocking on a budget card, which we can only criticise in terms of its slightly higher noise levels, something MSI could have avoided by better calibrating its cooling system – we would have preferred them to allow the cooler to heat up a bit more and keep the card quieter.


Page 13
MSI N460GTX Hawk

MSI N460GTX Hawk
In addition to its Cyclones, MSI is also marketing the GeForce GTX 460 Hawks which target advanced users with their higher overclocking capacities:

MSI N460GTX Hawk 1 GB: €190
MSI N460GTX Hawk Talon Attack 1 GB: €200

The difference between the two versions comes in terms of the level of overclocking. While the stock card has clocks of 675 and 900 MHz for the GPU and the memory, the Hawk is up to 780/900 and the Hawk Talon Attack to 810/950. We tested the Hawk.


The card



MSI started with the stock PCB but have revisited the power stage, which is sturdier with 7+1 phases (6 for the GPU). Connectivity hasn’t been changed and you still get 2 DVI Dual-Link outs and a mini-HDMI out.

The Hawk models are equipped with a Twin Frozr II cooler that MSI uses on many models. It isn’t really optimised for such a short PCB as the one on the GeForce GTX 460 and sticks out the back without much reason. It is based on an enormous aluminium radiator equipped with four heatpipes. There’s no radiator in contact with the power stage, but given that the cooler is equipped with two fans, plenty of cool air does flow over it.


On this model, MSI has placed contactors to read the different voltages easily.


The bundle

MSI supplies a CD for drivers, a manual, a quick set-up guide, a DVI to VGA adaptor, a mini-HDMI to HDMI adaptor, 2 double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertors and 3 small cables to measure voltages.

The card is guaranteed for two years in Europe.


In terms of software, MSI supplies Afterburner for overclocking and Kombustor to test its stability.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

The MSI GeForce GTX 460 Hawk is very well cooled both at idle and in load. It does however send a lot of hot air to the hard drive bay.


Temperature and noise readings

In spite of being significantly overclocked, the card is well cooled, with scores of 31 °C at idle, and 71 °C in load. Things don’t look as idyllic in terms of noise levels however – this is the loudest of the models tested here.


Our opinion
While advanced overclocking enthusiasts could be delighted with this cooling system, which seems to have plenty in reserve, and be able to monitor various voltages, others will look for another model with lower noise levels.


Page 14
Sparkle Calibre X460G

Sparkle Calibre X460G
As usual, Sparkle is marketing a GeForce GTX 460 model as part of its Calibre range, which groups higher end products. Just a single variant is on offer, overclocked at 790/950 MHz against 675/900 MHz for the stock model. It has 1 GB of memory and is on sale at €190.


The card



For this Calibre X460G, Sparkle has used the reference PCB with the Accelero Twin Turbo Pro from Arctic Cooling. This cooler is made up of an aluminium radiator and four heatpipes cooled by two 92mm fans. A small heatsink has also been placed on the senstitive power stage components.

The cooler sticks slightly out the back of the PCB and its heatpipes rise 3 cm above it, which makes the card quite a bit bigger.


The bundle

Sparkle delivers its card with a manual, an invitation to join the Calibre Club, a CD with drivers, 2 double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertors, a DVI to VGA adaptor and a mini-HDMI/HDMI cable as an optional extra. A sticker on the box indicates whether or not the cable is included. If it isn't, a mini-HDMI to HDMI adaptor will also be included.

The card is guaranteed for 3 years.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

The cooler Sparkle has gone for is very effective.


Temperature and noise readings

This is confirmed by the readings. With a GPU temperature of just 61 °C in load, the Calibre X460G is the best cooled GeForce GTX 460 in this roundup. In terms of noise levels, it’s very much the same as the reference model in load but is not as quiet at idle.


Our opinion
With the Calibre X460G, Sparkle has brought out an excellent GeForce GTX 460. In spite of a 17% GPU overclocking and low temperatures, it doesn ‘t make any more noise in load than the reference model. The only small negative is that Sparkle could have calibrated its cooler so as to make the fans quieter at idle.


Page 15
Twintech GTX 460

Twintech GTX 460
The GeForce GTX 460 1 GB from Twintech is a sort of alternative version to the reference card that we imagine has been optimised to reduce costs. This is a design used by several manufacturers:

Club3D GeForce GTX 460 1 GB: €190
Club3D GeForce GTX 460 1 GB Overclocked Edition: €200
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1 GB: €190
Twintech GeForce GTX 460 1 GB: €180

Note that the same design is used for the 768 MB Twintech model.


The card



The PCB used by Twintech is identical to the reference model, with just a different brand and a few different components. Instead of the usual black its in the more standard green.

The cooling system is pretty similar to the reference cooler, but with a more standard, rectangular design. 2 copper heatpipes lead up from the base of the cooler and are in direct contact with the GPU heatspreader. A slightly bigger fan, 9cm against 8cm for the reference card, handles cooling.

The cooler is only fixed around the GPU with four screws. Small cushions have been placed at either end of the PCB so that there’s not too much pressure when the card is handled as this might damage the PCB . Here again, it mirrors the reference design.


The bundle

Twintech sells its card with both a minimalist packaging and bundle: a CD with drivers and the manual, a quick installation guide and a DVI to VGA adaptor are supplied in the bundle.

Club3D offers a standard 2 year guarantee in Europe.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

The Twintech model is very close to the reference model and is therefore well cooled. Its power stage however gets slightly hotter.


Temperature and noise readings

The full readings confirm that the card functions very similarly to the reference model, both in terms of heat and noise, which is well managed.


Our opinion
Although this model doesn’t give anything on top of what you get with the reference card, it isn’t any worse. Both are good solutions and only differ in terms of pricing.


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Zotac GTX 460

Zotac GTX 460
Zotac is marketing many various GeForce GTX 460s. The model without any suffix uses a much larger fan than the reference GeForce GTX 460 and is only available in a 1 GB version. It costs €190.


The card



Zotac uses the reference PCB but has modified connectivity to include an HDMI connector and a DisplayPort connector in addition to the two DVI Dual-Link outs.

With its big blower, its cooling system has been designed to expel a maximum of hot air out of the casing. There’s an aluminium heatsink with 3 heatpipes.


The bundle

Zotac supplies a CD with drivers and trial versions of applications accelerated by CUDA, a manual, a guarantee, a DVI to VGA adaptor and two double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertors. Some cards are supplied with Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands as part of the bundle.

In Europe, Zotac is throwing in a guarantee extended from 2 to 5 years if the card is registered during the fortnight following purchase.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

No complaints with this Zotac card, which performs very similarly to the stock card.


Temperature and noise readings

The temperature readings highlight the advantage of expelling hot air from the casing. The hard drive and CPU temperatures are much lower than on other cards. The GPU in itself isn’t however better cooled and the noise levels are higher both at idle and in load.


Our opinion
A model such as the Zotac GeForce GTX 460, which is based on a cooler with a blower, doesn’t really come into its own until you move up to multi-GPU solutions, where it means you’re not accumulating too much hot air in the casing. In standard use, the GeForce GTX 460 doesn’t produce enough heat to justify the increased noise levels and we prefer a more standard design here.


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Zotac GTX 460 AMP!

Zotac GTX 460 AMP!
The second Zotac model we’ve tested is a significantly overclocked GeForce GTX 460, with the GPU clock up from 675 to 810 MHz (+20%) and its memory up from 900 MHz to 1 GHz. Only available in a 1 GB version, it’s marketed at €200. Note that the 2 GB and 3DP models use the same cooler.


The card



The Zotac AMP! model looks pretty cool and uses the same PCB as the model with the blower, namely the stock PCB but with additional connectivity: HDMI and DisplayPort as well as the two DVI Dual-Link outs.

This rather complex cooler is made up of an aluminium plate that frames the copper base equipped with a circular heatsink above which there’s an 8cm fan. A small heatsink is fixed to the sensitive power stage components but this is enclosed under the extremity of the cooler plate, a purely aesthetic addition, and is therefore not exposed to any direct flow of air.



The bundle

Zotac delivers its card with a CD for drivers and test versions of applications accelerated by CUDA, a manual, a guarantee, a DVI to VGA adaptor, two double molex to 6-pin PCI Express power supply cable convertors and the game, Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands.

In Europe, Zotac is offering a guarantee extended from 2 to 5 years if the card is registered within a fortnight of purchase.


Infrared thermography

Graphics card at idle.


Graphics card in load.


System at idle.


System in load.

The power stage on the Zotac AMP! model gets pretty hot in load. This model is also the one which sends most hot air towards the hard drives.


Noise and temperature readings

Although the card is quiet at idle, it is unfortunately quite noisy in load.


Our opinion
Although the cooler design that equips the Zotac GeForce GTX 460 AMP! is nice to look at, we’re rather sceptical as to how efficient it is. Without forgetting that the card has been overclocked (GPU up 20%), you have to say that it’s rather noisy in load, which makes the model a good deal less attractive, hence, no doubt, the inclusion of a game in the bundle and a guarantee extended to five years.


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TI: graphics cards at idle

Infrared thermography: graphics cards at idle

Stock GeForce GTX 460 1 GB


Asus ENGTX460 TOP


Club3D GTX 460


EVGA GTX 460 EE


Gainward GTX 460 GS


Gigabyte GTX 460 OC


Gigabyte GTX 460 SOC


MSI N460GTX Cyclone OC


MSI N460GTX Hawk


Sparkle Calibre X460G


Twintech GTX 460


Zotac GTX 460


Zotac GTX 460 AMP!


All the GeForce GTX 460s are well cooled at idle. MSI carries the day by a little with its Hawk model. Note a hot point on the Gainward card.


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T1: graphics cards in load

Infrared thermography: graphics cards in load

Stock GeForce GTX 460 1 GB


Asus ENGTX460 TOP


Club3D GTX 460


EVGA GTX 460 EE


Gainward GTX 460 GS


Gigabyte GTX 460 OC


Gigabyte GTX 460 SOC


MSI N460GTX Cyclone OC


MSI N460GTX Hawk


Sparkle Calibre X460G


Twintech GTX 460


Zotac GTX 460


Zotac GTX 460 AMP!


In load, it’s the power stage that undergoes the biggest increase in temperature and gets over 100 °C, up to 130 °C on the EVGA. The only exception, is Gigabyte's SOC model which stays under 85 °C. In terms of the GPU, it’s the Sparkle Calibre X460G which carries the day.


Page 20
T1: systems at idle

Infrared thermography: systems at idle

Stock GeForce GTX 460 1 GB


Asus ENGTX460 TOP


Club3D GTX 460


EVGA GTX 460 EE


Gainward GTX 460 GS


Gigabyte GTX 460 OC


Gigabyte GTX 460 SOC


MSI N460GTX Cyclone OC


MSI N460GTX Hawk


Sparkle Calibre X460G


Twintech GTX 460


Zotac GTX 460


Zotac GTX 460 AMP!


None of the GeForce GTX 460s pose any problem here.


Page 21
Ti: systems in load

Infrared thermography: systems in load

Stock GeForce GTX 460 1 GB


Asus ENGTX460 TOP


Club3D GTX 460


EVGA GTX 460 EE


Gainward GTX 460 GS


Gigabyte GTX 460 OC


Gigabyte GTX 460 SOC


MSI N460GTX Cyclone OC


MSI N460GTX Hawk


Sparkle Calibre X460G


Twintech GTX 460


Zotac GTX 460


Zotac GTX 460 AMP!


In load, there’s no great difference overall except when it comes to the hard drive bays where the two MSI cards, the Gigabyte SOC model and the Zotac AMP! send a good part of the hot air. The difference is very clear between the two Zotac cards, with the basic version expelling a big proportion of the hot air out of the casing.


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Summary of results

Summary of results
Here we have brought together all the temperature readings taken during the tests. We have highlighted the results that stand out:



At idle all the solutions tested behave in a similar way.




In load, we noted a few differences. Although the stock card doesn’t expel much hot air out of the casing, most of the other models do so even less. Only the EVGA and Zotac cards have a fan that expels almost all the hot air out of the casing. The temperature of the CPU and the other components benefit directly from this.

The Sparkle Calibre card has a lower GPU temperature than the other models.


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Temperature and noise levels

GPU temperatures
We have shown the various GPU temperatures at idle and in load.



Noise

Whether at idle or in load, the stock model is relatively quiet and it’s difficult to do any better.

At idle, both the MSI cards as well as the basic Zotac card are slightly quieter than the Asus TOP model, which becomes noisier.

In load, the Asus TOP model, the MSI Hawk and Zotac AMP! are the noisiest. Moreover, it’s slightly paradoxical to see that the noisiest cooling systems are in reality those that are presented as the most advanced! Although the Gainward card poses fewer problems than it did at launch thanks to a bios that has readjusted the fan speed, it remains noisier than the stock card. It’s the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 OC that does best here, outdoing the stock card, while the Club3D/Twintech cards are on a par with the reference card.


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Energy consumption

Energy consumption
We measured the energy consumption of the different cards, keeping in mind that there’s often a variation between identical cards of the same model, due, among other things, to leakage and GPU voltages. Moreover, some run at higher clocks as they are factory overclocked.

We measured energy consumption directly at the graphics card.


At idle, we noted a variation in energy consumption from 14 to 18W, a difference that is partly linked to the energy consumption of the various fans.

In load, the differences are more significant and the models that are oveclocked most use up to 40W more than the stock card. Although we can’t be sure on the basis of just two samples, it looks as if the Club3D/Twintech design, which is selling very well, consumes around ten watts more than the stock card.

Note that with some cards, there’s a bigger difference in energy consumption depending on whether you measure with 3D Mark06 or Furmark. How is this to be explained? We imagine that these results are linked to the increase in GPU temperature resulting from the load of Furmark. This temperature increase can lead to more leakage or to the fan rotating more rapidly which therefore increases energy consumption.


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Overclocking and performance

Overclocking
Obviously each individual card of any model can react differently when overclocked but we tried to push all the cards in our possession so as to be able to observe any generalities. We used Furmark to load the cards to a maxiumum and insured stability by only increasing the clock by 5 MHz.

Note that GDDR5 memory has different mechanisms for the detection of errors which mean that in case of significant overclocking, the memory is stable but loses a lot of time reparing any linked errors, either by sending corrupted data back or recalibrating its clocks. We noted a very rapid drop in performance, in general with 50 MHz overclocking and in certain cases even with just 25 MHz. We therefore abstained from overclocking the memory.

Here are the clocks we managed to reach:


The GF104 which these GeForce GTX 460s are based on, can easily be overclocked and, in general, easily attains 800 MHz. We managed to stabilise all the cards at between 825 and 875 MHz, without any correlation between the base clock of the factory overclocked models and the maximum stable clock.

In order that a maximum number of GF104s qualify at a certain spec level, NVIDIA varies the GPU voltage in load between various models. Increasing this voltage slightly means certain capricious samples can be recovered and lowering it slightly allows NVIDIA to validate other samples with higher leakage. At idle, all the cards are at 0.875.

When you look at these numbers, don't forget that huge overclocking can put a lot of stress on the power stages. Stability is therefore not always guaranteed (with poor cooling inside the casing) and it could damage the board in the long run. Some boards such as the Asus TOP (4 phases), the Gigabyte SOC (6 phases) and the MSI Hawk (6 phases), are better suited for huge overclocking than the other boards which have to make do with 3 phases to power the GPU. We advise you not to go over 800 MHz with these ones.


Performance
For info, we observed the performance of all the cards at their original clocks and when overclocked in Crysis Warhead, at 1920x1200 with 4x antialiasing and in Gamer mode.


In comparison to the stock clocks, we gained up to 26% with overclocking! These are unusual gains, especially as even in the worst cases we gained 15% all said and done.

At the original clocks, it’s no surprise to see the Gigabyte SOC model and the Zotac AMP! in the lead with a gain of 17% on the stock model.


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Conclusion

Conclusion
Although the various graphics card manufacturers all take advantage of the significant overclocking margins available on the GeForce GTX 460, NVIDIA has made their task harder by developing a pretty efficient cooling system. Sure, they have an excellent basic product with which to work, but it isn’t easy to improve it to stand out from the competition, especially when the objective is to be able to reuse the same cooler on a maximum of cards.

Asus, MSI and Zotac have all overelaborated to a certain extent with overly complex coolers. They often use visually successful designs but turn out to be noisier than the reference model. Sure, it mustn’t be forgotten that some of these models are significantly overclocked, but that doesn’t justify the resulting sound levels, which moreover are also in evidence at idle, as is the case with the Asus model.


Also, we were able to ascertain that the overclocking potential isn’t any higher on the factory overclocked boards, which to a great extent fall within the margins you get on all the GeForce GTX 460s, which managed 800 MHz at the very least, against 675 MHz by default, namely a difference of almost 20%, which brings a very palpable gain in performance in practice.

The least expensive reference cards therefore still give very good value for money, as do the variants on offer from Club3D and Twintech which are very similar to them in every way. They pose no particular problem either in terms of noise or heat levels.


Some cards stand out however and both have a three year guarantee. Firstly the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 OC 1GB which is good value and the only model to better the stock models in terms of noise levels. Next the Sparkle Calibre X460G has a significant factory overclocking and a very high performance cooler from Artctic Cooling. It is however more expensive at €190 against €160 or €170 for the Gigabyte stock models.

For overclocking enthusiasts, we also advise a Gigabyte card. The GeForce GTX 460 SuperOverClock comes with significant factory overclocking, relatively well controlled noise levels and a power stage that stands up to high loads without flinching.

Testing a few additional cards revealed a detail that had escaped us at first: very significant overclocking can be a problem with models based on the reference PCB. The reason for this is that the power stage, which hasn’t been designed for the energy consumption levels implied by such clocks, heats up a great deal. This is the case for the EVGA FTW and the Point of View TGT The Beast cards, which we therefore advise against. Some cards have however been modified by manufacturers to give them a sturdier power stage. This is the case with the Asus GTX 460 DirectCU, the Gigabyte SOC and the MSI Hawk.

Lets finish by mentioning the EVGA EE model that's worth looking at if you’re considering a bi-GPU system. With a cooling system that expels hot air out of the casing, without increasing noise levels (as the Zotac card does – otherwise a similar card), it'll be a good solution for cooling a bi-GPU set-up.


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