Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 review
The recurring criticisms of Fermi so far have been that it’s a hot, slow and expensive technology, and Nvidia padding the range with the cut-down GTX 465 didn’t help. Thus, we’re delighted to see a return to the drawing board for its latest offering, the GeForce GTX 460, which has a new, dedicated GF104 graphics core.
This redesign has resulted in some major architectural differences between the GTX 460 and its more powerful stablemates. For a start, it has two (rather than four) of what Nvidia calls Graphics Processing Clusters (GPCs). These gather stream processors into modules that behave like individual GPUs themselves.
While halving the number of clusters seems as though it would hobble the card, each stream processor module contains 48 stream processors, compared to just 32 per module from the GF100. So despite having half the GPCs, the GTX 460 actually contains around 70% of the stream processors of the GTX 480.
The GTX 460 also boasts high clock speeds. The stream processors, for instance, run at 1,350MHz, which is higher than the 1,215MHz speeds of the GTX 465 and 470, and almost twice as quick as ATI’s mainstream cards. The core clock of 675MHz also improves on that of the GTX 465 and 470.
The final technical change is to the GTX 460’s memory. Nvidia has released two versions: one with 768MB of GDDR5 and a 192-bit memory bus, and another with 1GB of GDDR5 memory and a wider 256-bit bus. We’ve used the latter card for our tests, and it will cost around £16 exc VAT more than its cut-down sibling.
These sweeping changes meant performance was hard to predict, but running our benchmarks proved a pleasant surprise. In our High quality Crysis test, run at a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, the GTX 460 scored 54fps – almost identical to the GTX 465, and eight frames quicker than ATI’s Radeon HD 5830. This gap narrowed at higher quality settings, though. We upped the resolution to 1,920 x 1,200, and all three cards performed within one frame of each other on average – all around the 27fps mark.
Our World in Conflict benchmark exhibited similar trends. The GTX 460 rattled through at 1,600 x 1,200 and Very High settings with an average of 56fps, and then scored 51fps in the same test run at 1,920 x 1,200. That’s just 2fps faster than the GTX 465, and only a couple of frames behind the far more expensive HD 5850.
So the GTX 460 keeps up perfectly well with Nvidia’s previous GTX 465, despite being cheaper, and manages a similar feat over ATI’s HD 5830: both of these cards will cost you at least £10 more plus VAT.
The GTX 460 is also more versatile. It’s the shortest Fermi card yet released at 223mm to the GTX 465’s 241mm and, crucially, the extra space makes it easier to access the pair of six-pin power connectors without crashing into your hard disks.
But the best part of all is that the flaming, all-consuming monsters of the past months have finally been slain. With the GTX 460 installed, our test rig drew 127W when idling and 273W when stress-tested – 16W less than the GTX 465 and more than 100W less than the GTX 470. Considering that card reached 98 degrees, it’s also good to see the GTX 460 hit a peak temperature of 68 degrees when at full load.
It’s all getting back to the level we used to routinely expect from Nvidia – and it is, perhaps, a tacit admission that its GF100 core simply wasn’t good enough. The GTX 460 is a triumph, cheaper than its closest rivals without ever compromising on raw performance. Given what’s gone before we remain cautious, but it looks to be a much-needed turning point for Nvidia and Fermi, and a return to a genuine two-horse race.
|Graphics card interface||PCI Express|
|Graphics chipset||Nvidia GeForce GTX 460|
|Core GPU frequency||675MHz|
Standards and compatibility
|DirectX version support||11.0|
|Shader model support||5.0|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||0|
|7-pin TV outputs||0|
|Graphics card power connectors||2 x 6-pin|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||131fps|
|3D performance (crysis), medium settings||87fps|
|3D performance (crysis) high settings||54fps|