Okay man, after 30 pages, conclusion time -- my fingers are getting numb! Now the problem with big shootout articles with lots of products tested is that the conclusion always tends to be messy like a big cheesecake. There is so much information to cover that this page will get huge and you can quickly lose focus. We'll be separating this article into two segments. The reference performance/features and then we'll comment on the cards one by one. Hopefully this will keep the conclusion a little more organized.
I'll be very honest with you guys here, I certainly expected much less from the GTX 460 series. Initially I, and everybody, expected it to compete with the Radeon HD 5770 and obviously well below the GTX 465, but that's not the case. The raw specifications and things like shader count really had me thinking, would this card be able to compete with the R5830 for example..? Well yeah, it certainly does. And next to that, it's silent and consumes less power then these products all at roughly the same or lower price level. In fact the GeForce GTX 460 is so good that they without doubt are going to replace the GTX 465 altogether. There is just no point purchasing the GTX 465 any longer.
So the GeForce GTX 460 is done right, we can finally put behind us the endless discussion on noise-levels, TDP and heat. Overall we feel that the GTX 460 series is a very brawny product in the mid-range market. It is also a much welcomed product series as let's face it, the mid-range DX11 segment was filled solely with ATI's Radeon 5750/5570/5830 products. Now we can add NVIDIA to that segment as well. Logic can only assume that ATI is going to either release respin products of their cards, or simply drop prices a little. Regardless of what you prefer, it's good to see NVIDIA now have what seems to be a really nice DX11 class mid-ranger available in this oh so imporrtant segment.
At roughly 200 USD/EUR you can expect to get what you pay for, a silent product that will play your games up-to 1600x1200, and in most cases 1920x1200 quite well. What surprised us was the tremendous overclocking potential, pretty much any and every card we tested today has shown a lot of reserve and room for overclocking, and they scale really well while doing so. Any card, even the cheapest you can find, can be pushed to 800 MHz on the core, period.
As a result, we see a lot of board partners offering many brand based SKU's with several faster clocked / levels. So when we look at the reference baseline we are satisfied with what we have seen. It really is nice performance at that price level, and it will certainly hit a sweet-spot. Obviously we recommend the 1GB version over the 768MB version, not so much for the extra memory but for the 8 ROP partitions the 1GB version has extra. A lot of performance can be found there making it the more mature product. But do not underestimate the 768MB models though as they offer very decent bang for buck. Especially the faster clocked 768MB, it surprised me big-time.
But we tested several cards today in this round-up. Let's break down each board we've had our hands on:
eVGA GeForce GTX 460 768MB - eVGA has SuperClocked editions and regular editions ready at launch and decided to send out both of them for this article, the 768MB version with reference clocks first. An interesting product with decent baseline performance, still that didn't stop us from overclocking it manually with eVGA's Precision software, the end results were quite flabbergasting really, really high overclocks and performance with the cheapest SKU out there. It shows what great products eVGA brings to the market. Reference or not, the reference cooler held ground really well, the card is not more noisy or hot at all. The GeForce GTX 460 768 MB Superclocked will get 2 years standard plus further 8 years of warranty upon registration (!) The regular GTX 460 768 MB will have 2 years warranty .
If you hate to overclock yourself though then you can look into the SC (SuperClocked) edition, you'll get a smile on your face as it unleashes a lot more performance. This is a significant enough default overclock that makes noticeable difference. Being factory overclocked for you you'll have no warranty issues if you leave it at stock. Overclocked however this was the fastest card we tested (without GPU voltage tweaking), meaning the SC models are better yielded / binned cards. We reach nearly 900 MHz on the core frequency without any issues stability wise. Absolutely lovely, nearly sick. When priced right both definitely are very much recommended products. eVGA of course adds the extended warranty policy. Their after sales as such is one of the most respected in this business. Oh and we just love the fact that they include an HDMI cable in the package, simple but oh so significant. Impressive stuff from an impressive NVIDIA partner.
MSI GeForce GTX 460 768MB - Initially due to a delay, MSI could not send out their 1GB model in time for this article. Instead they sent out the 768MB version in the Cyclone cooler flavor. Armed with a nice PCB, quality components and that cooler we feel that the 768MB version, despite lacking 8 ROPs and 256MB over the 1GB model, holds ground really well. A product like this will cost roughly 210 USD, and you gain an absolutely silent yet quite nicely performing DX11 class graphics card. Though it lacks a little bit of extra bite over the 1GB models, we certainly feel that the card offers great value for money. Oh and hey... the default higher clock frequency certainly helps out as well. Being MSI you get to overclock with AfterBurner and it brings voltage control of the GPU as a feature. We took this card to well over 900 MHz on the core. And that's instant extra performance, up-to 20~30% extra. Thanks to that voltage tweak this card achieved the highest overclock today. Quite amazing for a product with a reference clock of 675 MHz.
Palit GeForce GTX 460 1024MB - Initially we received an engineerting sample from Palit which ahd a heatsink on the MOSFET/VRM area. That provided slightly better results. After Palit resubmitted a final sample we updated our results, and we are pleased to report that the impact of the lack of the heatsink is small. Overall Palit has a very good looking product with a nice custom cooling solution. Though not absolutely silent, it surely is quiet enough. Add to that the massive default overclock that their Sonic edition shows and we can say with confidence that Palit has a winner on their hands alright. It competes with the R5850. We just hope that the price will remain steady and will drop down fast, and not higher. Pricing is everything with the GeForce GTX 460 and with these massively overclocked SKUs, reaching past the 250 USD threshold is a risk... Overall this was a card that impressed us very much if not the most, well except the red PCB color... dark / black would be preferred. Okay I'm nitpicking though. But a very much recommended card if you can find it for 250 USD.
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 768MB - Whenever the PCB color is blue, you know you've got a Gigabyte product in your hands. And yes, we spot that blue PCB, some custom cooling and sure, quality component usage on what seems to be a custom board design. The Gigabyte GTX 460 768MB exceeds baseline performance due to the standard overclock of 715 MHz and as such can be recommended. Knowing Gigabyte, they will push this product into the retail channel with rather aggressive pricing and we like that very much, when volume availability kicks in within a few weeks we expect the SKU as tested today to drop closer to 215 USD, and as such that would mean a lot of value for money alright. The cooler is just awesome in both performance and silence. Definitely highly recommended and as always, a great product to look at, play with and test. Oh and we really like the cooler, you just cannot hear it.
Last on the list is Zotac, their SKU is as good as any other reference based GTX 460 and thus at its baseline performance it seems to be a little bland compared to the rest of the gang tested today. The cooler definitely was not the most silent one of all those tested, but can be labeled with a normal noise level. Oh and hey, that didn't mean the card couldn't overclock. No Sir, great tweaking possibilities, a good looking card with excellent connectivity and hey, actually a nice bundle with also a free game. Register on their website and Zotac will increase the warranty of this product to 5 years. And that just oozes value alright.
Recommended Award goes to the default Zotac GTX 460 1024MB and the default eVGA GTX 768 MB
Tweakers essential award goes to the MSI GTX 460 Cyclone 768MB, Gigabyte GTX 460768MB OC
And the top pick award goes to eVGA's GTX 460 768MB SC edition and the lovely Palit GTX 460 1024MB Sonic Platinum edition
Almost all board partners fail at one thing... little extras. With the exception of Zotac nobody seems to want to sweeten the deal a little bit with a free game, and we fail to see as to why that is happening. The graphics market has been dull over the past year, we need to see some more dedication, incentive and stimuli... make your products more interesting than just offering hardware. Insert free games, coupons. We see ATI do this with much success with titles like Dirt2 and COD MW2. With the proper incentive and dedication here at Guru3D we feel the GeForce GTX 460, and specifically the 1GB models, have a lot to offer.
Whatever your choice will be, it's bound to be a good one. All AIB and AIC partners offer a very mature graphics card that you'll like very much. Last but not least, obviously NVIDIA's products come with added benefits like PhysX and CUDA. 3D Stereo Vision Surround is as far as I'm concerned not viable for this product due the the performance level, you'll need to stick to just 3D Vision (one screen) if interested of course.
Bottom line: we feel that the GTX 460 series is a very viable DX11 class product with no real negatives. If you want serious bang for buck the we say pick up a 768MB model, then clock it to 800 MHz after which you suddenly arrive in the R5850 performance level area. At roughly 200 USD you'll have really nice game performance in your hands for a fair amount of money, the GeForce GTX 460 series is a very decent mid-range product with the pricing set at a realistic level.
We do hope that the faster clocked SKUs won't get priced too high as that would crush all the good this product series has to offer. We feel 200 to 250 USD should be your budget for the GTX 460 at most. If you are in the market for something like this at this specific price level then either the Radeon HD 5830 or the GeForce GTX 460 is the card you should pursue.
Our SLI article will be up soon as well, two reference clocked GeForce GTX 460 setup in SLI costing 400 USD will quite easily beat a more expensive GeForce GTX 480 in performance -- more on that soon though.
Update Wednesday 26th July 2010 - We noticed some reports in our forums that batches of the Palit GeForce GTX 460 is missing the MOSFET/VRM heatsink. This is the final product. As a result the card heats up a little more and the cooling will try to compensate by spinning slightly harder and this it makes the product a little louder, but it's only rated at 42 DBa.
We have updated our findings with this final retail product, you can find the results of that in detail on the next page. The results in this review have already been updated.
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