Review: Faster and more quiet
The GTX 460 has gotten great reviews since it has been released a couple of days ago, as the card perfoms great, runs quiet and packs impressive overclocking potential. Nvidia aimed the GTX 460, or rather two different GTX 460 cards (768MB and 1024MB GDDR5 versions) at mid-range, sub-€200 gaming market. For high end enthusiasts, Nvidia has the GTX 480, but two GTX 460 768MB cards in SLI mode can be even better – all this for a price of a single GTX 480.
The results we’re about to show you paint a nice picture on the performance of the upcoming dual-GPU (GF104) card. It will be great if the new dual-GPU card comes with two GF104 chips with 384 stream processors each, higher clocks and 256-bit memory interface because such a scenario would probably make the HD 5970 shake in its boots.
What we can see today is that GTX 480 pricing has dropped by more than €30 in the last few days, so the GTX 480 is now available at about €400. So, we’re about to see the reason of such high price-drops.
Seting up 2-Way SLI with two GTX 460 768MB cards
In order to put both cards to use, it’s not only placing them in the motherboard and connecting them with the SLI connector – you’ll have to turn on SLI within the driver, in the “Set SLI and PhysX Configuration” menu. You have to choose Maximize 3D Performance option, after which both GPUs will join forces and should in theory double your graphics performance. Note that this action does not require a restart.
GTX 460 cards allow only for 2-way SLI, as the cards comes with only on SLI connector.
Naturally, 3-way SLI capable card would need two SLI connectors, which is the case with the GTX 480 on the picture below.
EVGA GTX 460 768MB
EVGA GTX 460 768MB Superclocked
Motherboard: EVGA 4xSLI
CPU: Core i7 965 XE (Intel EIST and Vdrop enabled)
Memory: 6GB Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24
Harddisk: OCZ Vertex 2 100 GB
Power Supply: CoolerMaster Silent Pro Gold 800W
Case: CoolerMaster HAF X
Fan Controler: Kaze Master Pro 5.25"
Operating System: Win7 64-bit
Hot summer days are not quite graphics-friendly and while our advice in the case of GTX 480 would be to put your computer in a fridge or move to the North Pole, the GTX 460 cards in SLI mode had no problems with overheating. As you probably know, GF104 (40nm ) is based on Fermi architecture but it packs less transistors compared to the GF100, which means less heat.
Nvidia’s reference cooling does a great job this time around, and there’s really no need for non-reference cooling – not even in the case of assembling 2-way SLI.
We intentionally put EVGA’s GTX 460 768MB cards in the worst possible position – with virtually no free space between them. This would mean that airflow will be hindered in between the cards, and that the upper card will probably run hotter.
Indeed, the upper card ran hotter because its fan draws already hot air from the card below. In idle mode, we recorded a 7°C difference between the GPUs.
We tested GTX 460 SLI at reference clocks (675MHz GPU/3600MHz memory) as well as on Superclocked clocks (763MHz GPU/ 3800MHz memory). Note that regardless of 3D clocks, idle operation results in the card downclocking to 50MHz GPU and 67MHz memory.
FurMark testing resulted in 16°C difference between the GPUs. Maximum temperatures on the upper card at Superclocked clocks (763MHz/3800MHz) were at 84°C, whereas the bottom card hit maximum 68°C. At reference clocks, the temperatures were 2°C lower on each GPU, as you can see from the picture below.
We cut the cards some slack in our second test and gave them some breathing room by placing them 2 slots apart.
Compared to Test 1 temperatures, our idle-operation measurements were 3°C lower. FurMark testing was also cooler, and we recorded 10°C lower temperatures. This means that maximum temperatures were not at 84°C but 74°C.
As far as noise in 3D goes, 2-way SLI with GTX 460 768MB cards is much quieter than a single GTX 480.
Unlike the GTX 460 cards which weren’t noticeably loud, the GTX 480’s fan was so loud in FurMark that we couldn’t wait for it to end. Furthermore, not even all this noise and fan-work managed to push temperatures below 93°C.
GTX 460 768MB card has the same TDP – 150W. Our entire rig without the monitor drew up to 299W with one EVGA GTX 460 768MB Superclocked. Two GTX 460 768MB Superclocked cards in SLI mode pushed the consumption up to 492W.
Two GTX 465 768MB cards in SLI mode resulted in consumption of up to 465W whereas the GTX 480 managed to top this – 494W was the final figure.
Idle operation with the GTX 460 SLI resulted in our rig drawing about 160W, whereas the GTX 480 consumed about 168W.
Futuremark Vantage tests are pretty straightforward - EVGA GTX 460 768MB Superclocked SLI outran the GTX 480, with the champ being the same card with Superclocked clocks (763MHz GPU and 3800MHz memory).
In Aliens vs. Predator at 1920x1200, EVGA GTX 460 768MB SLI manages to beat a single GTX 480 by about 12%, but the Achilles’ heel of these cards is evident at the highest resolution – 460 SLI loses to a single GTX 480 at 2560x1600 and with AA on. The culprit is naturally the amount of memory.
GTX 460 SLI scaling is really nice – it manages 90% better performance compared to a single GTX 460.
In Dirt 2 and at the highest resolution with AA on, GTX 460 768MB SLI outruns the GTX 480 by about 22%. GTX 460 SLI gives about 85% better performance compared to a single GTX 460.
At 1920x1200, GTX 460 768MB in SLI (reference clocks) outruns a single GTX 480 by 6%, whereas switching to Superclocked clocks more than doubles this advantage – 16%. GTX 460 768MB in SLI gives about 90% better performance compared to a single card.
We didn’t increase the resolution to 2560x1600 in Metro 2033, but rather switche graphics settings from “high” to “very high”.
All the cards in our test feature DirectX 11 support and Unigine Heaven is one of rare tests that can appropriately test the GPU in Tessellation. We used standard settings and only switched tessellation levels between Normal and Extreme. EVGA GTX 768MB SLI outran the GTX 480 in both tests. The first test sees a 14% advantage; the second test sees a 9% advantage. Compared to a single GTX 460, GTX 460 in SLI mode runs about 86% better.
A few days ago, Nvidia announced GTX 460 cards which are now available at €176 (768MB, 192-bit memory interface) and at €210 (1GB of memory, 256-bit memory interface).
Gamers who can’t afford pricier Nvidia DirectX 11 cards will find the small, quiet and powerful GTX 460 to be a great deal. The card is based on the Fermi architecture-based GF104 and is made with mid-range market in mind. GF104 has less transistors and runs cooler, and it definitely beats the crippled versions of GF100.
We tested 2-way SLI with two EVGA GTX 460 768MB cards – one of the Superclocked, the other running at reference clocks. We first showed results of the GTX 460 SLI at reference clocks, and we did that by downclocking EVGA’s Superclocked to reference clocks. Note however that this step is done automatically as the case of two cards at different clocks running in SLI will automatically result in the faster card downclocking to match the slower card. We then show GTX 460 SLI results at Superclocked clocks, which we made by using EVGA’s Precision to overclock the reference card to 763MHz for the GPU and 3800MHz for the memory.
As far as performance goes – this is not a good day for the GTX 480 as it loses to GTX 460 SLI at reference clocks, with Superclocked clocks extending the advantage for additional 10%. Performance scaling compared to a single card is really nice and our today’s SLI runs up to 98% better than a single card. The only weakness the GTX 460 768MB SLI showed was 2560x1600 resolution, where the advantage over the GTX 480 was lost. This is a direct result of the smaller frame-buffer.
Those sensitive to noise will simply love our today’s setup – it runs much quieter than a single GTX 480.
If you want to use three monitors but consider yourself exclusive to Nvidia, then SLI is your only option. Two GTX 460 768MB cards are priced at about €360, which is €40 less than what the GTX 480 goes for. So, if you’re keen on some high-end gaming, we’d very much advise you to think about two GTX 460 cards because our today’s test shows that this is probably the best deal Nvidia currently offers.