|NVIDIA GeForce GTX-460 1GB Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 12 July 2010|
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GeForce GTX 460 Overclocking
If there's one particular message this article should impress upon the reader, it would be that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 is an overclockers dream. The GF104-equipped GTX 460 already comes with an impressive stock clock of 675/1350 MHz, with the GDDR5 running at 900 MHz (1800 DDR). Putting this into perspective, these speed fall between the GeForce GTX 470 and GTX 480 (closer to the latter). Now comes the fun: overclocking the GeForce GTX 460 is as easy as its ever been.
Back in the day, software overclocking tools were few and far between. Benchmark Reviews was literally put on the map with my first article: Overclocking the NVIDIA GeForce Video Card. Although slightly dated, that article is still relevant for enthusiasts wanting to permanently flash their overclock onto the video cards BIOS. Unfortunately, most users are not so willing to commit their investment to such risky changes, and feel safer with temporary changes that can be easily undone with a reboot. That's the impetus behind the sudden popularity for software-based GPU overclocking tools.
NVIDIA offers one such tool with their System Tools suite, formerly available as NVIDIA nTune. While the NVIDIA Control Panel interface is very easy to understand an navigate, it's downfall lies in the limited simplicity of the tool. It's also limited, and doesn't offer the overclocking potential that AIC partners offer in their own branded software tools. For example, using the NVIDIA System Tools utility to overclock the GeForce GTX 460 (1GB version), I was able to set the graphics clock up to 1350MHz (which is way out of realistic range) but the memory clock was limited to 2160. As it turns out, overclocking the GTX 460's GDDR5 from 1800 to well past 2160 MHz was possible.
After hitting a brick wall with the NVIDIA System Tools utility (nTune), I turned to the most popular brand name on the overclocking scene: MSI. While not the biggest company selling motherboard and video card products, they're definitely the most aggressive brand with some of the highest-quality products sold. MSI offers their Afterburner utility (based on Riva Tuner), and also a Kombustor tool (based on FurMark). Knowing that the GeForce GTX 460 would need a wider range of clock speeds, I began overclocking with MSI Afterburner 1.6.1.
My mission was simple: locate the highest possible overclock without adding any additional voltage. Starting with memory, I slowly raised the GDDR5 clock speed... until I once again reached the limit of this tool: 1170 MHz (2340 MHz data rate). While I would have liked to go further, and take the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460's 1GB GDDR5 memory as far as it could possibly go, the jump from 900 to 1170 MHz equaled very little frame rate improvement. Using only a memory overclock, Aliens vs Predator performance jumped from 22.2 to 23.5 FPS at 1920x1200. Far Cry 2 performance was bumped from 57.36 to 58.85. Now it was time to work some magic on the GF104 GPU.
As a best practice, it's good to find the maximum stable GPU clock speed and then drop back 10 MHz or more. While the GeForce GTX 460 was stable in many tests up to 880 MHz, there was an occasional graphics defect. In the end, I decided that 855 MHz with full-time stability is a far better proposition than crashing out midway through battle. Adding the 855/1710 MHz GPU overclock onto the 1170 MHz GDDR5 overclock resulted in some very impressive gains!
Far Cry 2 video frame rate performance increased from 57.36 FPS to 71.67, equaling a 25% bump in performance for this DirectX-10 video game. That's a nice start, but DirectX-11 is really where the market's at these days... so I turned to AvP for another series of test runs.
Aliens vs Predator jumped from 22.2 FPS at stock/default settings to 28.3 FPS, resulting in nearly 28% performance gain. What does that 28% mean to you? For a mere $200~$220, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 just matched the $400 ATI Radeon HD 5870. That right ATI, you read that correctly: NVIDIA's $200 product can perform as well as your $400 flagship video card. Ouch! That's gotta hurt.
In the next section, I offer my opinion on Fermi's updated architecture and add a little salt into ATI's fresh wound...