|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 12 July 2010|
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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 Video Card
So far, 2010 has been an exciting year for game developers. Microsoft Windows 7 (and updated Windows Vista) Operating Systems introduced gamers to DirectX-11, allowing video games released for the PC platform to look better than ever. DirectX-11 is the leap in video game software development we've been waiting for. Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) is given emphasis in DX11, allowing some of the most detailed computer textures gamers have ever seen. Realistic cracks in mud with definable depth and splintered tree bark make the game more realistic, but they also make new demands on the graphics hardware. This new level of graphical detail requires a new level of computer hardware: DX11-compliant hardware. Tessellation adds a tremendous level of strain on the GPU, making previous graphics hardware virtually obsolete with new DX11 game titles.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 video card series offers gamers a healthy dose of graphics processing power for their money. But the GeForce GTX 460 is more than just a tool for video games; it's also a tool for professional environments that make use of GPGPU-accelerated compute-friendly software, such as Adobe Premier Pro and Photoshop.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 is a 2.67" tall double-bay, 4.376-inches (111.15mm) wide graphics card with a 8.25-inch (209.55mm) long profile. There are two varieties of GTX 460: one with 768MB, and another with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. NVIDIA's reference cooler design uses a center-mounted 75mm finsink, which is more than adequate for this midrange-output Fermi GF104 GPU.
As with most past GeForce video cards, the Fermi GPU offers two output 'lanes', so all three output devices cannot operate at once. NVIDIA has retained two DVI outputs on the GeForce GTX 460, so dual-monitor configurations can be utilized. By adding a second video card users can enjoy GeForce 3D-Vision Surround functionality.
Other changes occur in more subtle ways, such as replacing the S-Video connection with a more relevant (mini) HDMI 1.3a A/V output. In past GeForce products, the HDMI port was limited to video-only output and required a separate audio output. Native HDMI 1.3 support is available to the GeForce GTX 460, which allows direct output to HDTVs and compatible monitors. Selling at an affordable $200 price point, NVIDIA was wise to support dual-card SLI sets on the GTX 460. Triple-SLI capability is not supported, since the $600 cost of three video cards would be better used to purchase either two GTX 470's or one GTX 480.
The new 40nm fabrication process opens the die for more transistors; by comparison there are 1.4-billion in GT200 GPU (GeForce GTX 285), compared to 1.95-billion in GF104 for the GTX 460. While the GTX 460's GF104 disables one of its eight Streaming Multiprocessor Units (SMU's), a heavy-duty thermal management system is still utilized for optimal temperature control. On the reference sample, the entire heatsink and shroud portion are attached to the circuit board by four screws surrounding the GPU.
Even with its mid-range intentions, the PCB is a busy place for the GeForce GTX 460. There are eight positions for DRAM ICs on the circuit board, which combine for 1GB of GDDR5 video frame buffer memory - or 768MB when six are utilized. Many of the electronic components have been located to the 'top' side of the PCB, so to better accommodate the large scale GF104 GPU and its 1.95-billion transistors. 336 CUDA cores operate at 1350 MHz, which keeps a firm lead over ATI's 850 MHz Cypress GPU that measures 334 mm2.
NVIDIA employs a dual-slot cooling system on the reference GTX 460 video card. Two copper heat-pipe rods span away from the copper base into two opposite sets of aluminum fins. The entire unit is cooled with a 75mm fan, which kept our test samples extremely cool at idle and maintained very good cooling once the card received unnaturally high stress loads with FurMark (covered later in this article).
In the next several sections Benchmark Reviews will explain our video card test methodology, followed by a performance comparison of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 against several of the most popular mid-range graphics accelerators available. The GeForce GTX 460 will compete against the ATI Radeon HD 5830 and several other middle-market video cards; so we'll be keeping a close eye on comparative performance and value.