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Written by Bruce Normann   
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Card
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 GPU Features
MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Features
Closer Look: MSI N460GTX Cyclone
MSI N460GTX Cyclone Detailed Features
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis
DX10: Devel May Cry 4
DX10: Far Cry 2
DX10: Resident Evil 5
DX11: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DX11: Unigine Heaven
DX11: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
DX11: Aliens Vs. Predator
MSI N460GTX Cyclone Temps
VGA Power Consumption
GTX 460 Final Thoughts
MSI N460GTX Cyclone Conclusion

GTX 460 Final Thoughts

I wrote earlier this year that the first Fermi cards from NVIDIA were not really "Competitors" for ATI, because they occupied different price and market segments than the existing series of Radeon HD 5xxx video cards. Well all that's changed now, with the introduction of the GF104 GPU. With 1.95 billion transistors and an estimated die size of 366 mm2, it's in the same league as the ATI Cypress chip, introduced last September on the Radeon HD 5870. On second thought, maybe NVIDIA is in the National League and ATI is in the American League. They both play the same game, but by different rules, and once a year everyone gets together and pretends that they are all the same. Then it's Football season, thank goodness.

If I allow myself to anthropomorphize these products, I thought it was a bit cruel for the GF104 to go gunning for the HD 5830, the crippled sister of the Radeon family. As fate would have it, she held on to the $200-$240 market with only a hope and a prayer by her side. There was no better point for NVIDIA to attack, with a product more clearly focused on gaming graphics, than this thinly populated market segment. Resistance was futile; there was no way the GTX 460 was going to lose this battle. That's because the GTX 460 is a wolf in sheep's clothing. To put it more plainly, and give away my conclusion to those who are reading this entire page, the GTX 460 is a 5850-class video card with a $230 price tag.

From a technology standpoint, the GTX 460 has a whole lot more in common with the Radeon HD 5850 than it does with the HD 5830. Let's compare. The HD 5850 disables one out of ten (10%) possible stream processing units, the HD 5830 disables three out of every ten (30%). The GTX 460 ships with one out of eight possible Streaming Multiprocessor blocks (12.5%) disabled. Match ‘em up.... looks like a 5850 to me. Now let's look at clock rates, the top clock rate that ATI specs out for the Cypress line is 850 MHz, and the HD 5850 ships with a 725 MHz stock clock. It's too early to guess what the highest clock will be on the GF104 chip, but Galaxy and Palit are already shipping cards with factory core clocks over 800 MHz. Almost every reviewer that bothered to overclock their GTX 460 sample got it easily up to the 850 range. The base clock for the GTX 460 is 675 MHz. Once again, the similarity to the HD 5850 is pretty plain; chop off one (presumably dead) processing cluster and downclock the core significantly, so it doesn't compete with the top model (or the lame duck GTX 465 in this case...).

Forgive me for dabbling in a bit of fairy tale economics, but I can't help myself. First of all, I'm going to make a bold assumption that an HD 5830 chip costs exactly the same amount of money to produce as an HD 5870 or HD 5850. Same amount of silicon, same pin out, same package, same testing costs - all the production costs are equal. Next, I'll extend the same bold assumption and conclude that every GF104 chip costs almost exactly the same as the Cypress chips I just mentioned. Same number of transistors, same technology node, same supplier, same production lines, same die area, etc. The only difference is the R&D and SG&A costs that have to get amortized in to establish a fully burdened cost. (I wish I could add a survey button here: agree or disagree.) The pricing model on the other hand, has you paying for performance, which seems realistic and fair for the consumer. That's where NVIDIA chose their battleground.

MSI_N460GTX_Cyclone_1GD5_OC_GF104_Headshot.jpg

I've come to one inescapable conclusion: the GTX 460 is really comparable to an HD 5850 from a technology standpoint, and NVIDIA chose to sell it at a price point currently occupied by a lesser model, the HD 5830. Sounds like a good marketing plan to me, especially since I believe that every Cypress-based card and every GF104-based card share the same cost structure. Sure, you can add or subtract features, but the fundamental production costs are comparable, even if the performance is not. ATI has had a monopoly on DX11 hardware for what seems like ages, so you can't blame NVIDIA for throwing a spanner in the works and trying to disrupt the market. Finally, I can say, "Fermi = Competition". BTW, just like you, I can't wait to read the next chapter in this continuing battle saga.



 

Comments 

 
# Has anyone else noticed?Stefan 2010-08-10 22:54
The fins at the base of the heat-sink spiral in the opposite direction to the fan rotation?

Whoops.
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# RE: Has anyone else noticed?Olin Coles 2010-08-11 06:56
That removes laminar air flow through air friction, and delivers better cooling performance.
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# Good Heat TransferBruceBruce 2010-08-11 07:07
For good heat transfer, you basically want the air banging into the surface of the heatsink. Turbulence is good, impingement is even better.
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# I stand corrected!Stefan 2010-08-12 23:35
Well, I guess I should have taken an engineering class :)

I consider myself now a little more educated from your remarks, thanks ;)
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# :DFederico La Morgia 2010-08-11 02:12
same question as always: D this video card and RAM chips mounted?
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# RE: :DServando Silva 2010-08-11 04:49
You really want to read the "Detailed Features" section before asking.
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# RE: RE: :DFederico La Morgia 2010-08-11 06:06
the code :)
Olin know what I mean to ask
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# Yeah, but...BruceBruce 2010-08-11 07:22
All the information is right there, beautiful pictures of the RAM chips and everything.... Just click on the "Detailed Features" page in the table above.
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# RE: Yeah, but...Servando Silva 2010-08-11 08:29
Thanks Bruce... Unless Federico and Olin are talking different things, I think you did a great job about the ICs in the detailed section. Great review!
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Cardmascotzel 2010-08-11 02:16
Mini-HDMI is there on the board because of space constraints. You can't put anything else next to 2 DVI's on a single slot bracket.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video CardAdam 2010-08-11 08:10
Favourite benchmarks so far! Uses an almost identical system to me and includes the GTX260 (my current card), great stuff for working out if I want to upgrade yet or not.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video CardDavid Ramsey 2010-08-11 16:42
FWIW, the Porsche 911 has been water cooled for more than a decade, and the tighter temperature regulation afforded by water cooling led to major increases in power and efficiency (parts could be machined to tighter tolerances since the narrower temperature envelope limited expansion of the parts). Still, for the time, the air cooled 911 was pretty good.
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# ImagineBruceBruce 2010-08-12 19:38
Just think what the engineers could have done with heatpipes...LOL

Seriously, you don't want to get into a discussion of air cooled vs. watercooled Porsches, do you? That's just begging for an invasion of the body-snatchers! Don't you think the comment section has suffered enough lately?
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# MSI N460GTXWayne Manor 2010-08-14 00:29
Thanks for the review, very informative! I currently have 2 of these puppies in SLI. I'm curious how the Gainward 2GB version compares with the 1GB versions
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# Excellent reviewDr_b_ 2010-08-18 18:53
excellent review. glad you added the older 200 series in for comparison, there doesn't seem to be a reason to keep using the old 285 that i have now. going to SLI two of these.
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# It was a great card in its day...BruceBruce 2010-08-18 19:05
I'm sure you got lots of good use out of it, but time and progress marches on. One of the things I like about the GTX 460 cards is that there is a variety of implementations. The ASUS that was reviewd here is another example of a solid non-reference design (4 phase PWM, etc...).
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# Question for a purchaseKaelin 2010-08-23 03:58
Thank you for your very interesting article. I must change my graphics card but i hesitate between the MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC and the Asus ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5... I don't know which one to choose =( Which one do you advise ?

(Sorry for my english level)
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# Tough Choice...Bruce Bruce 2010-08-23 07:44
They each have larger fans and bigger HSF assemblies that both improve cooling and reduce noise levels. ASUS rolled their own PC board design, and it looks like they increased the PWM from 3-phase to 4-phase. MSI stuck with the reference design. I can't tell where you are located, but you may want to consider the support services that are available in your location, as well as local warranty provisions.
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# Asus or MSI...Kaelin 2010-08-23 10:03
Thank you for your reply
I am French so the support service is not a problem (usually)
to help me to decide I would like to know wich graphic card has the cooling system more efficient and wich one has the best resistance to a higher overclocking. And to finish wich one do you prefer ^^

Thanks in advance
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# RE: Asus or MSI...sportwarrior 2010-08-24 16:56
I'm also interested in the questions above... it seems that the two cards are quite similar in performance capability, though, so ultimately I'm guessing it doesn't really matter which I would select (I live in SoCal, for what it's worth). I will say I like the look of the ASUS quite a but more than the MSI, but Amazon is making me wait a ridiculously long time to get my card and I NEED to build my new rig very very soon.
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# RE: RE: Asus or MSI...Olin Coles 2010-08-24 17:00
Research the warranty support for each, and go from there.
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# French Pricing?BruceBruce 2010-08-24 18:47
What are the prices for each, locally? I don't want to say that the two cards are the same, because they are not. But.....they both do an admirable job supporting the GF104 chip, in slightly different ways. I like MSI Afterburner better than ASUS Smart Doctor, so that's how I would go... If the ASUS card supported the ASUS iTracker2 software, it might be a different story.
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# The choice is madeKaelin 2010-08-24 23:39
In France, the price difference is about 1 euro for the Asus graphics card. Moreover the Asus ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5 is guaranteed 3 years against 2 for the MSI, that's the reason for why I chose the Asus.

thank you for your help =)
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# RE: The choice is madeWayne Manor 2010-08-25 00:58
I would have gone with the Asus version too if it had come out earlier as it is $35 cheaper here than the MSI cyclone, both with 3 yr warranty.
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# RE: RE: The choice is madeWayne Manor 2010-08-25 01:00
Here in Australia that is :p
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# Wacky PricesBruceBruce 2010-08-25 17:45
That's a major difference Wayne. This is exactly why I asked Kaelin about the pricing in France. You just never know.....
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Cardnax 2010-08-25 23:07
i like asus look kool and my mb is asus also i will go wit asus
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Carddon 2011-01-03 21:27
agree

Oh, and I like your writing (style).
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