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Written by Olin Coles   
Sunday, 08 August 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5
Features and Specifications
NVIDIA GF104 GPU Fermi Architecture
First Look: ASUS GTX 460 DirectCU TOP
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX11: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis Warhead
DX10: Far Cry 2
DX10: Resident Evil 5
DX11: Aliens vs Predator
DX11: BattleForge
DX11: Metro 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
NVIDIA APEX PhysX Enhancements
NVIDIA 3D-Vision Effects
ASUS ENGTX460 TOP Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
ASUS ENGTX460 TOP Overclocking
Editor's Opinion: NVIDIA Fermi
ASUS ENGTX460 TOP Conclusion

NVIDIA Fermi Features

In today's complex graphics, tessellation offers the means to store massive amounts of coarse geometry, with expand-on-demand functionality. In the NVIDIA GF104 GPU (GF100 series), tessellation also enables more complex animations. In terms of model scalability, dynamic Level of Detail (LOD) allows for quality and performance trade-offs whenever it can deliver better picture quality over performance without penalty. Comprised of three layers (original geometry, tessellation geometry, and displacement map), the final product is far more detailed in shade and data-expansion than if it were constructed with bump-map technology. In plain terms, tessellation gives the peaks and valleys with shadow detail in-between, while previous-generation technology (bump-mapping) would give the illusion of detail.

id-imp-tessellated-character.jpg

Stages of Tessellation with NVIDIA Fermi Graphics

Using GPU-based tessellation, a game developer can send a compact geometric representation of an object or character and the tessellation unit can produce the correct geometric complexity for the specific scene. Consider the "Imp" character illustrated above. On the far left we see the initial quad mesh used to model the general outline of the figure; this representation is quite compact even when compared to typical game assets. The two middle images of the character are created by finely tessellating the description at the left. The result is a very smooth appearance, free of any of the faceting that resulted from limited geometry. Unfortunately this character, while smooth, is no more detailed than the coarse mesh. The final image on the right was created by applying a displacement map to the smoothly tessellated third character to the left.

What's new in Fermi?

With any new technology, consumers want to know what's new in the product. The goal of this article is to share in-depth information surrounding the Fermi architecture, as well as the new functionality unlocked in GF100. For clarity, the 'GF' letters used in the GF100 GPU name are not an abbreviation for 'GeForce'; they actually denote that this GPU is a Graphics solution based on the Fermi architecture. The next generation of NVIDIA GeForce-series desktop video cards will use the GF100 to promote the following new features:

  • Third Generation Streaming Multiprocessor (SM)
    o 32 CUDA cores per SM, 4x over GT200
    o 8x the peak double precision floating point performance over GT200
    o Dual Warp Scheduler simultaneously schedules and dispatches instructions from two independent warps
    o 64 KB of RAM with a configurable partitioning of shared memory and L1 cache
  • Second Generation Parallel Thread Execution ISA
    o Unified Address Space with Full C++ Support
    o Optimized for OpenCL and DirectCompute
    o Full IEEE 754-2008 32-bit and 64-bit precision
    o Full 32-bit integer path with 64-bit extensions
    o Memory access instructions to support transition to 64-bit addressing
    o Improved Performance through Predication
  • Improved Memory Subsystem
    o NVIDIA Parallel DataCache hierarchy with Configurable L1 and Unified L2 Caches
    o First GPU with ECC memory support
    o Greatly improved atomic memory operation performance
  • NVIDIA GigaThread Engine
    o 10x faster application context switching
    o Concurrent kernel execution
    o Out of Order thread block execution
    o Dual overlapped memory transfer engines

Tessellation in DirectX-11

Control hull shaders run DX11 pre-expansion routines, and operates explicitly in parallel across all points. Domain shaders run post-expansion operations on maps (u/v or x/y/z/w) and is also implicitly parallel. Fixed function tessellation is configured by Level of Detail (LOD) based on output from the control hull shader, and can also produce triangles and lines if requested. Tessellation is something that is new to NVIDIA GPUs, and was not part of GT200 because of geometry bandwidth bottlenecks from sequential rendering/execution semantics.

In regard to the GF100-series graphics processor, NVIDIA has added a new PolyMorph and Raster engines to handle world-space processing (PolyMorph) and screen-space processing (Raster). There are eight PolyMorph engines and two Raster engines on the GF104, which depend on an improved L2 cache to keep buffered geometric data produced by the pipeline on-die.

Four-Offset Gather4

The texture unit on previous processor architectures operated at the core clock of the GPU. On GF104, the texture units run at a higher clock, leading to improved texturing performance for the same number of units. GF104's texture units now add support for DirectX-11's BC6H and BC7 texture compression formats, reducing the memory footprint of HDR textures and render targets.

The texture units also support jittered sampling through DirectX-11's four-offset Gather4 feature, allowing four texels to be fetched from a 128×128 pixel grid with a single texture instruction. NVIDIA GF100 series GPUs implements DirectX-11 four-offset Gather4 in hardware, greatly accelerating shadow mapping, ambient occlusion, and post processing algorithms. With jittered sampling, games can implement smoother soft shadows or custom texture filters efficiently. The previous GT200 GPU did not offer coverage samples, while the GF100-series can deliver 32x CSAA.

GF104 Compute for Gaming

As developers continue to search for novel ways to improve their graphics engines, the GPU will need to excel at a diverse and growing set of graphics algorithms. Since these algorithms are executed via general compute APIs, a robust compute architecture is fundamental to a GPU's graphical capabilities. In essence, one can think of compute as the new programmable shader. GF100's compute architecture is designed to address a wider range of algorithms and to facilitate more pervasive use of the GPU for solving parallel problems. Many algorithms, such as ray tracing, physics, and AI, cannot exploit shared memory-program memory locality is only revealed at runtime. GF104's cache architecture was designed with these problems in mind. With up to 48 KB of L1 cache per Streaming Multiprocessor (SM) and a global L2 cache, threads that access the same memory locations at runtime automatically run faster, irrespective of the choice of algorithm.

NVIDIA Codename NEXUS brings CPU and GPU code development together in Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 for a shared process timeline. NEXUS also introduces the first hardware-based shader debugger. NVIDIA GF100-series GPUs are the first to ever offer full C++ support, the programming language of choice among game developers. To ease the transition to GPU programming, NVIDIA developed Nexus, a Microsoft Visual Studio programming environment for the GPU. Together with new hardware features that provide better debugging support, developers will be able enjoy CPU-class application development on the GPU. The end results is C++ and Visual Studio integration that brings HPC users into the same platform of development. NVIDIA offers several paths to deliver compute functionality on the GF104 GPU, such as CUDA C++ for video games.

Image processing, simulation, and hybrid rendering are three primary functions of GPU compute for gaming. Using NVIDIA GF100-series GPUs, interactive ray tracing becomes possible for the first time on a standard PC. Ray tracing performance on the NVIDIA GF100 is roughly 4x faster than it was on the GT200 GPU, according to NVIDIA tests. AI/path finding is a compute intensive process well suited for GPUs. The NVIDIA GF100 can handle AI obstacles approximately 3x better than on the GT200. Benefits from this improvement are faster collision avoidance and shortest path searches for higher-performance path finding.

NVIDIA GigaThread Thread Scheduler

One of the most important technologies of the Fermi architecture is its two-level, distributed thread scheduler. At the chip level, a global work distribution engine schedules thread blocks to various SMs, while at the SM level, each warp scheduler distributes warps of 32 threads to its execution units. The first generation GigaThread engine introduced in G80 managed up to 12,288 threads in real-time. The Fermi architecture improves on this foundation by providing not only greater thread throughput, but dramatically faster context switching, concurrent kernel execution, and improved thread block scheduling.



 

Comments 

 
# Hey Otis! Two Thumbs Up!Mike S 2010-08-08 10:17
I'm glad you gave me a heads-up to check out the 460.
Excellent idea you had!!!
I bought the Asus Top-460 last Thursday before this article was posted.
I won't have it hand for 2-3 more days.

It would seem your recommendation of the Nvidia-460 and my choice of the Asus Top-460 will be well worth the extra dollars.

Appreciate the assisstance.
Thanks.
Mike S.
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# one questionFederico La Morgia 2010-08-08 10:38
what is written on the RAM chips?
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# RE: one questionOlin Coles 2010-08-08 13:38
Why do you keep asking the same exact question? We've answered this already in the other articles you've asked it.
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# RE: RE: one questionFederico La Morgia 2010-08-08 23:33
I'm trying to make a list of all the chips mounted on 460 GTX 1 GB, 2 GB and then to understand which models would be most OC based on faster ram mounted.
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# RE: RE: RE: one questionOlin Coles 2010-08-09 07:07
Oh - I understand now. You'll want to ask what code is printed on top of the RAM modules, not written on them. Data is written on/to them, and text is printed. Samsung K4G10325FE-HC05 is printed on the chip.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: one questionFederico La Morgia 2010-08-09 07:09
sorry but not knowing English also use google translate because I think if you write in Italian I'd understand
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# Any Luck so far?BruceBruce 2010-08-09 07:44
Have you found any GTX 460 cards that DON'T use the Samsung "-HC05" chips?
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# RE: Any Luck so far?tbscpu 2010-08-10 19:02
There's an article on expreview I believe about galaxy planning to ship the 460GTX with 0.4 samsung chips. Link below.
#en.expreview.com/2010/08/03/galaxys-geforce-gtx-460-packed-0-4ns-samsung-gddr5-memory/8819.html
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# RE: RE: Any Luck so far?Federico La Morgia 2010-08-10 21:17
0,4 ns = 2.4 GHz
0,5 ns = 2 GHz
understood what I meant with my research?
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# RE: RE: RE: Any Luck so far?Federico La Morgia 2010-08-10 21:19
2 ghz ---> 4 ghz
2.4 ghz ---> 5 ghz
##samsung.com/global/system/business/semiconductor/family/2010/5/13/865833graphic_product_guid e_apr_10.pdf
0.28 ns = 3.5 ghz ---> 7 ghz !!! :D
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# RE: ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5Adam 2010-08-08 12:56
Sorry if this is a stupid question that I've missed the answer to, but, is the only difference between this and a regular GTX460 the factory overclock?
What's with the 'TOP/2DI/1GD5'?

Looking to replace my GTX260 and the 460 is by far looking like the best bet at the moment, not too keen on the design of this heatsink though. Might be a bit better at keeping the GPU itself cool but it'll increase case temps due to the lack of a proper exhaust...
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# RE: RE: ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5Olin Coles 2010-08-08 13:37
You are correct, Adam. The difference is the factory overclock and 'improved' cooling solution. The need for a more-aggressive cooling solution may or may not be necessary with the GF104 GPU, but I personally believe that externally vented exhaust is a must.
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# RE: RE: RE: ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5Adam 2010-08-08 14:29
Ah, thought as much. Nice of ASUS to wack a load of meaningless letters on it to make things seem a bit more special then it really is.

It does annoy me somewhat that the majority of 460's seem to be stuck with this style of heatsink rather then the rear exhaust type. Cannot understand their reasoning behind it, especially with a GPU that runs this cool.
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# Newegg doesn't have this card just yetShawn 2010-08-08 19:33
I've been watching Newegg like a hawk for this card to come out in the last week. They have everything but the 460 TOP with 1 gig of memory and a factory overclock. I'm not sure if I should get one now or wait for the 475.

Supposedly, the fully functioning GF104 will be the 475 card due out next month or so. Pictures of the chip that will power the 450 and 440 have been leaked on the web. They're due out in the near future as well.
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# Are you sure?Olin Coles 2010-08-08 19:43
I've linked to the NewEgg listing, and the card appears in-stock. We've also had at least one reader tell me he bought it.
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# Yes I amShawn 2010-08-08 19:59
They have 2 of the 768MB models, one of which has a factory overclock, a black shroud and labeled TOP. The 1GB model they have has the blue shroud and has stock settings but no mention of TOP in it's name. As your GPU-Z display in the article shows, the 1 GB TOP model is supposed to have the core clock at 775, shader 1550, memory 1000(4000).
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# RE: Yes I amOlin Coles 2010-08-08 20:02
I see what you mean now... the item I've linked to either has the wrong specs, or it's a non-TOP version that just uses a different cooler. Kind of confusing, I think.
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# The one you linked to isn't the right oneShawn 2010-08-08 20:07
Asus has 2 models for the 768 and 1GB cards. The ones with the factory OC are labeled TOP. The other one is just the plain vanilla stock model. The title of the article mentions the word TOP in it. The one you linked to is not that model.
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# RE: The one you linked to isn't the right oneOlin Coles 2010-08-08 20:09
I'll get some clarification from ASUS tomorrow.
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# RE: RE: The one you linked to isn't the right onesportwarrior 2010-08-09 02:40
No need for clarification:

#event.asus.com/vga/2010/engtx460/

The New Egg card is clearly a different version. Olin, could you perhaps give us more feedback on the noise from the card? There isn't a ton of info out there, but I read a review yesterday citing atrocious fan noise. You seem to say it's comparatively quiet. That's really good to hear, although I'd love to see some db measurements on the 1 gb card.
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# *sigh*Olin Coles 2010-08-09 06:57
I can't understand why ASUS would create a version of this card that looks identical to the TOP edition but keeps reference speeds. The GeForce GTX 460 already operates so cool that enhanced thermal solutions are completely unnecessary, and this cooler doesn't exhaust the air out of the case. Simply put, I think they should have stayed with the reference design on non-overclocked models.

I'm going to add a note beside the NewEgg link.

As far as fan noise, there almost wasn't any to speak of. I tested the games in a case with an open side, and could barely hear the fan. With the case closed for temperature tests, I couldn't hear it at all.
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# RE: *sigh*sportwarrior 2010-08-09 13:20
Thanks for the fan noise info, Olin. The tbreak review I read seems to be an extreme outlier. All the other reviews I've read have indicated very good performance in the noise department.

How does the revised cost affect your price/performance numbers? If the TOP list price is $277 and not $230, that would alter things a bit wouldn't it? Of course, it's also available from Amazon for $209, so that would only improve the numbers ;-)
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# RE: *sigh*Shawn 2010-08-09 19:00
I think the intention is to offer a quieter and cooler card for those who like to overclock them. From all the other reviews I've read that measures the noise levels, most fans are noisy at high RPMs and the stock 460 blower doesn't keep cards cool enough for high overclocks. Another review got this card up to over 900MHz, a feat that couldn't be accomplished within an acceptable noise level with any other cooler.
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# RE: The one you linked to isn't the right onesportwarrior 2010-08-09 00:21
There is, in fact, a listing on Amazon for the right card. The tech specs are slightly off, but close enough to confirm it isn't the factory clock version. It's currently listed at $209, with a (slightly random) list price of $277.68. The card won't be available for another 2-4 weeks, apparently.
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# OoopsMike S. 2010-08-09 05:10
My bad.
The Newegg version is the 1G but not the Tops as you have figured. According to the Asus sight and Otis's tested version the Tops is blue.
The picture on the Newegg site shows a blue version with a non-Tops part number.
It is the 1GD5 version but no factory OC. Has the CU cooler.
Thanks to Otis I can OC it myself. It will be a Tops. So I'm satisfied with my decision.

ENGTX460 DirectCU/2DI/1GD5
ASUS Exclusive DirectCU Thermal Solution with 3 Heat-pipes!
- ASUS Exclusive DirectCU Thermal Solution: Three 8mm flattened copper heat-pipes contact GPU directly and reach up to 20% COOLER than generic GeForce GTX460
- ASUS Exclusive Voltage Tweak Technology for up to 50% performance

#usa.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=H6TLkh8DlwAs1Liv&templete=2
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# RE: OoopsOlin Coles 2010-08-09 13:23
At this point, I'm not sure what to use for the price/performance ratio. It's frustrating really, since all of these stores change their prices every few days. I think that I'll leave it as-is for now, and simply add the NewEgg link if/when it ever becomes available.
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# About the memory overclock...Dudu 2010-08-10 09:48
It seems you forgot that this card uses GDDR5, which has ECC.

So once you get to the limit of it, you can still go higher in frequency, but it'll only means more errors (which you don't see) that reduce the performance you gained via said difference in frequency.

Because I seriously doubt you'll be able to reach 1170mhz and only see that little difference you saw.

Best regards.
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# RE: ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5max 2010-08-11 17:00
i bought 2 from amazon asus 460 top hopefully it will be good for sli
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# pcbwagrant 2010-08-12 01:34
@ Olin Coles
it is not the good photo of pcb (photo 108 / 739 on chip)

1.the placement of PCI-Express 6pin connectors is to the top not rear
2. eight modules of GD5 not six
3.vrm have a "cooler"
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# RE: ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5dave 2010-08-21 19:05
I need to do a new build (x58/1366 socket)and looking at the GTX 460 as my video card of choice at least until the next die shrink (curious to see how 480 does then).
I've narrowed my choice down to either this card or the MSI GTX 460 1GB Cyclone, but can't tell which has the better OC potential and overall cooling. I want to overclock (stock voltage) as much as possible with keeping fan noise being annoying (say - max 40db under constant full load).
From what I can tell, the MSI Cyclone seems to be the better choice - at least in terms of cooling/noise.
Any thoughts on this (esp. Olin)?
Thanks for the help.
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# RE: RE: ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5Olin Coles 2010-08-22 07:25
Here's my advice: if YOU'RE doing the overclocking, don't bother buying a card with a FACTORY OC. I'd also recommend a model that exhausts all heated air outside the case, like the reference design does. From that point, compare the warranty and customer support options.
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# RE: RE: RE: ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5AP 2010-08-23 09:16
Have you got a recommendation for a rear exhaust card?

There seem to be very few alternatives and most seem to be the reference design type, which looks almost the same as the 200 series cooler that from my experience wasnt particularly quiet.

EVGA seem to do one with a bigger fan, but even then it only seems to be in 768mb...
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# Check Newegg.comBruceBruce 2010-08-23 09:31
I see three or four cards from EVGA at Newegg that have full rear exhaust, and all of them are 1GB versions. Zotac also has one for sale. I would also consider a small voltage bump, as it will improve stability at a small cost in temperature.
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# 2GB version?RealNeil 2010-08-24 08:31
I saw one at NewEgg that's got 2GB of RAM on board.

HERE: ##newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814261077

I wonder if the additional RAM is worth it? Would you consider a review of this one?
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# RE: 2GB version?Olin Coles 2010-08-24 08:50
The Palit NE5X460SF1142 GeForce GTX 460 is a great product, but for $260 I'm not convinced it offers the same value as other 460's.
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# RE: RE: 2GB version?RealNeil 2010-08-24 09:12
I was wondering how much the additional memory would skew (change) the results of the tests. I've already decided to buy two 1GB GTX460's and use them as the basis for an upgrade in about 5 weeks. But a total of 4GB of system Video RAM is a lot and I wonder if it's gonna be a game changer.
I know that in the past, manufacturers have always made what they thought would sell, knowing that many people are married to the notion that "More Is Better". Oftentimes that's not the case.
I have 8GB of RAM in each of my systems and to change to 16GB would be extremely expensive with little benefit for my usage patterns. (there remains a little man on my shoulder egging me on though)
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# RE: RE: RE: 2GB version?Olin Coles 2010-08-24 09:14
The video frame buffer is only useful when the game can supply it with enough textures to warrant large cache amounts. If a game only buffers 512MB of textures, there's no point in having more vRAM.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: 2GB version?RealNeil 2010-08-24 09:20
So I'll stick with the two 1GB cards then.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 2GB version?Olin Coles 2010-08-24 09:22
Honestly, even the most texture-intensive games (ie Star Craft II or Age of Conan) use about 600MB. I think you'll be more than fine with 1GB, and 2GB is future-future proof.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 2GB version?RealNeil 2010-08-24 09:31
Good then.
This next upgrade has to last me as I probably will not come into any significant amounts of cash for a very long time after it's done. (retirement incomes stay the same regardless of inflation)
The AMD Hex-Core black combined with these will do the trick.
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# Im total noob. but heyKent 2010-11-02 18:26
Hey guys =) i have no idea of computers at all. well some but nwm... does this Nvidia-460 1gb support windows xp? just curious =) thanks
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# and i forgotKent 2010-11-02 18:28
Can i use it on my Asus motherbord that has PCI-express x16 ? thanks again
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# RE: and i forgotOlin Coles 2010-11-02 18:53
Yes, you can use any NVIDIA or AMD/ATI video card on Windows XP. You can use them on any motherboard with PCI-E.
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# YaYKent 2010-11-03 00:11
thankss for the information =) i just ordered ASUS GeForce GTX 460 1GB TOP PhysX CUDA (PCI-Express 2.0,"DirectCU TOP", GDDR5, 2xDVI, native-HDMI, HDCP, 256bit) =) do you think i will have very good performance increase from XFX GeForce 8800GTS 500M 640MB GDDR3, (PCI-Express, 2xDVI/HDTV/HDCP, 320-bit) ? hehe. here are link's for both Gfx cards ##komplett.se/k/ki.aspx?sku=327331

##komplett.se/k/ki.aspx?sku=603885

Thanks again =) Sorry for bad english =)
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# Just CuriousKyle 2010-12-03 18:51
Hey, im a student in a vocational school and my field is electronics, but im self teaching myself about computer knowledge as I go, and was wondering if any of you could tell me if you would recommend this Graphics card as a either a great, good, alright, or bad card. Im in the process of building my own computer and I want the best quality performance I can recieve out of it, so if any of you can give me some info it would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks
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# RE: ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5RealNeil 2010-12-04 09:03
It's a good performer,....but there are others out there that are considered to be good as well. Much depends on your money situation. If the price of this card is right for your budget, then it's a good choice. If you have more to spend and want more performance, they've just released the GTX580 series of cards for quite a bit more money. They are pretty slick cards.

ATI just released some cards too, (6850 and 6870) but I don't like that they can't do CUDA and Phys-X,......and for me that's not good enough. Otherwise they *do* perform well.
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# Pro tipKvantti 2011-02-18 04:12
Just get the 1Gb ENGT 460 DirectCU, which has factory clocks, and overclock it by yourself with MSI Afterburner. Saves you 10$ and you still get all the same performance as with the TOP-model.
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# confusion over TOP vs nonHankB 2011-04-08 16:15
Thanks for the article. After reading this and several other glowing reviews of this card, I saw what I thought was the same card on sale at Newegg. I pulled the trigger and only after hitting submit noticed that I had ordered the non-TOP version. (ENGTX460 DirectCU/G/2DI/1GD5 vs. ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5 - how could anyone get confused? :rolleyes:) I'm left wondering if there is any difference between the two models beyond the factory overclock. I see mention of an "'improved'cooling solution" but no explanation of that aside from the speculation that it is not necessary. I see no difference between the two coolers in pictures (3 pipe cooler for both) but perhaps there are other difference such as additional cooling for components beside the GPU. I'm wondering if I should cancel the order and get the TOP version.

In reality, either card will meet my needs but while I wait for delivery, it's nice to have something to obsess about. ;)
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# RE: confusion over TOP vs nonOlin Coles 2011-04-08 16:17
Same card, just that the TOP model is factory overclocked. You've saved yourself the money, and can have fun overclocking without the added fee.
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# Thanks!HankB 2011-04-08 17:40
Thank you for the quick reply. (You were almost quicker than Newegg who has already provided a tracking number!)
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