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Written by Olin Coles   
Sunday, 08 August 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
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 GF104 GPU Fermi Architecture

Based on the Fermi architecture, NVIDIA's latest GPU is codenamed GF104 and is equipped on the GeForce GTX 460. In this article, Benchmark Reviews explains the technical architecture behind NVIDIA's GF104 graphics processor and offers an insight into upcoming Fermi-based GeForce video cards. For those who are not familiar, NVIDIA's GF100 GPU was their first graphics processor to support DirectX-11 hardware features such as tessellation and DirectCompute, while also adding heavy particle and turbulence effects. The GF100 GPU is also the successor to the GT200 graphics processor, which launched in the GeForce GTX 280 video card back in June 2008. NVIDIA has since redefined their focus, and GF100/GF104 proves a dedication towards next generation gaming effects such as raytracing, order-independent transparency, and fluid simulations. The new GF104 GPU is still more powerful than GT200, and delivers DirectX-11 performance for NVIDIA's mid-range Fermi-based video card family.

GF100 was not another incremental GPU step-up like we had going from G80 to GT200. While processor cores have grown from 128 (G80) and 240 (GT200), they reach 512 in the GF100 and earn the title of NVIDIA CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) cores. GF104 features up to 336 CUDA cores. The key here is not only the name, but that the name now implies an emphasis on something more than just graphics. Each Fermi CUDA processor core has a fully pipelined integer arithmetic logic unit (ALU) and floating point unit (FPU). GF104 implements the IEEE 754-2008 floating-point standard, providing the fused multiply-add (FMA) instruction for both single and double precision arithmetic. FMA improves over a multiply-add (MAD) instruction by doing the multiplication and addition with a single final rounding step, with no loss of precision in the addition. FMA minimizes rendering errors in closely overlapping triangles.


NVIDIA Fermi GF104 Block Diagram (click for high-resolution)

Based on Fermi's third-generation Streaming Multiprocessor (SM) architecture, GF104 could be mistaken as a divided GF100. NVIDIA GeForce GF100-series Fermi GPUs are based on a scalable array of Graphics Processing Clusters (GPCs), Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs), and memory controllers. NVIDIA's GF100 GPU implemented four GPCs, sixteen SMs, and six memory controllers. Conversely, GF104 implements two GPCs. eight SMs, and four memory controllers. Where each SM contained 32 CUDA cores in the GF100, NVIDIA now configures the GF104 to deliver 48 cores per SM. As expected, NVIDIA GF100-series products are launching with different configurations of GPCs, SMs, and memory controllers to address different price points.

CPU commands are read by the GPU via the Host Interface. The GigaThread Engine fetches the specified data from system memory and copies them to the frame buffer. GF104 implements four 64-bit GDDR5 memory controllers (256-bit total) to facilitate high bandwidth access to the frame buffer. The GigaThread Engine then creates and dispatches thread blocks to various SMs. Individual SMs in turn schedules warps (groups of 48 threads) to CUDA cores and other execution units. The GigaThread Engine also redistributes work to the SMs when work expansion occurs in the graphics pipeline, such as after the tessellation and rasterization stages.

GF104 implements 336 CUDA cores, organized as 8 SMs of 48 cores each. Each SM is a highly parallel multiprocessor supporting up to 32 warps at any given time (four Dispatch Units per SM deliver two dispatched instructions per warp for four total instructions per clock per SM). Each CUDA core is a unified processor core that executes vertex, pixel, geometry, and compute kernels. A unified L2 cache architecture (384KB on 768MB version or 512KB on 1GB cards) services load, store, and texture operations. GF104 is designed to offer a total of 32 ROP units (768MB=24 / 1GB=32) for pixel blending, antialiasing, and atomic memory operations. The ROP units are organized in four groups of eight. Each group is serviced by a 64-bit memory controller. The memory controller, L2 cache, and ROP group are closely coupled-scaling one unit automatically scales the others.

GF104 Specifications

  • Up to 336 CUDA Cores
  • 8 Geometry Units
  • 2 Raster Units
  • 64 Texture Units
  • 32 ROP Units
  • 256-bit GDDR5
  • DirectX-11 API Support

GeForce GTX 400 Specifications

Graphics Card

GeForce GTX 460

GeForce GTX 465

GeForce GTX 470

GeForce GTX 480

GPU Transistors 1.95 Billion 3.2 Billion 3.2 Billion 3.2 Billion

Graphics Processing Clusters





Streaming Multiprocessors

7 11



CUDA Cores

336 352



Texture Units

56 44



ROP Units

768MB=24 / 1GB=32 32



Graphics Clock
(Fixed Function Units)

675 MHz

607 MHz

607 MHz

700 MHz

Processor Clock
(CUDA Cores)

1350 MHz

1215 MHz

1215 MHz

1401 MHz

Memory Clock
(Clock Rate/Data Rate)

900/3600 MHz

837/3348 MHz

837/3348 MHz

924/3696 MHz

Total Video Memory

768MB / 1GB

1024 MB

1280 MB

1536 MB

Memory Interface

768MB=192 / 1GB=256-Bit




Total Memory Bandwidth

86.4 / 115.2 GB/s

102.6 GB/s

133.9 GB/s

177.4 GB/s

Texture Filtering Rate

37.8 GigaTexels/s

26.7 GigaTexels/s

34.0 GigaTexels/s

42.0 GigaTexels/s

GPU Fabrication Process

40 nm

40 nm

40 nm

40 nm

Output Connections

2x Dual-Link DVI-I
1x Mini HDMI

2x Dual-Link DVI-I
1x Mini HDMI

2x Dual-Link DVI-I
1x Mini HDMI

2x Dual-Link DVI-I
1x Mini HDMI

Form Factor





Power Input

2x 6-Pin

2x 6-Pin

2x 6-Pin

6-Pin + 8-Pin

Thermal Design Power (TDP)

768MB=150W / 1GB=160W

200 Watts

215 Watts

250 Watts

Recommended PSU

450 Watts

550 Watts

550 Watts

600 Watts

GPU Thermal Threshold





GeForce Fermi Chart Courtesy of Benchmark Reviews



# 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.
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.
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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 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:

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
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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.


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

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.
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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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