|ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Sunday, 08 August 2010|
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First Look: ASUS GTX 460 DirectCU TOP
Game developers have had an exciting year thanks to Microsoft DirectX-11 introduced with Windows 7 and updated on Windows Vista. This has allowed 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 ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP video card offers gamers a potent dose of graphics processing power for their money, thanks to a massive factory overclock to the Fermi GF104 architecture. But the GeForce GTX 460 series 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 ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5 is a 2.67" tall double-bay, 5.03-inches wide graphics card with a 9.8-inch long profile. ASUS offers four varieties of GeForce GTX 460 video cards: two are clocked at reference speeds and two are designated as TOP models. We've already tested the $200 reference design ASUS ENGTX460/2DI/768MD5 in both single-card and SLI tests, but ASUS also offers a dressed-up ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU/2DI/1GD5 version that sells for $230. There's also the $210 factory-overclocked ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/768MD5 model, and finally the ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5 featured in this review ($244.99 as of 08/30/2010) . NVIDIA's reference center-mounted 75mm finsink cooler design has been exchanged for a custom DirectCU version that uses a 88mm fan and three 8mm nickel-plated heat-pipes, which is far more than enough cooling potential 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. ASUS has retained the two standard 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 both the ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP and reference versions, 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 only six are utilized. The ASUS GeForce GTX 460 TOP uses eight Samsung K4G10325FE-HC05 modules that are passively cooled atop the PCB.
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 1550 MHz, which keeps a firm lead over ATI's 850 MHz Cypress GPU that measures 334 mm2.
ASUS employs a special dual-slot cooling system on their DirectCU TOP edition GTX 460 video card. Three large heat-pipe rods span away from the copper base into an aluminum finsink. This thermal solution cools the factory-overclocked GPU very well, and temperatures at idle or load each remained very cool (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 ASUS ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP 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.