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Written by Bruce Normann   
Friday, 24 September 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 GPU Features
MSI N460GTX HAWK Features
Closer Look: MSI N460GTX HAWK
MSI N460GTX HAWK 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 HAWK Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
NVIDIA GTX460 Final Thoughts
MSI N460GTX HAWK Conclusion

MSI N460GTX HAWK Conclusion

From a performance standpoint, it's impossible to argue with the numbers this card puts up, at its price point. As I hypothesized in my Final Thoughts, this is really a 5850-class card from a technology standpoint, and it performed like one. Overclocked far beyond its standard operating point, to 950 MHz on the core, it sweeps the field in its market segment and takes a surprise swing at the next level up. The cooling performance is the best available for this chip, at the moment, including the noise required to achieve it, which was quite low. I was very happy with the standard fan settings, as the default curve is aimed at performance users and the cooler has so much headroom available. The combination of a new low-power Fermi GPU and an over-designed cooler kept operating temperatures very low during both intensive gaming and brutal stress testing.

The appearance of the MSI N460 GTX HAWK video card is very attractive, and yet somewhat conservative. MSI did a nice job producing a subtle design that is business-like, yet manages to show off its muscles at the same time. Kind of like early Schwarzenegger in an Italian suit. The anodized aluminum shroud does a good job of avoiding fingerprints without being a dull expanse of grey. They have definitely improved on the earlier version of the Twin Frozr cooler in terms of visual design.

MSI_N460GTX_HAWK_Video_Card_IO_End_Tilt_01.jpg

The build quality of the MSI N460GTX HAWK card was quite good. Everything is assembled well, everything fit when I put it back together, and the overall impression of the card was very solid. The cooler adds a certain heft to the card and also lends a good deal of solidity to the package. The packaging was of the highest quality and very informative. The front panel lifts up to showcase a large display of all the many features this card incorporates. I was not as impressed by the manufacturing quality of the PC board, which still had too much residue from the wave solder/cleaning process for my liking. The unique power supply arrangement used all high quality parts, and was clearly intended to be a class leading design. I pushed this card to the wall repeatedly, and it never complained once.

I also have to give top marks to the new MSI Afterburner software. The full scope of voltage adjustment for the GPU core, memory, and PLL components puts this free, bundled software at the top of the heap. There are other tools available which will work just fine on reference hardware, but the new version 2.0.0 is the icing on the cake for this very special hardware.

The basic features of the MSI N460GTX are fully comparable with the latest offerings from both camps. It has: Microsoft DirectX 11 Support, PhysX Technology, is 3D Vision Ready, also 3D Vision Surround Ready, CUDA Technology, SLI, 32x Anti-aliasing, PureVideo HD, and HDMI 1.4a support. We've been using some of these same, or competitive, technologies on a whole host of Radeon 5xxx cards since last September. Still, it's good to finally have rough parity in the features and functions arena. All the other features are directly related to extracting the full raw computing power from the GPU, and are covered elsewhere on this page.

As of late September 2010, the price for the MSI N460GTX HAWK is $189.99 at Amazon or NewEgg. There is currently a $10 MIR available and MSI is giving away free STEAM codes for Metro 2033 with every GTX460 they sell, so consider that in your purchasing decisions. It's hard to find a bad deal for any of the GTX460 cards; even if you are paying a premium for certain features, more memory, or a software bundle, the price-to-performance ratio is so good, there's not a lot of downside anywhere. This particular model offers the best cooling subsystem available for the GTX460 GPU and arguably the best power section as well, and the price adder for all that is between negligible and non-existent. I rate it as a real bargain for that reason.

Let's face it, almost any GTX460 card is going to get high marks at this stage of the game. NVIDIA has priced it very aggressively, and until ATI responds with some serious price cuts, or releases its next generation of video cards, this is the card to beat in the $200-$250 price range. It's pretty obvious from all the reporting that's been done already, that early production units of the GF104 have tons of overclocking headroom. I got 950 MHz on the core clock with very little effort, and the Twin Frozr cooler kept the temperatures well below 60C no matter how hard I stressed the card. If you really want to push your graphics card to the max and beyond, without worrying about cooking the GPU, this is the GTX 460 card to buy.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Incredibly effective cooling system
+ Improved power supply design
+ Best monitoring and control S/W bundle
+ Excellent overclocking headroom
+ Outstanding price/performance ratio
+ 1000 MHz GDDR5 overclocks better than 1250 MHz parts
+ Very low idle clocks = low power consumption
+ Memory ICs are cooled by airflow from fan
+ Enthusiast-oriented fan profile
+ Pre-wired connectors for voltage monitoring
+ Second round of driver updates available now

Cons:

- Imagine what this card could do with binned GPUs
- Why not go for the 1250 MHz memory that's readily available
- Almost all heat from the card is pushed into the case
- Voltage adjustments don't show actual values in Afterburner

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.50
  • Appearance: 9.00
  • Construction: 8.75
  • Functionality: 9.00
  • Value: 9.50

Final Score: 9.15 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

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Comments 

 
# RE: MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460Doug 2010-09-26 23:26
No doubt, the GTX 460 is the price to performance winner, and is a nice, tight little package. What vexes me is that the 460 isn't even as fast as the old 285 series cards in DX10 applications. If the 285 was OCed, along with the 460, I wonder if it would outperform the OCed 460s? If so, that further confuses me.

On the other hand, the 400 platform is Fermi/PhyX/Cuda and DX11 of course--being that the 285 isn't all that! It seems like what we're getting is a great DX11 Fermi/Cuda PhysX card that runs DX11 games, but doesn't give us more speed than the old cards of yesteryear, and even less in DX10 games.
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# RE: RE: MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460RealNeil 2010-09-27 03:40
Hi Doug,
Comparing old to new is frustrating at best, because they are so different. But maybe you should also consider the price point,........
My 2GB EVGA GTX-285 card was well over $500.00 when it was new, and these GTX-460's are well under half of that price. So I'm about to order two of these for SLI performance that will destroy my GTX-285's capabilities and also get all of the latest technology in rendering eye candy as well. (for less money)
I think that these cards, (especially two of them together) will amount to a definite 'Win-Win' in the consumer marketplace.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460Jason 2010-09-27 03:52
Not sure if we were looking at the same review but the 1 GB GTX 460 (MSI HAWK) beat the 1 GB GTX 285 in every DX10 benchmark they ran. Plus you have the added bonus that it can run DX11 which the GTX-285 can't do, it overclocks like a gem, and the SLI on the 460 is super efficient (in the 80-95% range). I'm not sure what else you're looking for in a midrange video card but as far as i'm concerned thte GTX 460 has it all.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460dlb 2010-09-27 08:51
It was nice to see some older cards in the comparison graphs. I have a pair of GTX260s in SLI, and have been looking for some benches that included both the GTX260 and the newer GTX460. I was actually surprised to see how well the GTX260 did in the DX10 tests when compared to the Radeon HD5830. I'd REALLY like to see how a pair of GTX260s in SLI compares to a single stock GTX460, and maybe OC and SLI the GTX460 also and compare it to the GTX260s in SLI. All of this aside- a great review of a great card! The GTX460 is on my "must have" list, and this "Hawk" version from MSI not only looks great, but has some juice too!
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# RE: MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460Gorham4 2010-09-27 09:32
I think Doug's point was more along the lines that owner's of the Nvidia 200 series don't have a compelling reason to upgrade until DX11 becomes more common. At least if you're running DX10 games at 1920x1200 .

On the other hand if your card is older than the 200 series you've got a reason and price point that says upgrade now. The 460's will have you kicking butt and taking names at a much lower price point that those who recently bought the 260's or 285's
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# Stock Clocks....BruceBruce 2010-09-27 19:31
It's always a struggle to make comparisons when the clock rates are all over the place on factory cards. The ASUS Matrix GTX285 I used is certainly capable of higher clock rates, but all the Matrix cards come from the factory with very minimal overclocks.

The issue really comes to the forefront because GTX460 cards are almost universally wicked overclockers. Just about every single card sold since day one will take a 25% overclock in stride, with very little additional voltage, or none at all if you're lucky.

For me, I love the DX11 eyecandy, and it's only going to get better with newer titles, IMHO.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460Servando Silva 2010-09-27 09:37
It's so sad you didn't break the magic 1GHz barrier, as MSI is showing off those numbers everywhere they can. But 950MHz are quite good for any GTX460 GPU. Most of them reach 100MHz less (850MHz aprox.).
Nice Review!
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# Very Impressed NonethelessBruceBruce 2010-09-27 19:18
I was very impressed with the 950 MHz performance, as well. This is really "The Little (Graphics) Engine That Could"!

Until someone comes out with a water cooled model, every hardcore overclocker is going to want this card.
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# RE: Very Impressed NonethelessServando Silva 2010-09-27 19:26
I think I fall into that category. Maybe you could put your hands on the new Colorful 900MHz OC GTX460 GPU and see how it does against this one.
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