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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(V238) Detailed Features

With high-end video cards, the cooling system is an integral part of the performance envelope for the card. Make it run cooler, and you can make it run faster has been the byword for achieving gaming-class performance with all the latest and greatest GPUs. The MSI N460GTX HAWK has a massive cooler device, compared to the reference design, complete with twice the number of heatpipes. The two additional heatpipes are also larger, at 8mm diameter, compared to the standard 6mm pipes on a lot of coolers. You can see here that the fin assembly is nearly the same size as the board itself.

MSI_N460GTX_HAWK_Video_Card_Two_Halves_01.jpg

Two 6mm and two 8mm diameter heatpipes are clamped between the thick nickel-plated copper mounting plate and the aluminum fin assembly, passing directly over the wider dimension of the GPU heat spreader. Once they exit from there, they spread to the outer reaches of the long aluminum fin assemblies. The airflow from the two fans impinges directly on the two 6mm heatpipes, while the 8mm pipes pump their heat load into the fins, at the far ends. Considering the power density of modern GPU devices, it makes sense to contact every square millimeter of the top surface with the heatsink if you can. The GF104 chip, like most NVIDIA GPU packages has a very large heat spreader mounted to it, and the copper mounting plate covers it completely.

MSI_N460GTX_HAWK_Video_Card_HSF_Full_Bot_01.jpg

The layout of the various elements of the cooler design is a little easier to see in this straightforward view from the GPU's perspective. The lighting in this photo also highlights some of the small surface scratches on the mounting plate. They are exaggerated here, as the next image shows, and they were probably not a factor in the performance of the cooler, as the test results will prove.

All GPUs produce a fair amount of heat, so make sure your chassis has plenty of airflow, in the right direction, in order to move hot air out of the case. This cooler design is not particularly suited to multi-card SLI applications, but as the MSI Cyclone version have shown, getting the heat out of the GPU and transferring it to the air is really the most important part of the job. Where that heat goes is something you definitely need to look at, as some PC gaming cases are much better at moving air through the VGA Zone than others.

MSI_N460GTX_HAWK_Video_Card_HSF_Plate_Clean_01.jpg

The GPU makes direct contact with a nickel-plated copper plate that is soldered to the heatpipes passing directly over the top of the GPU. The threaded standoffs are indirectly mounted to the plate, via brackets on each side, and they seemed very solid. The thermal interface material (TIM) was very evenly distributed by the factory, but was applied slightly thicker than necessary. One day, anxious manufacturing engineers are going to figure out that too little TIM is better than too much. For the rest of us who pay attention to these things, a thorough discussion of best practices for applying TIM is available here.

MSI_N460GTX_HAWK_Video_Card_PWM_Controller_01.jpg

The main power supply controller chip used on the MSI N460GTX HAWK is a uP6213A chip from UPI Semiconductor. It is a 3/4 Phase PWM control IC that does not support I2C software voltage control, however the BIOS provides its own software control that interfaces with the controller at the hardware level. The VRM section uses 3 of the phases from this controller, and then splits each phase in two, to get a total of six phases for powering the GPU alone. Most of the boards on the market are getting by with the three phases provided by the reference design, and they seem to work well, even with some fairly serious overclocking. All else being equal, doubling up on the phases does give cleaner power to the GPU, and MSI was intent on getting all the performance they could from this little GF104 powerhouse.

MSI_N460GTX_HAWK_Video_Card_Main_PWM_MOSFETs.jpg

The N460GTX HAWK uses standard discrete packaging for the N-Channel MOSFET power transistors in the VRM section. This discrete implementation gives up the opportunity to save a little space, but it does give the designer a broader choice in component selection, compared to a DrMOS design. MSI put the driver ICs on the back side of the board to free up some additional space here. The 4935N devices driving the GPU can each source a whopping 93A at an ambient temp of 25C, and are downgraded to 59A at 85C. We all know how hot video cards get, so it's a good idea to have plenty of reserve current capacity for these power devices.

MSI_N460GTX_HAWK_Video_Card_Samsung_GDDR5_01.jpg

The memory choice for the MSI N460GTX HAWK is consistent with the NVIDIA reference designs. The basic GTX 460 specs only require 900 MHz chips for the memory, but most cards have been using these Samsung K4G10325FE-HC05 GDDR5 parts, which are designed for up to 1000 MHz. The MSI Afterburner software supplied with this Triple Over Voltage version has the capability to increase memory voltage, so there's a chance to get a little more than the rated memory speed. The GTX460 cards have shown some gains in gaming performance with increases in memory speed, much more so that the ATI HD 5xxx series has. The 1250 MHz versions of this chip have also been mediocre overclockers on the Radeon platform; we'll have to see if the lower specified parts are a little more willing to exceed their ratings.

EVGA_GeForce_GTX460_SC_GDDR5_Specs.png

Now that we've had the grand tour of the MSI HAWK, inside and out, it's time to put it to the test. Well, Benchmark is our first name, so don't worry. There are a wide variety of tests waiting for you in the next several sections. Let's start off with a complete description of the Video Card Testing Methodology.



 

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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