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Written by Bruce Normann   
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Card
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 GPU Features
MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Features
Closer Look: MSI N460GTX Cyclone
MSI N460GTX Cyclone 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 Cyclone Temps
VGA Power Consumption
GTX 460 Final Thoughts
MSI N460GTX Cyclone Conclusion

MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Features

Material in this section is based on data from MSI.

Above and beyond the features that come with every graphics card based on an NVIDIA GTX 460 GPU, there are several hardware and software features that MSI brings to the table with the N460GTX Cyclone. The feature set of the N460GTX 1GD5/OC is primarily based on three areas: thermal performance, hardware reliability, and overclocking capability. MSI's Cyclone Thermal Design was first introduced on the ATI HD 4870 and 4890 video cards; both chips are known for their high thermal loads. I won't say that they were the absolute hottest running GPUs at the time, but they certainly raised the average. MSI claims to be using Military Class Components in this design. I take issue with this marketing term, as true MIL-SPEC components are actually very hard to source, tend to be based on older manufacturing technologies, and I don't see any on this board. I'm all for using higher quality components, but let's call them by their real names, please. The third area is overclocking performance. Here is where MSI's Afterburner software helps take the performance of this product to another level. Let's start by examining the special hardware features that MSI provides with the latest Cyclone series.


The Cyclone heat-sink-fan assembly dominates the visual design of the N460GTX, and has the following features:

  • 90 mm PWM Fan, which is 15.7% quieter than reference design
  • Large nickel-plated copper base for better dissipation
  • Two large 8mm 6mm heatpipes
  • Rounded corners on heatsink to prevent dust accumulation

The MSI Cyclone series features Military Class Components for its power supply components, including:

  • Hi-c Cap provides extremely stable GPU power supply.
  • Solid State Choke has No Buzz noise and higher current for better overclocking ability.
  • All Solid CAP for longer lifespan

What they don't specifically mention is the use of tantalum capacitors for localized decoupling at the GPU. Because a high capacitance can be achieved in a small volume, these tantalum caps can be mounted closer to the GPU, where they are more effective at reducing high frequency ripple currents. They are also one of the most reliable types of capacitors, especially in hot environments. The back side of a video card PCB, right below the GPU, certainly qualifies as a hot environment. By combining solid Aluminum electrolytic capacitors for bulk filtering at the power inputs, with tantalum caps at the "point of use", the designers have made a smart move in optimizing the performance of the power supply subsystem. The Solid State Chokes are a common feature in the current PC component market, and anything that can be done to eliminate the awful noise that can emanate from these little hunks of Iron and wire is a worthwhile effort.

The MSI Afterburner overclocking utility supplied with the N460GTX is version 1.6.1, with support for the latest GF104 GPU from NVIDIA. There are a number of distinct features available within the utility:

  • Benchmarking
  • Overclocking
  • Monitor
  • Profile
  • Advanced Fan Speed Controls
  • Independent or Synchronous Clocks for Multiple GPUs
  • Information Display: BIOS, Driver, GPU ID, etc.

The benchmarking tool is called "Kombustor", and is based on the very popular Furmark application. The overclocking capabilities of Afterburner are based on RivaTuner, another solid application that many enthusiasts and overclockers have used for several years now.

NVIDIA-GTX-460/MSI-Afterburner v1.6.1

The monitoring tool supplied as part of MSI Afterburner is one of my favorites. I especially like the fact that you can "detach" the monitor window, and then minimize the controller window separately. Each of the graphs has a scalable vertical axis, and hovering over the line graph with the mouse produces a top-to-bottom listing of values at that time slice. The overall interface of this product is one of the best available, at least for my purposes. I like to keep things simple when I can, so a lot of utility software doesn't do much for me; it ends up creating screen clutter once you get them all up and running. MSI Afterburner combines the features I need into one interface, plus offers capabilities that others can't match. Many different types of video cards have had their GPU core voltage maxed out with Afterburner, not just certain MSI models.

Other than the fan speed control, which is a MUST for benchmarking, I don't use the other features as much. I don't have any applications that require a specialized profile. The basic 2D and 3D settings work well for me. I am waiting for one of the vendors to come out with a form of "Turbo" controller, similar to what Intel, AMD and ASUS have introduced recently for CPUs. A quick burst of speed is sometimes needed while you are in 2D mode, and why not crank it to the max?

We've had a few opportunities to examine different video cards based on NVIDIA's new GF104 chip, but there's always more left to learn. So let's take a closer look at the MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC, and see how this interpretation of the GTX 460 design is different from the others.



# Has anyone else noticed?Stefan 2010-08-10 22:54
The fins at the base of the heat-sink spiral in the opposite direction to the fan rotation?

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# RE: Has anyone else noticed?Olin Coles 2010-08-11 06:56
That removes laminar air flow through air friction, and delivers better cooling performance.
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# Good Heat TransferBruceBruce 2010-08-11 07:07
For good heat transfer, you basically want the air banging into the surface of the heatsink. Turbulence is good, impingement is even better.
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# I stand corrected!Stefan 2010-08-12 23:35
Well, I guess I should have taken an engineering class :)

I consider myself now a little more educated from your remarks, thanks ;)
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# :DFederico La Morgia 2010-08-11 02:12
same question as always: D this video card and RAM chips mounted?
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# RE: :DServando Silva 2010-08-11 04:49
You really want to read the "Detailed Features" section before asking.
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# RE: RE: :DFederico La Morgia 2010-08-11 06:06
the code :)
Olin know what I mean to ask
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# Yeah, but...BruceBruce 2010-08-11 07:22
All the information is right there, beautiful pictures of the RAM chips and everything.... Just click on the "Detailed Features" page in the table above.
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# RE: Yeah, but...Servando Silva 2010-08-11 08:29
Thanks Bruce... Unless Federico and Olin are talking different things, I think you did a great job about the ICs in the detailed section. Great review!
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Cardmascotzel 2010-08-11 02:16
Mini-HDMI is there on the board because of space constraints. You can't put anything else next to 2 DVI's on a single slot bracket.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video CardAdam 2010-08-11 08:10
Favourite benchmarks so far! Uses an almost identical system to me and includes the GTX260 (my current card), great stuff for working out if I want to upgrade yet or not.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video CardDavid Ramsey 2010-08-11 16:42
FWIW, the Porsche 911 has been water cooled for more than a decade, and the tighter temperature regulation afforded by water cooling led to major increases in power and efficiency (parts could be machined to tighter tolerances since the narrower temperature envelope limited expansion of the parts). Still, for the time, the air cooled 911 was pretty good.
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# ImagineBruceBruce 2010-08-12 19:38
Just think what the engineers could have done with heatpipes...LOL

Seriously, you don't want to get into a discussion of air cooled vs. watercooled Porsches, do you? That's just begging for an invasion of the body-snatchers! Don't you think the comment section has suffered enough lately?
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# MSI N460GTXWayne Manor 2010-08-14 00:29
Thanks for the review, very informative! I currently have 2 of these puppies in SLI. I'm curious how the Gainward 2GB version compares with the 1GB versions
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# Excellent reviewDr_b_ 2010-08-18 18:53
excellent review. glad you added the older 200 series in for comparison, there doesn't seem to be a reason to keep using the old 285 that i have now. going to SLI two of these.
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# It was a great card in its day...BruceBruce 2010-08-18 19:05
I'm sure you got lots of good use out of it, but time and progress marches on. One of the things I like about the GTX 460 cards is that there is a variety of implementations. The ASUS that was reviewd here is another example of a solid non-reference design (4 phase PWM, etc...).
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# Question for a purchaseKaelin 2010-08-23 03:58
Thank you for your very interesting article. I must change my graphics card but i hesitate between the MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC and the Asus ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5... I don't know which one to choose =( Which one do you advise ?

(Sorry for my english level)
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# Tough Choice...Bruce Bruce 2010-08-23 07:44
They each have larger fans and bigger HSF assemblies that both improve cooling and reduce noise levels. ASUS rolled their own PC board design, and it looks like they increased the PWM from 3-phase to 4-phase. MSI stuck with the reference design. I can't tell where you are located, but you may want to consider the support services that are available in your location, as well as local warranty provisions.
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# Asus or MSI...Kaelin 2010-08-23 10:03
Thank you for your reply
I am French so the support service is not a problem (usually)
to help me to decide I would like to know wich graphic card has the cooling system more efficient and wich one has the best resistance to a higher overclocking. And to finish wich one do you prefer ^^

Thanks in advance
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# RE: Asus or MSI...sportwarrior 2010-08-24 16:56
I'm also interested in the questions above... it seems that the two cards are quite similar in performance capability, though, so ultimately I'm guessing it doesn't really matter which I would select (I live in SoCal, for what it's worth). I will say I like the look of the ASUS quite a but more than the MSI, but Amazon is making me wait a ridiculously long time to get my card and I NEED to build my new rig very very soon.
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# RE: RE: Asus or MSI...Olin Coles 2010-08-24 17:00
Research the warranty support for each, and go from there.
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# French Pricing?BruceBruce 2010-08-24 18:47
What are the prices for each, locally? I don't want to say that the two cards are the same, because they are not. But.....they both do an admirable job supporting the GF104 chip, in slightly different ways. I like MSI Afterburner better than ASUS Smart Doctor, so that's how I would go... If the ASUS card supported the ASUS iTracker2 software, it might be a different story.
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# The choice is madeKaelin 2010-08-24 23:39
In France, the price difference is about 1 euro for the Asus graphics card. Moreover the Asus ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5 is guaranteed 3 years against 2 for the MSI, that's the reason for why I chose the Asus.

thank you for your help =)
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# RE: The choice is madeWayne Manor 2010-08-25 00:58
I would have gone with the Asus version too if it had come out earlier as it is $35 cheaper here than the MSI cyclone, both with 3 yr warranty.
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# RE: RE: The choice is madeWayne Manor 2010-08-25 01:00
Here in Australia that is :p
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# Wacky PricesBruceBruce 2010-08-25 17:45
That's a major difference Wayne. This is exactly why I asked Kaelin about the pricing in France. You just never know.....
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Cardnax 2010-08-25 23:07
i like asus look kool and my mb is asus also i will go wit asus
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Carddon 2011-01-03 21:27

Oh, and I like your writing (style).
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