With the GTX 460, NVIDIA has done what most people didn't think they could; create the best value video card on the market. Don't get me wrong, NVIDIA has had good models, but they've always come at a price. For most people, NVIDIA has been the choice for top performance while for best value you opt for ATI.
NVIDIA hasn't shined this year, though; it's been all ATI since the November launch of the HD 5000 series. The GTX 480 and GTX 470, while being fast in their own right, are mostly not good enough considering the wait we had. The GTX 460 on the other hand is everything that most gamers want; cheap, fast and overclockable. This has given NVIDIA a chance to cement themselves back in the gamers market.
Having now tested both the GTX 460 768MB and 1GB, it's become clear that the 768MB version is the best valued version; a nice price difference combined with little performance difference means it's ultimately the better buy. Out of the ones we've tested, taking into consideration that we're happy to overclock ourselves, the Cyclone version from MSI has been one of my favorite thanks to its excellent cooler.
So with the help of MSI, a second Cyclone 768MB arrived and we took the time to SLI the two together. We hope the setup excels, but there's only one way to know and that's to test it. First, let's have a quick look at the card.
MSI GTX 460 768MB Cyclone in SLIMSI GTX 460 768MB Cyclone in SLI
Since we've already looked at the Cyclone 768MB and 1GB in detail we won't go into the model too much. Instead we'll just make sure SLI is up and running and go over the clock speeds of the card.
As you can see below, the card comes in with a core clock of 728MHz, Shader Clock of 1455MHz, and the 768MB of GDDR5 comes in at 3600MHz QDR. Both the Shader clock and core clock are slightly up from the default GTX 460 while the memory clock remains the same.
If we have a look towards the bottom of the GPU-Z screen we can see that SLI is enabled and we have two GPUs working. To enable it, we have to go into the NVIDIA Control Panel and select performance mode since by default one card is used as a PhysX card which doesn't help performance in most games.
Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Western Digital, Noctua and Thermaltake.
Today we'll be comparing the SLI configuration we have against the single GTX 460 Cyclone 768MB, Gainward GTX 470 Golden Sample, GIGABYTE GTX 480, Sapphire HD 5970 and SLI GTX 470.
Let's get started!
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Under Vantage we can see the setup sits behind the GTX 470 SLI and the HD 5970, but has no problems taking out the GTX 480.
Unigine Heaven BenchmarkUnigine Heaven Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1 and 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//
This new benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.
Note: If a card doesn't support DirectX 11 the benchmark will be left out, if it does it will be included along with the DirectX10 results.
Heaven performance from the SLI setup is strong; in V1 we see it falls behind the HD 5970, but in V2 where Tessellation pressure to the video card was increased we see the GTX 460 SLI come second to only the GTX 470 SLI setup.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCHCINEBENCH
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10 and Release 11.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
We don't see anything new under CINEBENCH; SLI isn't supported and the results reflect that.
Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5Resident Evil 5
Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/
Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
Compared to the single card performance is very strong; these are fantastic numbers if you're someone who's interested in a 120Hz monitor. The setup comes in only behind the GTX 470 SLI as it stays ahead of the HD 5970 at all resolutions.
Benchmarks - BattleForgeBattleForge
Version and / or Patch Used: Auto Patched at Load
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.battleforge.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.battleforge.com/
The Gods have disappeared and the old sun has died, letting a vile twilight engulf the world of Nyn. In exchange for all treasures the mortals possessed, the evil giants agreed to forge a new sun and hurl it into the sky.
But the deal was betrayed, the treasure stolen and now the mortals flee the wrath of the giants. Under the light of a new sun the mortals stumble into a world changed and twisted by an age of twilight. The long journey home has become a conquest of survival.
Note: Supporting DirectX 11 we have seperated the graphs for NVIDIA and ATI cards. While the numbers between the two brands can be compared you have to make note that ATI based HD 5000 series cards are running DirectX 11.
Huge improvements over the single card setup with playable numbers at all resolutions; a single card really only offers us a playable number at 1680 x 1050. The cards don't perform as strong against the HD 5970 in this instance.
Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X is an arcade-style flight simulator video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iPhone OS.
The fundamental gameplay mechanics are similar to those of other console-based flight series. Players take on enemies with over 50 aircraft available. Each mission is at real world locations in environments created with commercial satellite data. A cockpit, first person, and third person view are selectable. The third person view gives the player an external view of both their plane and the target.
Set above the skies of a near-future world, increasingly dependent on private military companies with elite mercenaries who have a relaxed view on the law. As these non-governmental organizations gain power, global conflict erupts with one powerful PMC attacking the United States.
Strong performance again from the GTX 460 SLI setup. At 1680 x 1050 the setup manages to even outperform the HD 5970, but as we climb the resolution table it does fall back a little. Playable numbers none the less, though.
Benchmarks - Darkest of DaysDarkest of Days
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Product Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Darkest of Days takes the player through time into historic battles in an effort to save key individuals from certain death. The battles range from Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to fighting in Pompeii as ash and fire rain down from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Other locations include the battles of Antietam and Tannenberg, and a German World War II P.O.W. camp. There are different missions in every time period and the game takes about 4 hours to complete.
The game features over twenty weapons, both from the original time period as well as those brought back from the future. In addition, there are artillery weapons from different time periods to assist in battle.
Note: With the PhysX set to Medium or High Darkest of Days take advantage of the NVIDIA PhysX abilities. For that reason we will test ATI cards at the Low preset, NVIDIA based cards though will be tested at Low and High.
We ran the 1680 x 1050 test multiple times and it just wanted to be stupid; other than that across the board we can see performance is strong and the setup is only behind the GTX 470 SLI.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
We can see here the single card struggles at the highest resolution. The problem isn't seen here with some big numbers being shown. For the most part the setup does fall behind the HD 5970 but there's no denying the numbers.
Benchmarks - Batman Arkham AsylumBatman Arkham Asylum
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.
Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.
Note: With support for PhysX NVIDIA based cards will be tested with the technology on and off, ATI cards will be tested with the technology off due to it not being supported on their cards.
Strong performance again across the board with the setup falling again only second to the GTX 470 SLI one, we get a win at all resolutions when compared to the HD 5970. With PhysX turned on, we've also got playable numbers up to 1920 x 1200; a resolution the single card struggled at.
Benchmarks - Dark VoidDark Void
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.airtightgames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.darkvoidgame.com/
The game's story takes place during World War II and centers around a cargo pilot named William Augustus Grey (voiced by Nolan North) who is teleported to another world while flying through the Bermuda Triangle. In this world, known as the 'Void', Will encounters an alien race as well as other humans, which are known as the Watchers and the Survivors respectively.
Will reluctantly joins the Survivors who are engaged in a feud with the alien race to satisfy his desire to return to Earth. While aiding the Survivors, Will discovers that the Void is a middle ground that connects both the Watchers homeworld and Earth. It also becomes apparent that the Watchers are supplying the Axis powers with various supplies for reasons unknown. With the help of Nikola Tesla, Will utilizes retrofited Watcher technology to combat the Watchers and eventually find a way to escape the Void.
The card does fall a little behind the HD 5970 here, but the numbers are huge with PhysX turned on; something the HD 5970 can't do. We've got playable numbers at even the highest 2560 x 1600 resolution.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AFHigh Quality AA and AF
Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before, they will start to now.
Far Cry 2
The single card just missed that 30 FPS minimum we want, while the SLI setup doesn't have this issue. The setup also kills the HD 5970 here.
Resident Evil 5
We're looking for a 60 FPS average, which is something the single card didn't give us. The SLI setup again manages to smash through that barrier; compared to the HD 5970 performance is pretty much identical.
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
We're not sure what it is about the MSI GTX 460 768MB but it doesn't like H.A.W.X. AA testing. The 1GB is fine and the non AA testing is also great.
Benchmarks - Elcomsoft Wireless Security AuditorElcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.51
Timedemo or Level Used: Sample File
Developer Homepage: http://www.elcomsoft.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.elcomsoft.com/ewsa.html
ElcomSoft has pioneered many software innovations that have made it easier to recover passwords protecting various types of resources. For the first time in the industry, the company's patent-pending GPU acceleration makes its way into Wi-Fi password recovery, reducing the time required to recover Wi-Fi passwords up to a hundred times.
Supporting up to four NVIDIA boards such as GeForce 8, 9, and 200, as well as ATI video cards such as RADEON HD 4000 Series and up, Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor allows building servers with supercomputer performance at a fraction of the price.
With no SLI support under WSA, there are no surprises here.
Benchmarks - BadaboomBadaboom
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 126.96.36.199
Developer Homepage: http://www.nvidia.com//
Product Homepage: http://www.badaboomit.com/
Badaboom eliminates the frustration of video conversion by providing users with speed, efficiency, quality, and a sleek interface. In a practice that used to take several hours, Badaboom converts feature-length movies in a matter of minutes while keeping the videos looking crisp and clear.
By harnessing the power of NVIDIA CUDA-enabled GPUs, Badaboom offloads the CPU to allow users to continue browsing the Internet or checking email without decreased system performance, making transcoding high-quality video fast, easy, and painless.
Note: With the requirement for a CUDA enabled graphics card to run Badaboom, this means that we can only use NVIDIA based cards for this test.
Again, no SLI support here means there are no surprises.
Temperature TestTemperature Tests
With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).
There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.
SLI generates more heat but the numbers here are still fantastic; it's a real testament to the quality of the Cyclone cooler which is one of my favorites.
Sound TestSound Tests
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.
After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
The setup's noise isn't bad; as long as we're under the 70 dB mark we're pretty happy.
Power Consumption TestsPower Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Of course, power draw is up when compared to a single card setup. Overall, the numbers are good with it drawing less than the GTX 480 at stock. When idle, the draw is a fair bit less when compared to some of our other setups.
Total Performance Rating (TPR)Total Performance Rating
The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and ATI are on an even playing field. This includes benchmarks where PhysX can be forced off like Dark Void and Batman: Arkham Asylum, but not Darkest of Days.
The TPR number is a combination of:
3DMark Vantage, Heaven Benchmark V2, CINEBENCH R11.5, Resident Evil 5, BattleForge, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off), Dark Void (PhysX Off) and our three High Quality tests which include Far Cry 2, Resident Evil 5 and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.
Putting everything into perspective we can see how the model really compares. We're faster than the more expensive GTX 260 SLI setup and we're also running a lot faster than an overclocked GTX 480 which has been overclocked via voltage adjustments. The model lags a little behind the HD 5970 but I think we're going to be able to beat that with a little work.
Total Value Rating (TVR)Total Value Rating
The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on Newegg.com. In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.
In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.
In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.
TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.
Who says there's no value in SLI? The only setups to offer better value are single GTX 460s and overclocked GTX 465s. The value of the setup is amazing.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
NVIDIA is just killing it these days with SLI performance. It was only a few years ago that SLI was giving issues to the point with some games seeing performance go backwards. Today 90%+ performance gains over a single card are present since they've gotten the drivers running so well.
What has also made SLI so important is that it's a requirement for Surround Gaming. While a con compared to ATI's Eyefinity setup, the SLI setup means we don't have to have a DisplayPort monitor or need a DisplayPort Active Adapter. You combine this with the fact that SLI scaling is so good Surround Vision could well be the gamer's choice for multi monitor gaming.
Overall the GTX 460 in SLI is just amazing; the performance is huge but NVIDIA have done to the GTX 480 what they did to the GTX 465 and GTX 470 with this model. They may have shot themselves in the foot as the GTX 460 in SLI shouldn't be cheaper than a single GTX 480 while at the same time faster. We're talking around 20% cheaper.
You combine this with the fact that a single GTX 480 can't run a three monitor setup and the GTX 480 begins to look worse and worse every day. We've said before that this is where the money is and NVIDIA are just killing it in the mid range sector. I'm not going to call the GTX 480 a failure because it's not; it's the fastest single GPU video card on the market. However, I think that it's safe to say the model didn't scare ATI one bit. Yes it was faster, but it was also more expensive.
Looking look at the HD 5870, the price is slightly under that of this setup we're looking at today. Now I'm comparing the cheapest HD 5870 to more expensive GTX 460s but let's give ATI this one. For less than 10% more this setup demolishes the HD 5870. You can run three monitors off the one ATI card, but who cares? SLI might be a requirement for Surround Gaming but you've got it here.
NVIDIA has just come in on ATI's blind side, and now they can't afford to wait long before releasing new models. The last thing ATI needs is their 9 months of success to be used to fund the next 9 months of failure.
NVIDIA has brought it! The GTX 480 and HD 5870 went 10 rounds and they both scored the same as one was better value and the other was faster. The GTX 460 has come in and knocked out a number of ATI models in the 5th round, and today the GTX 460 brought its twin brother and knocked out ATI in the first 30 seconds. It's on!
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