Performance Analysis

We’re always excited to put a brand new GPU through our set of tests as they always generate a large amount of hype and marketing hyperbole. Hard data on frame rates and performance is the only way to cut through all the pomp that accompanies a new launch. With this in mind, we settled down in front of our graphics test rig to see if Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 460 1GB was any good or not.

Things started well for the GTX 460 1GB in our Dirt 2 tests, as it was comfortably the second fastest card on test at 1,680 x 1,050 and 1,920 a 1,200 with or without 4x AA enabled. This is a great result, as the number one spot was held by the £260 GeForce GTX 470. The GTX 460 1GB therefore beat ATI's £240 Radeon HD 5850 (if only by 3-8fps) until we hit the ambitious resolution of 2,560 x 1,600. It’s also worth noting that the GTX 460 1GB was a good 6fps faster than its sister card, the GTX 460 768MB without AA and 8fps faster with AA enabled.

The GTX 460 1GB can still play Dirt 2 at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x AA, which is a great showing from a mid-range card, and it outperformed the HD 5830 by 5-7fps at this resolution. The GTX 460 1GB could produce a minimum of 33fps while the HD 5830 could only manage a minimum of 28fps when 4x AA was enabled, for example.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB Graphics Card Review GeForce GTX 460 1GB Performance and Conclusion
Click to enlarge

Things turned upside down in our STALKER testing, but this game loves ATI cards. It wasn’t a surprise to see the HD 5850 sitting at the top of our graphs in these tests, and it comfortably beat both the GTX 460 variants and the GTX 470 at all resolutions. However, it does cost a significant £40 more than the GTX 460 1GB. More interestingly, at 1,680 x 1,050 the GTX 460 1GB was 3fps faster than the HD 5830, while it matched the minimum frame rate of the ATI card at 1,920 x 1,200. The GTX 460 1GB therefore stood its ground between the two ATI cards, even in a test that does favour the Evergreen architecture over the Fermi design.

Crysis is still the game that graphics cards fear. It’s also the game you lot seem most interested in, as our Crysis results page is invariably the most read results page in our graphics card reviews. As a result we were interested to see how the GTX 460 1GB handled these tests.

Results were mixed, with the GTX 460 1GB and HD 5850 trading blows depending on the resolution and AA setting. At 1,680 x 1,050 with 0x AA the HD 5850 was in control, returning a minimum and average that were 3fps and 4fps higher than that of the GTX 460 1GB respectively. However, while the GTX 460 1GB coped with AA better than the HD 5850, neither card could play the game smoothly even at 1,680 x 1,050 with no AA. The higher minimum of the HD 5850 at this resolution means that you'll have to maker fewer image quality sacrifices though.

The GTX 460 1GB outshone the the HD 5830, which only managed a minimum frame rate of 15fps at 1,680 x 1,050 with no AA, rather than 19fps. Considering that this card is more comparable in price to the GTX 460 1GB, that's a positive result.

Our Battlefield: Bad Company 2 testing usually shows a similar trend, with comparably priced ATI cards faster than Nvidia ones when no AA s used and slower when we do apply 4x AA. We certainly saw this pattern between the HD 5850 and the GTX 460 1GB at 1,680 x 1,050 where the former had a 4fps minimum frame rate advantage with no AA, which turned to a 6fps deficit when the AA was applied. However, the GTX 460 1GB was slightly faster (when comparing minimum frame rates) than the HD 5850 at 1,920 x 1,200 no matter whether AA was applied or not. The GTX 460 1GB is therefore preferable to a HD 5850 for Bad Company 2 as it delivers faster frame rates with AA enabled and costs £40 less; it walked all over the HD 5830.

As a quick aside, it's worth noting that the GTX 460 1GB was faster the GTX 465 in every game and at every combination of resolution and AA setting, despite the latter's superior name. If you bought one of these cards (and if you did, it certainly wasn't due to a recommendation from us), then get ready to write a strongly worded email or forum post. Even the huge price drop last Friday, from £230-odd to £200 hasn't made the GTX 465 worth looking at.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB Graphics Card Review GeForce GTX 460 1GB Performance and Conclusion
As with our GTX 460 768MB review, we were sent three GTX 460 1GB cards to look at - a sign that manufacturers have great confidence in the GPU's abilities. Click to enlarge

Power Consumption and Thermals

Power consumption for the GTX 460 1GB was interesting, as exuberant power consumption has been something of a characteristic of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 400 range. The GTX 460 1GB caused our test rig to consume 137W at idle, which is a significant improvement on the GF100 based cards on test, and 270W under load.

The GTX 460 1GB therefore drew 24W more under load than the HD 5830 and 33W more than the HD 5850. However, it also consumed 35W less than the GTX 465.

The temperatures for the GTX 460 1GB are also noteworthy, as the Zotac card we tested returned an excellent reading of just 10oC above ambient when idle. This temperature was matched by an equally impressive Delta T of 46oC when at load. The cooler was a little noisy though; while not as bad as a GTX 470 or GTX 480, it wasn't as as quiet as a HD 5850 either.

Conclusion

The GTX 460 1GB is a return to form for Nvidia. It trades blows with the Radeon HD 5850, which is £40 more expensive, and pummels its now similarly priced stable mate, the GTX 465 and the slightly cheaper Radeon HD 5830. It also performs well when compared to the GTX 460 768MB, as it provides around 10 per cent extra performance for a similar increase in price.

The GTX 460 1GB continues Fermi’s trend of performing well when AA is enabled, meaning you can make your games look much better without seeing your frame rates drop through the floor. However, it does well to break the less welcome attributes of previous Fermi GPUs by being cool, and only reasonably audible and power-hungry.

Granted, the HD 5850 outperforms the GTX 460 1GB at high resolutions such as 2,560 x 1,600, but these cards aren't aimed at people with expensive 30in monitors. The GTX 460 1GB has it where it counts: at 1,680 x 1,050 and 1,920 x 1,200 with AA enabled it comfortably beats the HD 5850 for performance, value for money, or both.

We have heard that GTX 460 1GB cards may be in limited supply at launch and for up to two weeks afterward, due to limited availability of the GPUs themselves. However, if you’re in the market for a £200 graphics card, then the GTX 460 1GB is the sweet spot at the moment.

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Score Guide

Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB Graphics Card Review GeForce GTX 460 1GB Performance and Conclusion

Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB


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