The original Fermi was hot. Too hot for most people. As we found out in our own review of the GTX 470 and GTX 480, they were both a real detriment to the thermal safety of components around them in an enclosed case. Well, the tests are in on the GTX 460...
Based on our observations, there is no heat issue. And no, I'm not making this up like Apple makes up stories to tell people that there's nothing wrong with the iPhone 4. The GTX 460 is cool as a cucumber at idle and just barely hotter than the clearly less powerful HD 5770. It's even a great deal cooler than the HD 5830 that it's been trading blows with. Well done nVidia!
GPU Noise Levels
While not quite a leaf blower, the GTX 480 was one noisy bugger. Here's how nVidia did today with the GTX 460...
It's clear that nVidia's work to reduce the heat has also reduced the noise. The fan doesn't have to work as hard so the GPU stays quieter all the time. Though MSI is partly responsible for this audio performance, the GTX 460 is less noisy at idle than both the HD 5830 and HD 5770 which are also wearing custom cooling solutions. Under load, the GTX 460 is no louder than GIGABYTE's excellent cooler on the HD 5830 and much quieter than the one on the HD 5770 which also has a fairly decent heat pipe cooler. Another checkmark for the GTX 460.
GPU Power Consumption
This basically ties it altogether. A more energy efficient GPU runs less hot and thus doesn't need as much fan power to cool it down. Idle power consumption was the most impressive of the group at a measly 90 watts total system power consumption at idle. The power optimizations have clearly paid off in the new core. Even under load, the GTX 460 sucks far less power than the HD 5830. Looks like this "hot hatch" is also a hybrid as well when compared to the "tank" which is the GTX 480.
Overclocking the GTX 460
We weren't going to mention any results in this article initially. We were going to save them for our full review of the MSI N460GTX 768D5 OC Edition coming up this week. But what the hell?
The bone stock GTX 460 sits at a core speed of 675MHz and a memory speed of 900Mhz. We took our MSI up to 825MHz and 1000MHz with no voltage tweaks whatsoever. This is straight out of the box, randomly picking a number that sounded cool, and let the burn in tests go. So does overclocking help the performance? Well, 3DMark06 scores went from 17,299 to 17,790 and 3DMark Vantages scores went from 11,228 to 13,444 on the GPU score and from 13,655 to 16,200 on the overall performance score. The card is completely solid at this speed and we're going to have the whole gamut of overclocked benchmarks when that review drops later this week.
Final Thoughts on nVidia's GeForce GTX 460
I've been waiting for nVidia to come up with something that really captured that 6600GT spirit. I've been looking for nVidia to come up with something that was such a great value that it would drive people back towards them instead of repelling them away. They failed to show people real value for the last couple years, making it easy for myself and many others to jump over to the greener pastures that ATI had to offer. Today, nVidia has mended wounds and rewarded their fans with a great peace offering. They listened to mainstream gamers, did their research, and came up with a $200 video card that plays my games at high quality and reasonable frame rates. Our tests have shown both the performance and the potential that this GPU has to offer.
Along the way, nVidia has also addressed the criticisms that plagued their former Fermi GPU. Instead of simply cutting down an existing chip, they reinvented it and reduced power consumption which in turn created a cooler and quieter video card. All the while, they made special adjustments to ensure that their tweaks would result in a GPU that offers the greatest value for the money.
Although ATI has a huge head start with the HD 5770 and HD 5830 GPUs, which have been out there for nearly a lifetime for tech, nVidia has shown that it's back and that mainstream gamers like you matter to them enough to create a card just for you. That's right! All you single card toting, $200 budgeted gamers out there have a new option to pick from and it's a great one. Well done nVidia. Welcome back to the game!
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