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What We Plan To Do Here…

Both of these video cards have their special powers in different areas. The MSI N460GTX Cyclone 768D5 OC has a mild overclock, but with its MSI Afterburner software and unlocked voltage adjustments, this card has the potential to take on bigger prey at an affordable price. The ZOTAC AMP! Edition GTX 460 1GB has the higher end GPU with more memory and bandwidth, but it also offers the value of a bundled game, a much higher factory overclock of 810MHz plus a lifetime warranty versus the 3-years on the MSI.

The plan is to have the MSI N460GTX give the ZOTAC AMP! Edition a run for its money in overclocking. We’ll then turn around and see if even with all the extras, whether or not the ZOTAC AMP! Edition is still definitely worth the extra money. At the end of the day a gamer looking for a video card at around $200 is all about value and we plan to find out which one provides the most. We’ll also be incorporating benchmarks from the newly minted AMD HD 6850 1GB to give a better picture of overall value and yes we have double and triple checked our AMD sample to make sure we’ve got the one with 960 shaders and not 1120 to make it a fair and accurate fight.

A Closer Look at the Competitors

This handy dandy chart has been provided to show off all the cards featured in the benchmarks. We’ve made sure to list them in pricing order because we believe it’s important that cost be factored into your decision. It’s like looking at the test results of fast cars and not considering what it costs to get those top speeds and the quick 0-60 times. Obviously you can’t buy a super car with a Honda budget.

Overall, it’s a pretty tight pack with the ZOTAC AMP! Edition GTX 460 at the top at $229 US (after rebates) and the reference nVidia GTS 450 at the bottom at $129 US. But the battle really starts with the MSI N460GTX at $169 US (after rebates). Of course, we’ll be making reference to the AMD HD 6850 along the way as it is the new hotness.

The nVidia GeForce Line Up As of Today

As of today, the nVidia line up of GPUs around $200 looks like this…

This chart represents all recent price adjustments in the current GeForce line up. Despite it seeming like nVidia has phased out the GTX 465, it is still being stocked at most retailers. The news though has been on the GTX 470 getting a new price of $259 US to compete against the HD 6850’s bigger brother, the HD 6870.

Test System Setup

For the purposes of our testing, we put together a system that hopefully reflects that needs and budget of a mainstream gamer…

  • CPU(s): AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition CPU
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-890FXA-UD7 (F2 BIOS)
  • Memory: Kingston HyperX DDR3 1333 MHz 8GB Quad Channel Memory Kit
  • Video Card 1: nVidia GeForce GTS 450 1GB Reference (Overclock = 920MHz Core)
  • Video Card 2: GIGABYTE GV-R5770SO-1GD Super Overclock (HD 5770)
  • Video Card 3: GIGABYTE GV-R583UD-1GD (HD 5830)
  • Video Card 4: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 768D5 OC Edition (Overclock = 895 MHz)
  • Video Card 5: AMD HD 6850 1GB Reference (HD 6850) (Overclock = 850MHz core)
  • Video Card 6: ZOTAC AMP! Edition GTX 460 1GB
  • Hard Drive:¬†Seagate 250GB 7200.10 SATA2 Hard Drive
  • CPU Cooler: AMD Reference Heatpipe
  • Power Supply: Ultra Products X4 750 Watt Modular ATX Power Supply
  • Optical Drive: LG SATA DVD Writer
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
  • Other: 2 x Silverstone AP121 Air Penetrator 120mm Case Fans

With the exception of a grossly excessive amount of DDR3 memory, we think that the system does a pretty good job of representing a reasonable all around gaming system. We already know that excessive amounts of memory do nothing for gaming so that won’t be a factor in getting the big picture from the results. All of our components were installed in an open test bench.

Testing Notes

All of our tests were conducted using the latest available drivers and BIOS revisions unless otherwise noted. As of the date of this article, we are running AMD Catalyst 10.9 drivers for the HD 5770 and HD 5830 with the exception of the HD 6850 which gets run on AMD Catalyst 10.1 drivers. The nVidia GTS 450 and the GTX 460’s gets run with the latest GeForce driver release ¬†as of this writing which 260.89. Since we are using a non reference GTX 460 board from MSI, this board was underclocked to mimic the results from a reference 768MB GTX 460 and the same was done to the ZOTAC AMP! Edition for the 1GB GTX 460 reference results.

For GPU temperature testing we will be using FurMark 18.2 to push each GPUs to their limit and reveal max temperatures and noise levels. Idle temperature will be taken 30 minutes after booting into the system from the off position with each video card while load temperature will be taken after each card endures 30 minutes of torture. Ambient temperature within the room is maintained at 25C for all temperature readings. GPU temperatures for overclocked tests were omitted because fan speed was maxed and in the case of the MSI N460GTX, voltage was increased.

Noise levels will be measured at both load and idle using a noise level meter pointed directly at the middle of the video card and placed 6 inches away. We are looking for the relative noise level between each video card in terms of higher or lower noise between the three video cards. Overclocked results were omitted because we maxed fan speeds on those tests.

Power draw will also be measured as whole system consumption at both idle and load conditions using a power meter plugged into the PSU then into the wall outlet. Idle load will be measured at 30 minutes after booting in from the off position. Load measurements will be taken before the conclusion of our FurMark stress test when the GPU is producing the highest level of heat.

Unless otherwise stated, benchmarks will be performed using default settings and we use a standard resolution of 1920×1080. Please see each test for specific modifications. Let’s get cracking!

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