NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 Review

Today NVIDIA is answering the demands of money conscious gamers by introducing the new GeForce GTX 460. The GTX 460 is a refinement of the Fermi architecture, designed to land significant performance improvements for gamers resting in the $200 USD sweet spot. We will find out if this truly does deliver gaming bliss on the cheap and why NVIDIA is calling the GTX 460 an "Overclocker’s Dream."


Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1GB

We received a retail boxed Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1GB video card late in our evaluation process, but with just enough time to use it for power, temperature and overclock testing.

Whenever possible, we like to use retail video cards for overclocking, so for these tests, we are going to include the Galaxy 1GB video card alongside our reference video cards to use for comparison. The Galaxy model features a unique aftermarket cooler is overclocked from the factory. It has its GPU core clocked to 810MHz out of the box, the shader core clocked to 1620MHz, and the memory clock increased to 4.0GHz DDR.

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From our initial view, we noticed that the PCB may be identical to NVIDIA’s reference design, but the cooler is decidedly different. The cooling fan itself is actually removable, presumably to aid in cleaning the fan and the heat-sink fins.

Power and Temperature

We tested the power utilization at the wall of the entire system without a video card, and with each video card at idle and full load. For full load power testing we used FurMark version 1.8.2 to stress each video card at the highest load. We found 2560x1600 with 2X AA to be the sweet spot for stressing the GPUs without bottlenecking them. The power supply used in testing is a Cooler Master Real Power Pro 1250W. Our system is very lean with only one optical drive and one hard drive being powered.

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When idling, the Radeon HD 5830 used a good deal less power than both the 1GB Galaxy card and the 768MB GeForce GTX 460. At the desktop with the HD 5830 installed, the test system averaged 161W, while the GeForce GTX 460 768MB brought it up to 180W, and the Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1GB up to 182W. When we fired up FurMark, power usage shot up to 342W with the Galaxy 1GB GTX 460 installed, 319W with the 768MB GTX 460, and 335W with the Radeon HD 5830.

After overclocking with the Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1GB, our test system consumed 368W, while it used 339W with the 768MB GTX 460 installed. For you budget gamers out there with your 550W or 650W power supplies, this is great news. You can run this thing all-out, overclocked and everything, and not worry about having enough power.


For temperature monitoring on all three of these video cards, we used the temperature readout built into FurMark 1.8.2. We also used FurMark to stress these video cards for full-load testing.

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At idle, these video cards were all in the same neighborhood of 40 to 44 degrees Celsius. Techhnically the GTX 460 768MB was the coolest running at idle, followed by the 1GB GTX 460 and then the HD 5830. The Galaxy 1GB GTX 460 was the warmest at idle, but keep in mind it does have higher frequencies all around.

When under load, the Radeon HD 5830 heated up to 86c and was the second hottest video card behind the Galaxy GeForce GTX 460. At 87c the Galaxy GTX 460 1GB was the hottest running video card, of course it is running higher clock speeds as well. When we look at the reference video cards, we find that they operate between 70-74c at full-load. This is much cooler than the HD 5830 and the overclocked Galaxy video card.

When we overclocked these video cards, we manually configured the fan to run at max speed, which NVIDIA System Tools reported as 70% for some reason. It could go no higher, so this may simply be a bug related to unreleased hardware on older software. Our overclocking results are shown on the next page. At any rate, the Galaxy GTX 460 1GB card got up to a whopping 93c when overclocked. Further testing is required because so far this seems rather extreme to us for this level of video card and doesn’t quite match what we experienced on the two reference video cards. The reference 1GB GTX 460 reached 77c when overclocked and the 768MB version reached 72c. Keep in mind the fan was at highest RPM settings for the overclocked testing, so this is why temperatures do not fluctuate much with the reference cards.

We will certainly have to conduct further temperature testing on the Galaxy GTX 460 1GB video card as we are experiencing some rather high temperatures here.

Fan Noise

This is a somewhat subjective portion of our hardware testing, simply because the equipment required to objectively record sound pressure levels approaches ridiculous. That said, without manually turning the GPU fan speed on either the 1GB or the 768MB GeForce GTX 460, we simply could not hear these things. Even at full load with the fan spindle wound up, it was silent compared to the other fans in the system. Also conspicuously lacking was the whine produced by vibrating chokes commonly heard from some NVIDIA cards.

In short, the reference design GTX 460 video cards we tested were dead silent. The Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1GB video card, on the other hand, was not. From the moment we plugged it in, the fan was whiny and loud. And when we fired up FurMark, or any 3D game, it only got worse. Not only was it audible over the other system fans, it was audible over the speakers, and even the office pedestal fan. So while Galaxy has perfected cooling, they have a ways to go to reducing the noise level compared to the reference fan.