GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI vs. Radeon HD 5850 CFX

The gaming performance of the "lowly" GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI is impressing us more and more. The proof is in now that these cards in SLI also out pace the more expensive ATI Radeon HD 5850 CrossFireX solution. We take three games and show how GTX 460 1GB SLI dominates the playing field to provide excellent value.


We’ve been having a lot of fun recently testing the new GeForce GTX 460 GPU based video cards. If you haven’t yet checked out our latest performance evaluation, do so now where we compare GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI to several AMD GPUs. If you missed the one before that we square off GTX 460 SLI with single card GTX 470 and GTX 480. Surely we are seeing some great value in this SLI configuration.

In our effort to find the best value for gaming, we are impressed with the GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI solution. Today we are comparing, apples-to-apples, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 460 SLI to AMD's ATI Radeon HD 5850 CrossFireX. The Radeon HD 5850 CrossFireX solution is more expensive, around $100 more than two GeForce GTX 460 1GB video cards. In fact, the two Galaxy GTX 460 1GB Super OC video cards we are gaming with today are not even the most expensive 1GB cards sold, and these even come with a custom PCB, custom Flip Fan, and are highly overclocked out-of-the-box, but even considering all that, these Galaxy cards are still a lot less expensive than the least expensive Radeon HD 5850 video cards. The Galaxy non-Super OC card with the same hardware features can be had for $219.99 at Tiger Direct after $10 MIR.

No matter how you slice it, the GTX 460 video card is less expensive than any HD 5850. And while we usually keep to comparing cards in the same price bracket, this is a matchup that many of us want to know about.

Test Setup

We are using two Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1GB Super OC video cards. These video cards are factory overclocked and operate at 810MHz GPU clock speed, 1600MHz shader frequency and 4GHz memory. In light of this, we have also opted to overclock the two Radeon HD 5850 video cards so that they represent the best case scenario for Radeon HD 5850 performance.

Looking at what is available in factory overclocked HD 5850’s, we found that cards with a 765MHz GPU frequency seem to be the norm; the default stock frequency on a HD 5850 is 725MHz. We also found that among the highest overclocked cards the memory frequency was at 4.5GHz. Therefore, we manually overclocked both video cards to 765MHz GPU and 4.5GHz memory to represent the best case factory overclocked retail video card solution.

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The system specifications are - MSI X58 Eclipse motherboard, Intel Core i7 920 processor @ 3.6GHz, 6GB DDR3 RAM @ 1443MHz, Dell 3007WFP Display, and Win7 Ultimate 64-bit OS. We are using Catalyst 10.7 WHQL for the AMD video cards and NVIDIA drivers 258.96 WHQL.

Real World Gameplay

Metro 2033

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In Metro 2033 we ran at 2560x1600 with the "Very High" in-game settings. This game is very shader heavy and has often performed better on current generation NVIDIA GPUs. We find that Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 Super OC 1GB SLI does perform better than Radeon HD 5850 CrossFireX in this game. There is a 12% performance improvement with GTX 460 SLI, but this isn’t as high as we would have expected in this game, still, the performance difference is there and the game felt smoother with GTX 460 SLI even with the small frame rate delta.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

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In Battlefield: Bad Company 2 we tested at a high 2560x1600 with 4X AA and HBAO turned on. This is more what we expected to see in Metro 2033; here we see GTX 460 SLI dominating this game. Most impressive is the minimum framerate, where 5850 CrossFireX dropped quite low at times GTX 460 SLI did not. On average there is almost a 30% performance improvement with GTX 460 SLI, that is very noticeable in-game. It makes the difference were we can say that this setting was playable on the Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 Super OC 1GB SLI setup but was not playable with 5850 CrossFireX.

Aliens vs. Predator

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In Aliens vs. Predator we experienced a whopping 94% performance improvement using two Galaxy GTX 460 Super OC 1GB cards with SLI enabled! This is a clear definition of what we would call "dominating" the playing field.

The Bottom Line

We often talk about value, and value is about getting the same or better performance for a better price. The Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI solution defines value in a video card setup. The two Galaxy video cards we have used ($239.99 after $10MIR) here are $20 more expensive than the non-OC Galaxy card , but still much less expensive than the compared Radeon HD 5850 CFX. Here is the less expensive GTX 460 1GB video card, for $219.99 after $10MIR. So Galaxy GTX 460SLI will cost you around $440 to $480 and provide multi-display gaming support and even give you better performance than a single GeForce GTX 480.

Speaking of the GTX 480, keep in mind that card will not support NV Surround multi-display gaming. If you look around, GTX 480 cards have come way down in price, but even so, the GTX 460 1GB SLI still proves to be a better value. Here is an MSI GTX 480 (reference card) for $439.99 after $30 MIR. So for the same price I can run GTX 460 1GB getting better performance while supporting NV Surround.

Compare those prices with the least expensive, non- overclocked Radeon HD 5850 at $269 after $20 MIR. Factory overclocked cards will cost you $300 or more. That is a range of $538 to $600 at a minimum for 5850 CFX and as we saw today, that does not hold value compared to the Galaxy GTX 460 1GB Super OC.

All of our performance testing showed the two Galaxy video cards to perform faster than HD 5850 CrossFireX. The Galaxy GT X 460 1GB SLI simply lays the smack down on HD 5850 CrossFireX. When you look at the utter performance dominance, and the fact that you can get the GTX 460 for a lot less cash, the real value is GeForce GTX 460 1GB SLI. Just think, the GTX 460 1GB SLI configuration has proven to be a better performing solution compared to single card GTX 470, GTX 480, HD 5850, HD 5870, and 5850 CFX (Yes, we are testing 5870 CFX now.). GTX 460 1GB SLI has proven to be a better value than single card GTX 480, single card HD 5870 at an expense of about $40, and surely a better value than HD 5850 CFX.

If you are looking to move to multi-display gaming, AMD still rules the single card roost with its Eyefinity solutions. However, moving to SLI will also give you NVIDIA Surround multi-monitor gaming. And for $440 to about $460, Galaxy's GTX 460 1GB cards kick some serious ass.

Lastly, If you are looking to go NV Surround, we highly suggest purchasing the 1GB memory card. The 768MB card is going to bottleneck your gameplay with three displays almost assuredly. The more we play games with the Galaxy GTX 460 1GB cards, the more we like them. If you are looking for the best and not concerned with breaking the bank, GeForce GTX 480 SLI is still the King of the Ring.