We started out testing with that perennial graphics card torturer, Crysis. Here the GTX 460 1GB puts in an impressive performance, easily providing playable framerates at 1,920 x 1,200 with 2xAA. It also comfortably beats its most direct rival, the HD 5830 and giving the more expensive HD 5850 and GTX 470 a run their money.
Moving onto a more modern title, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and the GTX 460 looks even more impressive, opening up a comfortable lead over competing cards from ATI and maintaining playable framerates again at 1,920 x 1,200 with 4xAA. At a push you could probably even play at 30in monitor resolutions of 2,560 x 1,600.
It's a complete role reversal when it comes to Just Cause 2. This title clearly favours ATI's cards and the GTX 460 1GB loses out badly, struggling even to maintain playable framrates at 1,680 x 1,050.
Finishing up with Colin McCrae: DIRT 2, all cards on test could comfortably play at 1,920 x 1,200 with 4xAA, and you could again probably stretch to 2,560 x 1,600. There's not much in it between the cards either, but the GTX 460 does consistently stay ahead of ATI's competing cards.
As for noise and power consumption, we've already mentioned this particular Zotac card isn't the quietest but it's still within the realms of acceptability. It also does well when it comes to power consumption, keeping toe to toe with ATI's competing cards. Most notably, it' clear the tweaks made to the GF104 chip have paid dividends as it consumes vastly less power than the GF100 powered GTX 470.
All told, then, the GTX 460 1GB is an impressive beast. On average throughout our tests, it performed better than ATI's competing cards at this price range, it's not too noisy and power consumption is as competitive as anything else. Once you factor in Nvidia's exclusive extras like PhysX and 3D gaming, you have a clear winner in this sector.
After the disaster that was the GTX 480 and GTX 470 launch, you'd be forgiven for thinking Nvidia was going to be left high and dry for this 1st round of DirectX 11 graphics cards. However, the company has gone away, done its homework, and comeback with a seriously compelling mid-range graphics card in the shape of the GTX 460. It's still a fair chunk of money at around £200 but for that money, it's the best choice out there.