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Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB Fermi review




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Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB Fermi


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The GTX 460 is the latest addition to Nvidia's DirectX 11 compatible range of graphics cards. Aimed squarely at the mid-range of the market, it should be a great buy for those looking for a decent amount of bang for their buck. Let's find out is it lives up to expectations.

Nvidia's first set of DirectX 11 graphics cards didn't exactly set the world alight. They were all based on a new architecture called Fermi and used a new chip based on that design, the GF100, that on paper looked very impressive. Unfortunately for Nvidia it didn't quite live up to its billing. Heat, power consumption, and primarily manufacturing problems plagued the GTX 480 and GTX 470 and neither delivered the performance to justify these compromises. What's more, Nvidia charged extortionate prices for them (£450+) when they first came out – it really wasn't a good episode for the company.

A few months later it released the GTX 465, which used a heavily cut down (i.e. bits disabled) version of GF100 that was meant as a stop gap to tackle the mid-range market. However, it also failed to deliver on all fronts.

Now Nvidia has finally released a card based on a brand new chip, designed from the ground up to be smaller and less powerful but that should deliver in terms of all the other aspects of a graphics card; heat, power consumption, noise, and pricing. That card is the GTX 460 and the chip it's based on is dubbed the GF104.

We won't cover the detailed inner workings of the Fermi architecture in this review (for that we refer you to our review of the GTX 470) but we will give you a brief overview of the differences between GF100 and GF104.

GF100 contains 512 Stream Processors (SP), or Cuda cores as Nvidia likes to call them, which are the main processing units of the chip. These are split up into sets of 32, in what's called a Streaming Multiprocessor (SM). This also adds four texture units, some cache, thread schedulers, and the polymorph engine, which handles geometry processes like tesselation.

Four of these SMs are then clustered together to form a General Processing Cluster (GPC), which basically just adds a raster engine (the bit that converts 3D models into 2D pixels). Finally, four of these GPCs are added together along with further thread scheduling components, the host interface, memory controllers, ROPs (48 of them split into six sections), and 512KB of L2 cache. The result is one enormous and hot chip that contains a whopping 3.1bn transistors. However, due to production problems, the GTX 480, has one of the SMs disabled so you actually get 480 SPs, 15 SMs, and 60 texture units.

For GF104, all the basic building blocks are very similar, but their proportions have been tweaked. So, you get 384 SPs, split up between just eight SMs, giving you 48 SPs per SM. To deal with these extra SPs, each SM also has double the number of texture units. Each SP has also had a second dispatch port added for more efficient thread handling. Finishing things off, GF104 has 32 ROPs, split up into four sections. The result is that despite at first glance looking like it is only half the chip that GF100 was, GF104 is considerably more than this – something that's reflected in its transistor count of 1.95bn.


July 13, 2010, 8:14 pm

It's good to see Nvidia are back, this is serious competition for AMD/ATI.

Sometimes less can be more :)

The only problem is console gameing is more fun at the moment.


July 13, 2010, 8:51 pm

Will be interesting to see if ATI (yes i'm calling them ATI) will drop prices to counter this. Either way I think I will give this generation a miss completely. Only reason I bought my 260GTX late last year was because it came with batman and only cost £125, which if you ask me was a freaking bargain. Another deal like that would interest me i'm sure. Crysis 2 anyone?

I am interested in eyefinity (and whatever Nvidia's equivalent is) but other than that there's no real reason to make a jump. Hopefully the next dieshrink will sort out these thermals and 2 pin connectors once and for all, at least for the mid-range cards.

ps Glad to see Nvidia make a smaller card.


July 13, 2010, 9:27 pm

Odd that Just Cause 2 runs so much better on ATI cards when the game has Nvidia branding all over it.


July 13, 2010, 9:29 pm

Apologies for the noob question but I am looking for a video card to output to 3 x 1080p displays simultaneously (displaying different data on each ). The configuration would be a 1080p LCD tv via hdmi and then 2 x 1080p monitors via dvi. I noticed this card has a plethora of connections but will it be able to manage the above? Thanks for any assistance you can offer.


July 13, 2010, 9:42 pm

@LetsGo: "The only problem is console gaming is more fun at the moment."

Unless you're a hardcore FPS or RTS gamer :) Modern consoles have everything going for them except a mouse and keyboard IMHO, but then you can't use a mouse while lounging on the sofa which is why it'll never happen.

(Sorry, it's like a red rag to a bull...</rant>)


July 13, 2010, 10:00 pm

@Technobits: Actually that's a pretty good question. If I'm reading this correctly, you'd need to use two NVidia 4xx cards in SLI to output to 3 monitors:


It's also fussy about mixing resolutions and refresh rates.

An ATI equivalent like the 5850 might be what you're looking for:


(Take a look at the last paragraph on 'Eyefinity')

You have to use the DisplayPort connector for one of your monitors, but if your monitors don't have one this might work:


If you're lucky, your card might even come with one in the box.


July 13, 2010, 10:22 pm

Firstly - although I currently own a 5850 its important to note I am not an ATI fanboi. My history goes ATi (9800XT), Nvidia (6800GT), Nvidia (8800GT), Ati (5850)

Im not sure I agree with the conclusions drawn here. Its great to see Nvidia back in the game absolutely, competition is always good dont get me wrong, but I bought my 5850 for £195 many months ago, although after the initial supply problems. Whilst prices have generally risen since then, Aria currently have a generic 5850 for 199+(admitadly high) delivery.

Most benchmarks I have seen have the 5850 still ahead. Whilst the 460 is far superior to the previously released Fermi cards, I'm still not convinced it has overtaken the 5850 as a value proposition - which is worrying for Nvidia when you consider the age of the 5850 now. I think ATI have room for a price cut accross the range (the 5000 series is cheaper to produce than Nvidias cards AFAIK), but I'm not even sure they need to resort to that.


July 14, 2010, 12:07 am

@Chris Yeah I miss PC RTS Games if StarCratft 2 gets good reviews I will have to put down the control pads for a while:)

But when it comes to FPS I prefer consoles for the following reasons.

1. The controls are harder but at least everyone is using the same interface.

2. Less cheating, not having to install tools like punkbuster.

3. wider range of players (nothing beats putting down loud mouthed little kids;)

4. like 1. knowing that fellow players are using similar equipment.

5, You have to use proper tatics and not rely on twitching.


July 14, 2010, 12:27 am

@technobits as chris said ATI is the way to go at the moment for multiple displays. Sapphire made this how to video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

I spent around an hour a while back going through a bunch of eyefinity videos. Left4Dead 2 looks great on it! I just don't know if I have the room but oh it looks so good.

Hans Gruber

July 14, 2010, 1:17 am

@Malderon - I agree completely. What is striking about game performance is just how differently games will fare using either equivalent ATI/AMD vs nVidia cards from the same range/rank.

The nVidia 460 and ATI 5850 are pretty close in graphics performance. Out of the games benchmarked I have Crysis, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Just Cause 2 so a minor win, lose and another win for the ATI (albeit 5870) card I'm running.

Yes, JC2's significantly improved performance is ironic seeing how nVidia sponsor the title. That must be a little embarrassing.

My own gaming history starts with a series 3 Geforce ti200 card, then when the fan failed I got it replaced for a GF (titanium) 4400, then a switch for a long time to an ATI Radeon Pro 9800 which I soft modded (bios flash) to an XT.

Then after finally switching from socket A (AMD) to 775 (intel) I got a 7950GT followed by a 9800GTX and today I'm on socket 1366 with some serious firepower in the shape of an AMD/ATI 5870.

nVidia are back in the game with the 460 though, nice to see them tackle the ridiculous power usage requirements and heat output (not to mention price!) What will ATI's next play be I wonder? Definitely time to drop the prices.


July 14, 2010, 2:14 am

@Runadumb and Chris - many thanks for the pointers - the Eyefinity setup looks like it will git the bill and the youtube links are great. Cheers


July 14, 2010, 5:11 pm

Great article, I actually want to replace my 8800GTS512mb for one of these. Of course, this is a feeling I have after reading any graphics card review normally but despite being time to upgrade, I was thinking I might just skip this generation after reading horrendous reviews of the 400series so far


July 14, 2010, 9:22 pm

hmm - bought a 470 3 weeks ago, should have waited for this.


July 22, 2010, 3:40 pm

Is this card a worth successor to a 8800gts512? I just want to clarify, after-all, the 9 series was practically a rebadged 8 series


February 22, 2011, 7:41 am

I would love a review of the GTX560!

I was just about to buy a 460, then I saw the 5 series is out... How on earth did I miss that.. maybe because it diddnt make any waves on here!

So is a 560 worth the extra cost over a 460?

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