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Conclusion

As we wrote in the Introduction, the GF104 would be a perfect choice for Nvidia’s new top-end dual-processor graphics card because the previous new-generation processor GF100 consumed too much power and dissipated too much heat for that. The GF100 also has a wide memory bus which would make the wiring of a dual-GF100 card too sophisticated. The GF104 is free from such drawbacks. But as Nvidia has not yet released such a dual-processor product, we benchmarked what we thought would be the closest analogue, i.e. a pair of GeForce GTX 460 1GB cards working in SLI mode. As a matter of fact, every dual-GPU GeForce represents a SLI tandem. What have we found out in our tests?

Let’s take a look at the summary diagrams.

The GeForce GTX 460 1GB boasts superb scalability. The performance growth from enabling the SLI mode is 75% on average and over 100% in individual applications. The GeForce GTX 460 SLI is an average 10% ahead of the Radeon HD 5970 but the latter is faster in some tests, especially in Resident Evil 5. That’s a good start, considering that the SLI configuration is cheaper, but the resolution of 1600x900 pixels is rather too low for such monsters as Radeon HD 5970 or our hypothetical GeForce GTX 490.

At the resolution of 1920x1080 the GeForce GTX 460 SLI is not that confident. Its average advantage over the Radeon HD 5970 has shrunk to a mere 3% and it loses to the latter 10 out of the 19 tests (the biggest gap can be seen in Metro 2033, Just Cause 2, Resident Evil 5 and Final Fantasy XIV Official Benchmark). This is not a failure, yet we wouldn’t call that a victory over the AMD flagship. The GeForce GTX 460 SLI is also an average 10% slower than the GeForce GTX 470 SLI, which is nice considering the difference in their cost and power consumption.

For all its impressive potential, the GeForce GTX 460 SLI tandem cannot show a really good performance at this resolution which is the most important one for premium-class graphics subsystems. Again, the AMD flagship wins with a score of 10 to 9, but the SLI configuration is now slower by an average 5% (and much slower in individual tests like Metro 2033). The only real success of the GeForce GTX 460 SLI at 2560x1600 is its performance in Mass Effect 2 where it is much faster than the Radeon HD 5970 in terms of bottom speed.

The results of the GeForce GTX 460 1GB pair in SLI mode are somewhat disappointing overall. We had expected more from it. Although it is competitive to the mighty Radeon HD 5970 in a number of tests, Nvidia cannot claim to have the upper hand if its hypothetical dual-processor GeForce GTX 490 is based on cut-down GF104 cores with 336 stream processors. Yes, the lower price is an advantage, and purchasing a couple of GeForce GTX 460 1GB cards is going to be a good investment for gamers who want to enjoy maximum performance in their favorite games, but this SLI configuration cannot open new opportunities. Perhaps that may be possible with a dual-GF104 card in which all the ALUs are unlocked in the GPUs.

Anyway, AMD should think about cutting the price of its Radeon HD 5970 because the GeForce GTX 460 SLI looks more appealing with the current prices.

Zotac GeForce GTX 460 1GB Summary

The Zotac GeForce GTX 460 1GB we used in our tests is a copy of Nvidia’s reference card and we like it less than the original version from Palit/Gainward. The reference card has a questionable cooling design in which the improper placement of the connectors on the mounting bracket prevents the hot air from going out of the system case freely. Coupled with the modest heatsink, this leads to a high level of noise the cooler has to produce to keep the temperature low. On the other hand, this card overclocks well and is stable. You can buy it if you don’t mind its noise or if you plan to replace the reference cooler with something more effective. The Zotac GeForce GTX 460 1GB comes with a copy of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.

Highs:

  • High performance for its price range;
  • High minimal performance;
  • High performance with enabled tessellation;
  • Significantly faster than Radeon HD 5830;
  • In overclocked mode can compete against Radeon HD 5850;
  • In SLI mode can compete against Radeon HD 5970;
  • Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
  • Improved CSAA/TMAA quality;
  • Minimal effect of FSAA on performance;
  • DirectX 11, Shader Model 5.0 and DirectCompute 11 support;
  • CUDA and PhysX support;
  • Fully-fledged hardware HD video decoding;
  • High-quality HD video post-processing with scalability;
  • HDMI 1.3a support;
  • Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio support;
  • Acceptable power consumption and heat dissipation;
  • Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands game included with the accessories.

 Lows:

  • Not very effective reference cooler;
  • High noise level.
 
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