PCB Design and Specifications
The Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum looks somewhat different from the Gainward GeForce GTX 460 GS GLH we tested earlier but the difference boils down to the cooling system’s casing and fan. Otherwise, these cards are identical, which might have been expected since Gainward is the elite brand owned by Palit Microsystems. There was no reason for the company to develop the PCB for the Sonic Platinum version from scratch.
As we wrote in that earlier review, the PCB developed by Palit/Gainward specialists for their GeForce GTX 460 is somewhat shorter than the reference one while the power connectors are positioned in such a way as not to hinder the installation of the card into short system cases.
NCP5395T and RT9259B controllers from ON Semiconductor and Richtek Technology, respectively, are used in the power system. The former is responsible for the GPU and the latter, for the graphics memory. The card gets external power via two 6-pin PCIe 1.0 connectors.
The card is equipped with 1 gigabyte of graphics memory in eight Samsung K4G10325FE-HC05 chips. These GDDR5 memory chips have a capacity of 1 Gb (32 Mb x 32) and a rated frequency of 1000 (4000) MHz. The card clocks them at their rated frequency which is somewhat higher than the reference card’s memory frequency of 900 (3600) MHz. The Palit can lower its memory frequency to 324 (1296) MHz or 135 (540) MHz in power-saving modes: the latter mode is used for 2D Windows applications except for DXVA-compatible video players and CUDA-based software.
The Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum has the same GPU parameters as the Gainward GeForce GTX 460 GS GLH. The main GPU domain is pre-overclocked from 675 to 800 MHz. The shader domain frequency is twice the main domain one and equals 1600 MHz. The GPU voltage is 0.987 volts in 3D mode. You can use vGPU-controlling software tools to increase it up to 1.087 volts. This limit is written into the BIOS to prevent the user from setting too high a GPU voltage. When in power-saving modes, the card drops its GPU voltage to 0.912 or 0.875 volts and GPU frequency to 405/810 and 51/101 MHz. As a result, GF104-based graphics cards are highly economical in applications that do not need all of the GPU resources. Quite importantly, the power management system does not turn off when you overclock the card, so the power consumption and heat dissipation of the Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum is only going to grow up in games and other graphics-heavy applications.
The latest version of the GPU-Z utility we had at our disposal during our tests could not show the parameters of the GF104 chip correctly, reporting only 224 ALUs. The chip actually has 336 active ALUs (out of the total 384) and 56 TMUs (out of the total 64). It also has 32 RBEs to ensure a high fill rate, which is going to be even higher when the GPU is overclocked above 800 MHz.
Like its Gainward-branded cousin, the Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum has a couple of DVI-I ports, a full-size HDMI, and an analog D-Sub. One such graphics card can be connected to two monitors simultaneously. Panoramic triple-monitor configurations are only supported with SLI tandems (there is one MIO connector on the PCB for using this card in a SLI configuration). As we’ve mentioned above, the GF104 is more advanced in its audio department than the GF100 thanks to its support of Protected Audio Path which is necessary to play multichannel HD audio formats.
The cooling systems of the Palit and Gainward-branded cards are identical: a flat heatsink is connected to the copper base with two heat pipes. The cooler is secured on the PCB with four spring-loaded screws. There is a layer of dark-gray thermal grease between the cooler’s base and the GPU’s heat-spreading cap. The Palit version lacks an auxiliary heatsink to cool the power transistors but they won’t be left without any cooling at all with this cooler design.
A Power Logic PLA08015B12HH fan is used in both cooling systems but it has a different color of the impeller in the Palit version while the fan casing is shaped differently and is not as angular as in the Gainward version. The casing is fastened to the PCB with four screws.
The cooling system we have just described is quite efficient as we already know but it has to pass a hard trial today because we are going to overclock our Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum at an increased GPU voltage, which means an increased amount of heat. Let’s see if the cooler can cope with that.