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Overclockability, Power Consumption, Temperature and Noise

The Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum is identical to the previously tested Gainward GeForce GTX 460 GS GLH in its PCB design and specifications, so we will not measure its power consumption. We already know it. The point of this review is to check out the overclocking potential of the GeForce GTX 460. Nearly every modern graphics card offers the option of software-based control over the GPU voltage, and we want to use it. The BIOS of the GeForce GTX 460 card imposes some limitations on the vGPU parameter. Every GF104-based graphics card we have tested so far in our labs could only increase its core voltage to 1.087 volts. There exist modified BIOS versions from enthusiasts but we could not use them with the custom-designed cards from Palit/Gainward. Therefore we set the maximum allowable value using the MSI Afterburner utility:

We couldn’t notch 1 GHz, unfortunately, but we did make the GPU stable at main and shader domain frequencies of 900 and 1800 MHz, respectively. This is quite good considering that we didn’t use any nonstandard overclocking tools or methods. The graphics memory could work at 1100 (4400) MHz, increasing the peak memory bandwidth to 140.8 GBps. This is lower than the Radeon HD 5870’s memory bandwidth but quite an increase over the default 900 (3600) MHz and 115.2 GBps.

Now that we had overclocked our GeForce GTX 460 1GB to those values, we wondered how that might affect the card’s power consumption. We measured this parameter using our standard testbed:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU (3GHz, 1333 MHz FSB x 9, LGA775)
  • DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset)
  • PC2-1066 SDRAM (2x2 GB, 1066MHz)
  • Enermax Liberty ELT620AWT PSU (620W)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 7 64-bit
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 9 Ultra/"Serenity" BD (1080p VC-1, 20 Mbit)
  • Crysis Warhead
  • OCCT Perestroika 3.1.0

The new testbed for measuring electric characteristics of graphics cards uses a card designed by one of our engineers, Oleg Artamonov, and described in his article called PC Power Consumption: How Many Watts Do We Need?. As usual, we used the following benchmarks to load the graphics accelerators:

  • CyberLink PowerDVD 9: FullScreen, hardware acceleration enabled
  • Crysis Warhead: 1600x1200, FSAA 4x, DirectX 10/Enthusiast, "frost" map
  • OCCT Perestroika GPU: 1600x1200, FullScreen, Shader Complexity 8

Except for the maximum load simulation with OCCT, we measured power consumption in each mode for 60 seconds. We limit the run time of OCCT: GPU to 10 seconds to avoid overloading the graphics card's power circuitry. Here are the obtained results:

We don’t see much difference between the Gainward GeForce GTX 460 GS GLH and overclocked Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum in the desktop and HD video encoding modes, but when we launch a heavy 3D shooter, we see the effect of our overclocking of the GPU to 900 MHz at an increased voltage. The peak power draw of 236 watts is higher than that of the GeForce GTX 470 and close to the GeForce GTX 480. This is the tradeoff for extreme overclocking and we are yet to see whether the performance growth is worth it.

Surprisingly enough, the cooling system copes with the increased load easily. The GPU temperature is only 7°C higher in 3D mode compared to that of the Gainward GeForce GTX 460 GS GLH. The temperature doesn’t change much in the power-saving modes. And what about the noise factor?

The increased heat dissipation couldn’t but affect this parameter. The cooling system of the Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum is much louder when the card is overclocked although at the default frequencies the card is just as noisy as the Gainward GeForce GTX 460 GS GLH. As the card warms up under load, its fan is accelerating, making itself heard amongst the other noise-producing system components. Anyway, the Palit card’s cooler doesn’t irritate with its sound. Its noise is just a soft hiss of the air, just somewhat louder when the card is overclocked.

Like its Gainward-branded cousin, the Palit GeForce GTX 460 Sonic Platinum boasts excellent noise and temperature parameters even when overclocked to a GPU frequency of 900 MHz. Let’s find out what performance benefits this overclocking provides to us.

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