I am a bit confused. When looking at GPU charts, the Radeon HD 5850 1 Gb is very slightly ranked higher than a GTX 460 1Gb. But the former has 1440 shader units and the latter only 336.

How is it possible that they perform almost identically?

Thnaks for your efforts elucidating an ignorant (attempting to build his first computer).
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More about shaders
  1. The stream processors used by nvidia runs on CUDA technology and gives parallel processing.So it has more performance benefits over a normal stream processor.
  2. All GPUS us parallel processing. It tends to be a difference in clock speed and volumn of parallel processing. Its like AMD and Intel, CPUs run a different speeds but a slower clocked I7 can beat a faster clocked Phenom II
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