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Nvidia GeForce GTX 460: The Fermi We Were Waiting For


Oh, what a difference one billion transistors makes. The GF104 graphics processor is the derivative component we’ve been hoping for since Nvidia first launched its GeForce GTX 480 and 470 graphics cards earlier this year.

If you read my GeForce GTX 465 and held off on a mainstream Fermi-based upgrade, then you have to be smiling to yourself right now. The 1 GB GeForce GTX 460 performs on par with the pricier GTX 465, losing to it in some cases and beating it in others. If you’re just looking at speed for the price, that top-end GeForce GTX 460 already rises to the top as a favorite in Nvidia’s lineup. Then factor in a shorter board (the same size as AMD’s Radeon HD 5770), cooler operating temperatures, lower power consumption, and a damn near-silent fan. No question, the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB is the way to go there. Add 3D Vision support, Blu-ray 3D capabilities, CUDA, and PhysX, if you can see yourself taking advantage of those features—none of which AMD really has an answer for yet.

Of course, the incumbent is still a potent piece of hardware. Launched at $240, the Radeon HD 5830 did land with a solid “meh.” The thing needed to be $20 cheaper, at least coming closer to the $200 price point occupied by the similar-performing Radeon HD 4890.

Funny. Competition has its way of knocking things back into balance, though. Ahead of today’s GeForce GTX 460 launch, AMD has had to push the price of its Radeon HD 5830 down between $199 and $229—where we said it should have been from the get-go. But even there AMD doesn’t run away with an uncontested win. The 5830 takes victories in Crysis and Aliens vs. Predator, but is otherwise bested by the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB. Good thing it’s generally cheaper and comes equipped with AMD’s Eyefinity multi-display technology—that’s enough to keep these two cards competitive.

The GeForce GTX 460 768 MB, priced to match the Radeon HD 5830, is a little less attractive. The smaller frame buffer hurts performance at high resolutions with AA turned on, and a narrower memory bus translates into less bandwidth, consequently slowing things down in the rest of our tests. I’d rather spend the extra $20 and get the faster card, quite frankly.

These cards aren’t perfect. Bitstreaming still isn’t working. And even when it does work, you’ll need to buy CyberLink’s PowerDVD 10 to use it (stranding everyone who made the jump to PowerDVD 9 when AMD and Intel added bitstreaming to their graphics products—not cool). And as a guy who uses three displays, it’d still be nice to have that capability on an Nvidia card. Until then, real-world productivity requirements mean I keep a Radeon HD 5850 in my personal workstation.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to make a list of things not to like about the GeForce GTX 460. Nvidia has addressed most, if not all, of what concerned us when the GeForce GTX 480 and 470 launched using GF104. The GeForce GTX 460 1 GB centering on that chip is truly worthy of a rare Recommended Buy award.

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