Amazing SLI Scaling: Do Two GeForce GTX 460s Beat One GTX 480?

The GeForce GTX 460 has already proven itself an excellent value as a single card, but can two of them offer superior performance at similar cost to Nvidia’s flagship GTX 480? Let's just say that there's a good reason to buy an SLI-compatible motherboard.

Graphics giants Nvidia and AMD continuously run up against the limits of manufacturing technology in their effort to release revolutionary products every eighteen months.

Feeding the habits of performance enthusiasts isn't easy. For evidence, just look back at the state of delirium Nvidia's faithful were in following months of production delays for the GeForce GTX 480. The graphics card that eventually emerged was as hot and expensive as it was powerful (a combination of qualities that the brand-loyal seem to appreciate much more than us).

Those same qualities did not lend themselves to the embracing of lower-cost derivative models, so our disappointment in the GeForce GTX 465 probably didn’t surprise anyone. Some serious tweaks would be required before this technology was ready for the mid-priced masses.

That much-needed evolution came in the form of Nvidia’s GF104 GPU. At less than half of the price of the GeForce GTX 480, Nvidia’s 1 GB GeForce GTX 460 delivered class-leading performance and much lower heat, with such high value that it earned our coveted Recommended Buy award. We were in fact so impressed by the GeForce GTX 460’s performance that we had to wonder, would two of these overtake the flagship GTX 480 in benchmarks? Sparkle Computer was gracious enough to send over the cards we needed to find the answer.

Note to AMD enthusiasts: The focus of today’s article is on GeForce GTX 460 SLI performance relative to the GeForce GTX 480. For a detailed analysis of how the GeForce GTX 480 compares to multi-GPU Radeon configurations, including the Radeon HD 5970 and Radeon HD 5870 in CrossFire, please consider Don Woligroski’s Asus ARES review.

This thread is closed for comments
118 comments
    Your comment
  • welshmousepk
    I had given up on Nvidia this gen, but somehow they have pulled off the impossible.

    I'm seriously considering picking up two of these...
  • Lmeow
    Wow. GTX 460 SLIs smoked the GTX 480 the whole way through... (you'd really think it'd be the other way - seeing as those GTX 480s don't exactly run 'cool' :D) without breaking a sweat.

    The only reason to get a GTX 480 now is if your motherboard doesn't have dual PCI-E x16 slots/support SLI or you want to SLI GTX 480s later on.

    Good job nVidia - real comeback.
  • lutel
    To buy or not to buy GTX 460 - that is the question which will be easier if you give decent review of GTX 460 boards, with one 5850 focused on noise (take a look at silentpcreview methodology) and overclocability.
  • scrumworks
    welshmousepkI had given up on Nvidia this gen, but somehow they have pulled off the impossible. I'm seriously considering picking up two of these...


    Or you can wait couple of months for Southern Islands that makes everything nvidia has look dated.
  • "With an MSRP of $250 and a Web price around $230, the GeForce GTX 460 was already known to be a great mid-priced performer"

    Is that Canadian pricing I see, because in America GTX 460s go for $199!.

    For $250 you get a GTX 460 factory overclocked from 675 mhz to 800MHZ! and with 1GB of ram, not 768mb! 2 of which are 90% as fast as a Ati 5970, for $200 less!
  • Maziar
    Great review.
    I am amazed by the 90% performance boost over a single GTX 460.
    Although it has more power consumption than 1 GTX 480,but its a great cost-effective option for those who can't afford the 480 but need similar(or better) performance
  • andrewcutter
    scrumworksOr you can wait couple of months for Southern Islands that makes everything nvidia has look dated.

    to wait is a continous exercise you can only look at now at the time of buying...:D
  • hardcore_gamer
    great article..gotta love toms :D
  • andrewcutter
    I might be mistaken but is this sparkle card a bit more power hungry. the power requirement seems to be a bit high for 460.:(
  • dragonfang18
    But you lose the power to upgrade... At least I can still save up for another 480 down the road when I need an upgrade.
  • hardcore_gamer
    unfortunately gtx460s only support 2way SLI..I would like to see 460s with more than one SLI finger.
  • Crashman
    stm1185"With an MSRP of $250 and a Web price around $230, the GeForce GTX 460 was already known to be a great mid-priced performer" Is that Canadian pricing I see, because in America GTX 460s go for $199!. For $250 you get a GTX 460 factory overclocked from 675 mhz to 800MHZ! and with 1GB of ram, not 768mb! 2 of which are 90% as fast as a Ati 5970, for $200 less!

    768MB cards need not apply: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-460-gf104-fermi,2684.html
    AndrewCutterI might be mistaken but is this sparkle card a bit more power hungry. the power requirement seems to be a bit high for 460.
    Do the subtraction, what is it 163W full load and 21W for the card itself? Then subtract 10% loss at the power supply.
    dragonfang18But you lose the power to upgrade... At least I can still save up for another 480 down the road when I need an upgrade.
    Yes, GTX 480 SLI is mentioned in the conclusion as the best reason to buy the GTX 480 right now: Most people who would like to do a future SLI upgrade have that in mind when the buy a card.
    hardcore_gamerunfortunately gtx460s only support 2way SLI..I would like to see 460s with more than one SLI finger.
    You think perhaps the performance we just saw might be the reason why Nvidia only wanted one SLI connection on these cards? They wouldn't want to totally kill-off GTX 480 sales.
  • lenoxlv
    2x 5850 > 2x 460
  • Shivetya
    Pretty amazing scaling... wish there were a little more variety in SLI-capable AM3 motherboards. Obviously that's wouldn't improve AMD's graphics card sales, but it'd be great for consumers...
  • hardcore_gamer
    CrashmanYou think perhaps the performance we just saw might be the reason why Nvidia only wanted one SLI connection on these cards? They wouldn't want to totally kill-off GTX 480 sales.


    yea..but 4 of these puppies in SLI can even blow away the asus ares...:D
  • andrewcutter
    LenoxLV2x 5850 > 2x 460

    source : new egg
    cheapest 5850,s http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102884 2 will cost 570 $
    cheapest 460,s (1 GB) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814125333 2 will cost 460 $.
    so the price diff is abt 110 $. Is the performance numbers so great that it can justify the price diff?
  • DjEaZy
    ... they maybe should make an GTX 460 x2....
  • Tamz_msc
    This is what I was expecting since they were released.
  • blackpanther26
    still uses more power than the ATI radeon 5970.
  • Chris_TC
    AndrewCuttersource : new eggcheapest 5850,s http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6814102884 2 will cost 570 $cheapest 460,s (1 GB) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6814125333 2 will cost 460 $.so the price diff is abt 110 $. Is the performance numbers so great that it can justify the price diff?

    Um, thanks to SLI scaling the 460s should actually be faster than the 5850s. This is a very easy decision.
  • lradunovic77
    Looks like GTX480 > HD5870 for a good amount, and considering how bad crossfire is Nvidia is a winner big time.
  • Lewis57
    That motherboard :o Looks huge to me. Anyway nice article and this has made me restore faith in nVidia and I am going to get a GTX 460 instead of a 5850 and perhaps SLI them further on down the field. Thanks Tom's.
  • feeddagoat
    Its very tough to value these cards vs relative competition. For example im using an HD4870 in a board with only one PCI-E x16 slot. If I want eyefinity/surround do I go

    HD5870 straight
    GTX460 SLI and get a new motherboard
    HD5770/HD5830 crossfire and get a new motherboard

    The great thing about the SLI option is it gives access to Physx and 3D (don't have 120Hz monitor so not major) but most importantly I like folding when not gaming and the new driver for 4xx series cards is suppose to be pretty good. The best option for penny saving and getting performance for folding and gaming tho is second hand GTX260 SLI. Either way SLI is needed for surround and with performance like this from dual "mid range" cards Its a hard argument to get the 470/480 unless you plan to SLI down the road.
  • I just want the 5850 to come down in price already, £190 WILL BE THE SWEET SPOT!