It’s GTX 460 day

Better than expected at $200, but you want the $220 model

NVIDIA  DID INDEED launch the GTX 460 today and if all the reviews are anything to go by, the new cards have proven to be better than expected in terms of performance, at least compared to the early leaked numbers. The $199.99 price point we guestimated from the European pricing also proved to be correct for the 768MB models, but if you’re going to get a GTX460, do yourself a favour and spend an extra $20 on a 1GB card.

It’s not the extra memory as such that makes these cards better, instead it’s the wider memory bus at 256-bit versus 196-bit for the 768MB cards. On top of that you also get an additional eight ROPs on the 1GB cards, so all in that extra little bit of money will give you a fair bit of additional performance without even having considered the factory overclocked cards that some manufacturers are already offering.

Nvidia has done quite a few changes to the GF104 over the GF100, but we’ll leave some of those details to Charlie to explain and keep it nice and simple here. Some of the core architectural changes include a move from 32 to 48 shaders per Streaming Multiprocessor (SM), as well as cutting the Graphics Processing Clusters (GPC) in half from four to two. Each of the GPC’s contains four SMs for a total of 384 shaders, or stream processors if you prefer. This means that we might actually get to see a higher-end GF104 based card than the two launched today, and due to the GF104’s close tie-in between the ROPs and the memory controller, this means that any higher-end card would have 64 ROPs and a 320-bit memory bus.

The GTX 460 uses a fairly short 8.25-inch (209.6mm) PCB which is good news in terms of the space these cards will take up inside a system. You’ll find all kinds of coolers on these cards, as Nvidia’s partners have already launched versions with their own coolers. The TDP for the 768MB cards is 150W with the 1GB cards having a TDP of 160W. This means that the second power connector is more of a re-assurance thing on the 768MB cards than anything else, but it’s a shame that Nvidia didn’t manage to get these cards down to sub 150W, but it’s still slightly better than AMD’s Radeon HD 5830. Besides, the overclocking community would most likely have complained if there was only a single power connector on these boards, as overclocking would’ve been close to impossible without the extra power.

So how does the GTX 460 compare? Well, judging by the wealth of positive reviews that have gone up today, Nvidia has done a splendid job with the GTX 460. However, everyone seems to agree that it’s the 1GB cards that are the ones to go for, as you get at least 10 percent extra performance out of the 1GB cards compared to the 768Mb models, for a very small additional cost at that. The scary thing for AMD is that the GTX 460 1GB cards are Radeon HD 5850 competitors in most games, while the 768Mb models easily beats the Radeon HD 5830 in just about every test out there. In fact, the 1GB GTX 460 beats the GTX 465 in many test, or is at least not significantly slower to warrant the extra outlay on a GTX 465.

Does this mean price reductions from AMD? Well, we don’t know, but we’d expect that AMD will be doing something with its pricing structure to become more competitive. The good news is that at the end of the day it’s the consumers that will reap the benefits from this by being able to buy more affordable graphics cards. Then there’s AMD’s refresh which is slated for later this year which could cause some serious problems for Nvidia, but again, we’ll leave that part till later.

One last interesting thing is the SLI scaling of the GTX 460 which seems to be some of the best SLI scaling Nvidia has managed to offer on any of its cards to date. You’ll need to push the resolution up quite a bit though, as below 1920×1080 you won’t see it scale quite as well. According to TechPowerUp you should see 70 percent or better SLI scaling at high resolutions, going beyond 80 percent at 2560×1600. Maybe Nvidia has finally figured out how to get the most out of SLI.

In related news, Nvidia has also released new drivers today in the shape of the 258.96 which adds official support for the GTX 460. It’s also meant to bring a performance boost to GF100 based cards by as much as 12 percent in DX11 games. The final WHQL version of this driver will also bring with it WQHL support for 3D Vision Surround, if anyone cares. The WHQL certified driver won’t be out for a week or so, but if you own a GF100 card, a WHQL candidate of the 258.96 is available from Nvidia’s website.S|A

Update: Technical correction on ROPs vs SMs as related to memory controllers.

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