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EVGA GTX 460 1GB Superclocked EE (External Exhaust) Review

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SKYMTL

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For all intents and purposes, the GTX 460 has proven to be a boon for NVIDIA and their partners. Not only has it received glowing reviews from the press but it has also exhibited extremely strong sales figures at a time of year when people are usually more concerned about being outside than playing with a new GPU. Several large online retailers have been struggling to keep the cards in stock and according to our contacts, it’s not for lack of incoming stock. After more than a year, NVIDIA finally has a card that will completely satisfy budget-conscious gamers who want DX11 support.

In our original review and again in our SLI scaling article, it was made quite apparent that 1GB GTX 460 cards would initially be hard to find. As such, most of our reviews thus far have concentrated upon the $199 768MB version which really does offer an excellent bang for buck ratio. Now that the 1GB cards are starting to penetrate retailers’ shelves a bit more, we’re starting to see a wide selection of custom cooled and pre-overclocked cards alongside the reference $230 products. Gigabyte, MSI, EVGA and others have all jumped off the starting blocks with these higher performance versions and unlike past 400-series products, we have actually begun seeing some meaningful clock speed increases.

EVGA has been well known for their Superclocked series of cards and since the demise of BFG and XFX’s NVIDIA card business, they’ve become the de-facto leaders when it comes to high performance, lifetime warranty totting NVIDIA cards. PNY and Zotac may offer the same types of warranty terms but their current market penetration isn’t anywhere near that of EVGA’s.

The Superclocked series has also been seeing a renaissance as it has made the move to the GTX 460 cards. As we saw, the clock speed increases given to the 768MB card allowed it to become a force to be reckoned with. Now EVGA is releasing a Superclocked version of the 1GB card as well but has given it a bit of a twist to go along with some awe-inspiring performance numbers. While reference GTX 460 uses a centrally-mounted fan that exhausts a good amount of hot air into your case, EVGA’s External Exhaust version does exactly what its name promises: it moves the heat produced by the core away from case’s innards. This will result in lower system temperatures but there are some tradeoffs that we will get into later.

So far the GTX 460 has impressed us and we’re expecting this 1GB Superclocked edition to really stretch its legs at certain resolutions. This increased performance along with a heatsink design that breaks with the reference model’s could put this EVGA card near the top of our list.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Say Hello to the GF104

Say Hello to the GF104


When it came to shrinking the GF100 which graces the GTX 480, GTX 470 and GTX 465, NVIDIA looked closer at the architecture and decided to make a few changes to a number of areas. In order to scale back things, certain sacrifices would have to be made if the original GF100 layout was kept as we speculated in our original article. The main issue with the GF100 is a real lack of texture units as you start eliminating Streaming Multiprocessors. So, if linear scaling was kept, NVIDIA have had possible lower-end GPUs with 320 cores or fewer cores but only 40 or fewer texture units. Like it or not texture performance is still one of the cornerstones of modern games and if that trend had continued, NVIDIA may have found it very hard to compete with the HD 5000 series.

One of the primary reasons behind designing the GF104 was the need to lower the thermal and power consumption needs of the Fermi architecture by producing a more compact core. Not only is this easier and less expensive to produce but it also allows NVIDIA to attack certain price points which ATI may have left vacant.

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The differences between the GF100 and GF104 layouts start with the Streaming Multiprocessor which houses the CUDA cores, Texture Units, Polymorph Engine, Warp Schedulers, Load / Store units, SFUs and their associated cache hierarchies. Let’s start at the top and make our way down.

Instead of two Dispatch Units each being accessed by their own Warp Schedulers, the GF104 makes use of a 2:1 ratio between the dispatch units and the schedulers while the number of Special Function Units has doubled per SM. As a result, transcendental instruction performance has been increased over the GF100 even though the number of concurrent threads has remained as it was. Otherwise, the Instruction Cache and the Register File size stay the same as GF100.

The main changes to the SM come with the number of CUDA cores as well as the number of texture units each houses. Instead of the usual 32 cores per SM, the GF104 uses a structure which allows for 48 cores along with 16 load / store units and 8 Special Function Units. This in and of itself is quite an eye opener but the real differences are with the number of texture units each Streaming Multiprocessor houses. The GF100 cards have four texture units per SM while the NVIDIA equipped the GF104 with eight TMUs per SM. This can and will lead to a massive increase in texture performance which will benefit older DX10 and DX9 games.

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Much like the GF100 layout, the GF104 makes use of four Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs) and their associated Polymorph Engines per GPC along with a common Raster Engine. The only differences are the ones we mentioned above and the result is a GPC with sufficiently more horsepower than the GF100 was able to put forth.

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Above is a picture of a full GF104 core and we’re hoping you are paying very close attention to its layout and the number of cores it houses within its two GPCs. In total, there are 384 cores, 64 texture units, 32 ROPs, 512KB of L2 cache and four 64-bit memory controllers. It is quite evident that even though the GF104’s SM structure got a face lift, NVIDIA kept the ROP, L2 cache and memory controller array as is when making the transition from the GF100.

To us it looks like NVIDIA took some of the lessons it learned from the GF100 and put them towards designing a core that is infinitely more adaptable for the sub-$250 market. Not only is the GF104 much more compact than the higher-end silicon (it has 1.95 billion transistors versus the GF100’s 3 billion) but it is supposedly quite a bit more efficient as well. The one thing which could hold it back is the fact that it only has a maximum of eight PolyMorph Engines that are essential for DX11 performance. For example, if you wanted to achieve 384 cores with a GF100, a total of 12 SMs (and 12 PolyMorph Engines) would be needed. Will these eight or fewer engines have a negative impact on the GF104’s DX11 performance in future applications? Only time will tell but for the time being this looks like the perfect graphics processor for the current mid-range market.
 

SKYMTL

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The GTX 460: GF104 Slimmed Down

The GTX 460: GF104 Slimmed Down


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According to NVIDIA, the GTX 460 is meant to compete with ATI’s HD 5830 from a number of different aspects. We have always maintained that ATI’s lineup is a bit weak between the $170 and $250 price brackets and this is exactly where we see this new card hitting. Before we go on, it should also be mentioned that the GTX 460 is compatible with 3D Vision Surround and NVIDIA Surround as well.

The GTX 460 is being offered in two different flavours that are distinguished from one another by their price and memory size: 1GB and 768MB. At face value, the distinguishing qualities between these two cards may be minor but since the L2 cache, ROPs and memory controllers scale in a parallel fashion with one another, the elimination of 256MB of memory causes a bit of a domino effect. So the 768MB card not only ends up with less memory than its bigger brother but also less ROPs, 384KB instead of 512KB of cache and significantly narrower bandwidth as well. Clock speeds, core / texture count and other aspects stay constant between the two cards. What’s even more impressive is the number of texture units equals those on a GTX 470 while TDP (not to be confused with actual power consumption) is actually quite low for a 400-series card but remember that ATI’s figure of 171W for the HD 5830 is based on max board power.

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When you look closely at NVIDIA’s lineup, everything looks extremely well defined until you throw the GTX 460 into the mix. The main “problem” we see is the GTX 460 stepping on the toes of the $270 GTX 465 and could make the more expensive card look like a lame duck in terms of pricing, efficiency and even performance. The only area where the new kid on the block looses out is with the number of cores but in general, its paper specifications do make for some impressive reading. This will be great news to those of you who didn’t jump on the bandwagon but it also causes us wonder if the GTX 465 is being pushed out of the market already. There is however the small matter of the GTX 465’s edge when it comes to the PolyMorph Engines which could give it a serious edge in some DX11 applications.

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One of the most interesting aspects of the GTX 460 is that it doesn’t actually sport a full GF104 core. Much like the GTX 480, NVIDIA decided to disable a single SM in order to improve yields and (in a roundabout way) ensure this sub-$250 card wouldn’t end up taking a bite out of the whole 400-series lineup. Will we see a 384-core totting, GF104-based card in the future? You never know but NVIDIA is likely keeping this as an ace up their sleeves in case ATI is able to mount a counter-offensive.

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Unlike the GF100 cards, the GTX 460 also supports full bitstreaming of HD audio over HDMI. All of the signal processing is done on the card itself without the need for external decoding. This is a huge step forward for those of you who want to use this card in an HTPC environment for decoding Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio and TrueHD tracks.
 

SKYMTL

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EVGA’s Warranty, Step-Up and More

EVGA’s Warranty, Step-Up and More


Many of us know EVGA by name since their cards are usually some of the best priced on the market. Other than that, there are several things which EVGA has done to try to differentiate their business model from that of their competition. Not only do they have an excellent support forum and an open, friendly staff but it also seems like they have a love for their products you just can’t find many other places. Passion for one’s products goes a long way in this industry but without a good backbone of customer support, it would all be for nothing. Let’s take a look at what EVGA has to offer the customer AFTER they buy the product.


Lifetime Warranty

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Every consumer wants piece of mind when it comes to buying a new computer component especially when that component costs you a pretty penny. In order to protect your investment, EVGA offers their customers a lifetime warranty program which is in effect from the day you register the card until…well…the end of time. The only caveat is that you must register your card within 30 days of purchase. Even if you forget to register your card within the 30 days necessary to receive the lifetime warranty, EVGA still offers you a 1 year warranty. So as long as you don’t get lazy or forget, consider yourself covered even if you remove the heatsink. The only thing that this warranty doesn’t cover is physical damage done to your card.

Other EVGA products carry different warranty lengths so we advise you to b vigilant as similar products could carry different warranties.

For more information about the EVGAwarranty you can go here: EVGA | Product Warranty



Step-Up Program

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While some competitors like BFG used to offer trade-up programs as well, EVGA will always be known for having the first of this type of program. This allows a customer with an EVGA card to “step up” their card to a different model within 90 days of purchase. Naturally, the difference in price between the value of your old card and that of the new card will have to be paid but other than that, it is a pretty simple process which gives EVGA’s customers access to newer cards. As is usual certain conditions apply such as the cards being in stock with EVGA and the necessity to register your card but other than that it is pretty straightforward. Check out all the details here: EVGA | Step-Up Program


24 / 7 Tech Support

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Don’t you hate it when things go ass-up in the middle of the night without tech support around for the next dozen hours or so? Luckily for you EVGA purchasers, there is a dedicated tech support line which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As far as we could tell, this isn’t farmed out tech support to the nether regions of Pakistan either since every rep we have spoken to over the last few years has had impeccable English. Well, we say that but maybe EVGA hunted down the last dozen or so expats living in Karachi.
 

SKYMTL

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GTX 460 1GB SC EE Specs / Packaging & Accessories

GTX 460 1GB SC EE Specs


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The clock speeds of the 1GB SC version are identical to those of the pre-overclocked 768MB card but the added memory should allow the slightly more expensive version to pull out ahead. It will also be interesting to see just how much an impact these increased clock speeds have on performance since they are quite significant for a GTX 400-series product.


Packaging & Accessories


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EVGA’s packaging is straightforward but we were actually quite surprised there wasn’t any mention of the “External Exhaust” anywhere on the front of the box. There is a picture of the card in the back but that’s the only visual clue you would have that the card within isn’t your normal GTX 460. We do however happen to like EVGA’s new environmentally friendly interior packaging scheme as it provides great protection while being entirely biodegradable.

The accessories are the usual basic fare with adaptors for power, DVI to VGA and mini HDMI to HDMI all included. There is also a case badge, large case sticker and a CD including EVGA’s excellent Precision overclocking utility.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the EVGA GTX 460 1GB SC EE

A Closer Look at the EVGA GTX 460 1GB SC EE


EVGA-GTX-460-SC-EE-5.jpg

EVGA’s new GTX 460 External Exhaust series of cards look nothing like their reference brethren but maintain the standard NVIDIA PCB and 8.25” length. The effect is a more standard-looking design that compares well from a design perspective with past cards.

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Naturally, it is the heatsink design that distinguishes this card from many other GTX 460s out there as it features a 62mm blower-style fan not normally found on this series. According to EVGA, this is supposed to decrease case temperatures versus the reference design which tends to exhaust hot air directly into the closed confines of your chosen enclosure.

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EVGA did a good job with the branding on this card as their logos are apparent yet tastefully placed..and end up being right side up when it is installed in a typical ATX case. In addition, even though the Superclocked edition has vastly superior clock speeds when compared to a stock card, it still maintains the usual dual 6-pin PCI-E connector setup.

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From the rear of the PCB as well as the backplate, we can see that EVGA has done nothing to change the basic design of the GTX 460 1GB beyond adding the custom heatsink and increasing clock speeds. As usual, the backplate holds a single mini HDMI connector as well as a pair of dual link DVI connectors.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller (Off for Power Consuption tests)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

EVGA GTX 460 1GB Superclocked EE
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (Reference)
GIGABYTE GTX 460 768MB (Stock)
ASUS GTX 465 1GB (Reference)
NVIDIA GTX 470 (Reference)
Sapphire HD 5850 1GB
XFX HD 5830 1GB
Gigabyte HD 5770 1GB


Drivers:

NVIDIA 258.80 Beta (GTX 460)
ATI 10.6 WHQL
NVIDIA 257.21 WHQL


Applications Used:

Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
Far Cry 2
Just Cause 2
Metro 2033
Unigine: Heaven


*Notes:

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR BENCHMARKING PROCESS PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)

Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)


When benchmarking Aliens Versus Predator, we played through the whole game in order to find a section which represents a “worst case” scenario. We finally decided to include “The Refinery” level which includes a large open space and several visual features that really tax a GPU. For this run-through, we start from within the first tunnel, make our way over the bridge on the right (blowing up several propane tanks in the process), head back over the bridge and finally climb the tower until the first run-in with an Alien. In total, the time spent is about four minutes per run. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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EVGA-GTX-460-SC-EE-35.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)

BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)


To benchmark BF: BC2 we used a five minute stretch of gameplay starting from the second checkpoint (after the helicopter takes off) of the second single player mission up until your battle with the tank commences. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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EVGA-GTX-460-SC-EE-41.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
DiRT 2 (DX11)

DiRT 2 (DX11)


Being one of the newest games on the market, DiRT 2 cuts an imposing figure in terms of image quality and effects fidelity. We find that to benchmark this game the in-game tool is by far the best option. However, due to small variances from one race to another, three benchmark runs are done instead of the normal two. It should also be mentioned that the demo version of the game was NOT used since after careful testing, the performance of the demo is not representative of the final product. DX11 was forced through the game’s config file. In addition, you will see that these scores do not line up with our older benchmarks at all. This is due to the fact that a patch was recently rolled out for the game which included performance optimizations in addition to new graphics options.

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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