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MSI GeForce GTX 460 1GB Hawk Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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With so much fuss being made lately about the high end GPU range, many seem to have forgotten the value a sub-$200 graphics card can bring to the table. NVIDIA’s GTX 460 and AMD’s HD 6800 series have proven time and again that an ultra high end card isn’t necessarily needed to play today’s most popular games. This has led these two product lines to become the de facto leaders in the price / performance battle in the latter half of 2010. Meanwhile, the introduction of the GTX 560 Ti has had a profound effect on both cards’ prices and the GTX 460 can now be found for well under $200. Man may think this is an odd time to be reviewing a GTX 460 card but when you factor in these new prices, these slightly older cards are still highly desirable.

With the release of the GTX 460 SE, NVIDIA has continued to plug perceived holes in their lineup regardless of if there were any or not. This has led to a supposedly drastic increase in GTX 460 1GB sales as prices have fallen and board partners have scrambled to feed the market with new and interesting cards. AMD’s board partners have also increased their pressure with their own custom HD 6870 and HD 6850 cards.

One way to captivate the public’s interest and money has always been to introduce cards which divert from the reference design and specifications. Many have done this with varying degrees of success but MSI’s Lightning and Hawk series of cards tend to stand out as quite unique. Their GTX 460 1GB Hawk is the card we will be looking at today.

Unlike some other manufacturers, MSI sees fit to completely redesign their non-reference cards from the ground up before hitting them with higher clock speeds and a custom cooler. The Hawk continues this tradition but at a surprisingly low price point. At a mere $190 before rebates, it barely costs more than a reference GTX 460 1GB and yet is equipped with a laundry list of features alongside the aforementioned speed increase.

Amazingly, MSI has aimed for price / performance leadership with their Hawk series and when taken at face value this card does indeed have a lot going for it. There are however several competitors knocking at the door so let’s see if it can leverage its features to really break from the usual mold.

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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the MSI GTX 460 Hawk

A Closer Look at the MSI GTX 460 Hawk


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MSI’s Hawk has an impressive list up upgrades but unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily translate into high end specifications. Considering the number of highly clocked GTX 460 cards currently on the market, the 106Mhz core speed is right up there with some of the front runners. However, memory speeds stay to reference specs which is definitely disappointing compared to other pre-overclocked GTX 460 cards. Overall performance should increase but the memory will likely bottleneck the Hawk in several tests. For those of you who want even higher framerates, MSI also offers the Hawk Talon Attack which boasts memory speeds of 3900Mhz QDR.


MSI has always swung for the fences with their higher-end flagship products and the Hawk shows us just how far they will go to ensure the best possible packaging and accessories are included. A mass of foam protects the card while the accessories have been pushed off to the side,

Meanwhile, here is a trio of voltage leads (more on these later) along with power adaptors, a mini HDMI to HDMI dongle and a DVI to VGA connector.

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Much like many of MSI’s other custom cards; the Hawk uses the distinctive Twin Frozr II heatsink which consists of two 80mm fans and a large heatsink. While this setup may look huge, it doesn’t take up any more place than the reference GTX 460 design.


The Twin Frozr II heatsink is actually quite cleverly designed since it puts an emphasis upon raw performance without sacrificing the card’s acoustical profile. Due to the massive size of the heatsink along with its densely packed fin array, the two 80mm fans don’t need to spin at an atrociously fast to properly cool down the core. The GDDR5 memory modules though are left bare.

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MSI has included three leads which can be attached to the on-board headers in order to monitor PLL, memory and core voltages provided a multimeter is used. Extreme overclockers will likely get some use out of these but normal gamers will likely see them as a novelty and nothing more.

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Along with all of their additional features, MSI has created an entirely custom PCB for their Hawk edition card which includes an expanded VRM setup as well as upgraded components.

The backplate meanwhile doesn’t deviate from NVIDIA’s reference design with a pair of DVI connectors and a single mini HDMI 1.4 output. However, MSI has added a small touch of their own with a custom grille cut-out.

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Due to the custom nature of the Hawk, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that it surpasses the reference card’s length. The PCB itself is only about 1/2” longer but the Twin Frozr heatsink’s shroud pushes things a bit further. However, this is still well within the ATX norms and we promise the Hawk won’t have any issues fitting into a standard-sized case.
 

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 Consumption 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:

ASUS GTX 560 Ti DirectCu II TOP
EVGA GTX 560 Ti Superclocked
Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti Super Overclock
MSI GTX 560 Ti Twin Frozr II OC

NVIDIA GTX 470 (Ref)
NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti 1GB (Ref)
NVIDIA GTX 570 (Ref)
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (Ref)

AMD HD 6970 2GB (Ref.)
AMD HD 6950 2GB (Ref)
AMD HD 6950 1GB (Ref)



Drivers:

NVIDIA 266.66 WHQL
ATI 11.1a Hotfix

Note: Even though AMD claims the “AMD Optimized Tessellation” feature in the 11.1a drivers has not yet been implemented, we have changed the setting to “Off” in order to ensure additional, untested optimizations are not enabled.

Applications Used:

3DMark 11
Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
F1 2010
Just Cause 2
Lost Planet
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
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
12,841
Location
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3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset

HAWK-92.jpg


Extreme Preset

HAWK-93.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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12,841
Location
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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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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
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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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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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
F1 2010 (DX11)

F1 2010 (DX11)



1680 x 1050

HAWK-85.jpg


HAWK-86.jpg


1920 x 1200

HAWK-87.jpg


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2560 x 1600

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HAWK-90.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Just Cause 2 (DX10)

Just Cause 2 (DX10)


Just Cause 2 has quickly become known as one of the best-looking games on the market and while it doesn’t include DX11 support, it uses the full stable of DX10 features to deliver a truly awe-inspiring visual experience. For this benchmark we used the car chase scene directly following the Casino Assault level. This scene includes perfectly scripted events, some of the most GPU-strenuous effects and lasts a little less than four minutes. We chose to not use the in-game benchmarking tool due to its inaccuracy when it comes to depicting actual gameplay performance.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

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

Lost Planet 2 (DX11)


Lost Planet is a game that was originally released on consoles but in its port over to the PC, it gained some highly impressive DX11 features. For this benchmark, we forgo the two built-in tools and instead use a 2 minute gameplay sequence from the second level in the first chapter. The reason we use this level is because it makes use of three elements that are seen throughout the game world: jungles, water and open terrain.

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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