ECS GTX 460 Black Review

ccokeman - 2010-08-27 22:52:49 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: September 9, 2010
Price: $239

Introduction:

The GF 104 based GTX 460 is the card that has really, really saved the mid range for NVIDIA. These cards are typically priced in the $200 to $250 range that is the meat and potatoes of the GPU market. It's the card the GTX 465 should have been! The release of new games that leverage NVIDIA's Fermi Architecture are coming fast and furious of late with Mafia II, Starcraft II and Lost Planet 2. With these games, the GTX 460 fits right into the high value price point and delivers performance above expectations and above its price point in the 1280 x 1024 to 1680 x 1050 market. Usually in the case of video cards, the overclocked and non-factory cooled cards come out well after the initial introduction.  However, the time frame for tweaked GTX 460s was well.... fast!  At launch we saw the Palit GTX 460 Sonic Platinum. ECS as well has now brought out their factory hot rod, the Black Series GTX 460. This card comes with a pretty substantial 90Mhz speed bump over the reference clocks on the CUDA cores and a 25Mhz bump on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory clocks to 925Mhz. If that's not enough, ECS has installed a massive heat pipe cooling solution from Arctic Cooling on the Black Series card to make sure heat is not going to be the limiting factor when it comes time to put the screws to it and work some overclocking magic. Let's see how this new addition to ECS's ELITEGROUP Black Series lineup performs and see if the good looks and massive cooling are just for show or if it really helps in the "Go" department.

 

Closer Look:

The packaging of the ECS ELITEGROUP Black Series GTX 460 has a dark theme with a large battle axe on the front panel of the box. The front panel also has a wealth of information about the capabilities of this video card. Starting on the right hand side you have all the NVIDIA technologies this card comes equipped with (or are able to be used) including CUDA, 3D Vision readiness, PhysX and SLI. Under this is a disk that lists the amount of GDDR5 (1024MB) memory and the 256 bit interface while along the bottom, additional capabilities are listed including PCIe 2.0 , DirectX 11, Open GL 4.0, mini HDMI and Dual Link DVI connectivity and HDCP support. The back panel goes into some detail as to why technologies like PhysX, 3D Vision and CUDA are the way to go for your gaming needs. The side lists key features such as NVIDIA PureVideo HD and 3D Vision Surround technology as well as some minimum system requirements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the outer sleeve is a plain cardboard box that houses the ECS Black GTX 460 and its accessory package. The accessories are housed in a slim box on top of the dedicated packaging for the video card. The first glimpse of this video card suggests that the cooling solution is much more than what comes from the factory on a reference card.

 

 

 

The accessory bundle is a little slim but does however include something that you normally do not see with an NVIDIA based video card. The SLI bridge connection. If you pay attention to details you will notice that this bridge connection cable is slightly longer than this piece is traditionally. When you pull the card out of the box you immediately see why, this card is three inches thick with the custom cooling solution. In addition to that you get an eight pin PCIe to six pin PCIe power adapter, driver disk and DVI to d-sub adapter. Unfortunately there is not a mini HDMI to HDMI adapter with the Black GTX 460.

 

The first glimpse of the video card suggests that the Arctic Cooling based cooling solution will be much better than the reference design. Hopefully this will lead to some serious overclocking.

Closer Look:

The first thing that stands out when you look at the ECS Black Series GTX 460 is the massive heat pipe-based cooling solution used to control the heat generated by the 336 CUDA cores on this GF 104 based video card. ECS has equipped this card with the Arctic Cooling Twin Turbo Pro in lieu of the reference cooling solution. The black PCB fits the "Black Series" designation for this card which is the moniker ECS uses to distinguish its enthusiast grade product lineups. The GTX 460 is designed for use in a PCIe 16x PCIe 2.0 slot. It is however, backwards compatible. To take advantage of the benefits of this high-end cooling solution, this card sees a healthy increase in clock speeds on the CUDA cores (675Mhz reference vs. 765Mhz) and the 1GB of GDDR5 memory (900Mhz reference vs. 925Mhz). General features shared by the GTX 460 lineup include a 40nm build process, two GPC clusters housing seven streaming multiprocessors, 336 CUDA cores, 56 texture units and either 32 or 24 ROP units depending on how much memory is on board. The GTX 460 only supports two-way SLI so you only see a single SLI bridge connection for use if you employ this technology with a second card. In this case, there is 1 GB of GDDR5 running through a 256 bit bus. The width of the Accelero Twin Turbo Pro heatsink/fan combination makes this card a three-slot solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For connectivity on the ECS Black Series GTX 460 you have a pair of Dual Link DVI ports and a single mini HDMI 1.4 port that supports bit streaming support for Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio over HDMI. To use NVIDIA's latest latest Multi monitor technologies 3D Vision Surround you will need two cards to run the three 120Hz monitors for that stereoscopic 3D experience. If you want to just run the three monitor setup without the use of the 3D Vision setup then this option is available as well (and is even supported back to the the 2 series GPUs). 3D Vision, NVIDIAs 3D offering (requires 3D glasses) can also be used standalone with a compatible 120Hz monitor. On the rear of the ECS GTX 460, the only real items of mention are the two six pin PCIe power connections to feed the required auxiliary power to the card.

 

 

The cooling solution used on the ECS Black GTX 460 comes by way of Arctic Cooling and is an off-the-shelf model that features GTX 460 compatibility although, this is not specifically listed. The Accelero Twin Turbo Pro uses two 92mm, PWM, Fluid Dynamic Bearing equipped fans that push 54 CFM through the aluminum fin array. This cooling solution is rated to cool 120 watts worth of thermal load with its copper base and four large copper heatpipes. The base was smooth and did not have any ridges or machining marks but I did notice that the base is not large enough to cover the entire IHS on the GPU. Even so, the cooling abilities of this cooler dropped the load tempratures down to 62 Degrees Celsius under load when overclocked.

 

 

Underneath the large functional Arctic cooler you get to the GF104 Fermi architecture based GPU. This Fermi derivative is built using a 40nm manufacturing process and contains 1.95 billion transistors in two GPU clusters. Each GPU cluster contains a total of four streaming multiprocessors but one is disabled for a total of seven in use with each SM housing one Polymorph unit to handle the tessellation duties. In these two GPU clusters you have a total of 336 CUDA cores, 56 texture units, 32ROP's with the 1GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 256bit memory bus. The memory used on this card is from Samsung and carries part number K4G10325FE-HC05 rated for operation at 1000Mhz. There are a total of eight memory modules that make up the 1024MB frame buffer.

 

 

Seeing how this is a factory overclocked card, let's see if it can deliver an exceptional level of performance above its targeted $239 price point.

Specifications:

Direct X
DirectX 11
Processor Cores
336 Cores
Memory Amount
1GB
Memory Interface
256 bit
Graphics Clock
765Mhz
Processor Clock
1530Mhz
Memory Clock
1850Mhz
DRAM Type
GDDR5
Video Support
Dual DVI/VGA/HDMI

 

Features:

 

 

 

All information courtesy of ECS @ http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Product/Product_Detail.aspx?DetailID=1170&CategoryID=5&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=25&LanID=9

Testing:

Testing of the ECS Black Series GTX 460 will consist of running the card through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where it falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles to give you an idea on how the cards perform relative to each other. The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing with the exception of the 3DMark Vantage testing where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA control panel. I will test the card at stock speeds, then overclocked in order to see how much additional performance is available and to determine if it can run with the current fastest single GPU cards on the market. The drivers used in this test will be the 10.4 Catalyst drivers for ATI and 258.96 Forceware drivers from NVIDIA for the GTX 480, 470, 465 and GTX 460. Tests will be conducted at both stock and overclocked settings to gauge performance when an increase in clock speed is applied.

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

I was pleasantly surprised that the ECS Black series GTX 460 had some overclocking chops. While it fell a little short of the 900/1800Mhz core clock speeds that the last two GTX 460 cards reviewed by OCC have reached (885/1770Mhz). It did however blow them away on the memory side with the highest memory overclock on one of NVIDIA's FERMI variants that I have been able to reach at 1078Mhz (2156Mhz effective). The core speed increase of 120Mhz is close to a 16% improvement over the factory default clock speed of 765Mhz while the memory makes a huge 153Mhz jump over the stock 925Mhz. This equates to a 16.5% increase in speed. To reach these results I used MSI's Afterburner utility and used a voltage increase to 1087mv on the "core". This did not necessarily help the memory but did help out with stability on the CUDA cores. While your overclock on this card may vary either higher or lower, this was what was achievable on this specific card. The Arctic Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo Pro cooling does not hurt the situation as it delivered load temperatures of only 62 degrees Celsius with no noise. A plus in this world of exceptionally loud reference cooling solutions! Even so, all of this boils down to an increase in performance for just a modest time commitment on your part.

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Each card has been tested for its maximum stable clock speeds using MSI's Kombuster utility. So far my testing has shown that higher clock speeds may be stable in games where GPU usage does not reach 100%, but will crash within a few minutes using this utility. The reported clock speeds are those that proved stable over a 15 minute test at 1920 x 1200 and 8x AA.

 

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Metro 2033
  3. Crysis Warhead
  4. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  5. Darkest of Days
  6. Bioshock 2
  7. Just Cause 2
  8. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0
  9. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  10. Resident Evil 5
  11. 3DMark 06 Professional
  12. 3DMark Vantage
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

Testing:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation first person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50 square kilometers of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The lower clock speeds of the ECS GTX 460 show in this benchmark as slightly lower performance than that of the Palit variant of the GTX 460. When overclocked, the performance numbers are almost identical.

Testing:

Part first person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA Physx and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied - in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses - chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The higher memory overclock on the ECS Black GTX 460 pays off in this game with higher scores than the Palit and allowing performance to come in right behind that of a GTX 470!

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

At stock speeds, the Palit 460 offes higher performance due to its higher clock speeds but the ECS 460 delivers equal performance when they are both overclocked.


 

Testing:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking. You start off the single player missions playing as Private Allen and jump right into a serious firefight. This is the point where testing will begin. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

When the ECS and Palit GTX 460s are compared, there is not a large discrepancy in performance. What is surprising is how close the ECS GTX 460 comes to the performance of the HD 5870 when overclocked.

Testing:

What would testing be if we did not show both sides of the fence? In this test, PhysX was set to low, while leaving the remaining settings intact. You have seen time and again where the ATI cards suffer when PhysX is enabled. Mirror's Edge and Cryostasis are two prime examples. Darkest of Days is no different. What happens in this test shows that although the game can be played by cards from the red team, the video effects and quality are diminished.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

Darkest of Days seems to be an Achilles heel for the ECS GTX 460 as its performance was lower than the Palit's throughout the testing.

Testing:

Just Cause 2 is a third-person shooter that takes place on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. In this sequel to 2006's Just Cause, you return as Agent Rico Rodriguez to overthrow an evil dictator and confront your former boss. When you don't feel like following the main story line, you're free to roam the island, pulling off crazy stunts and causing massive destruction in your wake, all beautifully rendered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0. In the end, that's what the game basically boils down to; crazy stunts and blowing things up. In fact, blowing things up and wreaking havoc is actually necessary to unlock new missions and items.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

At stock speeds from 1920 x 1200 and below, the ECS GTX 460 is faster than the HD 5850 in this game. The tables turn when the HD 5850 is overclocked. Again, the Palit is a bit faster in this game!

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes. Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10 and OpenGL. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The performance of the ECS GTX 460 matches up well with the other GTX 460 in this comparison. When compared to ATI's offerings, the performance compares well with the more expensive HD 5850.


 

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, The Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein in the Joker and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to ply your trade.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The GTX 460 from ECS delivers performance that exceeds that of the HD 5870 in this game!

Testing:

Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the best selling video games of all time. You play the game as Chris Redfield a survivor of the events at Raccoon City who now works for the BSAA. Sent to Africa to find the genesis of the latest Bio Organic agents, you meet up with another BSAA operative and work together to solve the problem. The game offers incredible 3D effects and a co-op gaming style.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The ECS Black GTX 460 flirts with the performance of the Palit Sonic edition in all eight tests. At 1280 x 1024, it delivers FPS comparable to the HD 5850.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest has begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

When overclocked, the Black GTX 460 compares favorably with the HD 5850 up to 1920 x 1200.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024 x 768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

In all four resolutions the ECS GTX 460 just does not surpass the Palit but does deliver results that are reasonably close and still near those of the HD 5850.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using MSI Kombuster which is paired with MSI's afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using the stability test set to a resolution of 1920 x 1200 using 8xAA. I will use a 15 minute time frame to run the test ensuring, that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the first test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for overclocking. The idle test will be a 20 minute cool down with the fan speeds left on automatic.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower = Better

 

The idle temperatures on the ECS are within a degree of the idle numbers on the Palit Sonic. That's where the similarity in temperatures ends as the load temperatures of the ECS Black are an amazing 7 degrees cooler under an overclocked, over volted testing cycle. The aftermarket cooling solution that is included with the ECS Black pays dividends much like the results delivered by the Inno3D GTX 470. This lower temperature should bring some peace of mind in a cramped case. Although, you will need good ventilation to prevent the heat dump from impacting your system temps.

Testing:

Power Consumption of the system will be measured in both idle states and loaded states and will take into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use MSI Kombuster to load the GPU for a 15 minute test and use the peak load of the system as my result for the maximum load. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower = Better

 

The power consumed by the ECS Black GTX 460 is lower than the Palit Sonic in this test. One reason in the overclocked test is that the additional current needed to run the maximum overclocked speeds is lower than that of the Sonic. However, this also means that the ECS has a lower overclock as well!

Conclusion:

Going into this review I had some trepidation and was concerned about just how well this video card from ECS would overclock. Stock testing would not be a concern because the card will perform within its envelope based on the clock speeds it is delivered with. As a card that is factory overclocked, you get an increase in performance right out of the box when compared to the many reference clocked cards that come with clock speeds of 675Mhz on the cores versus the 765Mhz clock on the Black Series from ECS. The concerns I had quickly vanished once the clock speeds started creeping upwards to the final clock speeds of 885Mhz on the CUDA cores and 2156Mhz on the GDDR5 memory. While the 885Mhz on the cores is less than what I have been able to squeeze out of other cards by about 15Mhz, the memory speeds just flew on up past what I have been able to gain on other cards. This equates to a 120Mhz jump on the cores and 153Mhz on the memory or a roughly 16% increase in clock speeds between the two settings. The question you have to ask then is did I see a 16% jump in performance? Not quite at the lower resolutions where other factors contribute to performance but at 2560 x 1600 - yes I did. That makes it all worth the effort. When performance and clock speeds go up, temperatures usually follow suit, especially when you are increasing the voltage of the components to get there.

ECS stepped back and made the decision to equip the Black series GTX 460 with a high end cooling solution to make sure that temperatures will not be a limiting factor for your overclocking endeavors. They slapped on an Arctic Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo Pro heatpipe based cooling solution. Did it work? Was it quiet? Yes on both counts. The temperatures delivered in both the stock and overclocked testing were better than the cooling solution used on the comparison Palit card by four degrees Celsius at stock speeds and by seven degrees Celsius when overclocked and over volted. The one thing I do not like about the Arctic Cooling Accelero is that the majority of the thermal load will get dumped back into the chassis instead of being sent out the back of the case. If your case is well ventilated this should not be a concern. If not, add some fans! The other concern with this offering from ECS is that while the cooling solution does its job very well it is big. By big, I mean the whole assembly is close to three inches wide. This helps for cooling but can raise some concerns when you want to run this card as part of an SLI setup with another card. It may well block all the access you have on your board to install an add-in card. But, you really have to make the choice. Me, I take the cooling!.

Adding the Accelero Twin Turbo Pro increases the cost to this card but really, at the pricing quoted from the manufacturer, the Black GTX 460 from ECS comes in at a very competitive $239. If you look at the pricing of just the cooling solution alone, it goes for almost $50 so you really have some added value with a card that fits price wise right in the middle of the GTX 460 pricing structure. So, when comparing GTX 460 cards you get top end cooling for a very small price premium with the ECS Black Series GTX 460. The GTX 460 is targeted towards the largest sector of the gaming market and it hits the mark.The vast majority of gamers play in the 1280 x 1024 to 1680 x 1050 pool at the $200 to $250 price point right where the GTX 460 is priced. With new games like Mafia II, Lost Planet II and the massively popular Starcraft II all making use of the strengths of the GTX 460 and NVIDIA's latest technologies such as PhysX, 3D Vision and 3Dvision Surround, you get the full package for total immersion into your game. ECS has hit a homer with the Black Series GTX 460. You get excellent performance, great cooling, a low noise signature and all for a price that just seems right. If that's not enough then it just looks good through the side window of your case!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: