MSI N460GTX Hawk Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: October 28, 2010
The GTX 460 from NVIDIA was launched a few short months ago in July of 2010. Since then we have seen manufacturers deliver models with improved cooling and ever higher clock speeds. Some of these are reference-based designs while others are not. One design that is far from the reference fold is the card we will look at today, the N460GTX HAWK from MSI. This follows up on the success of the MSI HD R5770 HAWK we looked at back in February of this year. That card exceeded expectations and was an overclocking beast so the expectations are that MSI is going to follow suit with its NVIDIA rendition, the N460GTX HAWK. This card comes out of the gate with all the right stuff. Military class components, a 7+1 phase power circuit, active phase switching and MSI's now familiar Twin Frozer cooling solution that has become a proven commodity. Add in the flexibility of being the first card to enable triple voltage controls for the GPU core, memory and PLL circuits (with voltage monitoring points that are more than just a spot on the PCB) plus a three year warranty and you have what looks to be a pretty solid combination. Let's dive right in and see if all the promises become a reality.
The front panel of the packaging has a picture of an F-117 Stealth fighter to the left with a wealth of information to the right side of the front. There is the name of this card, the N460GTX, a seal that touts the three year warranty, the fact that the HAWK has the ability to adjust three separate voltages (GPU, PLL, Memory) and the list of technologies this card supports such as DirectX 11, NVIDIA's PhysX, 3DVision and SLI. Also mentioned are MSI specific items such as the Afterburner overclocking utility and the military class components used on this card. The front panel flips up giving the consumer an explanation of the over voltage controls and military class components and why they are better parts than normally used. Items mentioned are the 7+1 Phase PWM design, Super Ferrite Chokes, Hi-c and Solid Capacitors. The N460GTX HAWK can be seen through the window in the box showing the Twin Frozer cooling solution. The rear panel lists the minimum system requirements and the features of this card. With plenty of information on the outside, MSI hopes to educate the customer so they can make an informed purchase.
Inside the well illustrated outer cover you get a foam filled inner box that holds the HAWK and its accessory bundle. Underneath the foam cushioning is a separate compartment that holds most of the bundle while the power adapters are in the foam sleeve.
The accessory bundle provided by MSI contains everything you will need to get the most out of all the functionality of this video card. You get a manual, Quick Install guide, a driver disk, DVI to VGA adapter, Mini HDMI to HDMI adapter, two molex to PCIe power adapters and a trio of voltage check point extension cables to make it easy to read the three over voltage levels capable of being adjusted on this card from MSI.
MSI has seemingly equipped the HAWK with all of the tools necessary to get into the trenches and do battle with the multitude of video cards on the market. Let's see if the equipment stands up!
The MSI N460GTX HAWK is far from being a reference design video card. The fact is that this is a custom creation from MSI all the way from the PCB up to the Twin Frozer cooling solution. Sure, you get all the basics of this NVIDIA Fermi GF 104 based card such as being built on a 40nm process with two GPU clusters that house the seven streaming multiprocessors, 336 CUDA cores, 56 texture units and 32 ROP units. This card uses 1GB of onboard GDDR5 memory running through a 256 bit bus. Each manufacturer has its own spin on how best to build a video card and with each company you get a long list of what makes one better than the other. So let's look at this version from MSI and see just what differentiates the MSI N460GTX HAWK from the rest of the field. The first thing that stands out are the four massive 8mm heat pipes and dual 80mm fans that are the hallmark of the Twin Frozer cooling solution. From the back you get a look at the Active Phase switching LEDs on the bottom left with the Overcurrent and Thermal limits dip switches above them. On newer cards these switches have a sticker letting you know you will be voiding your warranty by employing these switches to defeat the built-in protections on the card. Other than these items, there is not much of interest on the backside of the HAWK. From the side views you can see just how the Twin Frozer heat sink design fits the card.
Connectivity on this card is pretty much standard fare for the GTX 460 with two Dual link DVI ports and a single Mini HDMI 1.4 port that provides bit streaming support for Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio over HDMI. This gives you options when and if you want to use this card in a media center style PC. For gaming use though, you will need two of these in an SLI configuration to take advantage of several of the supported technologies, namely NVIDIA Surround and 3D Surround when you add NVIDIA's 3D Vison system to the equation. The GTX 460 is only able to run in a two-card SLI configuration because it is equipped with only a single bridge connection. The three and four card setups are for the GTX 470 and higher cards. The backplane has the MSI logo cut out in the location of the exhaust vent so you know whose card you are running at the next LAN party. The rear end of this card features an item of note not seen on any of the GTX 460 video cards I have looked at before. You get the dual six pin PCIe power connections but the added bonus on this card are the voltage monitoring points so you can directly measure the GPU, Memory and PLL voltages being supplied to the components. These three voltages are adjustable in the MSI Afterburner utility. This gives you a way to make sure you keep the voltages in the safe ranges as well as an idea as to what the voltages are really set at. This is much better than using a software utility to tell you what the voltage might be running at. MSI just makes it just plain easy to monitor the voltages applied with this feature.
Remember those three small wiring pigtails that were part of the accessory bundle? Well sure you do. If you look at the rear of the HAWK there are three sockets that allow you to plug these test leads in so that you have the ability to monitor voltages more easily than trying to stick the leads of your multimeter onto a little point on an PCB. In this application, you can slide the leads into the sockets on the pigtails so that you do not have to physically hold the leads in place. You can actually hook up three different meters at once without having to hold a single one of the leads in place. From left to right you have PLL , GPU and memory voltage test points.
To get a better look at what lies under the massive heat sink and to examine its construction, its got to come off. The Twin Frozer heat sink is made up of a large nickel plated copper base that has four large 8mm heat pipes to carry the thermal load from the base to the full size fin array. This is MSI's Superpipe technology front and center. The base looks flat and contains some machining marks that the remnants of the abundant application of thermal paste still fill. While the base looked flat, I was surprised to see that when re-mounted to the card, the heat sink only made contact with the center section of the core. This makes the thermal performance of this card that much more amazing as it is the coolest running 460 I have looked at under load. If the base was in full contact, then this cooling solution should do even better than it did.
The fans used by MSI on the Twin Frozer cooling solution are a pair of PWM fans from Power Logic. These fans have 11 blades and use .35a when in operation.
The PCB is where all of the military class components are located. MSI uses a 7+1 phase power circuit that makes use of Hi-c tantalum capacitors to stabilize the power fed to the core, Super Ferrite sealed chokes offer a 30% increase in current capacity while being 10% more efficient. Also found on the PCB are solid aluminum capacitors that run cooler and are more efficient. All these components team up to allow the N460GTX to have higher stable overclocks. MSI uses Active Phase Switching to intelligently provide the right power profile to the components on board in an effort to reduce the power consumption on this card. As a factory overclocked card it is already going to be using more current, so every bit helps.
The N460GTX is built upon NVIDIA's FERMI GF 104 architecture. This card from MSI is shipped out with factory clock speeds of 780MHz on the 40nm core and 900Mhz on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory. The core gets a nice boost that the memory does not get. Strange but true for a card that has received a ton of online buzz. The features of the GF 104 core include two GPU clusters, seven streaming multiprocessors (each with its own Polymorph engine to handle tessellation duties), 336 CUDA cores, 56 texture units, 32 ROPs and 1.95 Billion transistors. There are a total of eight memory modules that make up the 1GB on this card. The modules are made by Hynix and carry part number H5G01H24AFR-T2C and are rated for operation at 1250MHz.
Now it's all up to the N460GTX HAWK to see if it can soar with the eagles or if it just roosts with the turkeys! With excellent build quality and high end components, it should deliver excellent performance characteristics.
Triple Over Voltage
- N460GTX Hawk is the world’s first graphics card which supports voltage adjustment of GPU, Memory and PLL!
Twin Frozr II Thermal Design -18â„ƒ Cooler and 8.1 dB Quieter!!
- Dual 8CM PWM Fans : Air flow from dual fans can cool down GPU/Memory/Power Module at once.
- Four heat pipes with SuperPipe Technology
- Nickel-plated Copper Base : Large size of Copper Base can dissipate the heat of GPU faster.
7+1 Phase PWM Design
- Higher current to GPU Power
- Higher overclocking capability
- Better stability in peak load
Military Class Components
- Hi-C Cap provides more precise GPU voltage.
- SFC (Super Ferrite Choke) : 30% Higher Current Capacity, 10% Power Efficiency Improvement.
- All Solid CAP for longer lifespan.
APS (Active Phase Switching)& V-Check Points
- APS (Active Phase Switch) helps save power usage by controlling PWM automatically.
- V-Check Points allow users to read voltage directly by multi-meter.
- Co-development by MSI and Rivatuner, MSI releases the ultimate graphics card utility “Afterburner”. This utility enables all MSI graphics cards users to boost performance and to monitor all kinds of critical information in real-time. Afterburner is a completely free utility which is compatible with almost all MSI graphics cards.
- The first fully Microsoft DirectX® 11-compatible GPUs in their class, the ATI Radeon™ HD 5000 Series are designed to deliver unbelievable HD gaming performance for the latest games and DirectX® 11 applications so you can dominate the competition.
HDMI + DVI Output
- HDMI and DVI are the most comprehensive used interfaces for high definition video display. MSI adopts two interfaces to provide a complete output solution for users to enjoy the latest HD video such as blu-ray movie.
MSI Live Update 4
- MSI Live Update 4 is a single utility software that automatically checks BIOS, driver and utility updates and installs for you , which can save your time for searching and lower the risk while updating.
- Bulit-in Voltagemeasurement points on graphics card or mainboard. No need to read hard and long datasheet to find the voltage reading points.â€§Get accurate voltage of GPU and Memory on the fly. â€§Additional cables hold multimeter probes.
MSI Solid Capacitor Graphic Cards
- MSI Graphics Card products utilities high quality solid capacitor. For the gamers and high-end users, this feature not only means that product has better quality components within, but also provide much stronger support while users want to engage in hard-core tuning.
MSI Advanced Live Update Online
- MSI Live Update online is designed to automatically download and update the BIOS and driver when there’s a new version online. It helps reduce the risk of getting the wrong file and minimize the trouble of searching the files from MSI website.
HDMI convertible output
- Dual-link DVI convertible output supports Video/Audio signal integration through DVI to HDMI interface, which drivers resolution of a digital display up to 1920x1200 or higher.
- MSI graphics cards offer the HDMI functionality to provide access to premium digital content. HDMI enables gaming enthusiasts to seamlessly connect to their LCD monitor to bring the ultimate multimedia experience. (Only 1 single HDMI cable is required while streaming audio/video data to flat-panel display devices, such as Plasma/LCD TVs, or projector.)
- The HDCP provides a robust, cost-effective and transparent method for transmitting and receiving digital entertainment similar to DVI/HDMI-compliant digital displays. HDCP encrypts the date transmitted between the DVI/HDMI connector on the graphics adapter and the display.
Blu-ray and HD DVD Support
- Both support the latest specifications of Blu-ray and HD DVD(High Definition DVD). It comes with the latest GPU and DDRIII superior processing performance in which users can easily enjoy the high-definition video of 1920x1080(1080p/i).
NVIDIA SLI Technology
- Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single GPU configuration for unequaled gaming experiences by allowing two cards to run in parallel. The must-have feature for performance PCI Express graphics, SLI technology dramatically scales performance on today's hottest games.
NVIDIA PureVideo HD Technology
- Blu-ray and HD DVD movies are bringing a new level of movie-viewing experience; with high-definition image quality far surpassing standard-definition DVDs. NVIDIA PureVideo™ HD2 technology provides unsurpassed Blu-ray and HD DVD movie picture quality.
Meet RoHS regulations
- MSI products are the first to be in conformity of the EU’s RoHS(Restriction of Hazardous Substances) regulations, reducing heavy metals and toxic materials in the products. This is an effort made for the Earth, and essentially for a clean future.
- PhysX™ is designed specifically for hardware acceleration by powerful processors with hundreds of cores. Combined with the tremendous parallel processing capability of the GPU, PhysX™ will provide an exponential increase in physics processing power and will take gaming to a new level delivering rich, immersive physical gaming environments with features such as:
* Explosions that cause dust and collateral debris
* Characters with complex, jointed geometries for more life-like motion and interaction
* Spectacular new weapons with incredible effects
* Cloth that drapes and tears naturally
* Dense smoke & fog that billow around objects in motion
NVIDIA® CUDA™ Technology
- NVIDIA® CUDA™ technology is the world’s only C language environment that enables programmers and developers to write software to solve complex computational problems in a fraction of the time by tapping into the many-core parallel processing power of GPUs. With millions of CUDA™-capable GPUs already deployed, thousands of software programmers are already using the free CUDA™ software tools to accelerate applications—from video and audio encoding to oil and gas exploration, product design, medical imaging, and scientific research.
All information courtesy of MSI @ http://us.msi.com/index.php?func=proddesc&maincat_no=130&cat2_no=136&prod_no=2035
Testing of the N460GTX Hawk from MSI will consist of running it and comparison cards 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 10.10 Catalyst drivers for ATI (The exception being the HD6800 series) and the 260.89 Forceware drivers from NVIDIA. Tests will be conducted at both stock and overclocked settings to gauge performance when an increase in clock speed is applied.
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 200x18 3.6Ghz
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Eclipse SLI
- Memory: Mushkin 996805 Redline PC312800 6-8-6-24 1600MHz
- Video Card(s): MSI N460GTX Hawk
- Power Supply: Mushkin 1000 watt Joule Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: LG DVD-RW
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Case: Cooler Master HAF 932z
Comparison Video Cards:
- NVIDIA GTS 450
- Palit GTX 460 Sonic Platinum
- ASUS ENGTX465
- NVIDIA GTX 480
- Inno3D GTX 470 Hawk
- BFG GTS 250 1GB OC
- Sapphire HD 5970 4GB Toxic
- Sapphire HD 5970 2GB
- Sapphire HD 5870
- Sapphire HD 5850 Toxic 2GB
- Sapphire HD 5770 VaporX
- Sapphire HD 5750 VaporX
- XFX HD 6850
- XFX HD 6870
- MSI N460GTX 922/1844/2074Mhz
Everyone saw the YouTube video of one of these cards hitting a stable 1GHz on the core while running MSI Kombuster as the load. I was really jazzed up to see if this card could do the same based on that video. Of course, the Hawk is the only 460 out with triple voltage controls so it must be possible with the high end component selection, right? Unfortunately wrong! It looks like MSI pulled the reins in on the voltages that could be applied in the MSI Afterburner utility from +200mv to +100mv so without the extra juice it just won't get close to the 1GHz core clock speed. The best I could pull off with stability was 922MHz on the core and 2074MHz on the memory to make this card the highest clocking GTX 460 I have tested. Still, a far cry from the 1GHz that was pushed around on the net. By using the built-in voltage monitoring points (these are incredibly handy and make checking voltages a snap!) I was able to visualize the maximum voltage being applied under load to 1.16v. The idle voltage was .897 and was upped to .984 when the +100mv was applied. By uninstalling Afterburner 2.0 and 2.1 and rolling back to 1.6.0, the voltage applied when overclocked reached 1.239v measured under load. This allowed the core to be clocked up to 955Mhz so applying more voltage (as is the case normally) does result in a significant overclocking increase. Without the additional voltage to the memory that can be applied, I was limited to a 1960Mhz overclock on the memory. So, you get a little good with the bad. I am guessing the corporate bean counters got involved in this one when they started calculating RMA costs.
One other note on overclocking. There are two switches on the back of the PCB that are there to enable removal of the overcurrent and thermal protection. When I finished testing the first card and could not reach 1GHz on the core, I decided to get rid of the protections and go for broke. Broke is what I got. Unknown to me was an email sitting in my inbox stating this early batch had issues when the protections are bypassed! I made it through about 15 seconds of a 3D load before I had the black screen of death usually associated with a bad overclock. MSI promptly replaced this card and the new sample has a warning label on it that gives you the spiel about voiding warranties if removed. Lesson learned. Even with all that, I again have to reiterate that the N460GTX has reached the highest core clock speed on a GTX 460 model I have tested to-date.
Maximum Clock Speeds:
MSI's Kombuster utility was used to test stability and to put a constant load on the GPU for the purposes of testing maximum power draw and temperatures. The stability test was used to find a range of settings that are stable through a 15 minute run at 1920 x 1200 8xAA. The reported clock speeds are those that proved stable over a 15 minute test at 1920 x 1200, 8x AA and the run through the benchmarks suite.
- Gaming Tests:
- Far Cry 2
- Metro 2033
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
- Just Cause 2
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Resident Evil 5
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
- Power Consumption
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.
- 4x AA
- Ranch Small
- Global Setting = High
Higher = Better
At both stock and overclocked settings, the MSI GTX 460 Hawk delivers playable frame rates all the way up to 2560 x 1600 resolution. Compared to Palit's Sonic edition, the scores are slightly better at stock and near identical at the top end.
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.
- DX 11
- Global settings = High
- Physx = off
Higher = Better
The two GTX 460 cards in the comparison deliver almost identical frame rates in this game at stock speeds. The main comparison to an ATI (now AMD) product is the HD 5850 where the Hawk delivers results slightly above or equal to it in all but two tests.
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.
- Frost Map
- 16X AF
- DX 10
Higher = Better
Crysis is still a graphically intense game and results in frame rates that cause the GTX 460 Hawk to dip below 30 FPS at 2560 x 1600. But then again, pretty much every single-GPU equipped card save the GTX 480, is in that same predicament.
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.
- In Game settings to Maximum
- Fraps measured Gameplay
Higher = Better
The MSI Hawk compares favorably with the Palit 460 in terms of performance. When compared to the HD 5850 and new 6800 series from AMD when overclocked, the results favor the MSI 460 up to 1920 x 1200.
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.
- Global Settings = High
- Water Detail = Medium
- Dark Tower Time Demo
Higher = Better
Frame rates delivered by the N460GTX are comparable to the Palit GTX 460 across the Just Cause 2 testing. When compared to the new HD 6850 at stock settings, the results are comparable up to 1920 x 1200.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.1 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.
- Shaders = High
- Tesselation = Normal
- Measurement = FPS
Higher = Better
In this test, the 460 Hawk from MSI delivers an equal or higher level of performance than the new HD 6800 series cards from AMD - both in stock and overclocked trim. The GTS 250 is not tested in this benchmark as it does not have DirectX 11 support.
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.
- 4xAA in CP
- 16xAF in CP
- Global settings = High
- Ambient Occlusion = On
Higher = Better
The NVIDIA cards have a distinct advantage in this game allowing the N460GTX to eclipse the performance of the AMD cards.
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.
- 16xAF in CP
- Global settings = High
Higher = Better
At stock speeds, the N460GTX performs above the HD 6850 up until the 1920 x 1200 mark and then slips below that level of performance. Overclocking does bring gains in performance but not enough to out-perform the HD 6850 in the higher resolutions.
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.
- Default test settings
- Resolutiions 1280-1024-2560 x 1600
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: CPU1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
Higher = Better
Scoring for the N460GTX Hawk places it right about even with the HD6850 in most of the tests. In the higher resolutions it falls behind the AMD card. Compared to the Palit Sonic, the performance is slightly better at the top end.
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 (each preset): Default Testing
- Entry: 1024 x 768
- Performance: 1280 x 1024
- High: 1680 x 1050
- Extreme: 1920 x 1200
Higher = Better
In 3DMark Vantage, the N460GTX is more than a match for the HD 6850 but falls short of the HD 6870. When overclocked though, the MSI 460 ups the ante and brings on the performance to a level above the HD 6870 in three out of the four tests. The test where it does not beat the HD 6870 still finds the scores are close enough that there really is no performance difference.
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.
- Monitoring with MSI Afterburner
- GPU Stability test in MSI Kombuster
- 15 minute load duration
- 15 minute idle duration
- Temperature measured in degrees Celsius
Lower = Better
The cooling solution on the MSI N460GTX is the Twin Frozer design and is a very stout cooling solution. Surprisingly, the heatpipe based solution on the Palit Sonic GTX460 keeps the silicon a little cooler at idle speeds. Fan speed is everything here so this is one possible reason for this. However, when the fan speed is ramped up to 100 percent for the overclocked testing, the strengths of the Twin Frozer design prove that it is a better solution than the one used by Palit. With dual fans, it creates some noise but is not overly loud. It is noticeable when you ramp up the fan speeds though.
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.
- MSI Kombuster Stability test
- 1920 x 1200 Resolution
- 15 minute load test
- 15 minute idle test
- Measurement is in Watts
Lower = Better
The MSI GTX 460 Hawk has power characteristics similar to that of the Palit GTX 460. Both cards come with a factory overclock and both can be over-volted to increase the clock speeds. The MSI looks like it is a little more efficient when under load at both stock and overclocked voltage settings. The higher grade military spec components and 7+1 phase power design may have something to do with that.
Like I said earlier, MSI has given this the works when it comes to hardware selection and implementation. The Military Class components, 7+1 Phase PWM design and Active phase switching offer increased power handling capabilities that allow for higher stable overclocks which in turn enable the components to run cooler and more efficiently. The Twin Frozer cooling solution is a more than capable design that has continued to see service on MSI's higher end video cards and it makes another return onto the N460GTX HAWK. This cooling solution has been able to outperform other solutions I have tested on cards which included some pretty heavy duty cooling solutions such as Palit's Sonic, EVGA's FTW and Inno 3D's Arctic Cooling solution. The only problem I saw with the cooler was that once I remounted it, the base did not make contact all the way across the GPU's IHS. This means there is even more cooling performance to be had with the Twin Frozer design.
When it came to overclocking on this card I was looking for the much hyped 1GHz core clock speed that this card was hitting in early release videos. Unfortunately, I was unable to get close to that clock speed level on the HAWK's GF 104 core. What is interesting is that the early Afterburner utility versions for this card were able to increase the core voltage by +200mv but the current beta and release versions only supports a +100mv increase. This does hamper the card's ability (at least my sample) to really push for higher clock speeds. By utilizing the built-in voltage check points, I was able to monitor the voltages applied to the core and could see first hand what the increased level was and how it impacted overclocking. With the latest versions of Afterburner, I was limited to right around 1.16v measured under load. Installing an older version of Afterburner allowed the card to work with NVIDIA's voltage specifications which allowed the core voltage to be increased to almost 1.24v as measured under load. This had the effect of bumping the stable clock speeds on the core from a maximum of 922MHz to 955MHz, a pretty substantial increase for a small voltage bump. If the added voltage options were still available in Afterburner's latest editions, the 1GHz clock speed goals may have had a better chance of being realized. By using the older version, you do not have access to the triple voltage controls. So the "complete" card overclock was impacted by a lower memory speed. The final clock speeds though, when you get down to it, are the highest I have been able to pull from a GTX 460 card to-date at 922Mhz (955Mhz with higher voltage) on the core and memory so there is some advantage to the 7+1 power design and triple voltage controls. This card begs for more juice!
Even if you are not overclocking this card it comes from the factory with a fairly stout overclock of 780Mhz on the core, 1560MHz on the Shader domain and 900Mhz (3600Mhz QDR). So if this meets your needs then so be it but just know there is more on tap! With the N460GTX HAWK you get all the ability to use all of the NVIDIA technologies including SLI, Surround, 3D Vision and 3D Surround and the ability to get the most out of games that make use of NVIDIA's PhysX technology for the added realism it brings. Add in a Blu-ray player and you get the ability to watch 3D Blu-ray content. The power consumption of this overclocked card improved over what I saw with the Palit Sonic version and did deliver lower power consumption numbers (even with dual fans running) in three out of four tests. MSI gives you the tools to overclock a factory hot rod and still gives it a three year warranty that is better than most of the warranties out there, not all, just most. Couple in the new lower pricing structure that NVIDIA just released and you can pick this card up for a cool $199 after rebates. Excellent performance, excellent cooling and the ability to overclock makes the MSI N460GTX HAWK a purpose-built card for the enthusiast on a budget!
- Triple Voltage control
- Excellent cooling solution
- Military Class components
- Voltage monitoring points
- Power Consumption
- 3 Year warranty
- Factory overclocked
- Non reference design
- 3D Vision and Surround capable
- New lower pricing
- Did not reach the hyped 1GHz core speed
- Heat sink base slightly convex