Palit GTX 460 1GB Sonic Platinum Review

ccokeman - 2010-04-20 13:32:59 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 16, 2010
Price: $249.99

Introduction:

Nvidia had just released the GTX 465 which was a scaled down GF 100 card using a total of three graphics processing clusters with 11 streaming multiprocessors and 352 cuda cores to do battle with the likes of the HD 5830 and HD 5850 (albeit with mixed results). It still pulled a lot of juice and ran warm just like its big brother the GTX 480. Pricing left a lot to be desired based purely on performance. Fast forward a little more than a month and we have the release of the GTX 460 with its modified Fermi architecture using a GF 104 40nm core that comes equipped with two GPC clusters housing 7 streaming multiprocessors, 336 CUDA cores, 56 texture units and either 32 or 24 ROP units depending on the amount of memory onboard. You have two separate versions of the GTX 460, one with 768Mb of memory on a 192 bit bus (24ROP) and 1024Mb on a 256bit bus (32 ROP). The Palit GTX 460 Sonic Platinum overclocking Edition is based on this GF 104 design and is one of three models that Palit offers. This model comes with what may be the highest clock speeds out of the box at 800Mhz on the fixed function units 1600Mhz on the Shader domain and 2000Mhz for the GDDR5 memory. With specifications like that this card may well be what the GTX 465 was not, the right card at the right price.

Closer Look:

The Palit packaging has taken a turn for the better with this latest Nvidia based card. Gone is the Frobot from the front panel. The front now has a shield with the Palit name over what could be a heatsink in the background. The top right side lists many of the Nvidia specific technologies such as CUDA, SLI, PhysX and 3D Vision Surround with DX 11 thrown in for good measure. There is a small medallion on the bottom right that identifies this card as the "Sonic Platinum" overclocking edition video card. This distinguishes it as the top dog in the Palit GTX 460 product stack. The GTX 460 is available with two different memory configurations, 768MB and 1024MB. This is the 1GB version. The back panel gives a short synopsis of the technical specifications in multiple languages and talks about DirectX 11 done right with graphics from three of the latest DX 11 titles, Metro 2033, Just Cause 2 and Mafia II. Not to be left out of the mix, the Frobot makes an appearance on only one side panel, less exposure but still there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the outer packaging sleeve is a plain cardboard box. Nothing elegant, but pretty much standard operating procedure across the spectrum as just about every card I look at comes this way. Flip open the box and there are what looks like three compartments. In reality, only one compartment is used and houses the GTX 460 with the accessory bundle.

 

 

The accessory bundle that comes with the Palit GTX 460 Sonic is slim by any standard, but in reality what more do you really need? The manual, driver disk and dual 4 pin molex to 6 pin PCIe power connector are all that comes with the Sonic Platinum Edition GTX 460. There is not a need for a ton of adapters to make a connection to your display of choice because you are covered on everything but DisplayPort connectivity.

 

The GTX 460 looks like it may be a performer in the $200+ range of cards.

Closer Look:

The Palit GTX 460 Sonic Platinum Overclocking edition is a card that comes right from Palit pre-overclocked so you can skip the overclocking entirely. But if you feel adventurous, the tools are available to push even further. The GTX 460 is meant to fill the price point or sweet spot currently occupied by the entrenched HD 5830 in the $200 to $250 range. The GTX 460 comes in two flavors, one with 768MB of GDDR5 memory and one with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. This change effects both the memory bus width (192 & 256bit) and amount of ROPs for each card at 24 and 32. The GTX 460 Sonic Platinum Edition video card from Palit is based on the 1GB variant. The Sonic card varies from the reference version with its custom designed PCB that is smaller around all three axises than the reference version PCB. This is a good thing going forward as it will allow you to use the card in smaller chassis in an HTPC and small form factor chassis. When you set this card down it is notably shorter than many of the current performance crop at 8.25 inches long. The front of the card uses a unique shroud with a center-mounted fan implemented to keep the card cool. The back side is blank, with the exception of the product ID and warranty details. This card is designed to be used in a 16x PCIe 2.0 slot and should easily fit smaller chassis due to its modest size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business end of the Platinum Sonic Edition features connectivity in the form of 2 dual link DVI ports, a single VGA port and a single HDMI port that now supports bit streaming support for Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio over HDMI. Only two monitors are supported on a single card. To use the latest SLI technology, you will have to get three 120hz monitors and get a second video card in an SLI setup. The rear end of the card is open to allow for unobstructed airflow out of the video card.

 

 

The Palit GTX 460 Sonic Platinum edition only has a single  bridge connection meaning you can only run a total of two of these cards in SLI. A possible reason may be how this card is positioned in the product stack. The GTX 460 uses two 6 pin PCie power connections, suggesting over 150 watts of current usage for the board. The recommended power supply is 450 watts so you should be able to run this video card in just about any system.

 


To pull the Sonic Platinum edition apart, you have a total of eight screws, four for the shroud and four to hold the heat sink on. The shroud comes off easily and reveals the heat sink underneath equipped with two heat pipes leading to an aluminum/copper base plate /fin array. The fan is made by Power Logic and is 80mm in size with nine blades for higher static pressure. The heat sink uses two heat pipes and is mounted with four screws to the PCB.

 

 

 

Underneath all the flash, you come down to the two essential components the 40nm core comprised of 1.95 billion transistors. The 40nm GF 104 core an upgraded Fermi architecture with a total of two GPU clusters that house eight streaming multiprocessor of which only seven are active and working. In these seven streaming multiprocessors are 336 CUDA cores or 56 texture units 32 ROPs, and 512kb of L2 cache. The Sonic uses Samsung GDDR5 memory rated at 1GB. The clock speeds on this demon are 800MHz on the GPU cores, 1600MHz on the shaders and 2000MHz on the GDDR 5 memory

 

 

Now that we know what this card is equipped with, we can get to the meat and potatoes and start testing this thing out.

Specifications:

Direct X
DirectX 11
Processor Cores
336 Cores
Memory Amount
1GB
Memory Interface
256 bit
Graphics Clock
800Mhz
Processor Clock
1600Mhz
Memory Clock
2000Mhz
DRAM Type
GDDR5
Video Support
Dual DVI/VGA/HDMI

 

Features:

 

 

 

All information courtesy of Palit @ http://www.palit.biz/enews/event/worldwide/GTX460/Palit-GTX460-Newsletter-en.php

Testing:

Testing of the Palit GTX 460 Sonic Platinum 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 257.15 Forceware drivers from Nvidia for the GTX 480,470 and 465 while the GTX 460 gets the 258.96. 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:

Overclocking the Palit Sonic Edition GTX 460 was much like the rest of the Fermi lineup with one exception, the clock speeds for the shaders and fixed function units pushed all the way up past the 900MHz mark, something that I have not been able to achieve with the rest of the lineup. The Sonic Edition uses a custom PCB so that difference in the voltage regulation circuits and construction may pay dividends on the overclocking side. To reach the overclocked speeds, I used the latest revision of MSI's Afterburner utility 1.6.1 to adjust the core clock, shader clock and memory clock speeds. This card supports voltage tweaking so this option was manipulated as well to reach the final clock speeds listed. While 106MHz on the core clock may not seem like much the result is 13% higher than the already stout 800MHz clock speed on the core and 33%+ over the reference clock speed of 675MHz. The memory clock speed is only 56MHz higher than the as delivered 2000MHz but the memory was still easy enough to overclock at this level. Overclocking a factory overclocked card sometimes does not pan out as well as you would hope, but the Palit Sonic Series usually have a bit more in the tank. Case in point was the HD 4850 Palit Sonic edition I looked at a year and a half back. This card clocks well above the clock speeds of 675MHz on the reference cards and shows performance above the expectations I had when I first looked at the card.

 

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 1920x1200 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 50km2 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 first set of results from the Palit GTX 460 seem to spell death  for the just released GTX 465. THe performance it delivers in Far Cry 2 is very close to what the stock GTX 470 delivers. The Sonic Edition card even beats the HD 5850 in all three resolutions.

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 performance envelope for the GTX 460 is right between the HD 5850 and the GTX 470 in this game. The higher base clock speeds on the Sonic Edition from Palit really drive performance up a notch. Stock or overclocked, the results are impressive so far from this card. By changing the Advanced Depth of Field setting in the DX 11 options in the video settings menu you can boost performance significantly.

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

 

Again the performance of the GTX 460 is either slightly ahead of the HD 5850 or even throughout the first three resolutions. At 2560x1600 the card runs out of gas when compared to the HD 5850 but is still ahead of the marks delivered by the GTX 465.


 

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

 

From 1280x1024 up to 1920x1200, the Palit Sonic GTX 460 outperforms the HD 5850 and GTX 465 both stock and overclocked, but starts to drop off at the big end with a performance differential of 6 FPS lower than the HD 5850. This shows the card to be a strong performer in its target resolutions.

Testing:

What would testing be if you 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

 

A recurring theme is becoming apparent with the GTX 460 outperforming the HD 5850 at the low end and the HD 5850 taking 2560x1600. The GTX 465 is easily outperformed and even if you make the comparison of the overclocked GTX 465 scores against the base clocks of the Palit card the 460 still comes out on top.


 

Testing:

BioShock 2 is the sequel to a game that won more than 50 game of the year awards and sold more than 2.5 million units worldwide. Though a first-person shooter at its core, BioShock 2 blends that with RPG elements and drops you into an environment like no other - the underwater dystopian city of Rapture. Set approximately ten years after the events of the original, BioShock 2 allows the player to be one of the most iconic video game characters of recent years, a Big Daddy. Powered by the Unreal Engine 2.5 and featuring Havok Physics, BioShock 2 also adds multiplayer to the mix, filling in the one hole prevalent in the first game. There are seven different multiplayer game modes that take place in 1959, before the events of the original BioShock.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Bioshock 2 has some performance inconsistencies that the last couple driver revisions have started to clear up performance wise. The Palit GTX 460 delivers performance more on par with its price point in this game. Even though it is outgunned in most of the testing in Bioshock 2 there is not a single resolution where you can not enjoy all the game has to offer, even at 2560x1600.

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

 

Performance at stock speeds is better than the HD 5850 up to and including 1920x1200. When overclocked the HD 5850 has an advantage over the 460 at this resolution. Performance comparisons to the GTX 465 show the GTX 460 to be the stronger card in almost all of the testing.


 

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

 

One of the strengths of the GF100 architecture is its tessellation performance. Throughout all four resolutions, the performance of the Palit Sonic GTX 460 is equal to or better than the 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 the Joker back in 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 Palit Sonic GTX 460 performs just below the level of the GTX 470 and just above HD 5850 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 gen6sis 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 HD 5850 shows a performance advantage over the Palit Sonic GTX 460 in RE5 above 1680x1050. When compared to the GTX 465, the results are comparable at the top end with the GTX 460 outperforming the GTX 465 at the bottom end.

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

 

The HD 5850 sees a little bit of redemption in 3DMark 06 at the higher resolutions. The GTX 460 has the most commonly compared resolution of 1280x1024 sewn up when you compare to the HD 5850.

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 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. 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

 

Throughout the four tests, the Palit Sonic GTX 460 is just barely behind the HD 5850 Toxic. Overclocking the already highly overclocked Palit Sonic does pay dividends.

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 cards 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

 

It looks like the hot running Fermi cores have been cooled down to reasonable levels. However, when the fan speed is moved to 100% the fan speed only registers 77% in Afterburner meaning either the cards fan speed is being limited to reduce noise or there is a monitoring programming algorithm problem.

Testing:

Power Consumption of the system will be measured in both idle states and load stated 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 an 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

 

At its stock speeds of 800/1600/2000Mhz the Palit Sonic GTX 460 delivers lower power numbers than the GTX 465. When overvolted and overclocked further the current used scales upwards. Knocking the clock speeds down to the clocks on the reference GTX 460 the current used dropped by 22 watts to 333 under load.


 

Conclusion:

Nvidia missed the price for performance target with the GTX 465. Scaling down the GF 100 architecture proved to be a considerable chore. With that said, the target they missed with the GTX 465 they scored a bullseye with the GF 104 based GTX 460. Throughout the testing the Palit Sonic GTX 460 Platinum Edition was ahead of not only the GTX 465 but the HD 5850 when you look at the results from 1280x1024 to 1920x1200. You do have to remember this is a highly overclocked card right out of the box when looking at the results. If you look at the overclocked GTX 465 results and compare them to the Palit Sonic edition cards results as a comparison the results are about even at 1920x1200. Those numbers by themselves are pretty interesting and show that this card looks poised to be a price for performance champ when the dust settles.

Pricing on the Palit GTX 460 Sonic Platinum Edition comes in at $249 or about the starting point for the GTX 465. Pricing on reference based cards starts at right around $200. This is the price point currently occupied by the ATI HD 5830 so things should get interesting. People buying cards at this price point are most likely gaming at 1680x1050, 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 so the performance marks are great until that point and are even good for many games at 2560x1600 with the settings used in the OCC gaming test settings. As an overclocked card, I did not expect much headroom to be left but Palit usually leaves a bit in the tank for the enthusiast. When I used the available tools to overclock this card, I was able to pull another 106MHz from the core/shader clocks and another 56MHz on the GDDR5 memory for increased bandwidth. Each of these clock speed bumps netted measurable performance increases across the tested games. Something well worth the effort and time. Cooling is handled by a two heatpipe cooler that is reasonably effective at keeping temperatures in check while keeping the noise to a minimum. The only problem I had was with the indicated fan speed. When maxed out in Afterburner the fan only showed 77%, still enough to keep everything cool and reasonably quiet but really it means I may have left some clock speed on the table.

As a card in Nvidia's stable you have something that is able to take advantage of its architecture and reduce the time commitment needed for many everyday tasks with applications like vReveal, Photoshop CS4, Badaboom and many more. You can use the SuperSonic Sled Demo to test your skills at driving a rocket sled for the fastest times without launching your rider or blowing up the sled, all the while viewing all the strengths of the Fermi architecture in action. When I looked at the GTX 465, 3DVision Surround was still just over the horizon but Nvidia now has the technology out and ready for prime time with the release of the latest driver package. Combining a pair of these GTX 460s together in an SLI configuration should provide a stout combination and allow high settings game play at any resolution.

By slapping a big overclock and decent cooling onto the GTX 460 Sonic Platinum Edition video card, Palit has a winner on their hands with what may be the highest clocked GTX 460 right out of the box. It delivers performance beyond its price point allowing you to game without worry while not having to mortgage the farm to get your gaming fix.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: