With the release of the Nvidia 4xx series, the graphics market got to see some major performance gains along with some real nasty heat issues. But the card that stood out from the entire 4 series in terms of the Best bang for the buck was the Gtx 460. Much better cooling on the stock cards, and awesome performance especially when in SLI mode, the Gtx460 have proved that the budget cards from Nvidia, like its predecessors 7900GT, 8800GT, 9600GT etc provide a much better cost to performance ratio than the uber expensive cards of the higher tier.
Today we are going to put three cards of the budget performance series in a shootout, the Sparkle GTX450, Sparkle GTX460 and the Sparkle Calibre GTX460. All of the cards are generously provided to us by iamxtreme.net for benchmarking, and consist of the most sought after cards today. So lets get the show on the road!
Objective of the shootout:
While some may say that the winner is clearly obvious, however the shootout is of particular interest to the budget buyer. We know that the 450 lacks in performance in comparison to the 460 to a little extent, but does it provide enough difference to justify the cost difference? A similar question stands between the 460 and its overclocked, custom cooler equipped version, the Calibre series. So while the difference and outcome may be predictable, the margin of difference is the real deal were looking forward to.
The contestants lined up today are top notch products from Sparkle delivering looks and performance in one package! We reviewed the Sparkle Calibre GTX460 a little while back and the other two are the new entries in the lineup, so they shall be given a detailed review. A detailed comparison of the three cards is given below, with specs taken directly from the manufacturers page.
As we can see, all three cards are overclocked versions of the Nvidia design, and employ custom GPU cooling fans. All three cards have beefed up memory clocks and shader clocks, and given that they are at a very competitive price with respecct to their competitors, its going to be a close shootout 🙂
Sparkle GTS 450: Performance on budget
The GTS450 from sparkle comes in a box that signifies the companies name. Its all shiny and attractive, and shows off the very much welcomed boxed addons such as the Mini HDMI adapter. The card also comes bundled with the Starcraft 2 trial key, that enables the owners to taste some starcraft goodness for one month.
The contents are neatly stacked and include a molex to 6pin converter, a mini HDMI adapter, the Starcraft 2 key.
The card is small and light, and the purple fan makes it stand out from the crowd. The card utilizes one 6-pin power connector, and is small enough to fit any small tower casing. The card utilizes DVI and a Mini HDMI for output, and occupies two PCI slots.
Sparkle GTX 460: Mainstream Performance Leader
The Sparkle GTX460 comes in a similar packing to the 450. The 460 however comes with a mini HDMI cable instead of an adapter, which is a welcome addition. It also includes two moles to 6-pin converters, and a Trial key for Starcraft 2.
Unlike the 450, the 460 has a larger heatsink covered by an all black plastic body. The purple fan still is a very vibrant feature of the card, however, it is smaller and has less fins than the one used on the 450. But this also means it would be less noisier too, which remains to be seen.
The dual slot card uses dual DVI and a mini HDMI for output, and needs two 6-pin connectors to provide the additional juice for it to run. Its not as heavy as it looks initially, and wold fit in any case easily too.
Calibre GTX 460: Power Overdrive
Test Setup & Benchmarks
The tests were conducted on a test system with following specifications:
- CPU: Intel Core i7-860 (OC Clock 3.5GHz)
- Motherboard: Asus P7P55D
- RAM: Silicon Power Xpower Series DDR3 1600MHZ
- Operating System: Windows 7 x64 Ultimate
- Fan PWM at a stock 40% and on auto.
- Drivers: Nvidia 260.89
To kick off the benchmarks, the first thing that was done was getting the 3DMark Vantage scores of the cards, the holy grail of benchmarking geeks. The numbers come out as expected, with the GTS450 trailing behind with a large difference. The Calibre series takes the lead, showing the overclocking potential of the GTX460.
Unigine Heaven v2.0 DX-11
The UniEngine Haven benchmark is a resolution dependent benchmarking took, that employs the various DirectX features in the 26 rendered sequences and flyby’s of a virtual world. The resolution used here was 1440×900, on DirectX 11.
Passmarks Performance Tests
Passmark is a Unified benchmark suite designed to benchmark the complete pc including all the different aspects such as Graphics, CPU performance, hard disk, memory etc. These scores can be compared on line with other enthusiasts to see where the subject system stands.
Out of the suite, the 3D Graphics test was run to find out the scores and they were as follows:
First in line for the gaming benchmarks is Dirt 2, a DirectX 11 based game from Codemasters. The tests were done on two resolutions, 1920×1080 (1080p) and 1680×1050 (720p).
Battlefield Bad Company 2
One of the hottest multiplayer title in the year, BFBC2 is not a game to be taken lightly when it comes to graphics. The tests on 4x and 8xAA made the fps drom down to the 25fps average mark. The game stuttered during 8xAA and full HD for the GTS450, the stock 460 also showed some signs of perseverance, but the Calibre topped the charts with 30+fps.
A force to be reckoned with, Crysis at full HD makes the cards drop below 15fps on a minimum. However the game was playable on all three cards, as the drop in fps was only when there were either too many players of lots of explosions.
The hit sequel uses DX11 and PhysX aggressively however for the benchmarks, PhysX was turned off.
FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that’s why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool (also called GPU burner) for the graphics card.
The twin fans of the Calibre series shave off around 4-5 degrees than the stock 460 on 40% PWM. If the fan speed is controlled manually, there is no doubt that these temperatures will go down and create a larger gap between the stock and the Calibre series, however, the fans on the 460 and the 450 do a fine job aswell with temperatures staying well below the 70 degree mark.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts :
All three cards from Sparkle performed brilliantly and help show that paying a small premium for the factory overclocked Calibre series goes a long way. For the budget minded, the GTX460 presents the best possible price to performance ratio available in the current market, and will last for a pretty long time in the foreseeable future.
The GTS450 is the cheapest of the three cards, availale at PKR 12,000/- from the market. Justifying ts price, it really is a budget card and preferable to be used for moderate gaming at 720p or lower resolutions. Anything above, and the card runs into problems. Bundled with the free Starcraft 2 trial key, it still is a nice deal for the moderate gamer.
The GTX460 and the Calibre 460 are the best option for gamers wishing to upgrade from the 8 or 9 series, or even the GTS250/260 cards, and the performance difference will be noticeable, especially when gaming at higher resolutions.