SPARKLE CALIBRE GTX460 REVIEW

Abdullah Saad
Posted Oct 25, 2010
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Todays market is full of competitive companies which go to every measure in order to make their product unique and stand out from the crowd. Overclocking a card from its Nvidia reference designs is one of the ways of standing out. By bumping up the stock clocks, and adding a fancy and higher performance cooler, not only do companies make cards that really stand out from the crowd in terms of looks, but they give the end users cards that perform much better than the stock versions at a small premium, and look good in the process.

Our todays card, the Sparkle Calibre GTX460 is one such card coming from a not much know company. With a color scheme that is different from the rest of the market, and a card that looks pretty awesome, the company has given enthusiasts a beautiful piece of hardware.

We are especially thankful to iameXtreme.net who provided us the card for review. So lets get the show on the road!

Sparkle: A not so new contender in the market

Althought SPARKLE was established in 1982, it still is not widely known in the graphics card market. Only in the recent few years has SPARKLE gained some spotlight because of their cheaper yet good quality products in the market that are worth mentioning. Basically a Taiwan based company, Sparkle specializes in Nvidia products only, with cards ranging from Nvidia 8 and 9 series to the newer Gtx4xx series.

Differences: Reference Versus Aftermarket

The stock Nvidia design puts the GTX460 at a Graphics Clock of 675 MHz and the core clock of 1350 MHz. Sparkle bumped up the Core clocks in the Calibre series to 790Mhz and the shader  clock to 1580Mhz! Not only this, Sparkle has upgraded the memory clocks from 1800MHz to a staggering 3900MHz! This is a more than a decent amount of speed upgrade and looks like it should cause a decent amount of difference in performance aswell.

THE BOX AND PACKING

As with all manufacturers that foray into the realm of the overclocked cards, the packing of Overclocked flagship is different from the rest of the lot. Packed in a stylish Matte Black box, the checkered textured surface displays the Unicorn sign, which is the trademark sign of the Calibre series from Sparkle, along with the advertisement of Starcraft 2 trial that comes bundled with the card!

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The back has the standard blocks, displaying features of the along with various logos such as HDMI, Windows compatibility etc ..

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Opening the box reveals the neatly packed card along with the bundled accessories including two Molex to 6-pin converters (which are a welcome addition, as most manufacturers only provide one) the driver cd, a HDMI to Mini-HDMI converter connector, and the Starcraft 2 Trial card with the SC2 Trial Key.

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The Calible GTX460:

The card looks surprisingly small for the power it packs, with two bright purple fans over a custom 4-pipe copper heatsink. With a different  than normal color scheme, the card surely is a beauty to look at, and looks equally great once installed.

The card consists of Dual DVI connectors along with a mini HDMI connector, as in Nvidia reference design, The heatsink is firmly mounted with 4 screws, and is pretty lighter than it looks in the pictures. The front side hosts the two 6-pin connectors that are required for powering up the card.

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SPECIFICATIONS FROM THE MANUFACTURER

  • Lifestyle                                  Enthusiast
  • GPU / VPU                             NVIDIA GeForce GTX460
  • Processor Technology      40nm
  • Processor Cores                   336 cores
  • RAMDAC                                Dual 400MHz
  • Bus Type                                 PCI-EXPRESS 2.0
  • Bus Speed                               16x
  • Video Memory                    1024MB
  • Memory Type                      GDDR5
  • Memory Interface              256-bit
  • Core Clock                             790 MHz
  • Memory Clock                      3900 MHz
  • Shader Clock                         1580 MHz
  • Output Connectors             MiniHDMI x1, Dual-Link DVI x1
  • HDCP Capable                       Yes
  • Overclocked                          Yes
  • Cooling System                    Fan
  • Video Card Profile              Full Height
  • Video Card Slot                    Double Slot
  • Power Connector                6-pin PCI-E x2
  • SLI Interface                         Bridge

THE CLOCKS: Stock vs Calibre

The difference between the stock and the Calibre GTX460 is pretty noticeable.

  • Core Clock: 675MHz vs 790MHz
  • Shader Clock: 1350MHz vs 1580MHz
  • Memory Clock: 1800MHz vs 3900MHz
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TEST SETUP

The tests were conducted on a test system with following specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-860 (OC Clock 3.5GHz)
  • Motherboard: Asus P7P55D
  • RAM: Siliconpower Xpower Series DDR3 1600MHZ
  • Operating System: Windows 7 x64 Ultimate
  • Resolution: 1920×1080 Full HD @ 60Hz
  • Fan PWN at a stock 40% and on auto.

Nvidia Drivers:

At the time the benchmark was done, the drivers that were used were Nvidia 258.96. However,  Nvidia released the new drivers version 260.89, in which Nvidia claimed a difference of around 10% average in most DX11 games and 3dMark score. So some benchmarks were redone with the new drivers, to see if any noticeable difference was there or not.

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SYNTHETIC Benchmarks: 3DMARK VANTAGE

First off, 3DMark Vantage scores were run using both the old and new Nvidia drivers to determine the difference of performance. The tests were done and it was clear that the new drivers did lead to an improvement in the GTX460 Fermi cards.

 

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The comparison of the two drivers is easily seen in the individual test scores of 3dMark Vantage.

FURMARK:

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. That is why it was used in these tests in order to test the efficiency of the custom GPU coolers that the Calibre series uses.

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And as evident from the scores, the twin fan cooler does its job perfectly. Giving a minimum temperature of 36degrees , even on full load the temperatures remained within a cool limit of 65degrees

PASSMARK PERFORMANCE:

Passmark is a Unified benchmark suite designed to benchmark the complete pc including all the different aspects such as Graphics, CPU performance, harddisk, memory etc. These scores can be compared online 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:

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UniEngine Heaven benchmark version 2.1:

The Uniengine Haven is a GPU benchmark is based on DirectX 11 and utilizes Unigine™ engine from Unigine Corp, which is a cross platform 3D graphics engine. The benchmark utilizes the Tessellation features introduced in DirectX11 and has a standard set of 26 various tests, that are used to compute a unified score for the graphics card. Note that these scores are resolution dependent, so two resolutions were used to test the power of the Gtx460.

 

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GAMING BENCHMARKS:

DIRT 2:

Dirt2 is a DirectX11 based game and therefore is a perfect test to check the cards performance. The game has a benchmark mode which automates a single lap through London racing circuit, and gives the results at the end. A number of benchmark runs were done on Ultra settings and No AA, 4xAA and 8xAA and the average scores are used in the end.

 

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Battlefield Bad Company 2:

One of the hottest game titles of 2010, battlefield Bad Company 2 is another dx11 based game that tests the graphics card to the maximum. Since the game does not feature a benchmark mode, therefore the tests were done on a multiplayer server of 32players, and the results were averaged.

 

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CALL OF DUTY 4

Although last years game, it stil is a popular title among gaming enthusiasts because of its multiplayer features. The game was run in single player campaign mode and the tests results were averaged.

 

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CIVILIZATION 5

Sid Meirs Civilization 5 Is a recent release and features beautiful graphics that really tax the graphics card. Two types of tests were done, the first one in singleplayer game mode, with the game in the Modern Era where the entire map was revealed and used. The second test was done using a built in benchmark feature where the the ingame Leader animations were automatically run using a “–leaders” command line.

 

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The game really takes full load over the graphics card, but since it’s a turn based game, the minimum frames per second are reported zero, as the game pauses all activity when the moves are being calculated.

Noise And Temperature

The card is very silent in performance, even with dual fans, it was almost noiseless. The temperatures during gaming were not seen crossing the 55 degrees mark, which really signifies the performance of the custom GPU Cooler the calibre series uses.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

The Calibre with its overclocked clocks performs fantastically in all the benchmarks while being noiseless. The temperature levels were within safe limits during all tests and as such no issues were found with the card. Great worksmanship from Sparkle for producing a real quality product!

Pros:

  • Great performer with the overclocked clocks
  • Almost Noiseless
  • Small and light
  • Mini HDMI Output
  • Mini HDMI – HDMI converter included
  • Has a free Starcraft2 Trial key bundled with it

Cons:

  • None!

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