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It’s been more than twelve years since StarCraft was released, and times have changed. Technologically speaking, the top-of-the-line hardware available in 1998 now belongs in a museum. While it’s true that Blizzard Entertainment has always demonstrated their commitment to making their games play smoothly on a wide range of systems, some people just want these products to look stunning. Enter NVIDIA’s partnership with Blizzard. NVIDIA worked closely with Blizzard to design the cards necessary for optimal performance at all price points. The following is a summary of our experience with the EVGA GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB).

The Test Rig

Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor
MSI P55-GD65 LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard
Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600)
Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

Results

When we received this card, we knew it had been engineered specifically with StarCraft II in mind, so our expectations were quite high. Accordingly, we tested the card primarily using the 1900x1200 resolution with all settings on “Ultra”. We were very impressed with the card’s ability to consistently provide the highest quality and FPS in any game mode. The performance results demonstrated why this card was created and is being marketed to StarCraft II players.

GPU Engine


CUDA Cores336
Graphics Clock (MHz)675 MHz
Processor Clock (MHz)1350 MHz
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec)37.8 

Memory Specs


Graphics card versionGTX 460 1GB GDDR5GTX 460 768MB GDDR5
Memory Clock18001800
Standard Memory Config1 GB GDDR5768MB GDDR5
Memory Interface Width256-bit192-bit
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)115.286.4

Display Support


Maximum Digital Resolution2560x1600 
Maximum VGA Resolution2048x1536 
Standard Display ConnectorsTwo Dual Link DVI
Mini HDMI 
Multi Monitor
HDCP
HDMI
Audio Input for HDMIInternal

Standard Graphics Card Dimensions


Height4.376 inches (111 mm) 
Length8.25 inches (210 mm) 
WidthDual-slot 

Thermal and Power


Maximum GPU Temperature (in C)104 C
Maximum Graphics Card Power (W)160 W
Minimum Recommended System Power (W)450 W
Supplementary Power Connectors6-pin & 6-pin 

Source: NVIDIA - GeForce GTX 460

The test rig had been running dual ATI Radeon HD 4870 1 GB cards in CrossFire mode. While these cards were of the more recent technical generation, the new NVIDIA card produced more than a 200% increase in FPS consistently. Even among equivalent generation cards, the 460 out-performed its competitors by wide margins. On average, the card produced 112 FPS without forced anti-aliasing. To compare, several reviews have shown ATI’s HD 5850 to deliver 95 FPS consistently.

The FPS were fairly stable throughout campaign gameplay, in-game rendered cinematics, and all of the competitive mode. This was surprising in 4v4s since the unit clutter generally causes cards to work significantly harder and produce a lower frame rate. During the climax of large-scale battles, we noticed no greater than a 20% FPS decrease (with anti-aliasing off), which stands in stark comparison to the card’s price-point competitors.

NVIDIA’s control panel allows you to force anti-aliasing, so this feature may be useful considering that StarCraft II does not have native anti-aliasing. While we saw a slight performance decrease, this card delivers if AA is something you are looking for. This feature isn’t for everyone, but this card can easily handle the additional load with largely unnoticeable drops in quality.

Additionally, the GTX 460s offer a quieter fan in contrast to the annoyingly loud fans many of NVIDIA’s powerful cards have suffered from in the last few years. It’s still noticeable, but it’s definitely an improvement. The card also draws less power and operates at a lower temperature than many cards that we’ve used recently, which translates into more speed in identical operating conditions. The 460 models also offer 3D Vision support, CUDA, Blu-ray 3D capabilities, full DirectX 11 support, and PhysX.

It’s important to note that the 460 comes in two models. There is the 768 MB version and the 1 GB version. The larger card also sports 8 more ROP's and 64 more bits of memory bus. The suggested price difference is only $20, so for the added 25% more memory and its ability to handle larger resolutions more smoothly, the higher-end model is well worth the price.

Conclusion

We were so impressed with the 460 that it convinced us to purchase an additional card to observe how dual cards running in SLI will increase performance, not only for StarCraft II but for our other gaming needs as well. It’s only potential con is how it will perform under the next generation of game whose technological frontier is always being pushed. But, at this price point, that is really a non-issue. If you’re in need of a card capable of running StarCraft II at optimal settings at a relatively cheap price point, this is the card for you. This is by far one of the best cards we’ve seen that balances top performance with value, and it elevates StarCraft II’s performance to new heights.

A copy of this card was provided by NVIDIA for our review.

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