At the very end of May we saw NVIDIA’s first effort to expand Fermi beyond the $300 space with the GeForce GTX 465, a further cut-down GF100 core priced at launch at $279. Unfortunately for NVIDIA, it wasn’t even a lackluster launch – while GF100 performs quite well with most of its functional units enabled (i.e. GTX 480), disabling additional units isn’t doing the GPU any favors. Furthermore disabling those units does little to temper the chip’s high power draw – something that’s only reasonable on the higher-end cards – resulting in a card that ate a lot of power while losing to AMD’s Radeon HD 5850.

In short, the GTX 465 is a lesson of how you can only cut down GPU so far. NVIDIA went too far, and ended up with a part that had GTX 285 performance and GTX 470 power consumption.

Today NVIDIA is back in the saddle with something entirely new: GF104 and the GTX 460. The second member of the Fermi family is ready for its day in the sun, and in many ways it’s nothing like we expected. Designed from the start as a smaller chip than GF100, GF104 is the basis of the GTX 460 line of products which fix the GTX 465’s ills while delivering the GTX 465’s performance. It’s what the GTX 465 should have been, and it’s priced as low as $199. And as we’ll see, it’s the first NVIDIA card in a long time that we can give a glowing review for.

  GTX 480 GTX 465 GTX 460 1GB GTX 460 768MB GTX 285
Stream Processors 480 352 336 336 240
Texture Address / Filtering 60/60 44/44 56/56 56/56 80 / 80
ROPs 48 32 32 24 32
Core Clock 700MHz 607MHz 675MHz 675MHz 648MHz
Shader Clock 1401MHz 1215MHz 1350MHz 1350MHz 1476MHz
Memory Clock 924MHz (3696MHz data rate) GDDR5 802MHz (3208MHz data rate) GDDR5 900MHz (3.6GHz data rate) GDDR5 900MHz (3.6GHz data rate) GDDR5 1242MHz (2484MHz data rate) GDDR3
Memory Bus Width 384-bit 256-bit 256-bit 192-bit 512-bit
Frame Buffer 1.5GB 1GB 1GB 768MB 1GB
FP64 1/8 FP32 1/8 FP32 1/12 FP32 1/12 FP32 1/12 FP32
Transistor Count 3B 3B 1.95B 1.95B 1.4B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point $499 $249 $229 $199 N/A

GF104, the heart of the GTX 460 series being launched today, is the first waterfall part of the Fermi family. As we saw with AMD’s Radeon HD 5000 series last year and NVIDIA’s GeForce 9000 series before that, NVIDIA is in the process of taking the base GF100 design and reducing it for the construction of smaller, lower performing GPUs suitable for use in video cards at lower prices for the larger markets.

The final tally for GF104 is 1.95 billion transistors, which occupies a die space slightly more than that of AMD’s Cypress in the 5800 series. To put this in comparison, this is about 200 million fewer transistors than AMD’s Cypress, or 550 million more than NVIDIA’s older GT200 GPU that powered the GeForce GTX 200 series. This makes the GF104 the biggest GPU we’ve seen for the prices NVIDIA is targeting, a sign of the increasing pricing pressure between NVIDIA and AMD.

GF104 like GF100 before it is not initially being shipped in a “full” configuration. The chip has 2 Graphics Processing Clusters (GPCs) containing 4 SMs each, for a total of 8 SMs adding up to 384 CUDA cores. The GeForce GTX 460 will be shipping with 1 of the 8 SMs disabled, leaving it with 336 enabled CUDA cores. NVIDIA tells us that the reason they’re shipping the first GF104 parts with a disabled SM is due to yields – they wouldn’t be able to meet the demand for cards if they only shipped cards with 8 functional SMs. Unlike GF100, outirght poor yields don’t appear to be a huge factor here. Our impression from discussing the issue with NVIDIA is that GF104 is yielding around where it should be for a chip of its size, with NVIDIA choosing to take a hit on selling “full” chips for a higher price in order to sell more chips overall. In any case it gives them some room for expansion in the future should they decide to release a “full” GF104 based product.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about GF104 is that it’s not a simple reduced version of GF100 like what AMD did with the Evergreen series. Instead NVIDIA made some very significant changes to the design of their SMs for GF104, resulting in a waterfall product that’s undoubtedly Fermi but also notably different from GF100. There’s a lot to discuss here, so we’ll get more in to this in a bit.

Moving on to the cards, NVIDIA is launching 2 cards today. At $229 there is the GeForce GTX 460 1GB, the closest thing we’ll see to a “full” GF104 part for the time being. The GTX 460 1GB has 7 of 8 SMs enabled along with all 32 ROPs, with a 256bit memory bus connecting the GPU to 1GB of GDDR5. The core is clocked at 675MHz core, 1350MHz shader, and 900MHz (3.6GHz effective) memory. The TDP for this part is 160W, with an unofficial idle power draw in the 20W-30W range.

The other GeForce GTX 460 being launched today is the GeForce GTX 460 768MB at $199, a slightly further cut-down card. As NVIDIA’s ROPs are closely tied to their memory controllers, the only way to reduce the amount of memory on a card is to disable memory controllers along with the ROPs. As a result the GTX 460 768MB has less memory than the GTX 460 1GB, but also only 24 ROPs connected to a 192bit memory bus. The shaders remain unchanged, giving the GTX 460 768MB the same compute/shading abilities as the GTX 460 1GB, but only 75% of the ROP capability and memory bandwidth. The clocks are unchanged from the GTX 460 1GB: 675MHz core, 1350MHz shader, and 900MHz (3.6GHz effective) memory.

Given these differences, we’re a bit dumbfounded by the naming. With the differences in memory and the differences in the ROP count, the two GTX 460 cards are distinctly different. If NVIDIA changed the clockspeeds in the slightest, we’d have the reincarnation of the GTX 275 and GTX 260. NVIDIA’s position is that the cards are close enough that they should have the same name, but this isn’t something we agree with. One of these cards should have had a different model number – probably the 768MB card with something like the GTX 455. The 1GB card does not eclipse the 768MB card, but this is going to lead to a lot of buyer confusion. The best GTX 460 is not the $199 one.

Today’s launch will be a mixed bag in terms of availability. $199 has long been known to be a critical price point with buyers, which is what makes this card so important for NVIDIA as it allows them to finally tap that market once more. However to get there they’re using their entire initial run of GF104 to build the 768MB versions of the GTX 460. There should be plenty of 768MB cards available for today’s launch, but the bulk of 1GB cards are roughly 2 weeks late (1 or 2 may show up early if the vendor does rush shipping). So what we have is a hard launch for the GTX 460 768MB, but a soft launch for the GTX 460 1GB. We’re not entirely thrilled with this – particularly as we believe the 1GB cards to be the better buy – but if nothing else it’s better than the GTX 480 launch.

Today’s launch will also be resulting in an interesting mix of price points. NVIDIA has lowered the MSRPs on the GTX 470 and GTX 465, while AMD’s prices have been slowly drifting down over the last month too. As a result we end up with roughly the following:

July 2010 Video Card MSRPs
NVIDIA Price AMD
  $700 Radeon HD 5970
$500  
 
$400 Radeon HD 5870
$330  
 
$300 Radeon HD 5850
$250  
$230  
$200 Radeon HD 5830

With these prices AMD and NVIDIA both have themselves comfortably stratified until you drop below $250. AMD doesn’t have anything between the 5850 and 5830, while they have a price gap of $80-$100. Meanwhile the 5830 is priced directly against the GTX 460 768MB. NVIDIA’s pricing will be taking advantage of this gap, while giving the 5830 a run for its money at $200.

GF104: NVIDIA Goes Superscalar
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  • threedeadfish - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    I know you guys are all up in arms when a company releases information about up coming products, but you know that's information that can help a consumer.. I was looking for a card that was powerful enough while being quite and not using too much power. I ended up with a 5770 and I think it's a great product, however this the 460 offers 5830 performance at 5770 power and noise for only $30 more. I would have waited another week if I had any idea this was coming. You can't tell me nobody at Anandtech knew this was coming. Your anti-paper launch campain has a down site, it doesn't give consumers valuable information and as a result the video card I'll be using for the next couple years will be much less powerful then it would have been if the 465 artical just gave me a heads up, or just a little message saying hold off on $200 video card purchases something's coming. I only buy a new video card every few years please give me the information I need to make the best purchase. In this case waiting another week is what I should have done. Reply
  • notext - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    If you notice, everyone put out their info on this card today. That is because an NDA. Even suggesting anything about this card without nVidia's permission is a quick way to guarantee you won't get future releases. Reply
  • Phate-13 - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    Euhm, where can you find the "at 5770 power consumption"? The tables are quite clear that it uses 40-70Watts MORE under load then the 5770.

    And indeed, there is something called and NDA.
    Reply
  • Phate-13 - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    **** this. I want to be able to edit my posts.

    'something called AN NDA.'
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    This is a review site, not a news or rumours site. If you are interested in the what the next couple of months bring from companies like Intel, AMD and nVidia, you need to start using sites like Fudzilla, that report hardware news and rumours.

    And trust me, there was plenty of information on the 460 being in the making and probably outperforming the 465 at a lower price point. :)

    And if you regret the purchase of a 9 month old card because one that just got released has higher performance (20%-40%?), while using more electricity (20%), costs more (60% - 130€ to 210€ for the cheapest cards each), you are going to be a very sad PC buyer, because normally, a new product will be faster _and_ cheaper, while now it is just faster, but a hellovalot more expensive too. :-)
    Reply
  • Lord 666 - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    Definitely some details missing for a complete picture on this card. Reply
  • Lonyo - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    There's more too.

    No real discussion of the reduction in polymorph engine to shader ratio, such as tessellation benchmarks (synthetic or otherwise).
    Nothing on minimum frame rates (and anything which is put up uses the older 10.3 drivers for ATI).
    In addition to the general compute performance benchmarks that you mention.

    Nothing about CUDA games (e.g. Just Cause 2) comparing the GTX465 to the GTX460.
    No consideration of ROP vs memory changes (i.e. is it memory bandwidth limited or is it purely the ROP reduction causing the performance hit on the 768MB card).

    Maybe the cards didn't come out in time. Maybe everything, or more stuff at least, will be covered in Pt 2, but it is somewhat disappointing that so many things are totally missing.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    You hit the nail on the head with your comment on time. I actually have the data, but with the limited amount of time I had I wasn't able to write the analysis (most of my time was spent on better covering the architecture). That will be amended to the article later today, but for now you can see the raw graphs.

    http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/gtx460_07111017...
    http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/gtx460_07111017...
    http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/gtx460_07111017...
    http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/gtx460_07111017...
    Reply
  • Lonyo - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    I hope I didn't come off as too harsh. I started writing and then towards the end realised it could be a time thing, and didn't go back to amend what I had written.
    After looking at most other sites, their reviews are sometimes even worse, covering only a very small handful of games.

    Thanks for the early graphs, much appreciated. Shame NV didn't give more time for proper reviews.
    Reply
  • jonny30 - Monday, July 12, 2010 - link

    - maybe in your country my dear friend.......maybe there i tell you ;)
    - in my country is 300 you see.......300 as a price start i mean :)
    - and for those 100 extra i buy another hdd for example, not another video card if you know what i mean
    - so, maybe is worth for you, but for me to jump from 4870 to this......
    - i am sorry, but it is not wort it........
    Reply

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