The competition sharpens its swords
Of course, Nvidia wasn't about to let AMD introduce new graphics cards without a welcoming committee. The greeting ceremony for Barts arguably started several weeks ago, when Nvidia dropped the price of GeForce GTX 460 768MB cards to $169. Then things got weird, as AMD held out on revealing Radeon HD 6800-series pricing to reviewers until earlier this week. Nvidia then slashed its prices quicker than a fireworks tent on the fifth of July, taking the GeForce GTX 460 1GB down to $199 and dropping the GTX 470 to $259.
That maneuver prompted an amusing back-and-forth in which AMD sent out a retaliatory e-mail claiming Nvidia's price cuts were only temporarycomplete with a promotional directive from Nvidia written in French as ostensible proof. Nvidia responded by saying, essentially, "Nuh uh!" and insisting its price cuts are permanent. We'll take them at their word for now, but hold them to it later.
In fact, Nvidia tells us to expect the cards available at $199 to be somewhat faster than the the GTX 460's original 675MHz base clock, as its partners de-emphasize the lower-clocked models over time. The MSI Cyclone card pictured above is right at $199.99 at Newegg at present, and we've included in our tests over the following pages.
Not only that, but Nvidia and its board partners have equipped us with a handful of intriguing new GeForces in the past week.
This imposing fellow is a GeForce GTX 460 1GB card from MSI with an 810MHz core clock and 3.9 Gbps memory. That's positively stratospheric compared to the initial 675MHz core and 3.6 Gbps memory of the GTX 460, and the higher frequencies should translate pretty directly into stronger performance. Better still, this version of the card, known rather comically as the Hawk Talon Attack, features 0.4-ns GDDR5 memory that promises additional overclocking headroom. We haven't yet had time to test its limits, but between the RAM, the dual-fan cooler, and the fact that MSI's software offers overvolting of the GPU core and memory, yeah, we'd like to try soon. This puppy is going for $215 at Newegg right now, not far above the GTX 460 1GB's base price. We have a full set of performance results for this card.
If you can't be bothered to overclock a graphics card yourself and 810MHz just isn't enough, there's this unassuming little number from EVGA, the GeForce GTX 460 1GB FTW edition. Currently selling for $229, this GTX 460 1GB is clocked at a nosebleed-inducing 850MHz with 4 Gbps memory.
There is precedent for this sort of clock speed and performance creep in Nvidia graphics card models over time. Heck, the GeForce GTX 260 actually transitioned from 192 to 216 ALUs and saw prevailing speeds rise from a 576MHz base to 650MHz and more during its run. Still, this is quite the promotion for the humble GTX 460 in a pretty short span.
Time limits prevented us from testing the EVGA FTW edition in our full suite, but we only left it out of a couple of the games we tested manually with FRAPS.
The final member of the Barts welcoming committee is this GeForce GTX 470 from Galaxy. This "GC Edition" card boasts a modest clock speed bump from Nvidia's stock 607MHz to 625MHz, but its real appeal is a blue PCB and that slick looking plastic cooling shroud that looks like it ought to have little green army men hiding inside of it. In fact...
There's a hatch for the army men to hide under! Sweeeeet.
Actually, the product packaging makes no mention of why the fan flips up, but I've heard it's purported to be for easy cleaning of dust and lint. Whatever the case, this cooler is certainly distinctive. This beast isn't currently listed at Newegg, but Asus and others have stock-clocked GTX 470s at Nvidia's new $259 suggested price. EVGA also has a 625MHz variant for $269.
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