MSI N460GTX Hawk review - Where to Buy

By on September 1, 2010

The best GTX 460 in the market.

MSI N460GTX Hawk review

As a regular exercise, many manufacturers release special editions of components alongside their normal hardware versions on the market. What generally makes these components different isn’t just a unique physical appearance but the effort and brilliance of taking the product to extreme levels of performance. And while there are quite a few of such special edition graphics card that command a price premium, fewer still are the ones that really deserve it. The MSI N460GTX Hawk is one such card.

Starting off with the packaging, the N460GTX Hawk comes with manuals, a drivers CD containing the overclocking utility Afterburner, two power cables, three Multimeter V-Check point cables, a DVI to VGA adapter and a mini-HDMI converter. And finally we have certificate that reassures us an MSI engineer confirmed the N460GTX Hawk will run at all the factory settings and not blow up.

So what sets the MSI N460GTX Hawk apart from all other vanilla Nvidia GTX 460 graphics card is the heatsink and overclocking potential. Attached on the main body is MSI’s creatively named Twin Frozr II heatsink that has two fans on top of an intricately laid out network of fins and heatpipes. While the thing certainly looks awesome, it designed to match the over the top performance of the card. The core clock comes with a factory set speed of 780MHz which is over a 100MHz higher than the 675MHz reference speed of almost all other GTX460 cards. Thanks to the Twin Frozr II heatsink and the Afterburner overclocking utility, the N460GTX Hawk is advertised to reach a maximum Core clock of 1GHz. We’ll get to that later on, for now let’s start with the basic benchmarks.

As usual, our testbed comprises of an Intel Core i7 965 EE with 3GB Corsair XMS3-1333 RAM on the ASUS II Rampage Extreme Motherboard. Drivers used were the latest Forceware 258.96. Once again, all settings were kept at the maximum possible allowed.

Both DX11 benchmarks seem comparable to ASUS GTX 460 which was also factory overclocked to 775MHz at Core speeds. That’s quite a significant jump from stock speeds represented by the Zotac GTX 460, although the N460GTX Hawk seems lacking in Unigine for some strange reason.

While the DirectX 11 benchmarks were as expected from a factory overclocked card, the results below were quite astounding.

Yup, the N460GTX Hawk really is that fast out of the box for pretty much everything DX10. And yes, we did run that StarCraft II benchmark a couple of extra times just to make sure we were reading it correctly. Also, note that we didn't get a chance to benchmark the Zotac GTX 460 as we had to return that before StarCraft II launched.

Now it’s time to look at how much the N460GTX Hawk can really stretch its muscles. MSI were kind enough to provide us with the latest beta version of v2.0 of the Afterburner overclocking utility after we kept on failing past 840MHz with v1.61 that’s available on their website as of this writing. Version 2.0 of Afterburner allowed us to really increase the Core Voltage to its maximum. This basically led to a stable Core speed overclock of 900MHz. Yes, this is not anywhere close to the advertised 1GHz, but at this stage it is still a 225MHz overclock over stock Nvidia speeds!

Just for reference sake, the 3DMARK VANTAGE score above is based on a GPU score of 16168, our recently reviewed top-of-the-line ASUS Matrix 5870 Platinum had a GPU score of 17010.

During normal operations the card stays cool and absolutely quiet at 34C, however once put through its paces, temperatures can go up to 61C, but remain under 70C even when overclocked. The heat produced is quite a lot when at full power, particularly when the N460GTX Hawk was overclocked with the voltage set to its maximum. Noise levels are within acceptable limits when the card is running at full power, especially when inside a proper computer case, unlike our open testbed.

Costing AED 1,065 ($ 289), the MSI N460GTX Hawk is well worth the slightly extra premium over the stock cards. Even at factory default levels, the card outperforms any other GTX 460 we have come across, and with an overclocking headroom so high, along with performance to match, the MSI N460GTX Hawk is truly one of the best bang for your buck graphics card on the market right now.
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