460 sli

The GF104 chip has something else up its sleeve. Well actually, more like under its hat. You see, there's so much headroom in there for this chip that you can seriously overclock even the stock cards with the basic Nvidia reference cooler.

An overclocked 1GB card will hit the same sort of speeds as a GTX 470, with an overclocked 768MB card not too far behind it. So what can they do when you get a pair of twins on the case? The simple answer is astonish.

Now there's simply no reason to go out and pick up the top-end cards if you've got a mammoth display because a pair of either version of the GTX 460 will do better. That's right, you're spending less and getting more. The diminishing returns that have dogged the SLI dream for years are a thing of the past.

The simple comparison is Nvidia's top-of-the-line card, and the first of the Fermi lineup to arrive, the GTX 480. At the time of launch, we got all hot under the collar about it.

Not just because it was blisteringly fast for a single-GPU card, but because it was so blisteringly hot in itself that it rendered all the air-conditioning in the building irrelevant. That card has since dropped in price to a vaguely reasonable £390-odd.

Interesting, because if you picked up a pair of EVGA Superclocked GTX 460 768MB cards, which would set you back, that's right, £390-odd. It's even more interesting in light of the bargainous nature of Inno3D's reference 1GB cards, which can be had for as little as £360 for the pair.

Irrespective of memory constraints, both sets of GTX 460s absolutely hose their GTX 480 daddy in practically all metrics, most especially at the high-end 2,560 x 1,600 resolution.

As for AMD's top card de jour, the £500 multi-GPU HD 5970, it actually stands up better than the GTX 480. Unfortunately for AMD, though, it doesn't fare much better.

The Just Cause 2 benchmark is the only place the Texans can hold their head up high, while in DiRT2 and Far Cry 2 it lags behind noticeably. Interestingly, a pair of overclocked 768MB cards actually beats a pair of the stockclocked 1GB GTX 460s at the 22-inch res of 1,680 x 1,050.

It's only by a little way, and notably not in the tessellation-heavy Heaven benchmark, but it means that potentially you could hit these speeds for only £300. How?