Asus GTX 660 Ti DCU II Top £281
16th Aug 2012 | 13:00
Can the Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti bring Kepler to the mainstream?
We've been waiting for the mainstream-oriented Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti to hit the shelves since we first saw the Kepler architecture way back in March this year. As is its wont Nvidia brought the top-end GeForce GTX 680 out first, aiming squarely at AMD's top GPUs, and to start with had the edge.
As time has moved on though the AMD Graphics Core Next architecture, exemplified by the excellent AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, has proven to be a tough nut to crack. As the AMD driver sets have matured and more Compute-focused game engines have emerged, such as those powering DiRT Showdown and Sniper Elite, the Radeon cards have taken the ball and ran with it.
Nvidia is looking to fight back now though with the GTX 660 Ti, and in the volume end of the market that's where you want your graphics cards to take the crown. That's where the bulk of the graphics card upgrade money is spent and it's the segment which can make or break a GPU generation.
This Asus GTX 660 Ti DCU II Top is the Taiwanese company's heavy overclocking card, and as such has come to market with seriously tweaked clocks, a bespoke PCB and cooling solution as well as a price premium on top too.
So what makes up this new mainstream GPU then? Well, it's the self same Kepler GPU which has made up the bulk of Nvidia's 600 series cards.
So it's the GK104 chip, the same as in the the GeForce GTX 690, GTX 680 and the GTX 670. In fact it's an almost identical chip to that in the most recent Kepler card, the GTX 670, but with a few key parts turned off or turned down.
It's still rocking seven of those SMX modules, so comes with a total of 1,344 CUDA cores, all now running at the same speed as the base clock. It's also got the same 112 texture units but crucially is missing eight ROPs for a reduced total of twenty-four.
The GK104 GPU in the GTX 660 Ti is kept company by the same 2,048MB of GDDR5 video memory, running at the breakneck speed of 6,008MHz, though the bus betwixt chip and VRAM is a rather cut-back 192-bit compared with the 256-bit bus used by the rest of the Kepler top-table GPUs.
The close connection between the chips in the GTX 670 and this GTX 660 Ti explains why there is only a £50 difference between the £250 RRP for this latest card and the £300 you can pick up a reference GTX 670 for.
In the scheme of things though that £50 makes all the difference. And when you're talking about the overclocked SKUs of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti, then we start to hit a price parity with the GTX 670 the new Nvidia card can't hope to replicate in terms of gaming frame rates.
Benchmarks and performance
It's definitely a case of a cut too far for the GK104 GPU Nvidia is using to pad out its Kepler line up. The weaker GPU and memory bus combo means even this Asus GTX 660 Ti DCU II Top card can't compete with similarly-priced GTX 670 or the cheaper AMD HD 7950.
Even the extreme overclock Asus has managed on the GTX 660 Ti GPU, going from 915MHz up to 1,059MHz on the base clock alone, can't help push the performance up to GTX 670 speeds, or even AMD HD 7950 pace.
The EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC is also slightly overclocked, but is significantly cheaper than the Asus card. That puts it in the same price bracket as the HD 7950, but that only goes to show how solid the performance of the AMD chip is, even eight months or so since it first launched.
DirectX 11 Tesselation performance
DirectX 11 1080p performance
Generally it's a lot more fun to write a negative review about a product than a positive one. With a positive review everything's been done right so there's nothing for the writer to rail against. With a negative review on the other hand you can have fun laughing at the stupid design decisions the company in question has made.
Sometimes though a product can be so disappointing there's not an ounce of fun to be had from kicking it. We'd expected the GTX 660 Ti to be a serious contender for our favourite GPU of all time. After all, combining the goodness of the Kepler architecture, like the GPU boost, impressive power juggling, pretties like TXAA and Adaptive Vsync and a mainstream price-tag, how could it fail?
Well, talk to Nvidia and you'll find out. It can certainly fail if you don't bother designing a GPU aimed at the mainstream and instead just hack up the existing chip you've been using for your top-tier gaming cards since March.
The ageing GK104 is a fine GPU when it's being fed with a decent memory bus and hasn't been pared to the bone. Hacked up, as it is in the GTX 660 Ti, it's not much good to anyone unless it's significantly cheaper than we're seeing at launch.
At £200 this overclocked Asus GTX 660 Ti DCU II Top would be a great graphics card, but with it being offered for the same price as the far superior GTX 670 it's completely irrelevant. Even the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC with its £260 price tag, is too much, losing out to the slightly faster HD 7950 at the same price.
It's not like this is a new precedent either. If it all seems rather familiar then your GPU memory is impressive, we salute you. Almost the exact same situation arose when Nvidia was getting into the mainstream segment of its first generation Fermi cards.
After the GTX 470 came the GTX 465. It was the using the same GPU, but cut out a lot of the chip's innate goodness, and Nvidia positioned it only slightly cheaper than the much faster GTX 470. It was roundly panned as a pointless release and was superseded in around a month by the fantastic GTX 460 and its new GF104 GPU.
We can only hope the same thing happens here and we'll see a new Kepler GPU, specifically designed for the mainstream segment, in the GTX 660 without the Ti moniker. And for a more mainstream price. Seriously, when did £300 become the mainstream pricing for graphics cards?
Nvidia needs to step outside and smell the global recession.
The only positive thing we can say about this Asus GTX 660 Ti DCU II Top card is the fact the cooling solution is impressive - being at both times quiet and effective. But that's not something the GTX 660 Ti can generally boast.
It's running the same GPU as the top-tier Kepler cards, but with so much being chopped out or pared back it lacks any of the punch of its big brothers.
That wouldn't be such a problem if it wasn't priced so high. Nvidia has the reference price starting at £250 so it's no surprise the factory-overclocked solutions are priced high, but they're then encroaching on GTX 670 territory.
But only in price, not performance.
It's not Asus' fault this card is so irrelevant - you can't make a silk purse from a lame GPU. The starting point of the Nvidia GTX 660 Ti is such a weak one there's nowhere you can go but down.
It's a weak GPU with a stupidly high price tag. Avoid and hope the mainstream is catered for properly with an upcoming GTX 660 without the Ti tag.