EVGA GeForce GTX 660Ti £250
16th Aug 2012 | 14:30
Kepler Finally Hits the Sweet Spot
Introduction and architecture
Nvidia launched its new Kepler architecture earlier this year with the glorious GTX 680 - a behemoth of a video card with a $500 price tag and performance to match. We all stood in awe of its power, and its price tag, but the reality is most people can't afford to drop five big ones on a graphics card so we've been waiting for a slightly watered down version of the card to arrive with a price tag that's a bit easier to stomach.
Nvidia delivered such a card in May, the GTX 670, which was a little bit slower than the GTX 680, but would still set you back $400, so for most people it was still just a bit out of their wallet's reach. Nvidia is releasing another Kepler card, the GTX 660Ti, at a price point of just $299 (MSRP), which is what most of us consider to be the sweet spot when it comes to price, performance and power consumption when it comes to graphics cards.
Anything above this is typically the size of a small sedan and capable of consuming the same amount of power, and cards below this price point are usually not designed for gamers with huge monitors who are playing next-gen titles. We know $300 isn't exactly pocket change, but when you consider the GTX 660Ti is a descendant of the fastest videocard available right now, you can understand what an alluring proposition this card is for a lot of gamers.
Memory and clock speed
In many ways the GTX 660 Ti is extremely similar to its more expensive siblings, having the same 2GB of video memory, the same 6GB/s memory data rate, the same dual six-pin power connectors and the same 9.5-inch PCB.
In fact, the GPU itself is none other than the exact same GK104 chip found on both the GTX 680 and the GTX 670, rather than a redesigned piece of silicon. The GTX 660 also shares the same number of SMX units as the GTX 670 as well - a total of seven compared to the GTX 680's eight - for a nice round number of 1,344 CUDA cores, since there are 192 cores per SMX unit.
Getting into the hard numbers we see that Nvidia decided not to neuter the GTX 660 when it comes to clock speeds for the GPU core, Boost clock and memory clock, as they are all exactly the same as the GTX 670. Where the GTX 660 is different from the GTX 670 is in three key areas: ROPs, L2 cache size and memory interface width.
In these areas the 660Ti has been downsized slightly to justify its lower asking price, so whereas the 670 has 32 ROPs, the 660Ti has only 24. For L2 cache the 670 has 512KB compared to the 660Ti's 384KB, and we also see a narrower memory interface, going from 256-bit on the 670 down to 192-bit on the 660.
All in all, this is not a terrible list of changes, and we're excited to see they left all the clock speeds the same and also kept the same number of SMX units, as the GTX 680 has one more than the GTX 670, so it's natural to assume the GTX 660 would have one less, but that's not the case, thankfully.
Due to its slightly de-tuned nature the GTX 660Ti also requires a bit less power than the GTX 670, and for that most people will probably be a bit thankful. Both cards require a power supply with dual six-pin connectors, but whereas the GTX 670 was a 170W card, the 660Ti is just 150W, which is impressive considering the size of the card and its performance.
For comparison, the same card from the previous generation - the GTX 560 - is a 210W card, displaying the advancements in power consumption Nvidia has achieved with its Kepler architecture.
One other Kepler advancement that has carried over to the GTX 660Ti is Nvidia's GPU Boost technology, which dynamically overclocks the card during gaming. Since this card is already defanged slightly it should have a decent amount of Boost capability, and Nvidia's partners are taking advantage of this fact by offering cards that are overclocked right out of the box, though you can also push them even further if you have the desire and the skill to do so.
Nvidia stated that it's not releasing a reference card for testing purposes, so reviews such as this one will all be based on real world cards offered by Nvidia's partners, EVGA in this particular situation. We've seen several of the partner cards already and they will all offer basically the same package with mild differences in clock speeds - think 20-30MHz or so. The only other major difference between cards sold by its partners is the size and shape of the cooling mechanism, the included software and warranty terms.
We know the GTX 660Ti will obviously be a little slower than the GTX 670, but what about its competitors over in AMD land? Well, this is where it gets interesting as AMD has both an HD 7950 card for around $350, and an HD 7870 card for just $330, so the competition between performance between these three cards should be very close.
To summarize, this card fulfills the exact same promise as the well-received GTX 670, which is Kepler performance in a more affordable package with less power consumption. Also, the GTX 670 showed in testing that with a bit of fiddling with the clock speeds it could be just as fast as the more expensive GTX 680, so we're very curious to see if the GTX 660 can achieve the same feat.
Benchmarks and performance
As expected the performance of the GTX 660Ti is quite good indeed, coming within striking distance of the more-expensive GTX 670 and soundly beating the Radeon HD 7870. It even beats the $369 Radeon 7950 OC in some tests as well, which is rather awesome.
Just for fun we tested two GTX 660Ti cards in dual-care SLI configuration, though they were not the same card as you see in this review. However, the cards we tested had a mild overclock compared to the EVGA board, but we can expect similar results.
The scaling performance was almost precisely double in every test, which is mighty impressive. In testing the dual 660Ti cards even bested the mighty GTX 680, though they fell short of besting the dual-680 laden GTX 690, but that's to be expected given its staggering price tag and fully loaded arsenal of CUDA cores. Unless you have a really big monitor and need to run all games at 2560x1600 with AA enabled, you should be fine with a single GTX 660Ti.
All the benchmarks were run on the highest settings at an eye-popping 2560x1600 resolution with 4X MSAA enabled. Our test bed consisted of an Intel Core i7-3960X at stock speeds on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe board with 16GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, a 256GB Samsung 830 series SSD drive and a 1050W Thermaltake power supply.
DirectX 11 tessellation performance
DirectX 11 gaming performance
A lot of what we wrote for our review of the GTX 670 can be rewritten here - this card performs very well, which should not come as a surprise at all given its Kepler heritage. Though it's a slightly neutered version of its bigger brother, there's just a small difference between the two cards in terms of specs, size and performance.
Just like the GTX 670 this card still has seven SMX units for a total of 1,344 CUDA cores, and they both offer the same core clock speed, memory clock frequency and Boost clock frequency as well, making the GTX 660Ti very, very similar to its predecessor. They both also sport 2GB of fast GDDR5 memory.
When examining the numbers we see the GTX 670 clearly coming out on top, but only by between five to 10 frames per second in most tests, which is hardly the difference between a game being playable or not.
In Far Cry 2 the difference is the most stark at almost 20fps, but the 660Ti is already pushing over 80fps, so it's extremely playable even at the insane resolution of 2560x1600. We also see the GTX 660Ti toppling its previous generation doppelganger, the GTX 560Ti by a decent margin, especially in Dirt 3 and Metro 2033, but not by a wide enough margin to really shock us.
We also see the GTX 660Ti taking a clear victory over the AMD HD Radeon 7870 card in every test except for Metro 2033 where the two are neck-and-neck. The GTX 660Ti even gives the more expensive HD 7950 a run for its money in most tests as well, which is surprising and backs up Nvidia's marketing smack talk about how the card is able to run with bigger, badder foes while consuming less energy.
The card also runs relatively cool as well, as we loaded it up for a few hours and not only did the card automatically overclock itself from the stock 980MHz to 1132MHz, it also remained stable at 63C the entire time. And then as soon as we lightened the GPU load the clock speeds reduced, the fan spun down and it carried on being the quiet, unassuming graphics card it was designed to be.
All this great performance puts AMD on the hotseat as it doesn't quite have a direct competitor with the HD 7870 performing below the GTX 660Ti and the more expensive HD 7950 outperforming it just slightly in some tests, and being a tad slower in other tests. Since the HD 7950 is already released, and the flagship HD 7970 won't be coming down in price any time soon, we'll have to wait for a refresh from AMD to compete directly with Nvidia this time around, but perhaps an HD 7960 is right around the corner?
Ever since the launch of the mighty GTX 680 Kepler core we knew a toned-down version was waiting in the wings, and while the GTX 670 is surely a fantastic graphics card the price was still a bit out of reach for some folks.
With the GTX 660Ti, Nvidia delivered a card aimed exactly at that mainstream crowd that wants the latest technology without having to take out a second mortgage on their house to get it. They will be very happy with this card, as the GTX 660Ti hits all the right notes in terms of price, performance and power consumption.
Again, this is all very familiar because when the GTX 680 came out we wondered aloud why anyone would bother with a GTX 680 given how close the GTX 670 was to it in specs and performance. Now we're left to wonder the same thing in regards to the GTX 660Ti and the GTX 670 - they are close enough that with a bit of over clocking it'd be easy to achieve a very similar level of performance. The cards are so close we have to wonder why Nvidia didn't sit on the GTX 660Ti for just a bit longer to give the GTX a little more breathing room.
We're excited to see Nvidia take a relatively cautious approach when it comes to declawing its previously released cards to hit a lower price point, and when you look at the benchmark performance it falls right in line with the small changes Nvidia has made.
They are not drastic reductions in areas of core functionality and the numbers bear that out - just around 10 frames per second difference between this card and the GTX 670, and that makes the GTX 660Ti very well positioned as the price-to-performance leader for the time being. And don't forget since the GTX 660Ti is built a tad conservatively there's still some headroom for overclocking, and EVGA includes a tool called Precision-X to do just that.
It lets you increase clock speeds, voltages, fan speeds and more all by just sliding several dials back and forth. You can even set up custom profiles if you want different overclocking and cooling settings for different games, and switching between profiles is as easy as clicking your mouse button.
We've already seen the GTX 680 attack the Radeon HD 7970, and that was followed up by the GTX 670 doing damage to the HD 7950, so now the GTX 660Ti gets its turn to wallop all over the HD 7870. If you are looking for the fastest card at any given price point right now, it's safe to say you're cash will be spent on an Nvidia product. Whether or not the GTX 660Ti is the right card for you depends largely on what you're currently running, but we'd have no problems recommending it over the GTX 670 if you were contemplating an upgrade and only had a few hundred bucks to spare. If you currently own a GTX 560Ti, the upgrade is a bit more difficult to justify as the performance delta is visible but such a move would only allow you to bump up your settings or resolution one or two notches. If you are running a 4-series Nvidia GPU or older however, then this upgrade path is highly recommended.
With graphics cards it all comes down to performance, so when judged in that regard the GTX 660Ti fares extremely well with today's games at super high resolution, no doubt. The card comes extremely close to the GTX 670, and soundly beats the Radeon HD 7870 as well, making it a winner as far as we can see. Not only is it fast and quiet, but it consumes very little power compared to cards from previous generations so you don't need a beast of a power supply to run it in your system. It really does have everything we love about the Kepler architecture in an affordable package.
Yep, there's not much to dislike here, especially since in our review of the GTX 670 we griped about the high cost of that card, so now that the price has gone down we're happy to have that complaint resolved. We can say definitively that we are miffed that the box doesn't include an SLI adapter, but then again EVGA doesn't include those even with the GTX 680 cards. We can say we had hoped for a bit more of a performance delta between the GTX 660Ti and the previous generation GTX 560Ti. It's definitely faster but that is a lot of money to spend on a relatively minor upgrade. If you're still rocking a 4-series card this upgrade makes a lot of sense, but owners of 5-series Fermi cards will probably only upgrade if there is $300 burning a hole in their pocket.