When Nvidia launched its new Kepler architecture earlier this year with the GTX 680, the question on everyone’s minds was what features Nvidia would sacrifice in future cards to hit lower price points. With the arrival of the $299 (base price) GTX 660Ti we have our answer, and thankfully it is “not much” as this card is very close to the blazing-fast GTX 670 (itself a slightly stripped down version of the GK104 GPU from the GTX 680) both in terms of specs and performance. It has the same number of Cuda cores (1,344), texture units (112), and SMX’s (7) as the GTX 670. The only real differences between the GTX 660 Ti and its beefier cousin the GTX 670 are the ROPs (the 660 Ti has 24 to the 670’s 32), the L2 cache (384KB versus 512KB), and the memory bandwidth (192-bit versus 256-bit).
We’ve collected cards from Gigabyte, EVGA and MSI that offer a range of clock speeds, cooling shrouds and price points to see how this new card fares in the heat of battle.
The MSI GTX 660 Ti is an overclocked version of the 660 Ti, hence the name Power Edition. The company has pushed the core clock speed up 105MHz from the reference design and given the Boost clock quite a bit of latitude as well. Memory speed is 1,502MHz, just like the reference design and all the cards in this roundup. Keeping the whole things frosty is an elaborate cooler with a funny name—Twin Frozr—that is comprised of two heatpipes embedded into a flat, wide array of aluminum fans. Two decently sized fans squat down on top of the heatsink and do an amazing job of keeping temperatures in check: we never saw the card go above 61C under full load, but it was easily the loudest cooler in this group when run at full load. The fan spun down nicely once the stress was relieved, like a college student exhaling after a tough final exam.
In testing the MSI card dominated the proceedings, at least when compared to the other 660 Ti cards, taking victories in seven out of ten categories, and losing by whisper-thin margins to the Gigabyte card in the other categories. When we put the card under full load the GPU clock automatically increased from the stock 1020MHz to 1215MHz, which is a decent overclock given that the card does it automatically.
The bundle includes a scant pair of molex to six-pin power connectors and a software CD that includes the easy-to-use Afterburner overclocking program. It lets you tweak the card’s voltage, clock speeds, fan speeds and even capture activity logs but we found it had a few issues and is not the most intuitive piece of software we’ve seen, especially for newbies.
We like the MSI card a lot and it’s clearly the fastest in this group. But we don’t like the fact that it’s also the loudest, and its accessories “bundle” is severely lacking.
Top performance; great OC software; snazzy
Loud fans; skimps on accessories
The Gigabyte card is also an overclocked card, having a stock GPU clock speed of 1033MHz, which is 118MHz higher than stock. It also features a decent overclock on its Boost Clock that gives it a ceiling of 1,111MHz when overclocked. The card includes a massive cooling apparatus that features twin 100mm fans blowing down onto aluminum fins fed by two fat copper heatpipes connected to a heat exchanger. The cooling setup is so big it overhangs the edges of the card a bit, but we don’t mind—it was the quietest card in our testing by a clear margin and remained silent even under full load—an impressive feat for a card that is overclocked this much.
Though the Gigabyte card was not as fast as the MSI board, it was nipping at the MSI's heels in every test and even beat it in two of the tests by the slimmest of margins. In reality, we can easily call it a wash between these two cards, and say they are both the fastest in this group of cards. One area in which the Gigabyte was the clear winner was in clock speeds, as it used GPU Boost to pump itself up to a surprising core clock speed of 1,241MHz, up from its 1,033MHz stock clock speed. It was also the quietest card in our tests, despite having the highest clock speeds.
Like the MSI board the bundle that comes with the card is minimal, including just two molex to six-pin power cable adapters and a CD with its OC Guru II software and drivers. The OC Guru software gets the job done but is not easy to use, and lacks any on-screen instructions.
The Gigabyte card is the most expensive card in this round—by $10—and is easily worth it. We are happy to pronounce it Kick Ass by virtue of its speed and quiet operation.
Totally silent; great performance
Bundle is lacking; software hard to parse at a glance
Though the EVGA GTX 660 Ti looks like a reference card don’t let its standard-looking cooling shroud fool you. This is certainly an overclocked card, though its overclock is the most modest in this grouping at just 65MHz above reference speeds. Its Boost Clock frequency is also lower than the other cards at just 1,059MHz. The board features a very short 7” circuit board, compared to over 9 inches on the other cards, but its extra-long cooling shroud makes the card just as big and long as the others.
The EVGA did not win in any of our benchmark tests, but it was close in all of them and usually off the pace by just a handful of frames. We’re not too surprised about this as this card had the lowest clock speeds of any in the test, running up to 1,123MHz when under 100 percent load, which is a 100MHz deficit compared to its competition. The card did stay cool and relatively quiet though, running at a steady 65C even when pushed for hours under at 100 percent full-load. We would describe the noise level as worse than the Gigabyte but not as bad as the MSI board: noticeable but not annoying.
Surprisingly, though this board looks like it’s the most boring in the group it includes the best bundle of accessories including a VGA-to-DVI adapter, two power supply cable adapters and a sheet of EVGA stickers that are kind of cool.
As it stands the EVGA is a tough sell since it doesn’t excel in any one area compared to the other cards here. We hear it will be releasing a more powerful FTW version in the future, and we can’t wait to check that card out when it arrives. This card is a solid offering but there are better options available.
Decent performance; relatively quiet; good bundle
Slower than the others; not totally quiet.
Since Kepler launched we’ve been waiting for a mid-range card utilizing Nvidia’s latest architecture, and now that it’s arrived we’re not disappointed. All three GTX 660 Ti’s pushed out more-than-playable framerates on all of our games, at 1920x1200, with all settings maxed and 4X MSAA (Shogun 2 is the only game we played at 1080p instead of 1920x1200). We also tested the cards at 2560x1600 (again at maximum settings and 4x MSAA), and framerates were above 30fps in all but a few benchmarks: Unigine Heaven, STALKER, and Shogun 2 hovered in the high 20s and low 30s, while the punishing Metro’s framerates at 2560x1600 were in the low teens.
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus P9X79 motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and an AX1200 Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4XAA and all settings maxed, except for the 3DMark tests, and Shogun 2, which is run at 1080p High settings.
The 660 Ti cards’ $300-320 price range puts them firmly between the Radeon HD 7870 and 7950 in price, and their performance is right between the two Radeons as well. The 660 Tis trounce the 7870 GHz edition, and gives the 7950 a run for its money as well. Unless and until AMD drops the price of the 7950 there’s no reason to buy it over the 660 Ti. AMD pushed out special clock-boosting BIOS updates to some reviewers’ reference 7950s earlier this week, but not to us, and we test against retail cards anyway, so that won't factor into our reviews.
Compared to the GTX 560 Ti 448, the GTX 660 Ti isn’t groundbreaking. If you have a 560 Ti there’s no reason to spend $300 on a 660 Ti; you’re better off getting a second 560Ti. But if you’re coming from an older midrange card (or an even older high-end card), or building a new rig, the 660Ti is a great choice.