The GeForce GTX 660 Debuts

Josh Norem

The sweet-spot GPU has finally arrived

The GTX 660 is the first 28nm Kepler board based on a new GPU dubbed GK106, and the final 6-series card to support high-performance features like GPU Boost and SLI. Compared to the GTX 660 Ti, the GTX 660 offers the same 2GB of DDR5 memory, the same 192-bit memory interface, and the same number of ROP units, but loses two SMX units compared to the GTX 660 Ti, giving it just 960 CUDA cores compared to 1,344 in the previous cards (and the 1,536 in the GTX 680). At $230 it’s our new favorite GPU in the price-to-performance category.

Gigabyte GTX 660 OC Version

Gigabyte’s OC Edition offers additional clock speeds and cooling at no extra charge.

Gigabyte’s GTX 660 is similar to MSI’s board in that it’s overclocked and has a cooler with a silly name—Windforce. The board is clocked at the same base and boost clock speeds as the MSI card, too, running at 1,033MHz and 1,098MHz, respectively. The cooler features four copper heat pipes, aluminum fins, and two large 10cm fans breathing down on the whole shebang. Even though the board sports a smallish 7.5-inch PCB, the cooling apparatus is so large that it’s 2-inches longer than the PCB and extends the length of the card to 9.5 inches. With a cooler this large you expect it to perform quite well, and it does. It kept the card absolutely silent even when the board was being tortured in the Lab, and allowed it to run at a moderately cool 63 C under full load.

The board’s benchmark performance was good enough for it to edge out the MSI card in most tests, but by a margin that’s insignificant. Since both cards are clocked the same and spec’d the same, this level of parity is not surprising. On the software front, the included OC Guru II app is easy to use for monitoring the card’s vitals and overclocking, but the charts it provides showing change over time are hard to read due to teeny text. There’s also a “bundle” in the box but we are putting it in quotes because it’s so meager—a single Molex-to-PCIe adapter.

The biggest surprise with the Gigabyte card is its MSRP is $230—exactly the same price as a bone-stock GTX 660, so it’s like the extra overclocking and cooling are free. Since it offers roughly the same software, cooling, performance, and bundle as the MSI card, the price advantage is all we need to give the nod to Gigabyte in this round.

Gigabyte GTX 660 OC Version
GANGNAM STYLE

Great performance; quiet and cool; rock-bottom price.

OAKLAND STYLE

Minimum bundle.

$230, www.gigabyte.com

MSI GTX 660 Twin Frozr OC Edition

MSI’s overclocked GTX 660 sports a sexy metallic cooling shroud.

MSI’s GTX 660 is an all-around great card that includes a healthy dollop of overclocking and a side of Frozr to keep it cool. Its base clock speed is a decent 53MHz over stock at 1,033Mhz, and when running at full load we saw its boost clock speed rise 130MHz over stock to 1,110MHz, which is also higher than the stock boost-clock spec. The Twin Frozr III cooler sports three copper heat pipes, aluminum fins, and dual 8cm fans housed in a metal-alloy shroud to direct the airflow. Like the other GTX 660 cards, it uses just a single 6-pin power connector, but unlike the others it sports an extra-long 9-inch PCB (Gigabyte’s board is just 7.5 inches but the cooler is actually 9 inches long).

In testing, the MSI board ran neck-and-neck with Gigabyte’s similarly clocked offering, losing every test but one by a very slim margin. The cards were also a tied in the category of noise/cooling, as they both ran silently under full load at a mild 63 C. The MSI Afterburner software is usable but nothing to email home about and the board’s skimpy bundle consists of a single Molex-to-PCIe adapter along with the software CD.

Overall there’s a lot to like about MSI’s Twin Frozr OC Edition card. It’s quiet, cool, and performs very well, and we like the look of its gunmetal shroud and glinting metallic badge. However, the Gigabyte GTX 660 board performs just as well and is just as quiet, and since it costs $10 less, that’s enough to give Gigabyte the advantage. If you are an MSI fan and/or a Frozr aficionado, you can get the 660 OC Edition for the same $230 price via a mail-in rebate, but since we hate rebates we’d rather just go with the Gigabyte and get the savings at the virtual cash register.

MSI GTX 660 Twin Frozr OC Edition Version
SOLID STATE

Very quiet and cool; great performance.

ALTERED STATE

Tiny Bundle; $10 more than the Gigabyte card.

$240, www.msi.com

Benchmarks

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 4x AA and all settings maxed out, except for the 3DMark tests, and Shogun 2, which is run at 1080p High settings.

Specifications

*Note: Nvidia and AMD graphics compute cores are not directly comparable.

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