ASUS has jumped into the NVIDIA GTX 660 Ti market with five options to choose from within their Standard, OC, and TOP SKUs. The GTX 660 TI-DC2T-2GD5 is the version that landed on the review bench today; and it comes armed with a factory set overclock of 1059 MHz (GPU core), which is an impressive 144 MHz higher than the reference design. It gets even better when you look at the potential boost clock speed of 1137 MHz versus the 980 MHz that reference cards provide. Let’s find out how this video card stacks up against the competition as we run it through its paces!
Specifications and Features
With an overclocked GPU speed, a beefed up power delivery system, and of course, the DirectCU II cooler, this GTX 660 Ti is anything but a reference card. This is evidenced by the specifications below.
Specifications (as provided by ASUS)
Here is a screenshot of GPU-z confirming most of what is listed above:
The first set of features are what ASUS calls “Exclusive Innovations”. I’ll go along with that other than the 2 Gb GDDR5 claim, as there are many GTX 660 Ti video cards out there with 2 Gb GDDR5.
DirectCU thermal design utilizes direct contact copper heatpipes, so heat is dissipated efficiently, delivering a 20% cooler and vastly quieter performance than reference.
DIGI+ VRM with Super Alloy Power
Acclaimed DIGI+ VRM has been applied via a power design that uses digital voltage regulators to minimize power noise by 30% and enhance power efficiency by 15%, widen the voltage modulation range, and improve overall stability and longevity by 2.5 times longer than reference.
Gigantic 2GB GDDR5 Memory
On-board memory for the best gaming experience & the best resolution
The next set of features are more NVIDIA specific and are going to be common to any GTX 660 Ti:
Powered by NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 660 Ti
NVIDIA® Adaptive V-Sync
Get more than just faster frame rates. Get ultra-smooth gaming every time with NVIDIA gaming innovations – Adaptive Vertical Sync. This technology dynamically adjusts Vsync to current frame rates for maximum playability.
Multi-GPU technology for extreme performance
Delivers double the bandwidth per lane of PCIe Gen 2 for faster GPU-CPU communication.
NVIDIA® GPU Boost
Push the breathtaking performance of the GeForce GTX graphics cards to new levels with NVIDIA GPU Boost. This technology dynamically maximizes clock speeds to bring out the best performance in every game.
NVIDIA® PhysX® ready
Play games with advanced effects such as blazing explosions and lifelike characters with 10X faster switching between graphics and physics processing, enabling more complex effects to be rendered in real time.
NVIDIA® 3D Vision™ Surround Ready
Transform hundreds of PC games into stereoscopic 3D and enjoy immersive full HD 3D gaming across three displays at an incredible 5760×1080 resolution.
Microsoft® DirectX® 11 Support
DirectX 11 GPU-accelerated tessellation allows more detailed geometry to be packed into a scene, allowing characters to be rendered with cinema-quality detail.
ASUS Recommended System Requirements:
- 2 Gb System Memory or More For Best Performance.
- Motherboard With Free PCI Express Slot and Correct PCI-e Chipset Driver.
- Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Or Windows XP Operating system (32 or 64-Bit).
- Minimum 550 Watt System Power Supply With a Minimum of 38 Amps On The +12v Rail.
Packaging and Accessories
Something with a sharp set of claws got a hold of this box before I did, or the claw mark graphics on the front of the box sure make it look that way! Other than those claw marks, the rest of the box front is highlighted with a picture of the DirectCU II cooler and the mentioning of a few major features. There is very little real estate on the back of the box that goes unused. The features unique to ASUS are mentioned here, as well as the input/output connections. All of the box sides are reserved for additional branding and the system requirements.
A classy looking, black box with a gold colored ASUS logo is what greets you once inside the outer carton. Inside is a folded cardboard nest and anti-static wrap, which secures the GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP video card very well.
Once everything is taken out of the packaging, we get a look at everything included. Of course the video card itself is there, along with the limited accessories. A users manual, one 4-pin Molex to PCI-e power adapter, and a DVI to VGA adapter is all that’s included. There should have been a driver/software CD included, but it was missing from this package. Not having the CD is no big deal because most people will download the drivers and utilities anyway to ensure they have the latest versions.
Before we let the GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP get naked, here are some pictures from various angles to keep you occupied!
There are two 6-pin PCI-e power connections located on the top side of the card. I prefer the power leads on top, as opposed to the customary rear side area. What location works best for these power connections is most likely related to the case used and its cable management features. ASUS has also placed small red and green LED lights on the backside of the card just below each power connector. The green light will illuminate if power is correctly installed to the socket, or the red light will come on if you forget or incorrectly install a power lead.
Also located across the top of the card is a support brace, which runs the length of the PCB. This should help prevent any flexing of the video card when installed in a system.
The GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II has four monitor connections available; DVI-I, DVI-D, HDMI, and Display Port. For those using NVIDIA Surround, you should find this more than adequate.
A Closer Look/Under the Hood
Removing the DirectCU II cooling solution takes just a minute or so to accomplish. You simply remove the four screws located on the back of the card and the whole assembly comes right off. I found the application of thermal paste to be well applied and making good contact with the GPU core. Four more smaller screws are removed to separate the plastic shroud from the heatsink. There are two FirstD branded fans mounted to the shroud; I believe these fans to be of the 80 mm variety. ASUS claims five times quieter fan noise when compared to the reference design cooler, equating to a reduction of 9dB. I don’t have a reference design to compare against, but I can tell you that the DirectCU II is really quiet, almost to the point of being inaudible when at lower fan speeds.
As long as we are on the subject of fans, it’s worth noting the “ASUS Dust-Proof Fan” design used on the DirctCU II cooler. The fan’s housing and hub assembly is double sealed to prevent dust and particles from entering. ASUS says this design can increase the lifespan of the fans up to an additional 10,000 hours.
The heatsink assembly features three copper heatpipes that utilize a direct touch design. The three heatpipes travel through the aluminum block area and then weave their way forward and rearward through the aluminum fins. ASUS promises the DirectCU II will provide 20% better cooling performance over the reference design; and it’s easy to see why when looking at the heatsink alone. Add the dual fans to the mix and it looks like a solid cooling solution; we’ll find out for sure when we get to the testing phase.
In addition to the DirectCU II cooling apparatus, there has been another heatsink applied to the mosfet area. This heatsink is positioned under the forward most fan and will get excellent air flow because of that. As you can see by the pictures below, the mosfet heatsink thermal pad makes excellent contact with all the target areas.
As we move in closer to the power delivery area, we can see the six-phase GPU power design ASUS has applied to this card. This is an increase over the four-phase power delivery used on the reference design cards. DIGI+ VRM and Super Alloy Power (SAP) are big improvements to the power delivery system over the reference design, and good news for overclockers. The DIGI+ VRM feature will translate into a longer-lasting and overclocking friendly experience, due to the more precise and highly durable power delivery. ASUS claims this is possible through embedded digital settings, which adjust voltage according to different overclocking scenarios. According to ASUS, better power efficiency, stable overclocks, and lower EMI are also bi-products of the DIGI+ VRM design.
The SAP feature is a technology that was developed in house by ASUS and has been incorporated in many of the key components, such as the chokes, capacitors, and MOSFETs. The Super Alloy Chokes are filled with an alloy mixture which fills the hollow area found in most chokes. ASUS claims the alloy mixture filling will prevent any buzzing noise from being emitted. Additionally, ASUS says these chokes are reinforced with a “special” alloy formula and manufactured under a high temperature and pressure environment.
Author’s Note: ASUS provided additional information on the SAP Choke and Capacitor design. The ASUS SAP Choke has a power rating of 45A vs. the 35A reference design, better DC resistance (0.6+/-8%mOHM DCR MAX vs. reference design 0.737mOHM DCR MAX), and a smaller inductor dimension (10.7 X7.2 X7.0mm MAX vs. reference 10.54X7.5X8.9mm MAX) The SAP Capacitors provide a much improved 5000 hour lifespan compared to he reference design 2000 hours.
The Super Alloy Capacitors offer a higher temperature threshold of 75 °C compared to the 50 to 55 °C most other solid capacitors are rated for, and also provide a 30% higher maximum voltage threshold than traditional solid capacitors.
The Super Alloy MOS design is said to allow a 30% higher voltage threshold for the MOSFETs when compared to traditional/generic applications. The Super Alloy MOS has a rating of 35 V compared to the 25 V of a traditional MOS designs, and is further enhanced by using 3 V Super Alloy Capacitors versus the traditional 2.5 V.
SAP CAP is another feature worth mentioning and is located directly underneath the GPU. Placing the SAP CAPs back-to-back with the GPU provides a reduced distance, which should correlate to less voltage loss and less interference. ASUS says this is a noticeable improvement from other manufacturers’ cards, where these chips are typically located much farther away from the GPU, causing higher interference and higher voltage loss.
There are eight 256 Mb (2 Gb total) Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR memory chips applied to the card, six top side and two more on the back of the card. These GDDR5 memory modules are rated for 1.5 v and run at 1502 MHz (6008 MHz effective). By looking at the rear section of the video card, we see one additional power phase that I believe is for the memory power delivery.
The NVIDIA Kepler GK104 GPU is used on all GTX 660 Ti video cards, the same GPU core that the upper end GTX 670/680 use. Obviously, there has been some slimming down of things in order to keep the card in the affordable range. The CUDA cores being reduced to 1344, and the memory interface being dropped to 192-bit are the most notable differences between the GTX 660 Ti cards and their bigger brothers.
Performance and Overclocking
The factory preset base overclock of 1059 MHz GPU core is the highest I have seen since we started reviewing the GTX 660 Ti video cards. The EVGA and MSI cards previously reviewed came with base clocks of 980 MHz and 1019 MHz, respectively. Hopefully, we can push it a little further, but out of the box it has a pretty hefty overclock to start with.
- EVGA Z77 FTW (Oveclockers Approved!)
- G.SKILL Trident X (2 x 8 GB) DDR3 2400 F3-2400C10D-16GTX @ 18666 MHz 9-9-9-24
- Kingston 3K SSD 240 GB (Overclockers Approved!)
- Intel i7 3770K Processor @ 4.0 GHz (Overclockers Approved!)
- EVGA Superclock CPU Cooler
- Corsair HX1050 PSU
- ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP – 306.02 Drivers
Most of our regular readers are aware that our video card benchmarking method has been revamped, moving away from the P67/Z68 platform to a more modern Z77 platform. For more information on this topic please visit our “Updated Video Card Testing Procedure” page.
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run using the “extreme” setting
- Aliens vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
- Dirt 3 – 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
- Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
- Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, VSync OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, VSync off, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation set to high, Extreme Detail Level, PhysX Off
The ASUS GPU Tweak software allows the user to adjust GPU core speed, memory speed, and fan speeds. Additionally, GPU core voltage can be manipulated, along with the power target percentage. A nice feature of GPU Tweak is the ability to save up to six profiles. The monitoring portion of GPU Tweak provides the real time status of GPU temperatures, GPU usage percentage, GPU voltage, VID usage percentage, and a host of other values. The viewable GPU information is an integrated version of GPU-Z.
Overclocking is a bit different with GPU Tweak, as far as setting the GPU core speed goes; it’s done by increasing the boost clock. So, what you have to do is raise the boost clock and then see what that sets your GPU base clock to by using GPU-Z. It adds a step to the process, but it’s not a major issue. Due to the increased cost, and minimal overclocking gain to be had, ASUS decided not to add an IC for memory voltage adjustments. However, as you’ll see below it didn’t really hinder memory overclocking on this card.
Overclocking The ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP
Going into the overclocking phase I didn’t hold out much hope for increasing the GPU core much, mostly due to the hefty factory applied overclock from the start. I went for the gold and ramped up the GPU voltage (188 offset/1.175 V) and power target percentage (123%) to their maximum available within GPU Tweak. I was able to get the core up to 1112 MHz, which comes in at just a tad under 200 MHz faster than the 915 MHz offered by the reference design cards. I was quite surprised by how high I was able to overclock the memory. I was able to get to 1700 MHz (6800 effective), and that’s with no available voltage manipulation. Suffice to say, that’s a pretty darn hefty memory overclock!
As we are aware, the actual boot clock speed reported by GPU-Z is merely an average rating; so where exactly does the boost clock top out at when running a benchmark? In the overclocked run of HWBot Heaven shown above, the boost clock topped out well above the 1190 MHz reported by GPU-Z and reached 1333.1 MHz. I’d say that’s a pretty impressive number!
Armed with our 24/7 stable overclock, it’s time to run some benchmarks at the stock and overclocked settings. We have quite a variety of comparison cards in the graphs, including two GTX 660 Ti’s we recently reviewed from MSI and EVGA. The GTX 660 Ti cards are touted by NVIDIA as being direct competition for the AMD HD7870 series cards. We can check that claim out by comparing against the Sapphire HD 7870, also found in the graphs.
Our synthetic benchmarks consist of 3Dmark03, 3DMark11, 3DMark Vantage, and HWBot Heaven. As you look at the graphs below, keep in mind the percentage values are based on the non-overclocked review sample being the reference point. The number just under each percentage value is the actual score each graphics card received during testing.
3DMark03 is an oldie for sure, but it still does a nice job of scaling as GPU power increases. Remember though, this benchmark is pushing 10 years old; and the days when video card manufactures optimized their cards for good 3DMark03 results have long since past. For that reason, I wouldn’t put too much emphasis in the results, other than they are still fun to look as the scores increase from stock to overclocked. The ASUS card led the pack against the other two GTX 660 Ti cards at both stock and overclocked, but against the direct AMD HD 7870, it fell way behind. The overclocked score of 102473 came close to the GTX 670, but didn’t quite make it.
3DMark11 is next on the list of synthetic benchmarks. Looking at the results in the graph below, we still see the ASUS card leading the way against the other two GTX 660 Ti cards. Keep in mind though, the ASUS GTX 660 Ti is factory overclocked higher than the other two, so higher scores across the board won’t be too surprising. The overclocked results the ASUS 660 Ti shows are substantially above the GTX 670 at stock, which bodes well for GTX 670 performance with a little overclocking. The AMD HD 7870 card is totally annihilated by all three GTX 660 Ti cards in this benchmark. Even more surprising is the AMD HD 7950 results, which had trouble keeping up as well.
3DMark Vantage is the most demanding of all the benchmarks we use from Futuremark. It’s still a very valid benchmark because it uses DX10, which isn’t that old. Once again we see the ASUS card leading the way against the other GTX 660 Ti cards. The AMD HD 7950 and HD 7870 were both trounced at stock speeds, but the HD 7950 did win the overclocked battle. The scores were not too far off the GTX 670 either; it’s tough trying to catch the 256-bit memory interface the GTX 670 cards have.
HWBot Heaven is a DX11 benchmark that will quickly show any instabilities your video card may have. It takes a few minutes for this test to run, and it’s relentless the entire time. The added out-of-box core speed advantage the ASUS GTX 660 Ti has over its MSI and EVGA counterparts is apparent again. The direct competing AMD HD 7870 was no match against any of the GTX 660 Ti cards in this test. While the ASUS GTX 660 Ti was overclocked, it surpassed the AMD HD 7950 at its stock setting. Very nice!
Ok, enough of the fantasy land benchmarking; let’s get to some real world stuff. As mentioned above in the benchmarking methods section, we have six game benchmarks to run through. The first three are Aliens vs Predator, Batman: Arkham City, and Battlefield 3. Just as we saw in the synthetic benchmarks, I would expect the ASUS rendition of the GTX 660 Ti to be at the top of most of these benchmarks with it’s higher base clock. This certainly held true during the AvP benchmark, but not by a huge margin at stock settings. Overclocked however, the 51.20 FPS the ASUS GTX 660 Ti threw out was quite a bit above the competition, and that includes the AMD HD 7870.
Surprise, surprise… Look at the Batman; Arkham City results! The ASUS GTX 660 Ti managed to beat out its big brother, the ASUS GTX 670 for the first time. The 69 FPS, when overclocked, rivaled the stock AMD HD 7950, and put a whooping on the competing AMD HD 7870.
In Battlefield 3 the pecking order fell back in line against the GTX 670, but the domination over the AMD HD 7870 continued on. Once again the overclocked ASUS GTX 660 Ti surpassed the AMD HD 7950 at its stock setting.
Our final three game benchmarks include Civilization V, Dirt 3, and Metro 2033. In Civilization V it’s worth noting the ASUS GTX 660 Ti beat out the AMD HD 7950 at stock. The win was ever so slight, but still quite an accomplishment. The rest of the results fell in line with what we have seen so far, with yet another victory over the other GTX 660 Ti cards and the AMD HD 7870.
Dirt 3 once again showed the same pecking order as the results before it. This time however, the AMD HD 7950 showed its dominance at stock and overclocked settings. The overclocked ASUS GTX 660 Ti did manage to obtain AMD HD 7950 stock performance though. The competing AMD HD 7870 fell way behind here, as well.
One last game, and it’s a killer. Metro2033 consistently throws out the lowest FPS numbers in our testing suite. In fact, the only cards in our graph that manage a score above the magical 30 FPS are the GTX 680, GTX 670, and the HD 7950. Even those cards barely eclipse the 30 FPS threshold, giving testament to just how tough a benchmark it is. The ASUS GTX 660 Ti almost got to the 30 FPS when overclocked, but not quite. However, of all the cards that fell short of 30 FPS, it did come the closest.
To say the ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP performed well in our benchmarks would be an understatement. It bested the other GTX 660 Ti cards consistently because of its higher factory GPU clock speed; and it pretty much put the smack down on the competing AMD HD 7870. I’d say it’s pretty much a win all around for this segment of the market.
Cooling and Power Consumption
The DirectCU II cooling apparatus employed by ASUS does an outstanding job of balancing cooling performance with noise levels. As demand for quieter computer systems (yes, even amongst enthusiasts) becomes greater, the pressure is on video card manufactures to provide powerful GPU solutions that won’t bust an ear drum. When the fan control is set to the default “auto mode” setting in GPU Tweak, you have to listen hard to actually hear it. Even if you manually set the fan speed to 100%, it’s still not very loud. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the quietest GPU cooling fan I’ve ever heard running at 100%.
Our temperature testing is done with the card at idle and load with an ambient temperature normalized to 25 °C. We use HWBot Heaven and 3DMark11’s combined Physics test for load temperature results. Below is a graph depicting those results.
At idle, the ASUS GTX 660 Ti is right in line with the other cards in the graph. Once under full load, it does get warmer than the other cards in the comparison, but not by much. Keep in mind that clock speeds and voltage parameters play a large part in the load temperatures, and not all these values are the same for the cards in the comparison chart. I can tell you though, even under full load the fans never ramped up beyond 40% (1440 RPM). Just for grins, I ran the same tests again and manually set the fans to 60%. With that setting the temperatures were 60 °C during 3DMark11 and 58 °C during Heaven. The noise difference between 40% and 60% fan speed wasn’t noticeable, or at least to me it wasn’t.
Just as with the temperature testing, we monitor power consumption at idle, and then again under load using the same two benchmarks. The ASUS GTX 660 TI DirectCU II TOP provided no surprises here, never reaching 300 watt usage. Honestly, as efficient as the new video cards are today, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between any of them.
Pushing the Limits
It’s time to see if anything at all is left in this card beyond the impressive clock I already achieved during the benchmarking phase. I already know from previous testing the memory will not clock any higher on this card without stuttering beginning to occur. Not surprisingly, along with the stuttering comes a drastic drop in benchmark scores. So, this will be all about GPU and CPU core frequency increases.
I set the CPU to 5.0 GHz, the system memory to its rated 2400 MHz, and the GPU clock to 1150 MHz. 3DMark03 was able to complete the task at hand, and came up with a much improved score of 107510.
Unfortunately, 3DMark11 and 3DMark Vantage were having no part of the 1150 MHz GPU core speed. I even tried dropping the GPU core down to 1122 MHz, but to no avail. It looks like the 1112 MHz setting I found for the benchmark charting was right at the limit for this card. I’m not surprised though given the hefty out-of-the-box speed this card offers. I went ahead and ran both 3DMark11 and 3DMark Vantage at my known stable settings for the video card, and kept the CPU ramped up to 5.0 GHz. 3DMark11 finished with another nice gain at 10019; and Vantage also came in substantially higher, with a score of 34221.
So, there you have it. Couple some GPU overclocking with some CPU overclocking, and the ASUS GTX 660 TI DirectCU II TOP can toss out some great numbers!
Because of the stout factory overclock applied to the ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCU TOP cards, each sample has to be hand binned to ensure they will run trouble free at those clocks. This of course takes more time and will result in limited availability at times. Normally we would link to an online eTailer for pricing, but at this particular moment in time they are tough to find (read sold out). ASUS tells me more are on the way and they will be priced in the $320 to $330 price range. That price puts it right in line with other factory overclocked GTX 660 Ti cards on the market. When you consider the reference design cards are selling for $299, the price seems even better.
The most obvious advantage this card has over the competition is its higher GPU core speed, which is the highest we have seen to date here at Overclockers. From a performance standpoint, its overclocked GPU core really shined in our benchmark testing; consistently beating out the other two GTX 660 Ti cards and AMD’s competing HD 7870. The power delivery system does its job nicely and afforded a decent amount of overclocking, especially on the memory side of things. In auto mode, the DirectCU II cooler does a great job of keeping the card cool at almost inaudible noise levels.
I’m really struggling to find something I don’t like about this card. It’s fast, it’s cool, it beats the competition, and best of all its affordable. I would definitely recommend this card to anyone looking for a GTX 660 Ti video card. Great job on this one ASUS!
Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means
– Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)