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NVIDIA is rounding out their Kepler lineup today, releasing their mid-range GTX 660 Ti. We’re taking our first look at it courtesy EVGA’s GTX 660 Ti SC (Superclocked) card.
When you’re done with this review, be sure to head over and check out our other launch-day review of MSI’s GTX 660 Ti Power Edition.
Introducing the NVIDIA GTX 660 Ti GPU
Before getting to the card itself, we were part of a conference call with NVIDIA to talk about their new baby. Since the Kepler launch, they’ve released high-end card after high-end card and they say they’ve been bombarded with constant requests for a new mid-range offering like the GTX 560 Ti. Gamers want their price-for-performance and they thought the GTX 660 Ti was going to be it. Now that it’s here, NVIDIA thinks they’ve answered that call.
One of the first things NVIDIA points out in their press kit is that PC gaming is doing quite well, thank you very much. PC game software is projected to be a $22+ billion industry in 2015, an increase of almost five billion over 2012 projections. The next time someone tells you “PCs are dying”, tell them to get their nose out of their iPad for a minute and look at the rest of the world.
The GTX 660 Ti GPU is based off the same Kepler GK104 silicon we’ve seen in the GTX 670 and 680. Stock base clock and boost clock are much lower than what you’ll see in overclocked cards on the market, with some models coming in with over 1 GHz base clock. The 660 Ti has one less SMX unit than the GTX 680 and shares the same number of CUDA cores as the GTX 670. One big difference is the memory bus, which has been dropped to 192-bit. Even so, the cards will come with 2 GB of memory clocked at a very respectable 6008 MHz.
NVIDIA wouldn’t release a card without showing some numbers of their own and here they’ve compared it to the direct competition – the HD 7870 (we’ll be doing the same). In the games they’ve chosen, you can see there are healthy increases across the board in NVIDIA’s internal testing.
Impressively, the same game list shows the GTX 660 Ti actually beating out the higher-priced HD 7950.
One thing NVIDIA stressed in their call with the press was TXAA. Essentially, it’s MSAA with post processing borrowed from the film industry. Combined, they do add a lot of ambient realism to titles that use it. While screenshots can show the difference somewhat, it’s in video that the real benefits come to light, thus we share this video NVIDIA was kind enough to supply.
It’s certainly better looking and anything that adds eye candy is a welcome addition.
The GTX 660 Ti is not a new architecture, so there isn’t a whole lot of detail to go into on the GPU itself. Suffice to say, Kepler has already proven a worthy competitor to Tahiti. The GTX 660 Ti is here to fill out the middle-of-the-road offering to the existing line, and we’re here to see if it holds its own.
As a side note, if anyone is in the market for the GTX 660 Ti after you read this review, NVIDIA has partnered with the game studio that produced Borderlands 2 to supply a free copy of the game to anyone purchasing any GTX 660 Ti-based card from major e-tailers (Newegg is included in that list).
EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked Features & Specifications
EVGA’s GTX 660 Ti Superclocked card is actually one of the lower-clocked of the overclocked GTX 660 Ti offerings launching today, with a base clock of 980 MHz and a boost clock of 1059 MHz. The 2 GB of GDDR5 memory is clocked at reference 6008 MHz.
There will be a reference EVGA card for $10 less than this card with the reference 915 MHz base / 980 MHz boost. While you can expect reference cards from most manufacturers, if the press documentation from NVIDIA is any indication, overclocked cards will be the norm for the GTX 660 Ti lineup. Here is this overclocked card’s stock GPUz screenshot.
Like the GTX 670 before it, the specifications don’t exactly tell the whole story when it comes to boost clocks. Recording frequency via GPUz for a run of 3DMark 11 showed the card’s normal boost frequency to actually be quite a bit higher at a very nice 1175 MHz.
One important “feature” of EVGA cards is their excellent warranty. EVGA has rolled out a new Global Warranty policy and it contains some changes customers have been seeking.
- Most EVGA products now carry a 3 Year Warranty (also upgradable to 5 or 10 years upon registration).
- Product warranty covers the product, not the user.
- Registration is no longer required for RMAs with our Guest RMA process.
- Step-Up and Extended Warranties will be available for all original owners registered with the new global RMA system within 30 days of the purchase.
- If you move, you can send your product back to your local warranty center no matter what region you purchased it in.
- A new Standard Cross-Shipping RMA service is available.
- More details about the warranty can be found here.
One of those points most important for many of our readers is that the “product warranty covers the product, not the user”, so all of you who like to resell your cards can use that as a selling point.
Packaging & Accessories
EVGA has a good looking box that feels minimalistic, but just flashy enough. I’m a big fan of the carbon fiber look, both on the box and the card itself.
The card comes encased in molded plastic that protects it quite well in shipping.
The Superclocked version comes with several accessories. You get the typical manual, quick start guide and reference sheets. There are also three stickers, two with EVGA’s “enthusiast built” logo (one for black cases, one for white) and a carbon fiber & silver case badge. There is also an EVGA poster that’s not photographed.
As far as electronics go, with the lower wattage PSU requirement for the GTX 660 Ti, it’s reasonable to think not everyone’s PSU will come with two six-pin PCIe power connectors. EVGA thought ahead and included two MOLEX-to-six pin PCIe adapters to help with that. They’ve also included a DVI-to-VGA adapter for those with older monitors.
It’s a solid accessory stack for this level of card. One thing that isn’t here is a driver CD, which will ship with the final versions. Ours doesn’t include one because NVIDIA hadn’t released the final driver until a day after the card shipped last week.
Meet the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC GPU
Now we get to see the main event – the EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked GPU. It’s a good looking card all around, with a nice carbon fiber and brushed metal look.
Of course, none of my reviews are complete without copious amounts of photos! Enjoy the glamour shots.
It’s a good looking card all around. While the shroud is plastic, it pulls off the brushed-metal plus carbon fiber look successfully.
At their price point, these will probably be a strong candidate for SLI in quite a few builds. If you look back at the side view, you can see EVGA has gently sloped the cooler at the fan to allow air to get between cards, even if your PCIe slots are close together. In the same photo, you can also see the dual 6-pin PCIe power connectors.
One thing more observant readers will notice is the presence of two SLI connectors. NVIDIA confirmed the GTX 660 Ti can indeed run in tri-SLI. This is an interesting and welcome choice, considering the previous cards at this level in the last couple of years (GTX 560 Ti & GTX 460) could only run dual-card SLI.
Enough talking about the exterior though, let’s rip this thing apart!
Under the Hood
You saw it in NVIDIA’s specifications, but here’s photographic verification that the GTX 660 Ti comes complete with four video outputs – two DVI (one DVI-I, one DVI-D), one HDMI and one DisplayPort.
Tearing into the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC, in addition to plenty of screws holding the cooler on, you can see it comes with a pressure bracket on the rear to hold the GPU cooler snug against the GPU.
Like the reference GTX 670, the GTX 660 Ti is not a full-length PCB card, stopping about 2/3 of the way down the cooler. Some manufacturers will take advantage of this with non-reference coolers that are about the same length as the card. While these are beneficial if card length is an issue, they will exhaust the hot air into your case (which can be a problem in SFF -Small Form Factor- builds).
EVGA’s method extends the card a bit with the cooler, but pumps the hot exhaust right out of the case, which is a boon to SFF cooling. SFF water builds will also benefit from the GTX 660 Ti’s diminutive size.
The front and back of the packed PCB is well assembled with no visible flaws. While NVIDIA says there actually are differences between the GTX 670 and GTX 660 PCB, the normal person would be hard pressed to actually find them.
You can see four blank memory sockets in addition to the eight (six front, two back) filled with chips. Some manufactures (including EVGA) will be producing models with 3 GB of memory instead of the reference 2 GB. EVGA’s cards will cost you an extra $30 for the extra gigabyte of memory.
Moving on to the cooler, you can see it is made with a small copper and aluminum slug inside the plastic fan shroud. The cooler is secure inside and has anti-vibration dampening around it to keep things quiet. As you can see though, it is removable.
EVGA has chosen to use the reference cooler for this card, with a shroud of their own design. There’s definitely not much to this cooler, but it’s light and efficient for what it is. In a world with vapor chambers and heatpipes galore, you can’t help but be a little disappointed – ok, a lot disappointed – with this heatsink’s build. There is at least a small slug of copper to more efficiently pull the heat from the GPU and put it into the aluminum, but that’s it.
I’d strongly prefer to have seen a vapor chamber here, but not to be unfair, this GPU is cool running and doesn’t need one with the currently available power target control limit and no voltage control. With a TDP as small as the card itself – 150 W – this will be adequate, if not particularly great, to cool the GPU.
Thus, be prepared to use the fan control in PrecisionX to keep your GPU at reasonable temperatures. Thankfully, for a squirrel cage fan design, it isn’t very loud at all.
On the plus side, there is a nice and large aluminum heatsink on the power section to keep it plenty cool while it does its job. The heatsink interface is a thermal pad and there is good contact throughout.
The power section on this reference card consists of six total phases. There are four phases to power the GTX 660 Ti GPU and two (with less impressive chokes as a cost-saving measure) to power the GDDR5 memory.
Now we get to the GTX 660 Ti GPU itself. Based on the same GK104 silicon as the GTX 670 and GTX 680 before it, the GTX 660 Ti comes complete with seven SMX units, 1344 CUDA cores (the same number of CUDA cores as the GTX 670), 112 texture units and 24 ROPs. The memory bus is reduced to 192-bit in the GTX 660 Ti and comes with 2 GB of 6008 MHz, GDDR5 Hynix memory.
So far we have a card that sure looks like it will pack a pretty strong punch in a very small, efficient package. Let’s install it and see what we can do with it!
The test setup for this review includes an ASUS motherboard, 3770K Ivy Bridge CPU and G.Skill Ripjaws X memory.
|MB||ASUS Maximus V GENE|
|RAM||G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-2133|
|GPU||EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC|
|OS||Windows 7 Professoinal x64|
The cards we’re comparing have been tested at the same settings, but on different motherboards per the Overclockers’ Updated Video Card Testing Procedure.
|EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked|
|Sapphire HD 7870 Flex Edition|
|Powercolor PCS+ HD 7850|
|HIS 7950 IceQ Turbo|
|ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP|
|MSI GTX 680 Lightning|
|AMD HD 6990|
Some solid competition in the hole for you today, from slightly below the GTX 660 Ti’s targeted 7870 to the top of the line Kepler lineup.
It fits the mATX Maximus V GENE like a glove.
EVGA has a nice software suite to go with their cards. OC Scanner helps you flesh out stability of your card and benchmark it at the same time. It also comes with EVGA NV-Z, which is similar to GPU-z, but has more graphical flavor and a lot more detail about your card.
PrecisionX has come a long way since they introduced it a few years ago, from the small, rectangular program with a couple sliders of yesteryear to the souped-up GUI you see today. They even have a custom GTX 660 Ti skin for your viewing pleasure. MSI Afterburner seems to be an overclocker favorite, but PrecisionX does a great job holding its own. Had I an EVGA card, this is the program I’d use to overclock it.
One thing that I didn’t screenshot is the available fan curve control. You can see the button in the lower right in the fan speed section. There, you can control at what temperature your fan spins up to what speed percentage. As mentioned before, you are definitely going to want to use this feature to keep your GPU cooler than the default BIOS prefers.
Working together, you can see PrecisionX handling the overclocking, OC Scanner torturing the card with the fuzzy E and NV-Z monitoring it all.
Solid software to go with what looks like a stout little card. Time to start seeing how it performs!
Cooler Performance & Power Consumption
Now we get started with performance testing. Before seeing how many FPS the card can muster, we’ll check out how hot it can get and how many watts it pulls. Temperatures are measured using the default fan profile on a given card. Boot into OS, run benchmark, record results.
As you can see, the temperature at idle is fine but it heats up to zomg-it’s-hot levels in short order. One thing to note is that the actual temperatures on the card were 75.0 °C in both tests; the numbers here are adjusted for ambient. If ambient was 25 °C on the dot, I’m reasonably certain the card would have been at 75 °C. This appears to be a function of the card’s BIOS programming – once it gets to 75 °C, it adjusts fan speed to make sure temps don’t go any higher.
While that’s okay per the GPU’s specifications, I’d prefer to keep it a bit cooler. Remember what I was saying about using PrecisionX to control the fan’s speed with a custom fan curve? This is why.
In the interests of full disclosure, after extended running at 75 °C, I actually saw artifacting when benchmarking. This was due to a single board defect. NVIDIA is taking the card to investigate and having EVGA ship a replacement. Rest assured, if this is a problem, you’ll hear about it in the comments. For now, we can chalk it up to a single card that has a defect that causes artifacting below its rated 98 °C thermal threshold. Repeat: This is a one-off defect and no GTX 660 Ti card should experience any issues below its rated threshold.
In any case, the card is efficient enough to run cooler and the heatsink can cool it just fine, so for heaven’s sake, cool the poor thing! With PrecisionX, I could use a fan curve to keep the GPU much happier in the mid-sixty’s no problem. The temperatures here are not a factor of the less-than-stellar cooling solution, which really is up to the task. Rather, they are a factor of the card’s BIOS preferring silence to temperature control. The fan isn’t even that loud. (Even if it was, we’re overclockers…lower temps are > absolute quiet most of the time!)
Enough about temperatures though. One thing NVIDIA is proud of with this card is its efficiency, and indeed it is quite impressive.
The GTX 670 sipped power, but this one barely drinks any at all. In both tests, power consumption comes in over 30 W lower than the GTX 670. The wattage drops in Heaven and 3DMark 11 equate to 14% and 11%, respectively. That’s quite impressive by any standards, especially if it performs near the levels of its big brother.
What’s most impressive is that you could run a full on Ivy Bridge system with a good GPU (at 4 GHz) with a meager -but quality!- 450 W PSU and have plenty of room to spare for overclocking.
Like the Kepler cards that come before it, overclocking these will be mostly a factor of the quality of the GPU itself. There is no voltage control to speak of, just the same +23% Power Target adjustment (at least on this card; some, like the MSI card Lvcoyote reviewed, do have minor voltage control available).
Cranking the power target up to 123% did allow a surprising overclock though, especially for this tier of card. The GTX 660 Ti SC managed a +120 MHz GPU overclock and a +100 MHz memory overclock.
After monitoring throughout testing runs, what those offsets really mean in practical use is an effective boost clock of 1263 MHz. That’s very impressive; indeed it was more than expected from an already overclocked card.
So now we know how hot it gets, how much wattage it pulls and how far it’ll clock for 24/7 stable use. It’s time to see how the GTX 660 Ti performs!
Before getting into real-world game usage, we’ll have a look at some synthetic tests. By the way, all of the tests you’ll see are run according to our video card testing procedure mentioned earlier.
The first test is an oldie but a goodie. It’s long in the tooth, but still does a solid job of showing GPU power, especially multi-card scaling. That said, remember, it’s old…nobody optimizes cards for this specifically any more. While it’s going to be good to show these for the benchmarking crowd, don’t focus too much on 03.
Well, a 3DMark03 powerhouse it is not. It does show a stark difference from its bigger brethren and itself though. While the GTX 670 DirectCU II was within spitting distance of the GTX 680 Lightning, the GTX 660 Ti SC comes in about 15% less than the GTX 670 (11% when overclocked).
Moving on to something more modern -people do still use DX10 games after all-, we have 3DMark Vantage.
Well look at that; the GTX 660 Ti shows an impressive gain over its targeted competition (that’s the HD 7870, for anyone not paying attention). It straight up trounces the HD 7870 and even beats the HD 7950…at stock! Overclocked just brightens the outlook, bringing it close to the GTX 670.
Here it goes, rocking the competition again. This is no mere inching above the HD 7870, it’s a two thousand point walloping. It beats the HD 7950 handily as well. Overclocked comes very near to the GTX 670.
In this last of the synthetic tests, again we see the GTX 660 Ti SC taking the 7870 to the house. It’s closer, but even the overclocked HD 7870 can’t get to the stock GTX 660 Ti. The HD 7950 flexes its muscle a bit in this one and the rest of the GTX line is a bit out of reach here.
On to the real world, where we’ll see how the newbie performs in our six game tests. All of the settings for these tests are found in the testing procedure article, but quickly, everything here is run at 1920 x 1080 (1080p) with all eye candy maxed out.
In alphabetical order, we begin with the Aliens vs. Predator DX11 Bench.
Here the market target is dead on, with the HD 7870 just edging out the GTX 660 Ti. The HD 7950 and GTX 670 are both in their proper market segment as well.
Things swing the other way in Batman: Arkham City, with the HD 7870 on the just-shorter-end of the stick. Here again, we see the GTX 660 Ti very close to the GTX 670. Bear in mind, there is a pretty strong stock overclock on the ASUS GTX 670 Direct CUII TOP as well, so keeping up with that card is more impressive than it may seem at first.
As a side note, NVIDIA requested I run Batman: Arkham Asylum at 4x MSAA instead of our typical 8x just to see what happened. It was impressive, coming in at 84 FPS with the card at stock. Truthfully, I’m hard pressed to tell the difference between 4x and 8x MSAA at 1080p. You might be able to see it if you focus on certain aspects in a scene and take a screenshot, but who’s going to do that? No, you’re going to play the game, and with MSAA turned down to 4x, you will get very high framerates.
Battlefield 3 shows the GTX 660 Ti strongly overtaking the HD 7870 and even approaching the HD 7950 when overclocked. There’s no question which card is better for the Battlefield 3 gamer.
Civilization V shows another strong GTX 660 Ti performance over the HD 7870. Strangely, this card lost a tad when overclocked. I ran the bench again to verify and the result remained the same.
Dirt 3 really likes this card, with another solid win over the HD 7870. While some benchmarks and games show the GTX 660 Ti keeping up with its big brother, I think the pattern we’re seeing shows that they are appropriately in their market segments.
Last, but not least, is the GPU torturing Metro 2033. Rarely will you find a game that tests GPUs as much as this one. People used to ask “But can it play Crisis?”…more appropriate now is “But can it play Metro?” Here the GTX 660 Ti comes out just ahead at stock and just behind overclocked, neck and neck with the HD 7870.
While the card with a target on its back (HD 7870) and the GTX 660 Ti traded blows, I think four wins, one narrow loss (AvP) and one draw (Metro 2033) show the GTX 660 Ti coming out pretty clearly ahead in its market segment.
NVIDIA Surround Testing
These tests were run simply because I have the ability. Make no mistake, if you want to run Surround at good quality, you will need two of these. Additionally, if you’re going to run Surround, the reduced 192-bit memory bus is going to come into play at 5760 x 1080 resolution (at which these tests were run, with all eye candy maxxed).
As you can see, the GTX 670 comes out a good bit ahead, relatively speaking. The memory bus issue is a big one with Surround. While it will “run” the games, memory will be a problem.
For instance, when loading up Civilization V, you can actually watch the late game view bench being drawn. Some of the characters show up, with a majority of the screen just gray boxes everywhere. Then, over the next six to eight seconds or so, you watch as the screen draws itself, right-to-left quickly about an eighth of the vertical screen each. Bottom to top so you see approximately eight right-to-left sweeps as it builds the scene into memory.
That’s the most stark example, but it shows that the memory bus does indeed come into play when you’re talking about moving into a Surround setup.
Pushing the Envelope
Before we’re finished, it’s always fun to push a card to its absolute limit. With NVIDIA’s Kepler cards, there isn’t any real voltage to add per se, but when benchmarking, you can usually squeeze a little bit over a 24/7 stable overclock. Oh, and we’ll crank the CPU up to 5.0 GHz as well for good measure.
From oldest to newest, 3Dmark03 will start us off, completing with an overclock of +145 MHz on the GPU and +125 on the memory for a much improved score of 103624.
3DMark Vantage was the least of the three benchmarks here, completing at +130 GPU / +120 memory for a nice 33876 3D marks.
Last up is 3DMark 11, which completed slightly higher than Vantage, with a final overclock of +140 GPU / +120 memory. The GTX 660 Ti couldn’t quite break the 10,000 mark, but it was awfully close.
Overall some impressive numbers for a card in its price range and market segment.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
The GTX 660 Ti – specifically, the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC – is a very strong little GPU. It has low power consumption and by many measures, gives a thorough beat-down to the competition’s HD 7870, occasionally even coming out ahead of the more expensive HD 7950.
Didn’t I mention price yet? This particular version (Superclocked) has an MSRP of just $309.99, right where it should be for this sweet spot, mid-range card. EVGA has a six-card range coming out. There will be the stock-clocked card at $299.99 and one higher-clocked card, the FTW, coming in at $329.99. In addition to those three, there are three identical models equipped with 3 GB of memory. To get the 3GB card prices, you simply add $30 to the purchase price of the three cards mentioned earlier.
The competition’s HD 7870 sells right now for anywhere from $269.99 to $359.99, making the GTX 660 Ti perfectly positioned to jump into the market at its price and performance level. Given an identically priced HD 7870, I’d gladly recommend the GTX 660 Ti over it. The performance gain is just too good to pass up if they are priced the same. Even with a deep discount to $250 with rebate on some HD 7870s, the performance gain should make you at least consider shelling out the extra fifty bucks.
In the press call with NVIDIA, they stressed that they wanted to design a card at a reasonable price that can play pretty much any game at 1080p with all the eye candy you could want. In that, they have definitely succeeded with the GTX 660 Ti. The only game in our test suite you couldn’t play with every setting cranked at 1080p is Metro 2033, and we all know that’s pure torture on any GPU.
Now, specific to the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC, I’m admittedly a little torn. The warranty EVGA offers is worth a lot in itself, so you have to take that into consideration. What doesn’t exactly enthrall me is the cooler. It’s my biggest – indeed my only – hangup about this card. If other manufacturers were charging high premiums for cards with better coolers on them it wouldn’t give me pause, but at least ASUS is offering a card with a DirectCU II cooler for merely $5 more. MSI pricing is likely similar for their better cooler too.
There is one big plus to this kind of cooler that you won’t get with the others – the GPU’s hot air is exhausted right out of your case. There is definitely something to be said for that, especially for anyone with a SFF build. So that’s a decision I leave to you – if you want an upgraded cooler, look elsewhere. If you’re ok with a squirrel-cage-fan style cooler, this is a very solid card that will treat you well. Remember, this card is efficient and the cooler it ships with will keep it as cool as you need it to for safe operation. However, I do wish EVGA would consider coming out with something in between this and a water block, for all levels of card.
After thinking long and hard about the cooler though, you definitely need to consider EVGA’s solid service and excellent warranty. Considering that, plus the card’s great performance for its price leads me to easily call the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC and, indeed, the GTX 660 Ti itself, Overclockers Approved.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the GTX 660 Ti, be sure to go check out Lvcoyote’s review of the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition!