MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X Review

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Today we have the second iteration of Nvidia’s pared down Turing Die, the GTX 1660. After the initial Turing launch and pricing, many felt it was too steep of a price to pay for the new architecture. Nvidia answered with their GTX line of Turing based GPUs. They don’t have the Tensor cores or Ray Tracing but do include many of the new Turing features which were covered in our GTX 1660 Ti review.  The goal was to release an affordable, yet capable, GPU for the 1080p gaming crowd which according to Steam’s statistics is nearly two-thirds of modern gamers. We have the MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X on the test bench, so let’s turn up the eye candy and see how the GTX 1660 handles itself!

Specifications

We are able to see in the specifications table below the GTX 1660 uses the TU116-300. This sample from MSI has the “A” designation which Nvidia has binned and will allow for factory overclocks. The TU116-300 sports a total of 1408 CUDA Cores with 48 ROPs and 88 Texture units on the back end. As we can see, this sample from MSI has a base clock of 1530 MHz and a boost of 1860 MHz which is higher than the reference cards at 1500 MHz and 1770 MHz respectively.

For memory, we have 6 GB of Micron GDDR5 on a 192-bit bus. The base speed on the Gaming X is 2000 MHz which yields 192.1 GB/s bandwidth. There are no plans for any 3 GB versions. This MSI version also has a slightly elevated TDP of 130 W compared to 120 W for the reference model.

Last but not least, pricing on this card will start at $249.99 which is well under the RTX 2060 at $349 and just $30 less than the GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X. It’s still $50 more than the average AMD RX 580 price these days which has slipped below $200. This is making the $200-$300 price range much more competitive.

MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X Specifications
Core TU116-300
CUDA Cores 1408
Tensor Cores N/A
RT Cores N/A
GPU Base Clock 1530 MHz
GPU Boost Clock 1860 MHz (1935 MHz actual)
Frame Buffer 6GB GDDR5
Memory Interface 192-bit
Memory Clock  2000 MHz
Memory Bandwidth 192.1 GB/s
ROPs 48
Texture Units 88
Texture Fillrate (Gigatexels /sec) 157
GigaRays /sec N/A
Compute (TFlops) 10
L2 Cache Size 1536k
TDP (Watts) 120W / (130W Gaming X)
Price  MSRP $249.99

GPUz

Below we can see what GPUz says about the GPU with a shot showing the full boost while running 3DMark Time Spy.

Features

The Geforce GTX 1660 Gaming X uses MSI’s improved Twin Frozr 7 thermal design which they say offers a 13% improvement in cooling over their previous generation. It’s also equipped with dual Torx 3.0 fans with specially curved blades said to accelerate airflow and increase the static pressure to push air through the heatsink. The fin array has also been improved using Airflow Control Technology to guide the air over the heat pipes and create more surface area dissipating more heat. MSI has incorporated MOSFET and memory cooling as well as using a premium thermal compound to round out their improved cooling solution.

If silence is your thing, the card supports Zero Frozr technology which eliminates fan noise by keeping them off in low load situations (under 60 °C). When running, the Torx fan blades are nearly silent even at 50% which kept the card at 55 °C under load while overclocked.

The GTX 1660 Gaming X also uses a custom 4+2 phase PCB design along with a single 8-pin PCIe power connector. This will give the card a total of 200 W of available power. In this case, it is plenty as the card is 130 W and has a 7% power limit increase.

We also have RGB LEDs located above and below each fan, as well as the MSI logo, the gaming dragon and Twin Frozr 7 naming along the outside edge which would be visible in the standard orientation in a case. These can be controlled by their RGB Mystic light software as stand-alone or in conjunction with other Mystic light compatible peripherals.


Twin Frozr 7 Thermal Design

  • Airflow Control Technology: The airflow is led directly onto the heat pipes while simultaneously creating more surface area for the air to absorb more heat before leaving the heatsink.
  • Smooth Heatpipes: 6mm copper square shaped heat pipes to maximize heat transfer
  • Concentrated Heatpipes: The copper heat pipes running through the massive array of aluminum fins are the key to spreading the heat along the full length of the heatsink. At the point where they touch the base and collect the heat, they are consolidated as close as possible for maximum effect.
  • MOSFET Cooling: A cooling plate connected directly to the heatsink keeps the power components cool.
  • Premium Thermal Compound: Unique thermal compound provides maximum conductivity.

Zero Frozr

First introduced in 2008 by MSI, ZERO FROZR technology stops the fans completely when temperatures are relatively low, eliminating all fan noise when no cooling is needed. When the heat is on during gaming, the fans will automatically start spinning again to keep your powerhouse cool.

Custom PCB

Tailored 4+2 phase PCB design using high-quality components with one 8-pin connector for higher overclocking.

RGB Mystic Light

A new beta version was distributed for review which MSI purports to improve the general user interface and ease of use in general.

Retail Packaging and Accessories

MSI’s retail packaging for the card is mostly black with NVIDIA green. The card make is in the bottom right corner with MSI’s model, Gaming X, in the bottom left and placed prominently in the middle is a picture of the card itself. The back of the package lists some specifications and features showing off the Twin Frozr 7 cooling capabilities. Opening up the box owners are greeted by the accessories envelope. Below that we’ll find the card sitting comfortably and securely inside an anti-static bag and form-fitting foam. MSI includes a driver disk, quick user’s guide, coasters, and “Lucky the Dragon” booklet for installation and MSI Afterburner directions.

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Meet the MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X

MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X

Our first look at the card up close shows the two large Torx 3.0 fans as the biggest feature both of which have the MSI Dragon in the center. The shroud is black with angular grey accents around the fans. Above and below the fans are translucent strips for the RGB LEDs. The MSI GTX 1660 with its black and grey shroud and grey/gunmetal full-length backplate should easily fit in with any build theme.

A Closer Look

The 1660 Gaming X includes the typical outputs for Turing based cards with three DisplayPorts and one HDMI output but forgoes USB-C. There is also a styled vent for letting some airflow out of the case. Power is handled by a single 8-pin PCIe power lead.

Taking the heatsink off the card exposes the custom 4+2 phase VRM using OnSemiconductor 45 A MOSFETs. The heatsink itself has three heat pipes meandering through the fin array and coming together in the nickel plated base. The rear bank of memory is fully covered while the bottom two ICs are partially covered with thermal tape. Both sets of memory and the MOSFETs make direct contact with the heatsink for best cooling.

Below is a closeup of the power bits, Micron GDDR5, and the TU116-300 DIE.

MSI GTX 1660 on the test bench…

MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X

Test System and Benchmark Methods

Our test system is based on the latest mainstream Intel platform, Z370, and uses the i7-8700K 6c/12t CPU. The CPU is overclocked to 4.7 GHz on all cores/threads with cache set to 4.3 GHz. The clock speeds used provides a good base to minimize any limitations the CPU may have on our titles, particularly when using the lower resolutions, and should be attainable with a good air cooler or better. The DRAM is in a 2×8 GB configuration at 3200 MHz with CL15-15-15-35-2T timings which is a middle of the road option that balances performance and cost.

Test System Components
Motherboard ASUS ROG Maximus X APEX
CPU Intel i7 8700K @ 4.7 GHz / 4.3 GHz Cache
CPU Cooler EVGA CLC 240
Memory 2×8 GB G.Skill Trident Z 3200 MHz CL15-15-15-35
SSD Toshiba OCZ TR200 480 GB (OS + Applications)
Power Supply EVGA 750 W G3
Video Card MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X (419.35 BETA drivers)

Thanks go out to EVGA for providing the CLC 240 CPU Cooler and 750 W G3 Power Supply to cool and power the system, G.Skill for the Trident Z DRAM, and Toshiba OCZ for the 480 GB TR200 SSDs storage running the OS, benchmarks, and games. With our partners helping out, we are able to build matching test systems to mitigate any differences found between using different hardware. This allows for multiple reviewers in different locations to use the same test system and compare results without additional variables.

   

Below are the tests we run with a brief description of the settings. We have made some significant changes since the last update adding a few new titles and dropping some of the older games. More details can be found in the GPU Testing Procedure article which we have updated with our latest benchmarks.

  • UL 3DMark Time Spy – Default settings
  • UL 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) – Default settings
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider – DX12, “Highest” preset (will add RTX when it has been patched)
  • The Division – DX12, Ultra preset, VSync Off
  • Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation – DX12, Crazy preset, GPU focused
  • Far Cry 5 – Ultra defaults
  • F1 2018 – Very High defaults, TAA, and x16 AF, Australia track, show FPS counter
  • World of Tanks: Encore Benchmark – Ultra defaults
  • Battlefield V  – DX12, Ultra defaults

Synthetic Benchmarks

Our first set of benchmarks hail from Underwriters Laboratories who acquired Futuremark back in 2014. Earlier in 2018, a rebrand occurred and since that time, Futuremark is now UL. The benchmarks have not changed, just the name. We chose to stick with 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) and 3DMark Time Spy as these tests give users a good idea of performance on modern titles.

3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) is a DX11-based test which UL says the graphics are rendered with detail and complexity far beyond other DX11 benchmarks and games. This benchmark runs at 1920×1080. 3DMark Time Spy is a DX12 benchmark designed for Windows 10 PCs. It supports new API features such as asynchronous compute, explicit multi-adapter, multi-threading, and runs at 2560×1440 resolution.

The MSI 1660 Gaming X scored 6180 in 3DMark Fire Strike and 5854 in Time Spy. This puts the card about 12% behind the 1660 Ti in Time Spy (a more modern benchmark) at stock but once overclocked it really narrows the gap. The AMD RX 580 is kind of mixed here in Fire Strike Extreme (DX11) it’s slightly better but Time Spy (DX12) it really falls behind.

Gaming Benchmarks

For gaming benchmarks, we have updated our testing suite to bring more modern titles into the mix. Gone are GTA V, Crysis 3, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, which were replaced with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, World of Tanks: enCore benchmark, F1 2018, Battlefield V, and Far Cry 5. We kept The Division and Ashes of the Singularity (though we updated to AOTS: Escalation). The games should provide a good view of the overall performance of the card. Many of these are DX12 games.

Moving on to games, we see the 1660 able to perform very well in World of Tanks: enCore at 113 FPS stock and F1 2018 at 87 FPS easily outpacing the RX 580 which is still well above the magical 60 FPS.

In Far Cry 5, the GTX 1660 hits an 81 FPS average in the built-in benchmark while reaching 61 FPS in The Division. Here we see the RX 580 pop it’s head up with 67 FPS while being left behind in Far Cry 5. Again we can see an overclock placing the GTX 1660 very close to its Ti counterpart’s stock performance.

Our SoTR results show the 1660 Gaming X averaging 71 FPS in this title and 73 FPS in BF V, again it’s trading blows with the RX 580. One thing of note is SOTR the GTX 1660 once overclocked passes the 1660 Ti this is likely due to different drivers.

In Ashes of the Singularity, the 1660 Gaming X averaging 42 FPS in the benchmark. AOTS:e is an extremely tough benchmark on the “crazy” preset proving to be a bit much even for the RTX 2060 to attain 60 FPS.

2560×1440 and 4K UHD Results

Below are the higher resolution results starting with 2560×1440 and the gaining in popularity 3840×2160 (4K UHD). These resolutions prove to be a bit of a stretch for the cards we are testing.

Moving up in resolution to 2560×1440, we can see the card tops 60 FPS in only two titles with Far Cry 5 and Battlefield V very close to that threshold. In order to play ‘all’ titles at 60 FPS, some image quality settings will need to be lowered. Looking at the 4K UHD results, we can plainly see this isn’t a 4K UHD card (nor was it intended to be). FPS ranged from 22 to 37 average. Significant image quality reduction will need to happen here to raise the FPS to what most feel would be acceptable levels for smooth gaming.

The 1080p performance of the MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X in our titles was quite good with all results well over 60 FPS with the exception of Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation. The GTX 1660 is more than capable of gaming at 1080p with all the eye candy turned up.

Overclocking

For overclocking, we used MSI Afterburner 4.6.0 beta 16. With a bit of testing and patience, the GTX 1660 Gaming X was able to increase +131 on the GPU core which yielded a boost speed of 2085 MHz. The GDDR5 memory was also overclocked +742 which gave us 2371 MHz clocks. All overclocking was done by simply raising the power limit to its maximum. The voltage and fan speeds were left on auto which gained us better than 10% performance on average.

When pushing the limits, this card ended up at +155 with full voltage increase and we ended up with 2115 MHz core without banging off the meager power limit increase of 7%. The memory was able to reach +904 or 2452 MHz as you can see in the Firestrike Extreme screenshot below.

Overclocking Software

MSI’s latest version of their MSI Afterburner software in version 4.6 beta 16 which was only available for this review. This version includes the OC scanner and the latest features to support Turing cards and should be publicly available by launch.

Temperatures and Power Use

We test power consumption by running through the game benchmarks of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and F1 2018 at both stock speeds, and while overclocked. We monitor temperatures throughout this testing with the peak temperature what is listed in the data below. In order to more accurately simulate real gaming conditions, the benchmarks are extended (time) to allow the card to settle.

Temperatures on this card during testing were quite low peaking at 63 °C while overclocked and at stock. The fans ramped up after 60 °C and were inaudible using the auto setting.

Power use on this 120 W card peaked at 248 W (system) overclocked and 226 W while at stock. A quality 500 W PSU will be plenty including overclocking both CPU and GPU and still allowing for headroom and quiet operation.

Conclusion

The MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X has an MSRP of $249.99 ($249.99 at Newegg) which will be slightly higher than the reference models, but that premium is well deserved with MSI’s customizations. In this price range for video cards, there is some steep competition from the AMD team, namely the RX 580 and RX 590. It’s a shame we didn’t have an RX 590 for testing, but given its 10-15% improvement over the RX 580 that puts it right in the ballpark as direct competition for the GTX 1660 series. While the RX 580 is even more of a threat being available for well below the $200 range, as usual, the drawback for the red team is power use.

Performance of the 1660 Gaming X card we had in hand was solid overall with help from its custom PCB and power delivery as well as the Twin Frozr 7 cooling which was quiet throughout testing. The shroud on the cooler adds a bit of RGB flare to go with its theme agnostic black and grey appearance.

NVIDIA’s GTX 1660 currently fills out the bottom of their product stack (though there is a rumored GTX 1650 coming out said to occupy the sub-$200 slot) and does so displaying solid performance in 1080p, the resolution it was intended for, and can even run 2560×1440 with some quality changes. I can say the MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X is a great 1080p card in the right price slot, no buyers remorse with this one!

Click to find out what this means

– Shawn Jennings (Johan45)

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Discussion
  1. Just got an MSI 1660 Gaming X from newegg for 249.99 -- the TI version cost 309.99.
    Thanks for the post bro, gonna OC it to TI stock performance and save me $60 !
    Max power limit, temp limit, and using default core volt, trying to duplicate Johan45 results, but falling short:
    Increase +131 on the GPU core = boost speed of 1991 MHz (not 2085 goal).
    GDDR5 memory was also overclocked +742 = 2372 MHz clocks (good, goal was 2371).
    Guess its the silicon?
    Increase CPU core to +155 and OC mem +742 with this result: 2015 MHZ boost, 2453 MHZ mem, 1685 MHZ gpu clock.