MSI GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X Review: Turing Without Ray Tracing and Tensor Cores

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NVIDIA’s Turing architecture found in the 2xxx series video cards came onto the scene nearly six months ago releasing the high-end first in the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti. Time went on and the mid-range tier hit the scene with the RTX 2070 and RTX 2060 filling out the full RTX lineup (There is a Titan too) but leaving plenty of space in the market for a less expensive, more budget-friendly solution. In comes the GTX 1660 Ti.

The GTX 1660 Ti core is based on the Turing architecture but does not have Ray Tracing or Tensor Cores on the die. This change should allow the card to slot into a less expensive price point than the RTX based cards with a smaller die size and with its hardware specifications, should be a solid performer at 1080p resolutions. MSI has sent their Gaming X version of the card which includes a custom PCB and the Twin Frozr 7 cooler. We’ll put it through the benchmarking suite and see how it compares!

Specifications

Contrary to some rumors on the web, we now know the 1660 Ti uses Turing architecture and all the generational updates that came along with it. The naming convention can likely cause some confusion as this Turing based card is using the 1-series naming typically held for Pascal, but NVIDIA says this was done intentionally to separate it more clearly from its RTX counterparts. Personally, I feel they could have simply gone with a 2-series name, and still used the GTX prefix to set it apart from the others. Though I am sure there would be a loud contingent soapboxing that it wasn’t enough either. It’s a tough call.

Below we wanted to refresh some things from the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti review as aside from the ray tracing and tensor cores, this is where the GTX 1660 Ti makes its living utilizing all other things Turing. NVIDIA says the Turing architecture integrates multiple changes to the core execution datapaths. Modern games which use complex shading are said to increasingly use mixing floating point operations with integer instructions. For example, in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, for every 100 instructions 62 are floating point and 38 are integer on average. In previous generations, the floating point math would sit idle whenever a non FP math instruction runs. Turing has added a second parallel Integer execution unit for every CUDA core which executes the instructions in parallel with floating point math. This change has allowed the 1600 Ti to deliver 1.5x performance improvement over the GTX 1060 6GB in this title.

Concurrent Float and Integer

Turing also includes variable rate shading capabilities which use two algorithms called Content Adaptive Shading and Motion Adaptive Shading. With both algorithms, the GPU is able to adjust the shading rate for different areas of the scene or specific objects, so these areas do not need to be rendered with all the details and can be shaded with fewer samples which should improve performance.

Motion Adaptive Shading allows the shading rate to be adjusted based on the amount of motion in a part of the screen. For example in a racing game, the player’s car is rendered in full detail but things like the road, lane markings, and street signs can be rendered in lower detail with fewer samples since its moving rapidly. With Content Adaptive Shading the shading rate is determined by spatial and temporal color coherence across frames. In cases where color or spatial changes are minimal from frame to frame (like a sky in a scene or a wall, the shading rate can be lowered in subsequent frames to improve performance. NVIDIA states here another 1.5x performance change, this time in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus when adaptive shading is enabled.

Adaptive Shading

NVIDIA’s Turing GPUs also use a Unified Cache for shared memory, L1, and texture caching said to allow the L1 cache to leverage resources, increases hit bandwidth by 4x per TPC compared to Pascal also allowing it to be reconfigured to grow larger when shared memory allocations are not using all of the shared capacity. The L1 can be as large as 64 KB, combined with a 32 KB per SM shared memory allocation, or it can shrink to 32 KB L1 and 64 KB of allocation used for shared memory. This change is said to reduce latency and provide higher bandwidth than Pascal GPUs.

Unified Cache

All of the updates from Pascal to Turing SM, NVIDIA says, dramatically improves efficiency per core performance by up to 1.5x with power efficiency said to be improved by 1.4x per Core. As more modern games are released with complex shading will allow the Turing based GPUs to outpace prior GeForce GPU architectures and mature better with time.

Modern Game Performance

Enough Turing architecture refresh and on to the GTX 1660 Ti itself!

We are able to see in the specifications table below the GTX 1660 Ti uses the TU116. This core is brand new and was crafted to deliver a balance of performance and cost with a focus on rendering performance. Die size is 284 mm with 6.6 billion transistors – notably smaller than the huge RTX dies. The TU116 sports a total of 1536 CUDA Cores with 48 ROPs and 96 Texture units on the back end. Clock speeds come in at 1500 MHz base clock and 1770 MHz boost (our card ran 1905 MHz out of the box).

For memory, NVIDIA used 6 GB GDDR6 on a 192-bit bus. Speeds come in at 1500 MHz (12 Gbps) which yields 288.1 GB/s bandwidth. Contrary to internet rumors, NVIDIA did mention in the briefing we will only see 6GB versions – a 3 GB card will not hit the market (thankfully). All of this comes with a 120W TDP (same as the GTX 1060).

Last but not least, pricing on this card will start at $279, which is well under the RTX 2060 at $349 and a bit more than the $249 GTX 1060 from the previous generation. We may finally see a solid price to performance increase with this card!

MSI GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X Specifications
Core TU116
CUDA Cores 1536
Tensor Cores N/A
RT Cores N/A
GPU Base Clock 1500 MHz
GPU Boost Clock 1770 MHz (1905 MHz actual)
Frame Buffer 6GB GDDR6
Memory Interface 192-bit
Memory Clock (Data Rate) 12 Gbps (1500 MHz)
Memory Bandwidth 288.1 GB/s
ROPs 48
Texture Units 96
Texture Fillrate (Gigatexels /sec) 192
GigaRays /sec N/A
Compute (TFlops) 7.5
L2 Cache Size 1536k
TDP (Watts) 120W / (130W Gaming X)
Price $279 MSRP / ($309 MSI Gaming X)

GPUz

Below we can see what GPUz says about the GPU. W1zzard over at TPU is in the middle of updating this for both the AMD Radeon VII as well as the 1660 Ti. We should see a new version that supports both soon.

GPUz v2.16

 

Features

MSI’s version of the NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1660 Ti uses their Twin Frozr 7 thermal design which has dual fans with airflow control technology, smooth surfaced and concentrated heat pipes, MOSFET cooling as well as a premium thermal compound. With this cooler, airflow is directed right at the heat pipes while the shape creates more surface area for heat absorption and dissipation. Moving heat to the fin array are multiple 6 mm copper heat pipes that snake through the array.

If silence is your thing, the card supports Zero Frozr technology which eliminates fan noise by keeping them off in low load situations (under 60C). When running, the Torx fan blades don’t make a lot of noise until the card hits 80% fan speed, and even then, it was difficult to hear with headphones on.

The board 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 200W of available power. In this case, it is plenty as the card is 120W and has 7% power limit increase.

The MSI GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X includes RGB LEDs located above and below each fan, looking almost like eyebrows on the card. On the top of the card is an MSI logo along with the gaming dragon and Twin Frozr 7 naming illuminated from below by more RGB LEDs. These are tastefully implemented and controlled by their RGB Mystic light software. A new beta version is out which MSI says it improves the user interface and ease of use in general.


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

Eliminated Fan noise by stopping the fans in low-load situations (< 60C).

Custom PCB

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

RGB Mytsic Light

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

Retail Packaging and Accessories

MSI GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X

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 a poster.

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Meet the MSI GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X

MSI GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X

Our first look at the card up close shows the two large Torx fans as the biggest feature with angular grey plastic surrounding the two fans. Above and below the fans are where we find the “eyebrow” like RGB LEDs. The MSI GTX 1660 Ti with its black and grey shroud and grey/gunmetal full-length backplate is easy on the eyes and should fit in with any build theme.

 

A Closer Look

The 1660 Ti Gaming X includes the typical outputs for Turing based cards with three DisplayPorts and one HDMI output. 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 MOSFETs. The heatsink itself has three heat pipes meandering through the fin array and coming together in the nickel plated base. The right bank of memory is fully covered while the bottom two ICs are partially covered. Both sets of memory and the MOSFETs make direct contact with the heatsink for best cooling.

Below is a closeup of the power bits.

MSI GTX 1660 Ti on the test bench…

MSI GTX 1600 Ti – On the test bench!

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 ASRock X370 Taichi
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 750W G3
Video Card MSI GTX 1660 Ti (418.91 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
  • Final Fantasy XV Benchmark – High 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.

3DMark Time Spy and Fire Strike (Extreme)

The first thing we would like to note in this testing is the lack of comparable cards. NVIDIA themselves compare this to the last gen 1060 6GB as well as a GTX 960. Sadly we do not have any of those cards for a direct comparison but we can extrapolate (with a grain of salt). On the AMD side, it’s going to compare more to a Vega 56. Performance wise the card will compare to a GTX 1070 give or take a few percent (according to TechpowerUp, the GTX 1070 is 12% slower at 1080p versus the 1070 Ti. The problem is we just do not have the cards to compare. So we did what we could with what we had to show comparisons. If we are able to procure these data sets, they will be added moving forward.

That out of the way, the 1660 Ti Gaming X scored 7351 in 3DMark Fire Strike and 6562 in Time Spy. This puts the card about 8% behind a 1070 Ti in Time Spy (a more modern benchmark) while trailing its big brother the RTX 2060 by 19% and nearly 17% respectively.

Gaming Benchmarks

Moving on to the 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, Final Fantasy XV benchmark, 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.

We will not test DLSS features in FF XV as the benchmark itself is a bit flawed. Ray Tracing will also not be tested here even though BF V and Windows have now been updated to support it. In the future, SoTR will have it along with many other titles so we will circle back when appropriate.

World of Tanks: enCore and F1 2018

Moving on to games, we see the 1660 Ti able to rock World of Tanks: enCore at 142 FPs stock and F1 2018 at 97 FPS. Not exactly GPU crushing titles, but great performance here.

Far Cry 5 and The Division

In Far Cry 5, the 1660 Ti hits a 95 FPS average in the built-in benchmark while reaching 74 FPS in The Division. FC5 being the newer title we can see what NVIDIA is stating here versus the 1070 Ti with it being relatively close.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield 5

Our SOTR results show the 1660 Ti Gaming X averaging 79 FPS in this title and 89 FPS in BF V (RT/DLSS off). Both easily surpassing 60 FPS here.

Ashes of the Singularity

In Ashes of the Singularity, the 1660 Ti Gaming X averaging 49 FPS in the benchmark. While not 60 FPS, gameplay in this title was quite smooth.

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 are more fitting for the cards we are testing as the 1080p results with these cards can have a ceiling on them from the CPU (even at 4.7 GHz).

2560×1440 Results

4K UHD Results

Moving up in resolution to 2560×1440, we can see the card flip flops between averaging 60 FPS and not in the seven games we test. TItles like SOTR, The Division, and AOTSe are below that threshold while WoT:e, F1 2018, FC5, and BF V are above that magic value. 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 26 to 45 average. Significant image quality reduction will need to happen here to raise the FPS to what most feel are acceptable.

Its 1080p performance in our titles was quite good with most results well over 75 FPS. The GTX 1660 Ti is a more than capable 1080p card.

Overclocking

For overclocking, we used the built-in overclocking scanner in MSI Afterburner 4.6.0 beta 12. The scanner yielded +39 on the core which seemed fairly low compared to the other cards we’ve tested which typically show double that. I raised the core +58 which yielded 1995 MHz. The 12 Gbps GDDR6 memory we overclocked to +707 which gave us 1677 MHz clocks. Overclocking to these levels we ended gaining almost 5% performance average.

When pushing the limits, this card ended up at +86 with 35 mv increase and we ended up with 2010 Mhz core without banging off the meager power limit increase of 7%. The memory was able to reach +836 or 1716 MHz.

Pushing the Limits

Software

MSI includes the latest version of their MSI Afterburner software in version 4.6 beta 12. This version includes the OC scanner and the latest features to support Turing cards.

MSI Afterburner 4.6 Beta 12

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

Temperatures on this card during testing were quite low peaking at 71C while overclocked. The fans ramped up after 60C and are quiet under the auto setting.

Power Consumption

Power use on this 120W card peaked at 239W (system) overclocked and 224W while at stock. A quality 500W PSU will be plenty including overclocking both CPU and GPU and still allowing for headroom and quiet operation.

Conclusion

NVIDIA’s release of the GTX 1660 Ti finally places a card that is, by price, available to the masses. The $279 MSRP of these cards fills in a large gap in the budget-friendly arena, though surely many would want it priced a bit cheaper. Overall the card performs right around the GTX 1070 which can currently be found for ~$310+(new) at Newegg. Surely partner cards like the Gaming X with a beefier cooler and PCB will run a bit more, the MSI GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X is $309 MSRP (also at newegg), placing these in the same performance and price bracket of CURRENTLY priced GTX 1070s (their MSRP was notably higher at $379/$429 mind you). So we did see a nice price drop for similar performance and less power use (120 W vs 150 W).

Performance of the MSI card we had in hand was solid overall due to its Trin Frozr 7 cooling it was quite while throughout testing (auto fan speeds) never ramping up and getting loud. 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 Ti 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 IQ changes (4K UHD is out of the question in most titles). We finally have a more affordable option in the Turing family.

Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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Discussion
  1. I still dont understand why 1660 and not 1160. They will run out of numbers and itll turn into r a n d o m n e s s!!:screwy:
    Will they also release 1670 and 1680 ti versions?
    The performance of these 'mid-tier' cards coming out, including the Vegas, are pretty awesome considering the pipeline offering of just a few years ago. A mid-range gaming build using this silicon seriously outperforms a high-end build of the not-so-distant past and should encourage anyone with the desire to launch a new build. Toss in the SSD/RAM pricing and BOOM! Nice review Joe.
    Really good review, with the added benefit of making me happy (still) that I jumped on the nVidia bandwagon for Pascal. They're coming out with some good Turing cards if I were building a new rig today (1660 Ti, 2060) that seem to be nailing the price/performance bullseye at 1080p/1440 resolutions. 1070/1070 Ti performance at $279 to $349 is a big win for consumers. :thup:
    Fortunately, until there are some big changes in the games I play I can happily skip this gen of GPU upgraditis. Eventually I'll upgrade my display, but since it's also my TV, 4k will have to get a lot cheaper for that to happen. Maybe by then I can find an old, obsolete 2080 Ti for something my budget would call affordable.
    Seems like a solid card for the price. These caught me off guard though. Saw them headlining Newegg's newsletter and thought it was a typo, first I heard of them.