Table of Contents
With AMD cornering the market on mid-range graphic cards recently, NVIDIA has responded with their first offering to fit that bill and it’s called the GTX 660 Ti. MSI wasted no time in bringing this new member of the Kepler family to market, and today we’ll be looking at their GTX 660 Ti Power Edition. Right out of the gate, MSI is bringing this card to market with a factory overclock installed. No sense in wasting time on a reference speed card when apparently the GTX 660 Ti has more in it! So, let’s take the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition for a ride and see what MSI has up their sleeve.
If you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out our review of the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC first, in which we also introduce the GTX 660 Ti itself.
Specifications and Features
Below are the specifications for the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition. Normally, I would credit the vendor’s web site here, but because this review is being prepared for the official launch date (think NDA), I had to be resourceful to come up with the below specifications. They should be accurate as far as I can tell. One of the specifications not noted in the below table is the GTX 660 Ti’s ability to run in a Tri-SLI configuration, something usually reserved for the higher end cards.
|Graphics Processing Clusters||4|
|Memory Clock (Effective Data Rate)||6008|
|L2 Cache Size||384 KB|
|Total Video Memory||2048 MB GDDR5|
|Total Memory Bandwidth||144.2 GB/s|
|Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear)||102.5 Giga Texels/sec|
|Physical & Thermal|
|Fabrication Process||28 nm|
|Transistor Count||3.54 Billion|
|Connectors||2 x Dual-Link DVI|
1 x HDMI
1 x DisplayPort
|Form Factor||Dual Slot|
|Power Connectors||2 x 6-Pin|
|Recommended Power Supply||450 Watts (+12v @ 24 Amps Min)|
|Thermal Design Power (TDP)||175 Watts|
|Thermal Threshold||98 °C|
Here is GPUz confirming many of the above specifications.
Here are the major features included with the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition, most of which will be common to all GTX 660 Ti cards. I can’t think of any NVIDIA technologies that were left out; everything appears to be there!
- NVIDIA GPU Boost Technology
- NVIDIA TXAA Technology
- NVIDIA FXAA Technology
- NVIDIA Adaptive Vertical Sync
- NVIDIA Surround Technology
- Support for Four Concurrent Displays (2 x Dual-Link DVI, 1 x HDMI, 1 x DisplayPort 1.2)
- Microsoft DirectX 11 Support
- NVIDIA PhysX Technology
- NVIDIA 3D Vision Ready
- NVIDIA SLI Ready
- NVIDIA Cuda Technology
- PCI Express 3.0 Support
- OpenGL 4.2 Support
Other than the features directly associated with the GTX 660 Ti platform, MSI has implemented several of their own features as well. One of the most popular features of any newer MSI video card is their proprietary Twin Frozr IV cooling solution. With dual 80 mm fans and its nickle/copper base, it certainly has the makings to perform quite well… we’ll find out later in this review. Here are the Twin Frozr IV features found on the product packaging:
- Dual 8 cm PWM fans provide better thermal efficiency and direct airflow to cool down GPU, Memory, and power module at once.
- Multiple heatpipes can transfer heat much faster to the fins under the dual PWM fans, and the fans dissipate heat directly from fins.
- Ultra high-density aluminum heatsink has large area for heat dissipation. GPU heat will be dissipated to all fins equally.
- Large copper base coated with nickel provides the fastest heat dissipation and a bigger contact area with GPU.
- Propeller blade technology generates 20% more airflow for the best cooling effect, and 17.1 dB quieter than reference design 660 Ti.
- Dust removal technology spins the fans in reverse for 30 seconds upon system startup to help remove dust buildup on heatsink and ensure optimal cooling performance.
Military Class III is the name MSI has assigned the Hi-c Caps, Solid CAP, and SFC Chokes used on their higher end graphics cards. These features are described by MSI as below:
Hi-c Cap (Highly Conductive Capacitor)
- Rare Metal, Incredibly Stable
- Extremely High Conductivity
- 15x Less Leakage\
- Stabilizes GPU Power For Better Overclocking
- Used on Space Shuttles and Satellites
Solid CAP (Solid Capacitor)
- Aluminum Core
- 10 Years Ultra Long Lifespan
- Extremely Low ESR
- Lower Temperature
- Higher Efficiency
SFC (Super Ferrite Choke)
- Super-Permeability Ferrite Core
- 10% Power Efficiency Improvement
- 30% Higher Maximum Current Capacity
- Overclocking Stability
In addition to the above features and specifications, it’s worth noting the differences between the reference design speeds and what the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition offers.
|Feature||GTX 660 Ti Reference Design||MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition|
|Base Clock||915 MHz||1019 MHz|
|Boost Clock||980 MHz||1097 MHz|
|TDP||150 Watts||175 Watts|
|Power Delivery||6-Phase 4+2||7-Phase 5+2|
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging for the GTX 660 Ti Power Edition is exactly like other Power Edition cards MSI has offered in the past, except of course the model number. The front of the box makes note of a few features like Triple Over-Voltage, Enhanced PWM Design, and the Twin Frozr IV cooler. Also noted on the front of the box is the three year warranty for USA, Canada, and Mexico customers.
The back of the box lists the features, basic specifications, and system requirements. Both sides of the box have additional branding and make mention of PCI-e 3.0 support, DX11 support, and the card’s 2 GB of GDDR5 memory.
There is a flap on the box top held down by a round Velcro button. Once this flap is lifted, you will see a more detailed explanation of MSI’s unique features as we detailed above. Lifting the flap also reveals a window that allows you to see the card inside. I think that’s a great idea for those “brick and mortar” shoppers who like to see what the hardware actually looks like.
The inner carton finds the GTX 660 Ti Power Edition securely nestled in a foam bed, wrapped in the customary anti-static bag. In front of the foam bed is an additional cardboard area which houses the accessories. On top of the entire inner carton is a protective plastic cover which keeps everything in its place.
Included in the accessories is a DVI to VGA adapter, two dual 4-Pin Molex to 6-Pin PCI-e adapter cables, quick user’s guide, installation manual, and the driver/software CD.
After I disassemble the card we’ll have a closer look at the different areas, but for now here are some pictures to whet your appetite!
A Closer Look/Under the Hood
Removing the Twin Frozr IV cooler is easy enough to accomplish. You start by removing the four spring loaded screws that hold the entire cooling apparatus to the card.
As you can see by the picture above there is a heat-spreading plate attached to the body of the card; there are nine screws that attach it. Once off, you can see the plate uses thermal pads for the target areas. The pads make excellent contact with the chips they cover.
The next step in dis-assembly is to remove the plastic shroud from the heatsink assembly, which requires removing four more screws. Once the shroud is removed, we can get a good look at the inner workings of the Twin Frozr IV. Looking at the pictures below, we can see the Twin Frozr IV uses four heatpipes and a very long fin stack. All four heatpipes originate from the nickle plated copper base and are then routed to each side of the fin stack (two per side). Attached to the top of the fin stack is two 8 cm (80 mm) fans. The fans will actually spin backwards for the first thirty seconds of a cold boot in an effort to minimize dust buildup.
The MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition uses a 7-Phase (5+2) power design, with five phases for the GPU and two for the memory. This is an increase from the reference card’s 6-Phase (4+2) power design. The seven inductors are all SFC (Super Ferrite Choke) design. The SFC design promises 10% efficiency improvements and 30% higher currency capacity. The use of these SFC inductors should ensure ample, clean power delivery to the GPU and memory. As a side note, the reference design power delivery is pictured in the last picture below, this should give you an idea of the improvements MSI has implemented here.
The MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition is equipped with 2 GB GDDR5 memory. There are eight 256 MB modules attached to the card, six on top and two on the bottom (256 x 8 = 2048 MB or 2 GB). The memory is Hynix brand part number H5GQ2H24AFR-ROC and carries a voltage rating of 1.5 V.
On to the star of this show, the NVIDIA Kepler GK104 GPU. The same GPU core that the upper end GTX 670/680 uses, albeit with a few wing clippings. In order to make the GTX 660 Ti series a more affordable option, the amount of CUDA cores has been reduced (1344), and the memory interface has been dropped to 192-bit. There are other slight differences but those are the big hitters. Interestingly enough, about the only difference I could find in the reference designs of the GTX 660 Ti and the GTX 670 was the memory interface (256-bit vs. 192-bit). So, getting to GTX 670 performance levels with some overclocking might be doable, or at least close.
Although this card is touted as a direct competitor of the AMD HD 7870 series, NVIDIA claims the card will actually go toe to toe with the more expensive AMD HD7950. We’ll just have to check that out, won’t we?
Performance and Overclocking
- 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
- MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition – 305.37 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
MSI’s Afterburner software comes bundled with the GTX 660 Ti Power Edition, but the version on the CD was older than what can be found at the Afterburner download page. Always check that page before installing the version on the CD, chances are a newer version can be had.
One of the main advertised features of this card is the ability to manipulate three different voltages; GPU Core, PLL, and Memory. In order to access that function, you need to enter Afterburner’s settings and tick the “Unlock Voltage Control” button. You can also tick the “Unlock Voltage Monitoring” if desired, but be forewarned MSI recommends never using two monitoring programs simultaneously. Once you have unlocked the voltage control, you simply click the arrow next to the core voltage and all three voltage options will appear. Don’t expect to see the the actual voltage though, because it’s all based on an offset from the stock voltages, beginning with +0 and upwards from there. This is where the voltage monitoring feature comes in handy!
I settled on a 24/7 overclock that did NOT require raising any of the voltages, I’ll save that for the “Pushing the Limits” section. Using MSI Afterburner I set the GPU to +75 and the memory to +100. This method landed the GPU clock speed at 1095 MHz (1173 MHz boost) and a memory speed at 6208 MHz effective (1552 MHz Base). Not too bad considering the card is overclocked pretty well right out of the box.
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.
In 3DMark03 we see the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition coming in slightly higher than its EVGA counterpart, mostly due to the fact it’s factory overclocked a tad higher. However, when the EVGA card is overclocked (with no voltage adjustments) they received almost identical scores. Other than that tight race, it fell behind every other card in the graph.
Moving over to 3DMark11 our review sample does much better, only losing out to cards higher up the food chain. Again, a dead heat between the MSI and EVGA samples. You might also notice the MSI GTX 660 Ti was substantially better than the HIS 7950 IceQ Turbo at stock speeds, which gives a level of credence to NVIDIA’s claim of ATI 7950 performance.
Moving along to the 3DMark Vantage results, the pecking order remains intact, along with another win over the HIS 7950 IceQ Turbo card. With a score of just over thirty thousand, it came pretty close to the ASUS GTX 670 DCUII Top as well, not too shabby!
The last synthetic bench mark is HWBot Heaven. Here we see the EVGA variant squeaking out a win, but the results were very close. Both the MSI and EVGA 660 Ti’s fell behind the HIS 7950 IceQ Turbo on this benchmark; not by a whole lot, but behind none the less.
We’ll start the gaming benchmarks with Aliens vs Predator, Batman: Arkham City, and Battlefield 3. The AvP graph shows the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition right on par with the EVGA’s offering and also the Sapphire 7870 Flex. It did however fall behind the HIS 7950 IceQ Turbo in this test.
The Batman: Arkham City results show a bit of a surprise in that it was within one FPS when compared to the ASUS GTX 670 DCUII at stock speeds. The NVIDIA claim of AMD 7950 performance did not hold true here as it lost out to the HIS 7950 by nine FPS. When compared to its direct competitor, the 7870 Flex, it scored a couple of FPS higher at stock speeds.
The Battlefield 3 testing revealed a substantial gain over the 7870 flex, just under twelve FPS at stock settings. It was also very close to the 7950 IceQ turbo’s stock speeds, but still fell a tad short.
Our final three gaming tests include Civilization V, Dirt 3, and Metro 2033. In Civilization V we see a tiny margin of victory over the HIS 7950 IceQ at stock speeds. The competing 7870 Flex was way behind the MSI GTX 660Ti in this test, losing out by a little over eleven FPS. In this test anyway, the claims of AMD 7950 performance seem to hold true.
The Dirt 3 testing revealed opposite results from the Civilization V test when compared to the HIS 7950 IceQ, this time the MSI GTX 660 Ti lost out by almost eleven FPS. However, when compared to the direct competing 7870 Flex, it came out on top by a pretty substantial margin.
Our final gaming test is Metro 2033, a test which will bring just about any card to its knees. Only the MSI GTX 680, the HIS 7950, and ASUS GTX 670 were able to score over the magical 30 FPS. All the other cards in the graph hovered in the mid twenty FPS. While the MSI GTX 660 Ti held tight with the competing 7870 Flex, it lagged substantially behind the 7950 IceQ.
All and all a pretty darn good showing by the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition. It had no problem keeping up with its direct competition (7870 Flex), and in most cases actually performs better. As far as the NVIDIA claim of performance levels that equal 7950 status, well…. that depends on which test run you look at. It did manage to keep up with the 7950 a few times, so all is not lost there.
Some of you may be wondering at this point about the Boost Clock feature, and what exactly it raised the core clock too when under full load. As most of you know the Boost Clock is the average clock frequency the GPU will run under load – key word being average. What I wanted to know is where the core frequency actually peaked. Below are screen shots of the GPUz log while running 3DMark11 at stock and the 24/7 overclock. As noted earlier in this review the stock Boost Clock was reported to be 1098 MHz and the 24/7 overclocked Boost Clock was reported as 1173 MHz. Once I had the log opened I scrolled through it to find the highest clock frequency reported.
As you can see there is about a 100 MHz increase from the average Boost Clock reported in GPUz, a nice little bump for sure!
Cooling and Power Consumption
The Twin Frozr IV does a great job keeping everything nice and cool. The maximum temperature ever recorded during testing was a cool 67 °C during the HWBot Heaven benchmark. While at an idle state the card drops to a mere 28 °C, very nice! The graph below shows that there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between one card and the other as far as idle speeds go. When looking at the temperatures during benchmarking, the 3DMark11 results were close across the board. The HWBot Heaven temperature readings favor all the other cards in the chart over the MSI GTX 660 Ti, in fact this card is the only one in the bunch that had a higher max temperature for 3DMark11 than HWBot Heaven.
The TDP for this card is 175 watts, up slightly from the reference TDP of 150 watts. Even with the extra TDP wattage, the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition system used the least amount of power at idle compared to the other systems in the graph. I’m amazed at how low the power consumption is with these modern systems, 260 watts was the most this system could draw during the benchmarks runs, impressive to say the least!
Pushing The Limits
With the CPU ramped up to 4.6 GHz, I used MSI Afterburner for GPU core and memory speed manipulation. I was able to get +150 on the GPU and +175 on the memory. It took maxing out all three voltage options in Afterburner to get there, but get there we did. These increases landed the GPU core at 1170 MHz (1248 MHz boost), and the memory at 1590 MHz (6360 MHz effective). If you compare those numbers to a GTX 660 Ti reference card, you’re looking at a 21% increase in GPU core speed, and a 5% increase in memory speed. With the Twin Frozr IV fan ramped up to full speed, the GPU core temperature never exceeded 58 °C. I couldn’t help but feel this card has a whole lot more in it, but I ran out of additional voltage options!
With the overclock in place, the card achieved a 3DMark11 score of P9509, and HWBot Heaven came in at 1644.945.
And a screen shot of the Boost Core, again just over a 100 MHz gain from average.
MSI has an MSRP of $309.99 attached to the GTX 660 Ti Power edition. Considering the non overclocked reference cards are going to hit the market a $299.00, it seems to be a great deal. At this price point the MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition will be an excellent value based on the head to head benchmark results vs. the HD 7870. The potential of this card seems to be limited only by the voltage increases Afterburner allows, but even within those restrictions it does quite well. On several occasions, it even out performed the AMD 7950 during testing, which makes it even more attractive to the gaming crowd.
The Twin Frozr IV cooler does a fantastic job of keeping the card cool. When the fan speed is cranked up, you can use all the voltage MSI Afterburner will allow and not worry about the card overheating, and that’s reassuring. When the Twin Frozr IV is set to automatic mode, it’s almost silent. Once ramped up to maximum, the sound level is noticeable, but not overwhelming.
Overall MSI has brought a very nice initial GTX 660 Ti offering to market. Now that AMD has competition in the mid-range video card segment, the consumer only stands to benefit as the red and green teams battle for your hard earned dollars.
Click the stamp to find out what this means
– Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)
If you read this review first and want to see more about the GTX 660 Ti, be sure to check out hokiealumnus’ review of the EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked!