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GeForce GTX 660 Ti Review: Nvidia's Trickle-Down Keplernomics

GeForce GTX 660 Ti Review: Nvidia's Trickle-Down Keplernomics
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Nvidia's Kepler architecture is finally manifest in a $300 graphics card, which the company says beats AMD's Radeon HD 7870 and challenges its more expensive 7950. Can this GK104-based mainstream card carve out a spot between the GCN-based competition?

More than four months have passed since Nvidia's Kepler architecture was introduced in GeForce GTX 680 (check out GeForce GTX 680 2 GB Review: Kepler Sends Tahiti On Vacation for more information on the design itself). In the five months since, we've seen Nvidia fill up the high-end space with its GeForce GTX 670 and GeForce GTX 690. However, GeForce GT 640 remains the only mainstream board with Kepler's DNA in it. That leaves an almost-$300 range currently filled with older Fermi-based models, such as GeForce GTX 560, 570, and 580. No doubt, newer and more efficient Kepler-derived silicon will take the place of those cards, bringing us today's GeForce GTX 660 Ti launch.

It's common to see the same piece of silicon nipped and tucked to create products aimed at different price points. Companies like AMD and Nvidia play with clock rates, alter memory interfaces, and turn pieces of their GPUs on or off. The GeForce GTX 660 Ti employs the same GK104 processor as GeForce GTX 670. However, Nvidia cuts the card's memory bus down from 256- to 192-bits and removes one of the GPU's four render back-end clusters, leaving everything else intact.

We might have expected Nvidia to detune more of its GK104. However, GeForce GTX 660 Ti employs the same core and memory clocks as GeForce GTX 670. That is to say, like the 670, this new board features seven functional SMX blocks. Consequently, GeForce GTX 660 Ti comes equipped with 1344 CUDA cores and 112 texture units. Each of its three remaining ROP clusters output up to eight 32-bit pixels, totaling 24 pixels per clock. Moreover, three 64-bit memory interfaces aggregate to 192 bits. We expect to see GeForce GTX 660 Ti perform on-par with GTX 670 in compute-oriented apps, but not as well in games.

Beyond its general specifications, GeForce GTX 660 Ti offers the same GPU Boost functionality found on the GTX 670 and 680 cards, support for up to four displays, and TXAA in games that support the feature. Although those two higher-end boards support four-way SLI configurations, Nvidia cuts GeForce GTX 660 Ti back to a maximum of three cards, which is actually something we haven't seen from the company before. Typically, at this price point, we'd expect a two-card maximum.


GeForce GTX 670
GeForce GTX 660 Ti
GeForce GTX 580
Radeon HD 7950
Radeon HD 7870
Shaders1344
1344512
1792
1280
Texture Units
112
11264
112
80
Full Color ROPs
32
24
48
32
32
Graphics Clock (Base)
915 MHz
915 MHz
772 MHz
800 MHz
1000 MHz
Texture Fillrate
102.5 Gtex/s
102.5 Gtex/s49.4 Gtex/s89.6 Gtex/s
80 Gtex/s
Memory Clock
1502 MHz
1502 MHz1002 MHz
1250 MHz
1200 MHz
Memory Bus
256-bit
192-bit
384-bit384-bit
256-bit
Memory Bandwidth192.2 GB/s
144.2 GB/s
192.4 GB/s240 GB/s
153.6 GB/s
Graphics RAM
2 GB GDDR5
2 GB GDDR51.5 GB GDDR5
3 GB GDDR5
2 GB GDDR5
Die Size
294 mm2
294 mm2520 mm2365 mm2
212 mm2
Transistors (Billion)
3.54
3.543
4.31
2.8
Process Technology
28 nm
28 nm40 nm
28 nm
28 nm
Power Connectors
2 x 6-pin
2 x 6-pin1 x 6-pin,
1 x 8-pin
2 x 6-pin
2 x 6-pin
Maximum Power
170 W
150 W
244
200 W
175 W
Price
$400
$300
N/A
$350
$300


Nvidia says GeForce GTX 660 Ti will sell for around $300, putting it up against AMD's Radeon HD 7870. The GTX 660 Ti might suffer a narrower memory interface, but its fast 1502 MHz memory plays an important role in maintaining competitive levels of bandwidth. Pixel fillrate is lower on the new GeForce card, though.

According to Nvidia, it expects the GTX 660 Ti to beat AMD's Radoen HD 7870, and even compete against Radeon HD 7950 (even though the Tahiti GPU-based Radeon wields notably more memory bandwidth). 

In an attempt to sweeten the launch, Nvidia's partners should be bundling a coupon for Borderlands 2 with GeForce GTX 660 Ti cards. That's a $60 value, according to the pre-order pricing. 

MSI GeForce GTX 660 Ti Power Edition

There isn't a reference version of GeForce GTX 660 Ti. So, MSI sent over two of its GeForce GTX 660 Ti Power Edition boards for testing single-GPU- and SLI-based performance.

MSI’s interpretation of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti is a little more expensive than what Nvidia told us to expect. It sells for $310 instead of $300. The extra $10 pays for a faster 1019 MHz base clock (typically able to boost to 1097 MHz), an aftermarket Twin Frozr IV cooler, what MSI markets as its military-class components, and control over three voltage levels (GPU, memory, and VDDCI).

As expected, we see the same output options as Nvidia's reference GeForce GTX 670: two dual-link DVI connectors (one DVI-I and one DVI-D), a single HDMI port, and one DisplayPort output. The card can handle up to four screens in desktop mode, three in Surround mode, and a 3x1 + 1 combination (three monitors in Surround mode and the fourth in desktop mode). And, unlike most of AMD's Radeon cards, utilizing DisplayPort isn't a requirement for gaming across three panels.

The card’s PCB measures 9.5” x 4.5”, which is the same as Nvidia's reference specification and identical to the similarly-priced Radeon HD 7870. Two six-pin auxiliary power connectors combine to deliver the 190 W specified by MSI. That's 40 W higher than Nvidia's specification, and likely a result of more aggressive factory overclocking. Nvidia points out that, if you forget to attach those power leads, the card will boot to a warning screen.

MSI’s Twin Frozr IV cooler consists of a four-heat pipe system with two 80 mm fans. Company representatives claim that its design discourages dust build-up, though we can't speak to that specifically, given limited testing time. We can, however, confirm that the card is quiet and cool-running, which we'll quantify in our thermal and acoustic testing.

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Top Comments
  • 33 Hide
    hellfire24 , August 16, 2012 2:07 PM
    waiting for a price cut down.who's with me?
  • 29 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , August 16, 2012 1:40 PM
    so, this is basically a card that costs 40$ less then a GTX 580, consumes 100W less power then a gtx 580 and its 8% better...hmm, intresting.
  • 26 Hide
    EzioAs , August 16, 2012 2:19 PM
    Clearly we need more price cuts on the 660ti. I expect AMD to lower the prices even more, heck online retailers sell Radeon cards lower than the MSRP, making 7950 and 7870 even more budget friendly. It's still sad really to see mid-range cards battling at $300+. It used to be $250 and lower
Other Comments
  • -7 Hide
    game junky , August 16, 2012 1:37 PM
    Hmm. I have been wanting to replace my 560 - this throws a wrench in the gears. I was sold on a ASUS 670 but I think I'll wait to compare specs with their 660ti - I just started ripping my BD collection so the additional RAM bandwidth might be worth the extra $100 but it is still an interesting option.
  • 29 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , August 16, 2012 1:40 PM
    so, this is basically a card that costs 40$ less then a GTX 580, consumes 100W less power then a gtx 580 and its 8% better...hmm, intresting.
  • 21 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , August 16, 2012 1:41 PM
    *edit, costs 100$ less then GTX 580.
  • 4 Hide
    rmpumper , August 16, 2012 1:43 PM
    That's strange - on techpowerup review the 660Ti is above 7950's average performance.
  • 1 Hide
    outlw6669 , August 16, 2012 1:49 PM
    game junkyI was sold on a ASUS 670 but I think I'll wait to compare specs with their 660ti.

    Asus' DCU2 Top ends up about 5% faster than stock, 8% slower than stock GTX 670 and still uses that excellent cooler.
    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/ASUS/GeForce_GTX_660_Ti_Direct_Cu_II/1.html

    Still, the GTX 660Ti looks to be a decent card.
    Not really fond of how nVidia keeps nerfing their memory bandwidth though.
    Once prices drop a little, I could see it being an excellent mainstream card.
  • 24 Hide
    verbalizer , August 16, 2012 2:03 PM
    nice card, not OVERLY impressed...
    BUT THE PRICE...!
    c'mon SON let's be real here......
    ridiculous @ $300 beans..
  • 33 Hide
    hellfire24 , August 16, 2012 2:07 PM
    waiting for a price cut down.who's with me?
  • -5 Hide
    felipetga , August 16, 2012 2:10 PM
    I have been holding to upgrade my GTX 460 256bits. I wonder if this card will be bottlenecked by my C2Q 9550 @ 3.6ghz....
  • 21 Hide
    verbalizer , August 16, 2012 2:12 PM
    GPGPU = Kepler = FAIL....
    that's depressing but I understand nVidia has designated GTX 6 series as a gaming cards but c'mon SON.!!!
    ridiculous once again..
  • 26 Hide
    EzioAs , August 16, 2012 2:19 PM
    Clearly we need more price cuts on the 660ti. I expect AMD to lower the prices even more, heck online retailers sell Radeon cards lower than the MSRP, making 7950 and 7870 even more budget friendly. It's still sad really to see mid-range cards battling at $300+. It used to be $250 and lower
  • 20 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 16, 2012 2:21 PM
    GTX580 has lower average FPS but usually has a higher Minimum FPS than GTX660.
    i would take higher min fps over a higher average FPS anyday.

    on the final page, a graph comparing the min FPS of the games should have been there too.
  • 21 Hide
    BattleshipLorenzen , August 16, 2012 2:38 PM
    If you overclock (why wouldn't you?), then the 7870 is the obvious choice. 660ti doesn't leave much headroom, while Pitcarim cards scale beautifully with OC (and have plenty of headroom). I wonder about the inconsistent OC improvements - was the 660ti thermally throttled on the games where the OC didn't help (much), or was it just the memory bandwidth (i.e., those games/settings had more taxing memory loads)?
  • 23 Hide
    ilysaml , August 16, 2012 2:45 PM
    So am i the only one seeing that GTX 660Ti is a fail?
  • 21 Hide
    guru_urug , August 16, 2012 2:48 PM
    Indeed, the 660ti hasnt lived upto its hype. I'd pick a HD7870 over it, especially since the 7870 will fall down to the 250-280 range after AMD begins with the price cut.
  • 21 Hide
    ilysaml , August 16, 2012 2:49 PM
    BigMack70Compared to the "wow" of the GTX 670 launch, this is very "meh".... needs to get down closer to the $250 mark to have that "wow" factor.

    I've seen some HD 7870s getting close to this price, I guess it's a win-round for AMD.
  • 9 Hide
    tomfreak , August 16, 2012 2:54 PM
    lol Looks like the pitcrain 7870 is holding up pretty well. Can I say 660ti is between 7850 vs 7870 and on rare case above 7870?

    I guess a 1.1GHz 7870 will just on par with 660ti. Pitcrain is just a powerful thing.
  • 15 Hide
    supall , August 16, 2012 2:55 PM
    guru_urugIndeed, the 660ti hasnt lived upto its hype. I'd pick a HD7870 over it, especially since the 7870 will fall down to the 250-280 range after AMD begins with the price cut.


    Last month, you could have picked up a non-reference 7870 for well below the $300 price tag (some after mail-in rebate). With the 660TI being a "meh" product, I doubt you'll find any significant price drops until Black Friday.
  • -9 Hide
    jaquith , August 16, 2012 2:56 PM
    Considering 'other' sites jumped the gun, none of this is new or news to me. I would concur the OpenCL is IMO pointless; I consider both the GTX 600 & HD 7000 series 'gaming' GPUs.

    The nice things about the GTX 660 Ti are the added vRAM 2GB, 3-WAY SLI is supported, and the same architectural Kepler. My advice is if purchasing then get a non-reference GTX 660 Ti which allows over-volting and OC if and when needed by doing so you'll match the GTX 670's performance.

    3D Vision folks, my recommendation are the 4GB vRAM GTX 670 or 680's in SLI and as needed (2~4 WAY) depending on your resolution.

    Very thorough benchmark and review - http://uk.hardware.info/reviews/3026/nvidia-geforce-gtx-660-ti-review---3-way-sli-included
  • 20 Hide
    Yuka , August 16, 2012 3:03 PM
    I have the GTX670 and it falls short on newer games that use DirectCompute for some effects. It's ridiculous the performance hit it gets. In Dirt Showdown, with Global Lightning activated, the FPS drops a lot, even without MSAA activated at all!

    From what I'm thinking, the GTX6xx series will fall short when more games start using more GPGPU oriented programming for some visual effects, whereas the 7xxx series from AMD might not fall short.

    Cheers!

    Cheers!
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