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Which High-End Setup Should You Buy, Big Spender?

Do Two GeForce GTX 680s Beat Three GeForce GTX 660 Tis In SLI?
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So, do three GeForce GTX 660 Ti cards in three-way SLI offer more high-end gaming value than two GeForce GTX 680s in SLI? A simple chart comparing graphics price to performance would appear to show that two GeForce GTX 660 Ti boards in SLI offer the best possible value, followed by a single GeForce GTX 680 2 GB at reference clock rates. Every other combination of cards is going to cost you more than the performance it enables.

On the other hand, gaming at the highest resolution possible was the goal of today's testing, and we're happy to say that we were able to run all of these configurations at 5760x1080. Even then, the sun shines brightest on Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660 Ti.

We could minimize the impact of the graphics card by factoring in the total cost of our platform, but today's testing wasn't about platform analysis (like what you saw recently in FX Vs. Core i7: Exploring CPU Bottlenecks And AMD CrossFire). We doubt the expensive Core i7-3960X was even a benefit in today's tests. We wanted to use it to help mitigate any argument about four-lane PCI Express links that we would have encountered if we used an LGA 1155-based setup. If we were spending money though, we probably would have used an overclocked Core i7-3770K instead.

The issue we have with the GeForce GTX 660 Ti’s apparent performance wins is that the average frame rates don't account for the few times we ran into problems. For example, the super-high resolutions we'd want to use after spending close to a grand on graphics didn't work properly on any graphics card with 2 GB in F1 2012. The 3 GB models that might have helped solve this issue would have stepped us up from $290 per board to $320.

None of these configurations were able to cut through our most demanding Metro 2033 settings (not particularly surprising; Metro remains a complete bear, even for high-end hardware). But GeForce GTX 680 cards in SLI played through those high-quality settings most smoothly at 4800x900. Similarly, both GeForce GTX 660 Ti-based configurations suffered occasional slowdowns in Battlefield 3 that could make the game unplayable at 5760x1080 and Ultra Quality.

So, while three GeForce GTX 660 Ti cards in SLI are both cheaper and faster on average, there are a few instances where they simply cannot offer an optimal experience at 5760x1080. Running two GeForce GTX 680 cards in SLI improves two out of three situations we flagged, and 4 GB of GDDR5 memory solves the third. Given those observations, Gigabyte appears wise to have sent us the 4 GB version of its overclocked 680.

Display all 49 comments.
Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    renz496 , February 18, 2013 3:20 AM
    off topic:

    when titan's review comes out?

    on topic:

    frankly i'm no multi gpu nor multi monitor user. but for the green camp if you want multi monitor gtx 660 ti 3Gb is a good choice if you want the cheap option. if you want more horse power while still on the cheap side then 7950 is the answer. (the latest game bundle from amd might also lean some people to buy amd cards)


  • 11 Hide
    merikafyeah , February 18, 2013 4:00 AM
    I'd still go for a GTX 690 Hydro Copper. Overclock it and pwn while only taking two slots. SLI configs which take up all your slots seem highly inefficient and unappealing.
  • 11 Hide
    s3anister , February 18, 2013 6:21 AM
    Interesting article, however, it'd be very nice to see a comparable Radeon article.
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    renz496 , February 18, 2013 3:20 AM
    off topic:

    when titan's review comes out?

    on topic:

    frankly i'm no multi gpu nor multi monitor user. but for the green camp if you want multi monitor gtx 660 ti 3Gb is a good choice if you want the cheap option. if you want more horse power while still on the cheap side then 7950 is the answer. (the latest game bundle from amd might also lean some people to buy amd cards)


  • 4 Hide
    jupiter optimus maximus , February 18, 2013 3:24 AM
    A sneak peak to the GTX Titain 6GBs. From the website "WCCF Tech"
    http://wccftech.com/nvidia-geforce-gtx-titan-pictured-gk110-finally-arrives-consumers-blasting-6-gb-memory/
  • 2 Hide
    rantoc , February 18, 2013 3:35 AM
    From my own experience I would rather go with 2x 680 as dual sli scales very well on about _all_ titles while tri/quad sli can be more of a gambling in performance - For titles where all the cards scale well its sure nice as hell - Where it does not you can even loose performance by adding a third/fourth card (even thoo that scenario gets less and less frequent).
  • 3 Hide
    mcd023 , February 18, 2013 3:37 AM
    id like to see some benchies on metro 2033 with physx and DoF just for fun hahaha
  • 4 Hide
    hero1 , February 18, 2013 3:41 AM
    Nice review, makes me consider taking 3x7950 instead of 2x7970. Would equal in price due to sales that are going on. But, maybe grab a Titan? I hope to see another review in 8 hrs featuring Nvidia GeForce Titan.
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 18, 2013 3:52 AM
    Not the point of this article, but i noticed that a single gtx680 is a complete beast at 1080P.
    Also, it would have been interesting to see the CPU usage during the tests.

    Edit : A repeat of this article with the HD7000 cards should be performed, specially after the 13.2 driver are released.
  • 7 Hide
    hero1 , February 18, 2013 3:57 AM
    mayankleoboy1Not the point of this article, but i noticed that a single gtx680 is a complete beast at 1080P.Also, it would have been interesting to see the CPU usage during the tests.Edit : A repeat of this article with the HD7000 cards should be performed, specially after the 13.2 driver are released.


    Yes same review for HD 7000 series should be given. Can't wait for that.
  • 11 Hide
    merikafyeah , February 18, 2013 4:00 AM
    I'd still go for a GTX 690 Hydro Copper. Overclock it and pwn while only taking two slots. SLI configs which take up all your slots seem highly inefficient and unappealing.
  • 2 Hide
    esrever , February 18, 2013 4:02 AM
    when are you going to switch to the new 3dmark?
  • -2 Hide
    rmpumper , February 18, 2013 4:20 AM
    Why do you say "higher/lower is better" in some graphs? Which is it - higher or lower?
  • 11 Hide
    s3anister , February 18, 2013 6:21 AM
    Interesting article, however, it'd be very nice to see a comparable Radeon article.
  • 6 Hide
    sanilmahambre , February 18, 2013 7:52 AM
    What about 4 X crossfire 7870LE VS 3 X crossfire 7950 VS 2 X crossfire 7970 VS Devil 13 7990
  • 4 Hide
    PadaV4 , February 18, 2013 9:24 AM
    A review with SLI and no microstutter and frame latency tests?? Seriously?
  • 4 Hide
    TheMadFapper , February 18, 2013 9:34 AM
    670s are still a better value, you've shown that numerous times.
  • -3 Hide
    TheMadFapper , February 18, 2013 9:37 AM
    PadaV4A review with SLI and no microstutter and frame latency tests?? Seriously?


    Frame latency has only been a major issue for AMD setups, and mostly around the 7950, not so much the higher end cards.
  • 2 Hide
    kristi_metal , February 18, 2013 10:25 AM
    TheMadFapperFrame latency has only been a major issue for AMD setups, and mostly around the 7950, not so much the higher end cards.


    Actually no, all cards have a problem with inconsistent frame latencies, including Nvidia cards.
    The problem is even bigger on multicard setup, where microstuttering can be a visual annoyance
  • -2 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , February 18, 2013 11:25 AM
    kristi_metalActually no, all cards have a problem with inconsistent frame latencies, including Nvidia cards. The problem is even bigger on multicard setup, where microstuttering can be a visual annoyance


    Actually no, AMD cards till now recently have had poorer frame latencies that the comparable Nvidia cards, mainly because of poor drivers. It does not mean Tahiti < Kepler. It only means AMD driver team is lagging.
  • 2 Hide
    ojas , February 18, 2013 11:28 AM
    Could see the conclusion coming, 2x 4GB GTX680s seem to make more sense than the Ti's.

    Just like the other folks, would like to see the Radeon equivalent article too! And Titan as well :D 
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , February 18, 2013 11:36 AM
    kristi_metalActually no, all cards have a problem with inconsistent frame latencies, including Nvidia cards. The problem is even bigger on multicard setup, where microstuttering can be a visual annoyance

    I don't experience microstutter with my two 680s in SLI. I had it constantly with my 2 5850s and still with 3 5850s. I never had a problem with microstutter with 2 580s in SLI either.

    I challenge everyone to try both multi-card technologies for themselves and then talk about their results. Don't just take the word of others as the truth.
  • 2 Hide
    KrisPC , February 18, 2013 12:23 PM
    Somewhat happy to see the results, for reason that 660 Ti didn't seem to be bottlenecked by it's 2 GB VRAM (except perhaps in BF 3). Guess the guys who told that unless you plan to go 3-way SLI your cards don't have enough raw power to use 4 GB VRAM anyway were right and back when I bought my 2 670 cards it would have cost me 150$ extra for a bit weaker cards. So I have no regrets. PS. Gaming at 5760x1080 is awesome but even more so is video editing.
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