GeForce GTX 660 Ti Is A $300 Contender Worth Considering
We begin by aggregating the performance of our seven games at 1920x1080, which is the upper-mainstream resolution that Nvidia is targeting with its $300 GeForce GTX 660 Ti.
According to the settings we chose on a per-game basis, picked to maximize visual quality at playable frame rates, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti is close to, if not slightly slower than a Radeon HD 7870. We already know this runs counter to Nvidia's expectations, which put the new card between AMD's Radeon HD 7870 and 7950. However, after comparing lab results, the outcome of our testing appears tied to the way we picked settings for each game, likely taxing the 660 Ti's memory bandwidth more than less-demanding options would.
Perhaps our settings favor the Radeon cards. Perhaps theirs favor the GeForce-based boards. And maybe the most real-world outcome lies somewhere in between. But, I believe the truth is that GeForce GTX 660 Ti performs within 5%, plus or minus, of the Radeon HD 7870.
Frankly, a few percentage points doesn't sway our opinion one way or the other. Here's the real bottom-line: using our benchmark suite and settings, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti and Radeon HD 7870 trade blows. That fact alone justifies Nvidia's $300 price tag.
Your choice comes down to strengths, weaknesses, and features, then. If you don't tend to use anything more than 4x MSAA, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti will perform better than many of our results indicate, since you won't be taxing its memory subsystem as hard. Conversely, if you're a fan of lots of anti-aliasing, the Radeon cards tend to pull ahead in this price range.
From there, do you prefer AMD or Nvidia products? Any preference between Eyefinity or Surround? Does the idea of a tightly-controlled but more reliable 3D Vision ecosystem appeal to you, or is AMD's less-restrictive HD3D initiative sound better? If you've had good experiences with PhysX in the past, Nvidia's solution will likely eke out an advantage; there just aren't enough titles with the feature implemented to compel me, personally.
Like our game setting choices, there are no right or wrong answers other than to say the GeForce GTX 660 Ti is priced appropriately at $300, just like AMD's Radeon HD 7870. Time to sit back and wait for both companies to push each other on pricing (and indeed, 7870s are already starting to appear around $280).