EVGA GTX 660Ti : Kepler The Next Round
When the GTX 670 was released we were impressed, the card was very fast and offered a great feature set. In fact the only downside we found was the cost. It was just hard to justify our listeners dropping $400 plus for a video card that, while awesome, was mostly wasted on the typical gamer setup of a 1080 resolution monitor. We said then we were waiting excitedly for the 660Ti and here it is.
The card we have for testing is the Super Clocked editions from EVGA. What they have done is up the base clock speed from the stock configuration of 915MHz to 980 MHz. In essence they have taken the boost speed that Kepler offers at stock and made it the stock speed. They have also upped the boost speed from 980 MHZ to 1059 MHz. This means that the card we are testing comes with a nice overclock out of the gate.
Now if you looked at the above speeds and think something sounds familiar, you are right. The 660Ti is essentially the same chip we saw on the 670 card. In fact it is identical except for a single aspect, the memory bandwidth has been reduced from 256 bit memory bus to a 192 bit bus. At higher resolutions with features turned up this could result in a slow down but at 1080 resolutions the impact should be minimal.
The package from EVGA is what we have come to expect from the premier video card party for nVidia. The two power adapters and DVI converter are individually wrapped. The card itself is based off a reference design with some EVGA tweaking down under the hood. You get a quick install guide, information on a 3 year warranty as well as some stickers, a nice case badge and even a poster to hang on the wall of your geek room. What is not shown here is that with this card’s launch various etailers will also be giving a free copy of Borderlands 2 with each card purchased. This is sweet because we are not talking a second tier or older game but one of the most anticipated games of this year.
An examination of the card itself may look familiar if you have seen a GTX 670. It should, for all practical purposes the cards design is identical. The PCB is a shorter board with the fan section of the heatsink actually off the end of the PCB. For power it uses dual PCIe power connections, but do not be fooled, this card sips juice.
For testing purposes I put the card into my main gaming rig and tested it against a GTX 670 and an AMD 7950. Wait a second, this card costs $300 and you are testing against a 7950? That’s right, in our briefing nVidia claimed it ran with the 7950 despite being put in the cost bracket of the 7870, well let’s see if they told us the truth. For purposes of our testing I used the rig listed below.
- Intel i7 3820 (stock)
- Sapphire Pure Black X79N
- Kingston HyperX 1600 RAM
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240 Gig SSD
- Thermaltake Level 10 GT Case
- Thermaltake Toughpower 850
While many reviews of this card will show you a bunch of benchmark scores, we look at video cards a bit differently on our show. We do run a number of benchmarks but these are for comparison purposes and we do not give you the actual scores. The reason we do this is the benchmark system as it exists today does little to tell you about the real world performance you will get with the cards. For this we use the benchmarks as a reference and then use subjective, actual game play, testing to reach our conclusions. This combination of information allows us to give you a simple to understand evaluation of the cards.
Let’s begin by looking at something that caught my eye right away when looking at the cards stats. This card seems to be, for all practical purposes identical to a GTX 670 so I began my comparison there. I wanted to start with something that was measurable and so I began my testing using the 3DMark11 test suite. For this comparison I used the default Extreme settings. We did not look at lower settings because lets be real anyone dropping $300 on a video card is NOT going to want to game at lower than 1080 resolutions. When the test numbers came back we found that the GTX 660Ti was only 5.5% overall behind the GTX 670. Now think about that for a moment, the GTX 670 costs $400 and the GTX 660Ti is coming it at round $300, so 25% less cost but only 5.5% performance lose? WOW! Now in fairness the model we are testing is not a stock 660Ti but the cost difference for the SC model from EVGA is only $10 more.
Benchmarks however are next to meaningless to me, let’s look at gaming performance. Now I could take the time to list all the games we spent time looking at but the list would be pretty long. Let’s say it is safe to say I looked at MMOs, RPGs, FPS and RTS gaming. Of all the titles I looked at, most of them can hold 60 FPS like a rock when vsync is enabled. What that means is when I run the games at 1080 with the highest detail levels the games allow and vsync enabled (this usually locks in at 60 for most monitors) the game will run right at the 60 frame limit with only minor drops ever during game play when using a GTX 670. Well the 600Ti delivered an identical showing. Skyrim, World of Tanks and many others all pegged the limit and ran like as smooth as butter. In fact in NO game tested did I see any performance or experience drop when switching from the 670 to the 660Ti.
After all the testing was done it was clear the 660Ti is the 670 with just a lower memory bandwidth and this has no effect on game play, worth mentioning, at 1080 resolutions. What about the claim that the 660Ti could run with the 7950? All of our testing backed this up. The 7950 is a very capable card but at no point could it pull a lead over the 660Ti, again costing less money.
Now I wanted to see how this scaled so I put the card on an i5 3450 at stock speeds as well as a Phenom II 965 at stock speeds and the card continued to deliver an outstanding gaming experience. This card is a true gem and continues to put nVidia in the strange place of finding it’s main competition is itself. With the majority of gamers playing at 1080 resolutions or lower it is really hard to justify spending $400 for a GTX 670. It is a great card and gives a gamer a ton of headroom to make sure his games today and tomorrow will run well, but for most of us $400 is a tough pill to swallow. Along comes the 660Ti which is pretty much identical on every way. Even going so far as being truly identical in gaming experience at 1080 resolutions, and suddenly the choice of getting a 670 is a little harder to make.
With the Kepler release nVidia has truly raised the bar. The 680 delivered an amazing card at it’s price point when you considered not just the performance but the low power usage and great feature set. Then the 670 came along and the performance lose was TINY yet it dropped the price $100 and kept that same great feature set and high level of performance. Now we have the 660Ti and the trend continues. This card drops $100 off the price but takes a minor performance hit and considering the target audience no performance hit at all over the 670.
With an amazing feature set, nVidia putting more emphasis on gaming and gaming support, a reasonable price, great game for free AND great performance this card is a no brainer for the mainstream gamer wanting the best bang for their buck at the upper end card. Sure you can go higher but if you live in the real world and use a single gaming display at 1080 this is the top of the line and buying higher nets you nothing of value but less money for buying games.
As for the specific model provided to us by EVGA? The EVGA GTX 660Ti SC is an awesome card for the money. Only $10 more than the stock speed cards this gives you a nice little performance boost. You also get EVGA quality and a great 3 year warranty as well as the best video card tweaking software on the market Precision X. If you want to take your gaming to the next level then this is card for you!
Show segment as aired live 18 August 2012