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

Test Setup And Benchmarks

The closest-performing card to the GeForce GTX 660 Ti in Nvidia’s prior-generation line-up is GeForce GTX 580. So, we obviously wanted to include it in our tests. Of course, we also want to see how this new model compares to GeForce GTX 670 as well.

AMD's similarly-priced Radeon HD 7870 is an obvious contender, as is the more expensive Radeon HD 7950. We're throwing the Radeon HD 7970 in as a reference point, too. MSI sent over its R7970 Lightning and R7950 to stand in those positions, and we dropped each card's clock rates to reference levels.

From here, things get more complicated. AMD is attempting a preemptive strike against GeForce GTX 660 Ti in the form of Radeon HD 7950 GHz Edition. Essentially, this is a BIOS update to the vanilla Radeon HD 7950 that overclocks the board from 800 to 850 MHz and implements a 925 MHz boost state. The accelerated frequency is adjustable in the Catalyst Control Center's overdrive tool. Already, we're seeing abuse of the GHz Edition moniker; the 7950 falls pretty far short of 1 GHz, even re-tuned.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about the Radeon HD 7950 GHz Edition because, frankly, we're not fans of such last-minute retaliations. Company representatives claim 7950 GHz Edition cards will be available by Friday. But the last time we were promised availability of a GHz Edition card (the 7970), AMD was about a month too ambitious. We'll believe this one when we see it. You'll find the card's results in our overclocking tests as a result.

Speaking of overclocking, we're including MSI’s GeForce GTX 660 Ti a second time, its core accelerated an impressive 150 MHz and memory running 250 MHz faster thanks to MSI's Afterburner tool. We were able dial in an extra 100 millivolts on the core and set 114% of the maximum board power in order to get there.

Finally, we are looking to find the highest playable settings in each game that deliver a minimum of 30 FPS and an average of at least 40. We don't want to waste GPU performance on rendering hundreds of frames per second, and we aren't interested in numbers that aren't playable.

Test System
Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E), 3.3 GHz, Six Cores, LGA 2011, 15 MB Shared L3 Cache, Hyper-Threading enabled, Overclocked to 4.2 GHz
ASRock X79 Extreme9 (LGA 2011) Chipset: Intel X79 Express
On-Board Gigabit LAN controller
Corsair Vengeance LP PC3-16000, 4 x 4 GB, 1600 MT/s, CL 8-8-8-24-2T
Zotac GeForce GTX 580 AMP2 Edition
815 MHz GPU, 3 GB GDDR5 at 1025 MHz

MSI GeForce GTX 660 Ti
1019/1097 MHz Base/Boost GPU, 2 GB GDDR5 at 1502 MHz

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 Overclocked
980/1058 MHz Base/Boost GPU, 2 GB GDDR5 at 1502 MHz

Reference Radeon HD 7870
1000 MHz GPU, 2 GB GDDR5 at 1200 MHz

MSI Radeon R7950
800 MHz GPU, 3 GB GDDR5 at 1250 MHz

Reference Radeon HD 7950 GHz Edition
850/925 MHz Base/Boost GPU, 3 GB GDDR5 at 1250 MHz

MSI Radeon R7970 Lightning
925 MHz GPU, 3 GB GDDR5 at 1375 MHz

All overclocked cards reduced to reference specification for testing
Hard Drive
Samsung 256 GB (SSD)
ePower EP-1200E10-T2 1200 W
Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 x64, Service Pack 1
DirectX 11
Graphics Drivers
Nvidia: 305.37 beta
AMD: Catalyst 12.7 beta
Battlefield 3
Campaign Mode, "Operation Swordfish" 60 second Fraps
Crysis 2
Adrenaline Crysis 2 Benchmark Tool, Times Square, DirectX 11
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Version, Built-in DirectX 11 Benchmark
Metro 2033Full Game, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" Scene
DiRT Showdown
Version, DirectX 11 Benchmark
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Update 1.4.27, THG Benchmarks save, 25 seconds Fraps
Max Payne 3
Version, Chapter 3, save 16, 65 second Fraps
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  • game junky
    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 $100 but it is still an interesting option.
  • crisan_tiberiu
    so, this is basically a card that costs 40$ less then a GTX 580, consumes 100W less power then a gtx 580 and its 8% better...hmm, intresting.
  • crisan_tiberiu
    *edit, costs 100$ less then GTX 580.
  • rmpumper
    That's strange - on techpowerup review the 660Ti is above 7950's average performance.
  • outlw6669
    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.

    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.
  • verbalizer
    nice card, not OVERLY impressed...
    c'mon SON let's be real here......
    ridiculous @ $300 beans..
  • hellfire24
    waiting for a price cut down.who's with me?
  • felipetga
    I have been holding to upgrade my GTX 460 256bits. I wonder if this card will be bottlenecked by my C2Q 9550 @ 3.6ghz....
  • verbalizer
    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..
  • EzioAs
    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
  • mayankleoboy1
    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.
  • mayankleoboy1
    i think the reviewer went overboard with the OpenCL tests in this review. You could have pared down some of those image/video manipulation tests.
  • BattleshipLorenzen
    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)?
  • ilysaml
    So am i the only one seeing that GTX 660Ti is a fail?
  • guru_urug
    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.
  • ilysaml
    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.
  • tomfreak
    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.
  • supall
    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.
  • jaquith
    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 -
  • Yuka
    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.


  • KrisPC
    Just got a glimpse of EVGA 660 Ti selection - and I must say there are so many of them. The best EVGA 660 Ti - FTW 3GB w/Backplate is almost on par with 670 FTW, plus it's got 1GB of extra memory (and I assume it's memory bandwidth is the same with other 3GB 660 Ti's) and it's MSRP is 350$. Same goes for 660 Ti FTW, almost the same specs and 100$ less compared to 670 FTW.

    Those news doesn't make me very happy though, because I bought my 670's last month when there were no solid rumors when the 660 is released and my deadline was the end of august. However considering I was rocking with 8600M GT before that, the fun factor is well worth it.
  • Wisecracker
    Toms: Most objective article seen thus far on the 660ti

    Good job!
  • wiinippongamer
    The once again pathetic GPGPU would be enough to sway me towards the 7870 if I needed an upgrade.
  • ojas
    Hmmm. Probably expected, with the cut-down memory bandwidth.

    Anyway, check out AnandTech's review too. Haven't read it yet, but they usually have good reviews as well.

    Though i liked this review a lot, pretty balanced. Good job Don! :)