Nvidia has just released its “sweet-spot” $229 GeForce GTX 660 and the $109 GTX 650 based on its “GK106″ 28nm Kepler DX11.1 architecture today. These new GPUs are the fourth and the fifth in Nvidia’s lineup – after the dual-GPU $1000 Flagship GTX 690 and the single-GPU $500 GTX 680, as well after the $400 GTX 670 and the $299 GTX 660 Ti. Although we will take a brief look at the GTX 650, we will focus primarly on the performance of the GTX 660 as it relates to the current GeForce lineup in performance and price and particularly on the Galaxy GTX 660 GC which etails for $239.
We received a Galaxy GTX 660 GC video card from Galaxy under NDA and for the past week, we have been comparing it to the AMD Radeon HD 7850 that it is going head to head with, as well as to part of Nvidia’s existing Kepler line-up. We are also comparing it to Nvidia’s recently released GTX 660 Ti as well as to Nvidia’s second card of the last generation, the GTX 570 as well as our older EVGA FTW GTX 460, a highly factory-clocked GTX from the 400 series that basically defined price and performance at the $200 level when it launched.
“Faster, Smoother, Richer”
Nvidia designed the GeForce GTX 660 primarily for gamers who want to enjoy their games with the graphics settings and anti-aliasing (AA) turned up to high, although perhaps not to ultra settings, paired with a 1920×1080 display. That means that Nvidia has positioned it directly against the HD 7850 which sits solidly in the $200-plus price range. It is very likely that the GTX 660 will also be compared against the faster HD 7870 although Nvidia has positioned the GTX 660 Ti in its price range.
The GTX 660 is Nvidia’s replacement for the GTX 560 which launched at the beginning of 2011 at $199. It followed the pricing tradition of the GTX 460 which debuted at $199 and made quite a stir against AMD’s HD 6850. The EVGA FTW GTX 460 was priced at $229 as it was rather highly overclocked and we shall see how its performance holds up today against the more modern 28nm cards.
The GTX 660′s Competition – the HD 7850 at $200-229
This time, Nvidia is aiming for slightly less than GTX 660 Ti performance in a “sweet-spot” package to directly compete with AMD’s midrange card, the HD 7850, their bread and butter line-up. The HD 7850 is now selling this morning for an average price on Newegg for $200-$229 and we were able to get DiRT Showdown bundled in with our reference-clocked HIS HD 7850 for $199.99 shipped plus taxes. Nvidia estimates that only ten percent of gamers pay $300 or more for their video cards by using the Steam Hardware Survey as their source.
We purchased a $200 HIS reference HD 7850 IceQX as the cheapest SKU that we could find last week although the average price is about $200 to $229 at Newegg depending on brand and clockspeeds. We not only ran our HIS HD 7850 at its reference clocks of 860/4800MHz, we also ran it at the highest factory overclock of any of AMD’s partners – at 1000MHz/5000MHz - to see how well it compares with Kepler GTX 660 scaling.
The GTX 660 Pricing
There are going to be several varieties of the GTX 660 with their suggested base price starting at $229 which will include some factory overclocked SKUs. Here are some partner pricing that have been confirmed:
· Galaxy GeForce GTX 660 2GB Galaxy Clocked – $239.99
· EVGA GeForce GTX 660 2GB Superclocked – $229.99
· EVGA GeForce GTX 660 3GB Superclocked – $269.99
So you will see us pit the Galaxy clocked GTX 660 at reference clocks and also further overclocked, against our HIS reference design HD 7850 (860/1200MHz) and also at 1000MHz/1250MHz to stand in for the highest factory overclocked HD 7850 that you can buy. We are also going to compare the GTX 660 Ti, the GTX 570, and the GTX 460 using 24 modern games and 3 synthetic benchmarks using 1920×1200 and 1680×1050 resolutions.
In this way, are can compare the performance of the current as well as the last generation of GeForce video cards to see if the GTX 660 follows the great value traditon of the GTX 460 and also how it compares to last generation’s second-fastest GTX, the GTX 570. Of course, the most important comparison might be the GTX 660 against the much more expensive GTX 660 Ti which is curently selling for $299 with a copy of Borderlands 2 bundled with it.
What’s New with Kepler’s GTX 660?
Nvidia’s marketing buzzwords for the GTX 680, GTX 690, GTX 670 and GTX 660 Ti launches are, “Faster. Smoother. Richer.” The GTX 660 is also designed for extreme efficiency and high performance.
The GTX 680′s Kepler architecture has 8 SMX units and 1536 CUDA cores. In comparison, the more affordable GeForce GTX 670 and GTX 660 Ti both ship with 1344 CUDA Cores and 7 SMX units. The main difference between the GTX 670 and the GTX 660 Ti is that the less expensive card has a narrower bus – cut down from 256-bit to 192-bit. Now for the GTX 660, the bus width remains the same 192-bit, but the GTX 660 is further cut down from the Ti’s 7 SMX units and 1344 cores to 5 SMX units and 960 CUDA cores. This means that the GTX 660 is the mainstream Kepler card and also explains why it is priced $70 less than the Ti version at $229. The question is, of course, how does it perform compared to the GTX 660 Ti?
The Kepler GTX 660 promises way better geometry and texture processing over Fermi’s GTX 460 thanks to its improved instruction throughput and redesign. In addition, Nvidia brings “GPU Boost”, a dynamic way to boost clocks speeds and maximize performance for each game. Nvidia estimates that the GTX 660 is more than twice faster than the GTX 460.
New kinds of anti-aliasing – FXAA and TXAA – now compete with MSAA in terms of IQ while not sacrificing as much performance. TXAA which we evaluated in the Secret World, brings anti-aliasing without texture crawling or shimmering when the camera is in motion. Also, there is a new “Adaptive VSync” that is reduces tearing and stuttering associated with regular VSync. Great hardware needs great software to support it and Nvidia is also a software company.
For the first time, it is now possible to play games spanning 3 displays in Surround off of a single GeForce GTX 660 just as with the GTX 680, GTX 670 and the GTX 660 Ti. The GTX 660 (below, left) brings two dual-link DVI connectors, one HDMI and one DisplayPort connector (for a 4th accessor display) so that only one adapter is needed for any DVI-enabled display for 3-panel Surround. In contrast, you will generally need two adapters for DVI for the HD 7850 (below, right) to run the competing 3-panel Eyefinity and you may also experience more tearing with the AMD solution.
PhysX has also been improved. One 6-pin PCIe power connector is required for the 660′s operation and if you forget to connect it, you will get an on-screen reminder at boot-up – a feature not found with older Nvidia cards.
How does the $229 GTX 660 compare with AMD’s HD 7850?
This evaluation attempts to analyze and compare the GTX 660, the GTX 660 Ti, the GTX 570 and the EVGA GTX 460 FTW performance. We also include HD 7850 performance as well. We will see what this new Nvidia Kepler enthusiast value GPU brings to the table for about two hundred and twenty-nine dollars, $239 in the case of the Galaxy GTX 660 GC.
Since we do not want any chance of our CPU “bottlenecking” our graphics, we are testing all of our graphics cards by using our Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7-3770K at 4.80GHz, 8 GB Kingston PC1866 DDR3 and EVGA’s Z77 FTW motherboard. This new motherboard features 16x + 16x PCIe 3.0 specification for CrossFire/SLI. The Core i7-3770K at 4.8GHz is more than enough to differentiate even high-end video cards at high resolution and high detail settings.
Before we do performance testing, let’s take a look at the Galaxy GTX 660 GC and quickly recap its new Kepler DX11.1 architecture and features.