The EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked edition arrives
Nvidia has just released its “value” $299 GeForce GTX 660 Ti based on its 28nm Kepler DX11.1 architecture today. This new GPU is the fourth 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. We will focus primarly on the performance of the GTX 660 Ti as it relates to the current GeForce lineup in performance and price.
We received a EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked video card from EVGA under NDA and for the past week, we have been comparing it to the GTX 560 Ti that it replaces as well as to Nvidia’s existing Kepler line-up. We are also comparing it as well as to Nvidia’s flagship of the last generation, the GTX 580 as well as our 4-year old GTX 280 as a upgrade path for DX10 gamers. Of course, we will also compare our reference-clocked PowerColor HD 7970 (925/1375MHz) to see exactly where the new GTX fits in regarding its price to performance.
The GTX 660 Ti’s Competition – the HD 7870 and the HD 7950
Nvidia designed the GeForce GTX 660 Ti for gamers who want to enjoy their games with the graphics settings and anti-aliasing (AA) turned up, paired with a 1920×1200 or 1920×1080 display. That means that Nvidia has positioned it directly against the HD 7870 which sits solidly in the $300 price range. It is very likely that the GTX 660 Ti will also be compared against the “new” faster HD 7950 that AMD has just this week announced lowered pricing for at about $330.
The GTX 660 Ti is Nvidia’s replacement for the GTX 560 Ti which launched at the beginning of 2011 at $249. This time, Nvidia is aiming for slightly less than GTX 670 performance in a “value” package to directly compete with AMD’s upper-midrange cards, the HD 7980 and the HD 7950. The reference HD 7870 is now selling for an average price on Newegg for $300 with a couple of cards available for as little as $270 after mail-in-rebate. The HD 7950 is available for an average selling price of $350 right now on Newegg and the cheapest one on Newegg is $304.99 plus $12.24 shipping.
EVGA GTX 660 Ti Pricing
There are going to be many varieties of the GTX 660 Ti with the suggested base price starting at $299. The EVGA Superclocked GTX 660 Ti that we are testing is priced at $309.99 and it is part of this EVGA 660 Ti lineup that includes 2GB and 3GB versions and they will also include a Borderlands 2 coupon at participating USA etailers:
· EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB – $299.99
· EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti Superclocked 2GB -$309.99
· EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti FTW 2GB – $329.99
· EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti+ 3GB – $329.99
· EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti Superclocked+ 3GB – $339.99
· EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti FTW+ 3GB – $359.99
The GeForce GTX 660 Ti ships with 1344 CUDA Cores and 7 SMX units. The memory subsystem of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti consists of three 64-bit memory controllers (192-bit) with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Its specifications are virtually identical to the GTX 670 but on a narrower bus..
The base clock speed of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti is 915MHz. The typical Boost Clock speed is 980MHz. The Boost Clock speed is based on the average GeForce GTX 660 Ti card running a wide variety of games and applications. Note that the actual Boost clock will vary from game-to-game depending on actual system conditions.
Thanks to GPU Boost, it isn’t uncommon for the GeForce GTX 660 Ti to run at speeds well in excess of 1GHz when gaming. On our own sample, we saw over 1100MHz at stock EVGA factory settings and near 1200MHz when it was overclocked further from EVGA’s factory overclock. We expect to see many overclocked SKUs from Nvidia board partners as well. EVGA clocked the Superclocked version +65MHz over Nvidia’s reference clocks and here are its specifications:
Under load, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti typically draws up to 134W of power in most non-TDP apps. This is what you should experience with the power target slider set at its default 100% setting. For our testing of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti, we maxed the slider out at +123% as we do for all Kepler cards. Likewise, we also max the PowerTune slider for AMD cards. At this setting, GTX 660 Ti will draw up to 165W in non-TDP apps.
GeForce GTX 660 Ti’s memory speed is 6008MHz data rate, the same rate as for all the Kepler cards. With our GTX 690 and GTX 680 we were able to get overclocks of +500MHz on the memory; about +400MHz on the GTX 670 and we will naturally try for the max core and memory overclock possible with our new 660 Ti.
So you will see us pit the EVGA Superclocked GTX 660 Ti at EVGA reference clocks and further overclocked, against our PowerColor reference design HD 7970 (925/1375MHz) which will more than stand in for a overclocked HD 7950. We are also going to compare the GTX 680, GTX 670, GTX 580, GTX 560 Ti and GTX 280 using 22 modern games and 3 synthetic benchmarks using 1920×1200 and 2560×1600 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 Ti is a worthy upgrade from the GTX 560 Ti and how it compares to last generation’s flagship GTX 580. And the gamers who still have a GTX 280 from about four years ago might want to know how it compares to Nvidia’s new $300 card. Of course, the most important comparison might be the EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked against the much more expensive HD 7970 which is selling for well over $400.
What’s New with Kepler’s GTX 660 Ti?
Nvidia’s marketing buzzwords for the GTX 680, GTX 690 and GTX 670 launches were, “Faster. Smoother. Richer.” The GTX 660 Ti 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. This is a cost-saving feature that should still give great performance at 1920×1200 and 1920×1080 resolutions, the displays at which it is aimed.
The Kepler GTX 660 Ti promises better geometry and texture processing than Fermi’s GTX 560 Ti 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.
New kinds of anti-aliasing – FXAA and TXAA – now compete with MSAA in terms of IQ while not sacrificing 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 Ti just as with the GTX 680 and the GTX 670. And this time, the GTX 670 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 the HD 7970 to run the competing 3-panel Eyefinity and you may also experience more tearing with the AMD solution.
PhysX has also been improved. The GeForce GTX 660 Ti reference board measures 9.5″ in length. Two 6-pin PCIe power connectors are required for operation and if you forget to connect them, you will get an on-screen reminder.
How does the $299 GTX 660 Ti compare with AMD’s reference HD 7970 at over $400, recently down from $550
This evaluation attempts to analyze and compare GTX 660 Ti, GTX 680 and GTX 670 performance. We also include HD 7970 performance as well as Nvidia’s fastest card of the last generation, their single-GPU GTX 580 and we may be able to announce a price to performance winner. We will see what this new Nvidia Kepler enthusiast value GPU brings to the table for about three hundred dollars.The above chart is from Nvidia. Although we do not have these exact cards, we also believe that it is important to see how much performance increase the GTX 660 Ti has brought over last generation’s GTX 560 Ti so as to see if it is a worthy upgrade and we’d also like to see how a flagship GTX 280 from 4 years ago compares.
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 an EVGA Z77 FTW motherboard. This new motherboard features 16x + 16x PCIe 3.0 specification for CrossFire/SLI, and we will have an evaluation of it up this weekend. 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 EVGA GTX 660 Ti and quickly recap its new Kepler DX11.1 architecture and features.
Architecture and Features
We have covered Fermi’s GK104 architecture in a lot of detail previously. You can can read our GTX 680 introductory article and and its follow-up. We also covered the launch of the GTX 690 and the launch of the GTX 670. The new Kepler architecture builds on Fermi architecture with some important improvements and refinements that we will briefly cover here before we get into performance testing.
As Nvidia’s slide for the GTX 680 indicates, the new architecture is called SMX and it emphasizes 2x the performance per Watt of Fermi. Their multi-threaded engine handles all of the information using four graphics processing clusters including the raster engine and two streaming multi-processors.
The SM is now called the SMX cluster. Each SMX cluster includes a Polymorph 2.0 engine, 192 CUDA cores, 16 texture units and a lot of high-level cache. In the GTX 680, four raster units and 128 Texture units comprise 32 ROPs; eight geometry units each have a tessellation unit, and more lower-level cache. Both the GTX 670 and the GTX 660 Ti each have 4 graphics engines but one less SMX unit and only 24 ROPs.
The other main differentiation between the GTX 670/680 and the GTX 660 Ti is that the Ti bus is much narrower at 192-bit, cut down from 256-bit. Nvidia has really improved their memory controller over last generation as there is a 192-bit wide GDDR5 memory interface at 6Gbps declared throughput.
GeForce GTX 660 Ti’s memory speed is 6008MHz data rate. The base clock speed of the GeForce GTX 670 and the GTX 660 Ti is 915MHz. The typical Boost Clock speed is 980MHz.
The GeForce GTX 680 reference board measures 11″ in length whereas the GTX 670 and GTX 660 Ti are 9.5″. Display outputs include two dual-link DVIs, HDMI and one mini-DisplayPort connector. Two 6-pin PCIe power connectors are required for both the GTX 660 Ti’s and the GTX 670′s operation.
This is a very brief overview of Kepler architecture as presented to the press at Kepler Editor’s Day in San Francisco a few months ago. We also attended Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and you can find a lot more details about the architecture in our GTC 2012 report.
GPU Boost was invented by Nvidia to improve efficiency and to raise the GTX 660 Ti clocks automatically in response to dynamically changing power requirements. Up until now, Nvidia engineers had to select clock speeds on a specific “worst case” power target – often a benchmark.
Unfortunately, all apps are not equal in their power requirements and some applications are far more power-hungry than others. That means that in some games with lower power requirements, the game is not optimized for higher core frequency because it is limited by a global power target.
With GPU Boost, there is real time dynamic clocking with polling every millisecond. In this way, clocks can be ramped up to meet the power target of each application – not held back by the most stressful application, which is usually a benchmark, not a game.
As we found with the GTX 680 and the GTX 670, GPU Boost goes hand-in-hand with overclocking and it delivers additional frequency in addition to the clocks set by the end user. GPU Boost continues to work with the GTX 660 Ti while overclocking to the maximum allowed by the ever-changing power envelope.
Moving the voltage higher also moves the frequency and boost higher. In practice, if you monitor the frequencies, they constantly change up and down.
Traditional VSync is great for eliminating tearing until the frame rate drops below the target – then there is a severe drop from usually 60 fps down to 30 fps if it cannot meet exactly 60. When that happens, there is a noticeable stutter.
Nvidia’s solution is to dynamically adjust VSync – to turn it on and off instantaneously. In this way VSync continues to prevent tearing but when it drops below 60 fps, it shuts off VSync to reduce stuttering instead of drastically dropping frame rates from 60 to 30 fps or even lower. When the minimum target is again met, VSync kicks back in. In gaming, you never notice Adaptive VSync is happening; you just notice less stutter (especially in demanding games).
Adaptive VSync is a good solution that works well in practice. We spent more time with Adaptive VSync by playing games and it is very helpful although we never use it when benching.
FXAA & TXAA
There is a need for new kinds of anti-aliasing as many of the modern engines use differed lighting which suffers a heavy performance penalty when traditional MSAA is applied. The alternative, to have jaggies is unacceptable. TXAA – Temporal Anti-Aliasing is a mix of hardware mult-sampling with a custom high quality AA resolve that use temporal components (samples that are gathered over micro-seconds are compared to give a better AA solution). It’s main advantage is that it reduces shimmering and texture crawling when the camera is in motion.
There is TXAA 1 which extracts a performance cost similar to 2xMSAA which under ideal circumstances give similar results to 8xMSAA. Of course, from what little time we have spent with it, it appears to be not quite as consistent as MSAA but works well in areas of high contrast. TXAA 2 is supposed to have a similar performance penalty to 4xMSAA but with higher quality than 8xMSAA.
TXAA was the subject of a short IQ analysis of the Secret World – the first game to use it. So far, it appears to be a great option for situations where MSAA doesn’t work efficiently and it almost completely eliminates shimmering and texture crawling when the camera is in motion. It works particularly well for the Secret World as the slight blur gives the game a cinematic look.
Nvidia has already implemented FXAA – Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing. In practice, it works well in some games (Duke Nukem Forever/Max Payne 3), while in other games text or other visuals may be a bit blurry. FXAA is a great option to have when MSAA kills performance. We plan to devote a entire evaluation to comparing IQ between the HD 7000 series and the GTX 600 series as well as comparisons with the older series video cards.
Here are Nvidia’s specifications for the reference GTX 660 Ti:
As discussed, everything is very similar to the GTX 670 but on a narrower bus. The GeForce GTX 660 Ti was also designed from the ground up to deliver exceptional tessellation performance which Nvidia claims is several times the HD 7950′s tessellation performance. Tessellation is the key component of Microsoft’s DirectX 11 development platform for PC games.
Tessellation allows game developers to take advantage of both GeForce GTX 660 Ti’s GPU’s tessellation ability to increase the geometric complexity of models and characters to deliver far more realistic and visually rich gaming environments. Needless to say, the new GTX 660 Ti brings a lot of features to the table that current Nvidia’s customers will appreciate, including improved CUDA’s PhysX, 2D and 3D Surround plus the ability to drive up to 3 LCDs plus a 4th accessory display from a single GTX 660 Ti; superb tessellation capabilities and a really fast and power efficient GPU in comparison to their previous GTX 560 Ti.
Surround plus an Accessory display from a single card
One of the criticisms that Kepler has addressed from Fermi was that two video cards in SLI are required to run 3-panel Surround or 3D Vision Surround. From a single card, the GTX 670, 680, the GTX 690 and now the GTX 660 Ti now can run three displays plus an accessory display. Interestingly, Nvidia has changed their taskbar from the left side to the center screen. We now prefer the taskbar in the center; it might be more convenient for some users rather than clicking all the way over to the left for the start menu as with Eyefinity.
One thing that we did notice. Suround and 3D Vision Surround are now just as easy to configure as AMD’s Eyefinity. And AMD has no real answer to 3D Vision or 3D Vision Surround – HD3D lacks basic support in comparison.
One new option with the GTX 660 Ti/670/680/690 is in the bezel corrections. In the past, the in-game menus would get occluded by the bezels and it was annoying if you use the correction. Now with Bezel Peek, you can use hotkeys to instantly see the menus hidden by the bezel. However, this editor does not ever use bezel correction in gaming.
One thing that we still note – Surround suffers from less tearing than Eyefinity although AMD appears to be working on a solution with their latest drivers. The only true solution to tearing in Eyefinity is to have all native DisplayPort displays or opt for the much more expensive active adapters. And you will need two adapters for Eyefinity for most HD 7970s to run Eyefinity, whereas you only need one for Surround with the GTX 660 Ti, GTX 670 and the GTX 680.
Nvidia also claims a faster experience with the custom resolutions because of a faster center display acceleration.
A look at the EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked
The reference GTX 660 Ti is on a short 9.5″ PCB especially compared to the GTX 680. With the GeForce GTX 660 Ti, Nvidia’s board partners have the option to produce custom GTX 660 Ti boards on launch day. Just like the GeForce GTX 670 was made into a smaller form factor chassis, Nvidia made a number of adjustments to the 660 Ti reference board to save space by moving the power supply closer to GPU.
Display outputs include two dual-link DVIs, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort connector. Two 6-pin PCIe power connectors are required for operation. If a user fails to connect the power connectors properly, a brief message is displayed at boot-up instructing them to plug-in the power connectors.
With the GTX 660 Ti’s power circuitry moved to the other side of the board, the area on the right side of the PCB was removed to save board space. The same cooling fan used on the GeForce GTX 670 is adapted for the GTX 660 Ti and it is fitted with acoustic dampening material to minimize unwanted tones in the fan noise. It is a pretty quiet card although not as quiet as the GTX 680.
The GTX 660 Ti’s blower fan exhausts hot air from the GPU outside the system chassis helping to reduce temperature inside the PC. This feature is particularly useful for small form factor PCs including possibilities for home theater PC (HTPC).
The GTX 660 Ti is set up for SLI or TriSLI by using two or three GTX 660 Tis. We hope to bring you a follow-up evaluation comparing GTX 660 Ti SLI performance scaling over a single GTX 660 Ti. We received our second GTX too late to do any SLI benching although we installed them into our case.
Super-Widescreen 5760 x1080, Surround, 3D Vision Surround, and PhysX
The EVGA GTX 660 Ti is set up exactly the same way as the more expensive GTX 670 and GTX 680. Since the GTX 660 Ti is almost 15% slower than the GTX 670 overall, one can reasonably expect the performance delta to be about the same for super-widescreen resolutions as well as for Surround, 3D Vision Surround and for PhysX as in our last evaluation of the GTX 670 in May. The HD 7970 is a stronger performer than the GTX 670 in some games at the highest resolutions, and it will even more evident because of the GTX 660 Ti’s narrow bus.
For 3D Vision and for Surround, several games need to have their settings reduced. Just remember that you are playing across three screens and are also rendering each scene twice for 3D Vision!! And turning on PhysX on a GTX 660 Ti, although affecting the frame rate, it is enough to play the game with fully maxed out details and FXAA or AAA compared to the GTX 560 Ti it replaces.
Our EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked edition is already overclocked +65MHz over the Nvidia reference clocks. We were able to overclock a further +70MHz with complete stability even though we did not adjust the voltage nor our fan profile. We also managed +190MHz on the memory clocks which were considerably lower than the +400MHz we managed on the GTX 670 and the +550MHz on the GTX 680 and the GTX 690.
Even with overclocking further, temperatures stayed below 80C and the fan rarely exceeded 30%. The EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked is a quiet card very similar to the reference GTX 670.
Check out the performance summary charts and particularly the overclocking charts to note how well the GTX 660 Ti scales. The specifications look extraordinary with solid improvements over the Fermi-based GTX 560 Ti. Let’s check out performance after unboxing our EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked. Head to the next page for the unboxing and then to the test configuration .
TheEVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked
The EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked is an interesting card but there is nothing fancy to see from the outside. It is a physically small card as its dimensions are 4.4 wide x 9.5 inches long. EVGA has moved the PCIe connectors from on the end of the card on the GTX 560 Ti to the side of the card on the 660 which is much more convenient for small cases. The card arrives in a typical EVGA box that advertises the card without its specifications on its outside other than it is “SC – Superclocked”. It mentions PCIe 3.o, PhysX, 3-way SLI, DirectX11 and 3D Vision Surround.
The back of the EVGA box goes into more detail about support for 4 concurrent displays and we see the key features of the card as well as EVGA’s premium 3 year warranty is highlighted:
Great utilities are included, including EVGA’s Precision overclocking utility which includes an improved GPU voltage tuner. The box doesn’t mention that if you purchase this card, you can also get a free digital download of the soon-to-be-released DX11 Borderlands 2 which is a sixty dollar value.
EVGA wants to remind everyone that they are Nvidia’s Number 1 partner in many areas and also have many well-deserved awards for product excellence. They also include a EVGA poster in the box with a Borderlands-style theme.
The video card comes well-protected in an anti-static injection molded plastic shell instead of last year’s anti-static bags. It is far easier to reuse, recycle and store bags. However, the plastic shell is more protective of its contents.
Inside the box besides the new GTX, we find a driver CD, manual, warning label, plastic EVGA decal, DVI to VGA connector and two dual Molex to 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors.
The SLI connectors are covered in the above image with a plastic protector. Superclocked GTX 660 Ti is set up for 2- or 3-way SLI with one or two other 660 Ti’s. You can mix cards from different vendors with different clock speeds but you cannot mix cards with different amounts of cores or different framebuffers as you can with AMD’s competing multi-GPU solution, CrossFire.
Here are the connectors; 2 dual-link DVI, 1 HDMI 1.4a and 1 DisplayPort 1.1a
Let’s turn it over.
Let’s look at what EVGA offers us over the reference and other partner versions with their Superclocked GTX 660-Ti:
- Overclocked out of the box – This card offers a +65MHz core speed increase out of the box.
- EVGA PrecisionX – This utility allows overclocking, monitoring and fanspeed adjustments as well as voltage adjustments with the latest version. It is located on the DVD that ships with the card. For more information, please visit http://www.evga.com/precision
- EVGA OC Scanner – EVGA OC Scanner is fully supported by the Superclocked EVGA GTX 660 Ti. This utility allows you to benchmark, monitor and stress test your EVGA card. For more information, please visit www.evga.com/ocscanner
- EVGA Customer Support – EVGA’s acclaimed customer support can be contacted by support ticket, email, and phone. For more information, please visit http://www.evga.com/support/warranty/
- EVGA Community – Active game servers, thriving forums, integrated chat and social networks allow users to ask questions or get help wherever they feel the most comfortable. For more information, please visit www.evga.com/community/
- EVGA Warranty – EVGA offers a variety of warranties to fit their customer’s needs. This card comes with a basic 3 year warranty which may be extended. For more information, please visit www.evga.com/warranty/
- EVGA Advanced RMA Program – EVGA offers this service to help reduce the downtime of a customer’s system by shipping a replacement product first and lets their customer deal with EVGA directly for quick and efficient service. For more information, please visit www.evga.com/ear/
The EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked is factory overclocked and warrantied for at least 3 years and it is transferrable as it is now tied to the serial number, not the customer. EVGA has included their PrecisionX overclocking software on the driver DVD or as a download on their site and you can even raise the voltage. This is a tool that we use with great results including overclocking our new GTX beyond the factory overclock. With a great warranty and advanced RMA’s optional, EVGA offers great service!
Because of consumer demand EVGA recently made the following changes:
- Most EVGA products now carry a 3 Year Warranty (also upgradable to 5 or 10 years upon registration).
- Product warranty covers the product, not the user.
- Registration is no longer required for RMAs with the EVGA Guest RMA process.
- Step-Up and Extended Warranties will be available for all original owners registered with the new global RMA system within 30 days of the purchase.
- If you move, you can send your product back to your local warranty center no matter what region you purchased it in.
- A new Standard Cross-Shipping RMA service is available.
We can’t wait to test out our new card, but before we begin the testing, head over to our testing configuration.
Test Configuration – Hardware
- Intel Core i7-3770K reference 3.50 GHz/Turbo to 3.7GHz, overclocked to 4.8 GHz; HyperThreading is on, supplied by Intel.
- EVGA Z77 FTW motherboard (latest Beta BIOS, USB/PCIe 3.0 specification; CrossFire/SLI 16x+16x), supplied by EVGA
- 8 GB OCZ DDR3 PC 1866 Kingston RAM (2×2 GB, tri-channel at 1866 MHz; supplied by Kingston)
- EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked, 2 GB (EVGA base clocks of 980/3004MHz and also overclocked, +70MHz/+190MHz), supplied by Nvidia
- GeForce GTX 680, 2 GB reference clocks, supplied by Nvidia.
- GeForce GTX 670, 2 GB reference design and clocks, supplied by Nvidia
- GeForce GTX 580, 1.5GBreference design and clocks, supplied by Nvidia
- GeForce GTX 560 Ti, 1GB reference design and clocks, supplied by Nvidia
- BFG GTX 280, reference design and clocks
- PowerColor Radeon HD 7970, 3 GB with custom cooling at stock clocks (925/1375MHz)
- Onboard Realtek Audio
- 2 x 500GB Seagate Barracuda 7200-12 HDDs; one for AMD and one for Nvidia
- Thermaltake ToughPowerXT 775W power supply unit supplied by Thermaltake
- Thermaltake Overseer RX-I Full Tower case, supplied by Thermaltake
- Thermaltake Water2.0 Pro CPU watercooler, supplied by Thermaltake
- Philips DVD SATA writer
- HP LP3065 2560×1600 thirty inch LCD.
Test Configuration – Software
- Nvidia GeForce 305.37 Beta drivers for all GTXes. High Quality
- AMD 12.7 Beta Catalyst drivers; latest CAPs. High Quality – optimizations off; use application settings
- Windows 7 64-bit; very latest updates
- Latest DirectX
- All games are patched to their latest versions.
- VSync is off in the control panel.
- AA enabled as noted in games; all in-game settings are specified with 16xAF always applied; 16xAF forced in control panel for Crysis.
- All results show average, minimum and maximum frame rates except as noted.
- Highest quality sound (stereo) used in all games.
- Windows 7 64, all DX10 titles were run under DX10 render paths; DX11 titles under DX11 render paths.
- 3DMark 11
- Heaven 3.0
- Left 4 Dead 2
- Serious Sam 3 BFE
- Far Cry 2
- Just Cause 2
- Resident Evil 5
- Alien vs. Predator
- STALKER, Call of Pripyat
- Metro 2033
- F1 2010
- H.A.W.X. 2
- Lost Planet 2
- Shogun II
- Civilization V
- Crysis 2
- Dirt 3
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- Batman: Arkham City
- Max Payne 3
- the Secret World
Before we get to the EVGA GTX 660 TI Superoverclock’s performance charts, let’s look at overclocking, power draw and temperatures.
Overclocking, Power Draw, Noise and Temperatures
Overclocking the GTX 660 Ti is just as easy as overclocking the GTX 670, 680 and 690. What is not surprising is that we could not match the GTX 670 overclock since the EVGA Superclocked edition is already overclocked +65MHz on the core. We were able to add an additional +70MHz for a total offset of +135MHz over the base clocks that Nvidia set for the reference GTX 660 Ti. On top of that, we were able to get +190MHz on the memory, about half what we achieved with the GTX 670.
We did not adjust the GTX 660 Ti’s voltage. Temperatures were never an issue and the fan profile remained at stock which meant that the GTX 660 Ti is also extraordinarily quiet at maximum load – the fan profile rarely went over 30% and the temperatures remained well under 80C under the most stressful conditions and highest load. In contrast, the PowerColor HD 7970 is much more noticeable when it ramps up under load even though it uses custom cooling.
Kepler is extraordinarily power efficient – much more so than Tahiti. Under load, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti typically draws up to 134W of power in most non-TDP apps. This is what you should experience with the power target slider set at its default 100% setting. For our testing of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti, we maxed the slider out at +123% as we do for all Kepler cards. Likewise, we also max the PowerTune slider for AMD cards. At this setting, GTX 660 Ti will draw up to 165W in non-TDP apps. There is absolutely no comparison with the HD 7970 or even the HD 7950 as they use much more power.
Let’s head to the performance charts and graphs to see how the EVGA Superclocked GTX 660 Ti compares with the rest of the Kepler family – the GTX 680 and GTX 670, as well as the last generation GTX 560 Ti that it replaces and the former flagship GTX 580 as well as against the stock (original, 925/1375MHz) AMD HD 7970. As an added bonus, we are going to look at Nvidia’s flagship from four years ago – the GTX 280 – to see how it stacks up against the modern cards.
Performance summary charts & graphs
Here are the summary charts of 22 modern PC games and 3 synthetic tests. The highest settings are always chosen and it is DX11 when there is a choice; DX10 is picked above DX9, and the settings are ultra or maxed. Specific settings are listed on the Main Performance chart at the beginning of this page. The benches are run at 1920×1200 and 2560×1600 with separate charts devoted to dividing games up into easy to read charts by their DX pathway and by resolution.
Main Overall Summary chart
In the first three columns of the main performance summary chart, the GTX 660 Ti Superclocked is tested at EVGA factory clocks and also overclocked further with a single stock GTX 670 in-between for comparison; next is a single HD 7970 and then the GTX 680 is next. In the sixth column, the last generation GTX 580 is featured. In the last two columns, the GTX 560 Ti and the GTX 280 are tested mostly at 1680×1050 instead of 2560×1600 and it is noted on the chart by an asterisk (*). The GTX 280 is an older generation video card that cannot run DX11 and it is limited to DX10 which is far less demanding and it is noted by a double asterisk (**).
(Left 4 Dead 2 has a typo in the GTX 560 Ti column; at 1920×1200, the correct fps is 94, not 194)
This is the master chart and although it has not been made into a graph as there is too much information to put onto a single graph, there are many other charts and sub-graphs that are based on it.
All results, except for Vantage and 3DMark11, show average framerates and higher is always better. In-game settings are fully maxed out and they are identically high or ultra across all platforms. As usual, we begin with the synthetics.
Futuremark & Heaven synthetic tests
3DMark11 is Futuremark’s latest DX11-only benchmark and Vantage is DX10. Unfortunately, scores are completely meaningless when they are presented in this way but they do offer supporting data to accompany our game benches. Here is the chart with Vantage and 3D Mark11:
The EVGA GTX 660 Ti comes close to the GTX 670 – especially in 3DMark11 - and the HD 7970 and pulls way ahead of the other older cards; and when it is overclocked +70/+190MHz, it is a beast! The GTX 280 cannot run 3DMark11 as it is DX11 only.
Heaven 3.0 is a very demanding benchmark and here it is expressed in a chart.
Again, synthetic tests are interesting but they are not necessarily indicative of real world gaming performance. In all three cases, the overclocked GTX 680 “wins” over everything else except by a fair margin. The GTX 280 cannot run DX11 at all. Next up, let’s look at DX9 games.
We test the popular Source Engine represented by Left 4 Dead 2 and also a demanding DX9 game, Serious Sam 3, BFE with both at completely maxed out settings. It was pointless to run the GTX 280 at 2560×1600 in Serious Sam 3 as it is a slideshow.
Both Left 4 Dead 2 and Serious Sam 3 BFE are faster on the overclocked GTX 680 than any of the other cards. The GTX 660 Ti improves strongly over the GTX 580 and especially over the GTX 560 Ti. The further overclocked Superclocked EVGA GTX 660 Ti gets fairly close to the HD 7970 in Serious Sam 3 at 1920×1200 but falls further behind at 2560×1600. Let’s check out DX10 games
We test four DX10 games – Just Cause 3, Far Cry 2, Crysis and World in Conflict, Soviet Assault. Here are 2560×1600 and 1920×1200 resolutions on a single chart. For most games it was pointless to run the GTX 280 and the GTX 560 Ti at 2560×1600. Refer to the main performance summary charts above for performance of these older video cards at 1680×1050.
Out of these four DX10 games, the GTX 660 Ti actually goes toe to toe with the HD 7970, beating it in Far Cry 2 and coming close in Resident Evil 5 and in Just Cause 2, depending on the resolution.
Most of our testing emphasizes DX11 games and we bench 12. Since the charts would get too long, we break them up into charts of 6 games each.
First up are the older DX11 games at 2560×1600
In most of these games, the overclocked GTX 660 Ti loses to the far more expensive stock HD 7970 although the GeForce is faster in Lost Planet 2 and comes close in HAWX 2. Now those same games at 1920×1200:
The gap narrows a bit at the lower resolution and now the EVGA GTX 660 Ti beats the HD 7970 in HAWX 2. Now the newer DX11 games at 2560×1600:
Although the gap narrows at lower resolution, the HD 7970 is faster when clocks are stock. This time, the GTX 660 Ti at EVGA Superclocked speeds clocks is now trading blows with the HD 7970, depending on game The Radeon puts in a dismal showing in the Secret World. Now the same newer DX11 games at 1920×1200:
Again, at the lower resolution, the GTX 660 Ti is beating the HD 7970, depending on the game. We were very surprised by these results as Nvidia hit their target for the GTX 660 Ti at 1920×1200 resolution, taking on a much more expensive card with good results.
The EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked performs very close to its big brother the GTX 670, somewhat closer than 15%; and it comes very close in some games in performance to the stock HD 7970, matching or beating it in some games but losing to it in a few more in our benching suite.
We would not be surprised to see the EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked run away from the HD 7870 and also generally outclass the HD 7950 which is in a higher price bracket. Let’s head for our conclusion.
This has been quite an enjoyable, if far too short, 1-week exploration for us in evaluating our new GTX 660 Ti. It did extraordinarily well performance-wise comparing it to the the GTX 580 and GTX 670 where it brings good performance value compared to the faster Kepler card and better efficiency and performance than the older Fermi flagship. We are totally impressed with this cool-running “value” enthusiast card which is able in many games to go nearly head to head against or beat the more expensive HD 7970 in a few games.
We can see that the EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked is an excellent replacement for the GTX 560 Ti which is not even in the same class. Although they are both aimed at 1920×1200 resolution, the new card can also handle 2560×1600 whereas the old card just falls flat even in older titles. And gamers upgrading from a GTX 280 will notice a big jump in the performance of this new card in DX9 and DX10 games to say noting of playing with tessellation in DX11 games which will noticeably improve the visuals.
We see good overclockability with reasonable quietness at stock voltage and fan profile even when the GTX 660 Ti Superclocked is overclocked even beyond EVGA’s factory overclock and it scales well in performance. It is definitely quieter than the PowerColor HD 7970 and it uses relatively little power compared to the HD 79×0 and the difference widens as each overclock goes up.
For its $299 price, it gives more than 85% of the performance of the GTX 670 which is priced at $400 and the it comes dangerously close to HD 7970′s performance territory at 1920×1200. From our results, we can expect Ti will be a bit faster than the HD 7950 and beat up on the HD 7870. At $300 it is priced to match the HD 7870 while challenging and beating the more expensive HD 7950 in performance. And for ten dollars more, the EVGA GTX 660 Ti offers better performance than the reference Tis while giving the gamer EVGA’s excellent support and warranty as well as a great community.
- The EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked provides excellent performance for a $309 card and for the third time in a few months, makes the reference HD 7970 again appear overpriced.
- TDP and power draw is superb. Performance per watt is better than its competitor’s flagship 28nm offerings (to say nothing about beating the last generation) and it is quiet in comparison to the older cards.
- Overclockability is excellent – GPU Boost works as advertised.
- The cooling design is quiet and efficient; the card and well-ventilated case stay cool even well-overclocked.
- It is possible to use two or three of these cards for SLI performance without needing a massive PSU
- 3D Vision 2 and PhysX enhance gaming immersion and both are improved using the GTX 660 Ti compared to the GTX 560 Ti which is not in the same performance class – upgrading from the GTX 560 Ti to the GTX 660 Ti brought a solid improvement.
- Surround and 3D Vision Surround plus an accessory display can now be driven off of a single GTX 660 Ti by requiring a single passive adapter; HD 7970 requires two, and tearing is noticeably better with Surround, compared to Eyefinity
- New AA allows for high performance without jaggies in deferred shading lighting engines; TXAA solves the shimmering and crawling when the camera is in motion
- Adaptive VSync reduces stuttering while retaining the advantages of minimizing tearing.
- Borderlands 2 coupon is included with all the EVGA GTX 660 Ti editions. It is a $60 value and likely to be very popular.
- The EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked is a great value for just ten dollars more than the reference version. You get a 3+ year warranty backed by Nvidia’s number 1 USA partner with great support from service and community. EVGA comes highly recommended!
- If you are buying a powerful upper-midrange video card right now that is perfect for 1920×1200 resolutions while still being able to handle 2560×1600 as well as being great bang for buck, the EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclock is an easy choice for only ten dollars more than the reference design. We feel it deserves ABT’s Great Value award since it performs well against competing cards that are currently priced out of its class.
If you currently game on an older generation video card such as a GTX 280, you will do yourself a big favor by upgrading. The move to a GTX 660 Ti will give you better visuals on the DX11.1 pathway especially over DX10, and you are no doubt thinking of SLI if you want to get nearly the ultimate in gaming performance without breaking the bank with a GTX 690. The GTX 560 Ti is struggling in many modern games to say nothing of the GTX 280 which cannot even run DX11′s improved visuals over DX1o, especially including tessellation.
The competition is hot and AMD offers their own set of features including Eyefinity and the recently faster and lower-priced GHz editions. We are interested to see if there will be any further downward adjustments in AMD’s pricing regarding the HD 7870 and HD 7950 and how they will counter this new GTX 660 Ti release.
Stay tuned, there is a lot coming from us at ABT. Next up is an evaluation of the EVGA Z77 FTW motherboard which has allowed us to increase our Core i7-3770K to 5.0GHz! And you can expect more great reviews from Mario for our new mobile section; also expect a Thermaltake mid-tower review and Water2.0 Pro and Performer versus high-end air-cooling! And don’t forget to check our forums! Our tech discussions are becoming among the best to be found anywhere!!
ABT Senior Editor
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