As our regular readers are well aware, NVIDIA’s 28nm supply constraints have proven to be a constant thorn in the side of the company. Since Q2 the message in financial statements has been clear: NVIDIA could be selling more GPUs if they had access to more 28nm capacity. As a result of this capacity constraint they have had to prioritize the high-profit mainstream mobile and high-end desktop markets above other consumer markets, leaving holes in their product lineups. In the intervening time they have launched products like the GK104-based GeForce GTX 660 Ti to help bridge that gap, but even that still left a hole between $100 and $300.

Now nearly 6 months after the launch of the first Kepler GPUs – and 9 months after the launch of the first 28nm GPUs – NVIDIA’s situation has finally improved to the point where they can finish filling out the first iteration of the Kepler GPU family. With GK104 at the high-end and GK107 at the low-end, the task of filling out the middle falls to NVIDIA’s latest GPU: GK106.

As given away by the model number, GK106 is designed to fit in between GK104 and GK107. GK106 offers a more modest collection of functional blocks in exchange for a smaller die size and lower power consumption, making it a perfect fit for NVIDIA’s mainstream desktop products. Even so, we have to admit that until a month ago we weren’t quite sure whether there would even be a GK106 since NVIDIA has covered so much of their typical product lineup with GK104 and GK107, leaving open the possibility of using those GPUs to also cover the rest. So the arrival of GK106 comes as a pleasant surprise amidst what for the last 6 months has been a very small GPU family.

GK106’s launch vehicle will be the GeForce GTX 660, the central member of NVIDIA’s mainstream video card lineup. GTX 660 is designed to come in between GTX 660 Ti and GTX 650 (also launching today), bringing Kepler and its improved performance down to the same $230 price range that the GTX 460 launched at nearly two years ago. NVIDIA has had a tremendous amount of success with the GTX 560 and GTX 460 families, so they’re looking to maintain this momentum with the GTX 660.

  GTX 660 Ti GTX 660 GTX 650 GT 640
Stream Processors 1344 960 384 384
Texture Units 112 80 32 32
ROPs 24 24 16 16
Core Clock 915MHz 980MHz 1058MHz 900MHz
Shader Clock N/A N/A N/A N/A
Boost Clock 980MHz 1033MHz N/A N/A
Memory Clock 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 5GHz GDDR5 1.782GHz DDR3
Memory Bus Width 192-bit 192-bit 128-bit 128-bit
VRAM 2GB 2GB 1GB/2GB 2GB
FP64 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32
TDP 150W 140W 64W 65W
GPU GK104 GK106 GK107 GK107
Transistor Count 3.5B 2.54B 1.3B 1.3B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm
Launch Price $299 $229 $109 $99

Diving right into the guts of things, the GeForce GTX 660 will be utilizing a fully enabled GK106 GPU. A fully enabled GK106 in turn is composed of 5 SMXes – arranged in an asymmetric 3 GPC configuration – along with 24 ROPs, 3 64bit memory controllers, and 384KB of L2 cache. Design-wise this basically splits the difference between the 8 SMX + 32 ROP GK104 and the 2 SMX + 16 ROP GK107. This also means that GTX 660 ends up looking a great deal like a GTX 660 Ti with fewer SMXes.

Meanwhile the reduction in functional units has had the expected impact on die size and transistor count, with GK106 packing 2.54B transistors into 214mm2. This also means that GK106 is only 2mm2 larger than AMD’s Pitcairn GPU, which sets up a very obvious product showdown.

In breaking down GK106, it’s interesting to note that this is the first time since 2008’s G9x family of GPUs that NVIDIA’s consumer GPU has had this level of consistency. The 200 series was split between 3 different architectures (G9x, GT200, and GT21x), and the 400/500 series was split between Big Fermi (GF1x0) and Little Fermi (GF1x4/1x6/1x8). The 600 series on the other hand is architecturally consistent from top to bottom in all respects, which is why NVIDIA’s split of the GTX 660 series between GK104 and GK106 makes no practical difference. As a result GK104, GK106, and GK107 all offer the same Kepler family features – such as the NVENC hardware H.264 encoder, VP5 video decoder, FastHDMI support, TXAA anti-aliasing, and PCIe 3.0 connectivity – with only the number of functional units differing.

As GK106’s launch vehicle, GTX 660 will be the highest performing implementation of GK106 that we expect to see. NVIDIA is setting the reference clocks for the GTX 660 at 980MHz for the core and 6GHz for the memory, the second to only the GTX 680 in core clockspeed and still the same common 6GHz memory clockspeed we’ve seen across all of NVIDIA’s GDDR5 desktop Kepler parts this far. Compared to GTX 660 Ti this means that on paper GTX 660 has around 76% of the shading and texturing performance of the GTX 660 Ti, 80% of the rasterization performance, 100% of the memory bandwidth, and a full 107% of the ROP performance.

These figures mean that the performance of the GTX 660 relative to the GTX 660 Ti is going to be heavily dependent on shading and rasterization. Shader-heavy games will suffer the most while memory bandwidth-bound and ROP-bound games are likely to perform very similarly between the two video cards. Interestingly enough this is effectively opposite the difference between the GTX 670 and GTX 660 Ti, where the differences between the two of those cards were all in memory bandwidth and ROPs. So in scenarios where GTX 660 Ti’s configuration exacerbated GK104’s memory bandwidth limitations GTX 660 should emerge relatively unscathed.

On the power front, GTX 660 has power target of 115W with a TDP of 140W. Once again drawing a GTX 660 Ti comparison, this puts the TDP of the GTX 660 at only 10W lower than its larger sibling, but the power target is a full 19W lower. In practice power consumption on the GTX 600 series has been much more closely tracking the power target than it has the TDP, so as we’ll see the GTX 660 is often pulling 20W+ less than the GTX 660 Ti. This lower level of power consumption also means that the GTX 660 is the first GTX 600 product to only require 1 supplementary PCIe power connection.

Moving on, for today’s launch NVIDIA is once again going all virtual, with partners being left to their own designs. However given that this is the first GK106 part and that partners have had relatively little time with the GPU, in practice partners are using NVIDIA’s PCB designs with their own coolers – many of which have been lifted from their GTX 660 Ti designs – meaning that all of the cards being launched today are merely semi-custom as opposed to some fully custom designs like we saw with the GTX 660 Ti. This means that though there’s going to be a wide range designs with respect to cooling, all of today’s launch cards will be extremely consistent with regard to clockspeeds and power delivery.

Like the GTX 660 Ti launch, partners have the option of going with either 2GB or 3GB of RAM, with the former once more taking advantage of NVIDIA’s asymmetrical memory controller functionality. For partners that do offer cards in both memory capacities we’re expecting most partners to charge $30-$40 more for the extra 1GB of RAM.

NVIDIA has set the MSRP on the GTX 660 at $229, which NVIDIA’s partners will be adhering to almost to a fault. Of the 3 cards we’re looking at in our upcoming companion GTX 660 launch roundup article, every last card is going for $229 despite the fact that every last card is also factory overclocked. Because NVIDIA does not provide an exhaustive list of cards and prices it’s not possible to say for sure just what the retail market will look like ahead of time, but at this point it looks like most $229 cards will be shipping with some kind of factory overclock. This is very similar to how the GTX 560 launch played out, though if it parallels the GTX 560 launch close enough then reference-clocked cards will still be plentiful in time.

At $229 the GTX 660 is going to be coming in just under AMD’s Radeon HD 7870. AMD’s official MSRP on the 7870 is $249, but at this point in time the 7870 is commonly available for $10 cheaper at $239 after rebate. Meanwhile the 2GB 7850 will be boxing in the GTX 660 in from the other side, with the 7850 regularly found at $199. Like we saw with the GTX 660 Ti launch, these prices are no mistake by AMD, with AMD once again having preemptively cut prices so that NVIDIA doesn’t undercut them at launch. It’s also worth noting that NVIDIA will not be extending their Borderlands 2 promotion to the GTX 660, so this is $229 without any bundled games, whereas AMD’s Sleeping Dogs promotion is still active for the 7870.

Finally, along with the GTX 660 the GK107-based GTX 650 is also launching today at $109. For the full details of that launch please see our GTX 650 companion article. Supplies of both cards are expected to be plentiful.

Summer 2012 GPU Pricing Comparison
AMD Price NVIDIA
Radeon HD 7950 $329  
  $299 GeForce GTX 660 Ti
Radeon HD 7870 $239  
  $229 GeForce GTX 660
Radeon HD 7850 $199  
Radeon HD 7770 $109 GeForce GTX 650
Radeon HD 7750 $99 GeForce GT 640

 

Meet The GeForce GTX 660
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  • Galidou - Thursday, September 20, 2012 - link

    Whenever I see CeriseCogburn commenting, Chizow is not, and vice versa....

    If you never heard about price fixing, sorry for you but it's a fact, THAT is a fact, people don't have to beleive in that, it's happening right now and always has been and beleive me it will continue, because almost every company in the world is greedy even if it means communicating with the competition to maximize profit....
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Gal, you silly gal, Chizow knows a lot more than I do, but I'll say this, you're an insane and incorrect amd fanboy of the worst kind.
    I hope david's butt remains a delicacy to you, even after the corpse is buried, which is, by the way, to happen, very soon.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Galidou, you win NOTHING for being a lying sack, then whining when someone is so sick of your complete bs, they offend your idiot retarded estrogen doused amd licking being because they aren't a sick lying gasbag biased amd pig.
    Glad that religious Bible story has you kissing david amd's tokus furiously though, as that surely commands respect.
    LOL
    NOT !
    Oh, were you insulted ?
    Let's hope so, because of course, you tell so many lies, it's IMPOSSIBLE for you to not be insulted.
    Reply
  • rarson - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - link

    AMD's pricing doesn't need to be defended because anyone with a grasp of basic economics can easily understand why they priced them the way they did. That's why most people are ignoring your inane and mind-bogglingly stupid comments.

    "How do you feel now about those $550, $450, and $350 pricepoints you so vigorously defended when the 7970/7950/7870 launched?"

    Absolutely fine, dumbass, because it's September now. Duh.

    "So just as I asked then"

    Nobody cares, dude. Go fanboy somewhere else.
    Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - link

    Yes anyone with a basic grasp of economics would never have defended the worst increase in price and performance in the last decade and then be OK with the biggest price drop in the least amount of time within the same generation. AMD now holds the notorious distinction for both and their fanboys (like you) get to suffer the consequences.

    How much did the GTX 580 cost 15 months after release? $500 still dumbass, duh, now go fanboy somewhere else? Parts like this don't lose their value unless they suck, or their pricing sucks, or both, but obviously you're too oblivious or stupid to realize this, or maybe you're just accustomed to it as an AMD fan.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    You're an idiot.
    AMD cost me plenty, and I will NEVER fall for your stupid amd lies, ever again.
    Reply
  • Klimax - Saturday, September 15, 2012 - link

    A thing: Dirt Showdown is AMD game using DC codepath optimised ONLY for Radeons severly penalising nVidia's cards. It is not valid for any comparsions.
    (At least not with that option enabled)
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Just wondered if there was any news about price drops for higher-end SKUs. It becomes more obvious with every newly released SKU that the original asking prices from both AMD and Nvidia on 28nm parts were far too high. $350 for a 7870 looks like a complete debacle at this point given a $229 part outperforms it just a few months later.

    Also it looks like the Summer 2012 GPU pricing chart needs to be adjusted for the GTX 660 (it shows $239).

    Thanks for the commentary on page 3 about Nvidia's Competition. Much like Intel, they still need to compete with themselves to entice owners of their previous products to upgrade. I'm glad someone else gets it, its pretty obvious Nvidia does as well. I guess they heard the complaints of all their enthusiasts when asking $500 flagship dollars for a part based on a midrange ASIC.
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    A couple months?

    HD7850 - $249 March 3, 2012
    HD7870 - $349 March 3, 2012

    GTX660 - $229 September 13, 2012

    It's been 7 months.

    Someone who bought an HD7850 and OCed it enjoyed ~ GTX580 / HD7950 level of performance for 7 months now. Using the same exact logic you have just outlined, then we should recommend people to wait 7 more months for HD8000 series and skip GTX660 because for them the 660 would be an "early adopter" premium vs. HD8870. See how illogical your comment is?

    GPUs often drop in price over time as the generation goes on.

    Interesting how GTX280 for $649 and GTX260 $399 weren't a problem for you.
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Except we've already covered this pricing debacle months ago, pretty sure you were onboard then, what happened since then?

    The 7870 was already vastly overpriced because it offered 6970/GTX 570 at.....6970 and GTX 570 prices. Parts that were already widely available for at least 20 months prior to the 7870's launch at the exact same prices. Anyone who already had that performance level would have no incentive to sidegrade to a 7870 at that pricepoint.

    What is obvious now as it was then is that there was no movement in terms of price:performance that you would expect from a new generation, the metric didn't shift at all for 28nm until Kepler launched. Now that Kepler has finally trickled down to this performance level, its that much more clear. Bringing your 8870 argument into the fold, I wouldn't agree with that view either as I would expect the 8870 to offer more performance at a lower pricepoint, not the same performance at the same price as is the case with the 7870 at launch.

    I don't know why you're trying to defend AMD's horrid 28nm pricing but the fact of the matter is, the current pricing structure is really what 28nm should have been from the outset, anyone who bought in March and didn't actually need a new GPU is undoubtedly feeling the burn of all the recent price drops, but hey, at least its not as bad as Facebook's IPO?

    And no, GTX 260/280 weren't a problem for me because the difference is with those parts, the performance justified the premium relative to the last generation of cards (8800GT/GTX). This generation clearly does not adhere to those same expectations, which again, is a view I'm pretty sure you were onboard with months ago. What Nvidia didn't expect was for AMD to lowball them so much on a certain performance level, something AMD has clearly worked to remedy with each successive generation with their increases in asking prices for their 1st and 2nd tier single-GPU SKUs.
    Reply

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