Final Words

We’re now four GPUs into the NVIDIA Turing architecture product stack, and while NVIDIA’s latest processor has pitched us a bit of a curve ball in terms of feature support, by and large NVIDIA is holding to a pretty consistent pattern with regards to product performance, positioning, and pricing. Which is to say that the company has a very specific product stack in mind for this generation, and thus far they’ve been delivering on it with the kind of clockwork efficiency that NVIDIA has come to be known for.

With the launch of the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and the TU116 GPU underpinning it, we’re finally seeing NVIDIA shift gears a bit in how they’re building their cards. Whereas the four RTX 20 series cards are all loosely collected under the umbrella of “premium features for a premium price”, the GTX 1660 Ti goes in the other direction, dropping NVIDIA’s shiny RTX suite of effects for a product that is leaner and cheaper to produce. As a result, the new card offers a bigger improvement on a price/performance basis (in current games) than any of the other Turing cards, and with a sub-$300 price tag, is likely to be more warmly received than the other cards.

Looking at the numbers, the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti delivers around 37% more performance than the GTX 1060 6GB at 1440p, and a very similar 36% gain at 1080p. So consistent with the other Turing cards, this is not quite a major generational leap in performance; and to be fair to NVIDIA they aren’t really claiming otherwise. Instead, NVIDIA is mostly looking to sell this card to current GTX 960 and R9 380 users; people who skipped the Pascal generation and are still on 28nm parts. In which case, the GTX 1660 Ti offers well over 2x the performance of these cards, with performance frequently ending up neck-and-neck with what was the GTX 1070.

Meanwhile, taking a look at power efficiency, it’s interesting to note that for the GTX 1660 Ti NVIDIA has been able to hold the line on power consumption: performance has gone up versus the GTX 1060 6GB, but card power consumption hasn’t. Thanks to this, the GTX 1660 Ti is not just 36% faster, it’s 36% percent more efficient as well. The other Turing cards have seen their own efficiency gains as well, but with their TDPs all drifting up, this is the largest (and purest) efficiency gain we’ve seen to date, and probably the best metric thus far for evaluating Turing’s power efficiency against Pascal’s.

The end result of these improvements in performance and power efficiency is that NVIDIA has once again put together a very solid Turing-based video card. And while its performance gains don’t make the likes of the GTX 1060 6GB and Radeon RX 590 obsolete overnight, it’s a clear case of out with the old and in with the new for the mainstream video card market. The GTX 1060 is well on its way out, and meanwhile AMD is going to have to significantly reposition the $279 RX 590. The GTX 1660 Ti cleanly beats it in performance and power efficiency, delivering 25% better performance for a bit over half the power consumption.

If anything, having cleared its immediate competitors with superior technology, the only real challenge NVIDIA will face is convincing consumers to pay $279 for a xx60 class card, and which performs like a $379 card from two years ago. In this respect the GTX 1660 Ti is a much better value proposition than the RTX 2060 above it, but it’s also more expensive than the GTX 1060 6GB it replaces, so it runs the risk of drifting out of the mainstream market entirely. Thankfully pricing here is a lot more grounded than the RTX 20 series cards, but the mainstream market is admittedly more price sensitive to begin with.

This also means that AMD remains a wildcard factor; they have the option of playing the value spoiler with cheap RX 590 cards, and I’m curious to see how serious they really are about bringing the RX Vega 56 in to compete with NVIDIA’s newest card. Our testing shows that RX Vega 56 is still around 5% faster on average, so AMD could still play a new version of the RX 590 gambit (fight on performance and price, damn the power consumption).

Perhaps the most surprising part about any of this is that despite the fact that the GTX 1660 Ti very notably omits NVIDIA’s RTX functionality, I’m not convinced RTX alone is going to sway any buyers one way or another. Since the RTX 2060 is both a faster and more expensive card, I quickly tabled the performance and price increases for all of the Turing cards launched thus far.

GeForce: Turing versus Pascal
  List Price
Relative Performance Relative
RTX 2080 Ti vs GTX 1080 Ti $999 +32% +42% -7%
RTX 2080 vs GTX 1080 $699 +35% +40% -4%
RTX 2070 vs GTX 1070 $499 +35% +32% +2%
RTX 2060 vs GTX 1060 6GB $349 +59% +40% +14%
GTX 1660 Ti vs GTX 1060 6GB $279 +36% +12% +21%

The long and short of matters is that with the cheapest RTX card costing an additional $80, there’s a much stronger rationale to act based on pricing than feature sets. In fact considering just how amazingly consistent the performance gains are on a generation-by-generation basis, there’s ample evidence that NVIDIA has always planned it this way. Earlier I mentioned that NVIDIA acts with clockwork efficiency, and with nearly ever Turing card improving over its predecessor by roughly 35% (save the RTX 2060 with no direct predecessor), it’s amazing just how consistent NVIDIA’s product positioning is here. If the next GTX 16 series card isn’t also 35% faster than its predecessor, then I’m going to be amazed.

In any case, this makes a potentially complex situation for card buyers pretty simple: buy the card you can afford – or at least, the card with the performance you’re after – and don’t worry about whether it’s RTX or GTX. And while it’s unfortunate that NVIDIA didn’t include their RTX functionality top-to-bottom in the Turing family, there’s also a good argument to be had that the high-performance cost means that it wouldn’t make sense on a mainstream card anyhow. At least, not for this generation.

Last, but not least, we have the matter of EVGA’s GeForce GTX 1660 Ti XC Black GAMING. As this is launch without reference cards, we’re going to see NVIDIA’s board partners hit the ground running with their custom cards. And in true EVGA tradition, their XC Black GAMING is a solid example of what to expect for a $279 baseline GTX 1660 Ti card.

Since this isn’t a factory overclocked card, I’m a bit surprised that EVGA bothered to ship it with an increased 130W TDP. But I’m also glad they did, as the fact that it only improves performance by around 1% versus the same card at 120W is a very clear indicator that the GTX 1660 Ti is not meaningfully TDP limited. Overclocking will be another matter of course, but at stock this means that NVIDIA hasn’t had to significantly clamp down on power consumption to hit their power targets.

As for EVGA’s card design, I have to admit a triple-slot cooler is an odd choice for a 130W card – a standard double-wide card would have been more than sufficient for that kind of TDP – but in a market that’s going to be full of single and dual fan cards it definitely stands out from the crowd; and quite literally so, in the case of NVIDIA’s own promotional photos. Meanwhile I’m not sure there’s much to be said about EVGA’s software that we haven’t said a dozen times before: in EVGA Precision remains some of the best overclocking software on the market. And with such a beefy cooler on this card, it’s certainly begging to be overclocked.

Power, Temperature, and Noise


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  • Yojimbo - Saturday, February 23, 2019 - link

    My guess is that in the next (7 nm) generation, NVIDIA will create the RTX 3050 to have a very similar number of "RTX-ops" (and, more importantly, actual RTX performance) as the RTX 2060, thereby setting the capabilities of the RTX 2060 as the minimum targetable hardware for developers to apply RTX enhancements for years to come. Reply
  • Yojimbo - Saturday, February 23, 2019 - link

    I wish there were an edit button. I just want to say that this makes sense, even if it eats into their margins somewhat in the short term. Right now people are upset over the price of the new cards. But that will pass assuming RTX actually proves to be successful in the future. However, if RTX does become successful but the people who paid money to be early adopters for lower-end RTX hardware end up getting squeezed out of the ray-tracing picture that is something that people will be upset about which NVIDIA wouldn't overcome so easily. To protect their brand image, NVIDIA need a plan to try to make present RTX purchases useful in the future being that they aren't all that useful in the present. They can't betray the faith of their customers. So with that in mind, disabling perfectly capable RTX hardware on lower end hardware makes sense. Reply
  • u.of.ipod - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    As a SFFPC (mITX) user, I'm enjoying the thicker, but shorter, card as it makes for easier packaging.
    Additionally, I'm enjoying the performance of a 1070 at reduced power consumption (20-30w) and therefore noise and heat!
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    Thanks! Also a bit disappointed by NVIDIA's continued refusal to "allow" a full 8 GB VRAM in these middle-class cards. As to the card makers omitting the VR required USB3 C port, I hope that some others will offer it. Yes, it will add $20-30 to the price, but I don't believe I am the only one who's like the option to try some VR gaming out on a more affordable card before deciding to start saving money for a full premium card. However, how is VR on Nvidia with 6 GB VRAM? Is it doable/bearable/okay/great? Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    "who'd like the option". Google keyboard, your autocorrect needs work and maybe some grammar lessons. Reply
  • Yojimbo - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    Wow, is a USB3C port really that expensive? Reply
  • GreenReaper - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    It might start to get closer once you throw in the circuitry needed for delivering 27W of power at different levels, and any bridge chips required. Reply
  • OolonCaluphid - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    >However, how is VR on Nvidia with 6 GB VRAM? Is it doable/bearable/okay/great?

    It's 'fine' - the GTX 1050ti is VR capable with only 4gb VRAM, although it's not really advisable (see Craft computings 1050ti VR assessment on youtube - it's perfectly useable and a fun experience). The RTX 2060 is a very capable VR GPu, with 6gb VRAm. It's not really VRAM that is critical in VR GPU performance anyway - more the raw compute performance in rendering the same scene from 2 viewpoints simultaneously. So, I'd assess that the 1660ti is a perfectly viable entry level VR GPU. Just don't expect miracles.
  • eastcoast_pete - Saturday, February 23, 2019 - link

    Thanks for the info! About the miracles: Learned a long time ago not to expect those from either Nvidia or AMD - fewer disappointments this way. Reply
  • cfenton - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    You don't need a USB C port for VR, at least not with the two major headsets on the market today. Reply

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