The GeForce GTX 660 Ti Review, Feat. EVGA, Zotac, and Gigabyteby Ryan Smith on August 16, 2012 9:00 AM EST
Bringing the review to a close, it should come as no surprise that the launch of the GTX 660 Ti has ended up being a lot like the launches before it. Yet at the same time it’s not truly identical, as there’s a lot going on that makes it nothing like the launches before it.
Distilled to its essence, the GTX 660 Ti is yet another fine addition to the GTX 600 series thanks to the GK104 GPU. Compared to the GTX 670 it’s a bit slower, a lot cheaper, and still brutally efficient. For buyers who have wanted to pick up a Kepler card but have found the high-end GTX 670 and GTX 680 out of their price range, at $300 the GTX 660 Ti is at a much more approachable point on the price-performance curve, offering about 88% of the GTX 670’s performance for 75% of the price. Given the price of Kepler cards so far this is definitely a better deal, though it’s still by no means cheap. So in that respect the launch of the GTX 660 Ti is quite a lot like the launches before it.
What’s different about this launch compared to the launches before it is that AMD was finally prepared; this isn’t going to be another NVIDIA blow-out. While the GTX 680 marginalized the Radeon HD 7970 virtually overnight, and then the GTX 670 did the same thing to the Radeon HD 7950, the same will not be happening to AMD with the GTX 660 Ti. AMD has already bracketed the GTX 660 Ti by positioning the 7870 below it and the 7950 above it, putting them in a good position to fend off NVIDIA.
As it stands, AMD’s position correctly reflects their performance; the GTX 660 Ti is a solid and relatively consistent 10-15% faster than the 7870, while the 7950 is anywhere between a bit faster to a bit slower depending on what benchmarks you favor. Of course when talking about the 7950 the “anything but equal” maxim still applies here, if not more so than with the GTX 670. The GTX 660 Ti is anywhere between 50% ahead of the 7950 and 25% behind it, and everywhere in between.
Coupled with the tight pricing between all of these cards, this makes it very hard to make any kind of meaningful recommendation here for potential buyers. Compared to the 7870 the GTX 660 Ti is a solid buy if you can spare the extra $20, though it’s not going to be a massive difference. The performance difference is going to be just enough that AMD is going to need to trim prices a bit more to secure the 7870’s position.
On the other hand due to the constant flip-flopping of the GTX 660 Ti and 7950 on our benchmarks there is no sure-fire recommendation to hand down there. If we had to pick something, on a pure performance-per-dollar basis the 7950 looks good both now and in the future; in particular we suspect it’s going to weather newer games better than the GTX 660 Ti and its relatively narrow memory bus. But the moment efficiency and power consumption start being important the GTX 660 Ti is unrivaled, and this is a position that is only going to improve in the future when 7950B cards start replacing 7950 cards. For reasons like that there are a couple of niches one card or another serves particularly well, such as overclocking with the 7950, but ultimately unless you have a specific need either card will serve you well enough.
But enough about competition, let’s talk about upgrades for a moment. As we mentioned in our discussion on pricing, performance cards are where we see the market shift from rich enthusiasts who buy cards virtually every generation to more practical buyers who only buy every couple of generations. For these groups it’s a mixed bag. The GTX 660 Ti is actually a great upgrade for the GTX 560 Ti (and similar cards) from a performance standpoint, but despite the similar name it can’t match the GTX 560 Ti’s affordability. This entire generation has seen a smaller than normal performance increase at the standard price points, and the GTX 660 Ti doesn’t change this. If you’re frugal and on Fermi, you’re probably going to want to wait for whatever comes next. On the other hand performance is finally reaching a point where it’s getting very hard to hold on to GTX 200 series cards, especially as the lack of memory on those sub-1GB products becomes more and more prominent. The GTX 660 Ti can clobber any GTX 200, and it can do so with far less power and noise.
Finally, let’s discuss the factory overclocked cards we’ve seen today. Thanks to the fact that this is a virtual launch there’s an incredible variety of cards to pick from, with all of the major partners launching multiple cards with both the reference clocks and with factory overclocks. We’ve only been able to take a look at 3 of those cards today, but so far we like what we’re seeing.
Right now the partner card most likely to turn heads is Gigabyte’s GeForce GTX 660 Ti OC. Even if you ignore the overclock for a second it’s a GTX 660 Ti with an oversized cooler, which ends up being used to great effect. Thanks to Gigabyte’s Windforce 2X cooler it’s both cool and silent, which is always a great combination. Meanwhile the factory overclock alongside the higher power target is icing on the cake, although the lack of a memory bandwidth overclock means that the cooler is more valuable than the overclock.
But if you want something quite a bit smaller and generally a bit faster still, Zotac’s GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP is no slouch. The memory overclock really makes up for GTX 660 Ti’s memory bandwidth shortcomings, and the size means it will fit into even small cases rather well. Its only downsides are that the $329 price tag puts it solidly in 7950 territory, and that the cooler is very average, especially when held up against what Gigabyte has done.
Finally there’s EVGA’s GeForce GTX 660 Ti Superclocked. The overclock is nothing to write home about – being just enough to justify the $10 price increase – but it’s otherwise a solid card. Even for 150W cards there’s still a need for blower type coolers, and EVGA will do a good job of filling that niche with their card.