ASUS GTX 660 DirectCU II TOP Reviewccokeman - September 13, 2012
Category: Video Cards
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Just a few short weeks ago NVIDIA delivered the GTX 660Ti to the world, proving that the scalable Kepler architecture could indeed be used to power the mid range and with its GK106 core in the largest segment of the video card pie. The $299 price point and lower is the largest segment of that pie and has been a price point the Kepler architecture has not reached successfully until now. The GTX 660Ti got close at $299 but realistically was not going to reach the $250 range. Now just three weeks after the GTX 660Ti dropped the GTX 660 is here to fill that void and deliver gaming performance to the masses at a more appealing sub-$250 price point with reference models starting at $229. At this low price point you still get all of the features and capabilities of of NVIDIA's Kepler architecture including 3DVision, PhysX, GPU Boost, Adaptive VSync, and TXAA - a new anti-aliasing algorithm designed to reduce temporal aliasing. Having looked at the entire Kepler product stack so far from the top of the line dual and single GPU cards with the GTX 690 and GTX 680 as well as the more affordable GTX 670 its clear to see the strategy to bring a card to each segment.
The GTX 660 is equipped with NVIDIA's all new GK106 core using the same GPC/SMX setup that has proven so effective in the upper end GK104. Packed with 960 CUDA cores clocked at 980MHz from the factory and able to run 2GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1502MHz (6008MHz effective) through a 192-bit bus, the GTX 660 is targeted squarely at a the 1920x1080 resolution gaming crowd. When compared to previous generation non-DX11 and even NVIDIA's own Fermi-class DX11 cards, the GTX 660 is going to offer an incredible jump in performance and visual capabilities when moving from a DX10 card. As most game developers make the move to DX11, hardware will need to keep up allowing the end user the ability enjoy all the effects the games have to offer. With many free-to-play titles already making the move to DX11, the market for the sub-$250 price point is ready and waiting to take advantage of the latest DX11 capable hardware, including the GTX 660. With the strong overclocking capabilities of the Kepler architecture, many of the board partners will be releasing factory overclocked cards with improved voltage controls, better PCBs, and much improved cooling.
ASUS' GTX 660 DirectCU II TOP is, pardon the pun, ASUS' top end card in its GTX 660 product stack using its own Digi+VRM design, Super Alloy Power components, and impressive Direct CU II cooling to deliver a card that will make it reliably to the next upgrade cycle and beyond. Pricing for the TOP version will be right under the $250 price point at $249. Knowing where the GTX 660 is targeting the performance, testing should prove interesting.
The GTX 660 uses the full scale implementation of NVIDIA's 28nm GK106 Kepler SMX architecture introduced with the GTX 680. As such this design is the pinnacle product for the GK106 core. This implementation on the GTX 660 features three Graphics Processing Clusters (GPC) with shared access to the L2 cache, five SMX units, each with 192 CUDA cores (960 total), 80 texture units, and 24 ROPs. Base clock speeds for the reference version come in at 980MHz with a boost clock of 1033MHz on the GK106 core. Clock speeds on ASUS DirectCUII TOP are significantly higher with a base clock of 1072MHz and a boost clock 104+MHz higher than the reference version at 1137MHz. The memory subsystem of the GTX 660 supports mixed density modules allowing 2GB of GDDR5 memory to be used instead of 1.5GB through the 3 x 64-bit (192-bit) memory controller. Memory clock speed will remain unchanged from that of the GTX 660Ti at 6008MHz effective. GK106 will support GPU Boost technology from NVIDIA, which allows the GPU core clock speeds to run over and above the factory defined base clock speed so long as the TDP of 140W is not exceeded.
Externally the ASUS packaging mirrors what we saw with the GTX 660Ti with the main focus targeted towards the feature set of the GTX 660. First and foremost is that this version of the GTX 660 from ASUS is the DirectCUII TOP factory overclocked variant equipped with a heat pipe direct contact cooling solution successfully employed from the top to the bottom of the ASUS Kepler-based product stack. The GPU model is clearly stated along with the large 2GB frame buffer, ASUS Digi+VRM with Super Alloy Power (SAP)components, and that ASUS own GPU Tweak overclocking and monitoring utility can be used with the GTX 660 DirectCUII TOP. The back side of the package expands on what the feature set brings to the table and how the DCUII cooling solution is 20% cooler than reference designs and that ASUS Digi+VRM and SAP feature set runs with 30% less power system generated noise, runs 15% more efficiently, and has the ability to extend logevity over the reference design by two and a half times.
The inner package is black in color and has the ASUS logo embossed in gold. Internally ASUS has moved away from a full foam block cut out to fit the GPU and uses a more cost and environmentally friendly cardboard enclosure with only a small amount of plastic strecth wrap to hold the GPU in place. It is surprisingly effective at holding the GTX 660 DirectCU II in place during shipment. The bundle of accessories is slim to say the least but really at this price point you get all that you will need. Included are the Quick setup guide, driver disk, and a DVI to VGA adapter. Additional power connections are not needed since the GTX 660 DirectCUII TOP uses just a single 6-pin PCIe power connection supplied on just about every power supply over the past few years. Grabbing the latest drivers from NVIDIA's website will ensure you get the latest compatibility and game fixes.
The GTX 660Ti proved to be a card that could handle 1920x1080 gaming with high settings and even deliver some 5760x1080 surround gaming when the in-game settings were reduced to the medium/high level. The GTX 660 will have no illusions of surround gaming on its own and is targeted squarely at the 1920x1080 resolution where the majority of gamers are now playing. Let's see what ASUS has for us with this highly binned GTX 660 DirectCU II TOP.