NVIDIA GTX 660Ti Roundup with ASUS, Galaxy, MSI Reviewccokeman , BluePanda -
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Along with ASUS, MSI, Galaxy, and just about every manufacturer is dropping what could be the most significant launch for the mainstream gaming crowd this year in the GTX 660Ti. ASUS will be launching several versions of the GTX 660Ti including the reference, Overclock and TOP models with the reference cards available today and the OC TOP cards following within the next seven to ten days. Today I will be looking at the ASUS GTX 660Ti Direct CUII TOP offering in ASUS' product stack. ASUS offers up its full Digi+ VRM and Super Alloy Power suite that delivers 30% less power noise and a 2.5x upswing in durability. Add in the Direct CU II Direct contact heat pipe cooling solution on top of all the enhancements and features brought along with the NVIDAIA Kepler architecture, this non-reference card should deliver everything the gamer needs in terms of performance at the $300 price point.
Let's start the look at the ASUS offering with a quick look at the packaging. Externally the box is a departure from what I have seen in the past taking the focus away from the artwork and focusing on the product and features. The box clearly identifies the type of GPU (GTX 660Ti), the amount of GDDR5 memory on board (2GB), the cooling solution employed (ASUS Direct Contact Direct CU II), the fact that this is a TOP Edition factory overclocked card, and that it uses ASUS Exclusive DIGI+ VRM and Super Alloy Power technologies. GPU Tweak is included, which is ASUS' in-house built overclocking utility that has a new feature set in revision 2.2.1. The back side of the package shows a shot of the GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP and identifies the connectivity options, talks about the DirectCU II cooling solution, and how it delivers cooling performance 20% better than reference designs while running quieter. DIgi+ VRM and SAP are briefly touched on as well as showing the latest version of GPU Tweak that identifies the added value features it brings to the table.
Internally the packaging on this card is not really indicative of what you can expect to see in terms of a retail package but does indeed hold the card securely in place. Externally it is identical to what you will see when purchasing the cards. Underneath the GTX 660Ti DCU II is a space that holds the bundle of accessories. In this package it is a little slim but in the retail you can expect a little more than the manual/quick start guide, 6-pin PCIe power adapter, and a DVI to VGA adapter for everything you need to get started. Grabbing the latest drivers and utilities from the manufacturer's (NVIDIA and ASUS) web site is the best option to get the latest game compatibility and performance fixes.
ASUS GTX 660Ti DirectCU II is a non-reference build that uses a unique PCB design infused with ASUS own VRM+ and SAP Super Alloy Power deigned power circuits technologies. The TOP designation means that the GPU has gone through a rigorous testing/binning process to ensure it can deliver the 157MHz clock speed boost over the 915MHz reference card right out of the box running the default voltage. When you first look at the card from the front the most imposing features is the
large huge Signature DIrectCU II cooling solution. This solution uses a pair of “Dust Proof” fans to blow air through the heat pipe direct contact fin array to deliver temperatures 20% lower and do that 9db quieter than the reference solution. On the back side you can see that the heat sink fin array hangs over the end of the PCB by 1.25 inches providing a larger cooling surface to control the thermal load. Overall length of the GTX 660Ti DCU II is 10.7 inches allowing it to fit the vast majority of chassis on the market today.
In the center of the PCB right under the GK104 core is part of the SAP Power solution. This SAP CAP is a capacitor system that is right on the back of the GPU core to have the stored capacitance right behind the core where it is needed most when overclocking. A pair of the eight Hynix memory modules are located just under the SAP CAP. The black and red theme is reminiscent of the ROG line up and would look good in any case sporting that theme. Looking along the top and bottom of the card there are a total of three 8mm heat pipes to carry the thermal load from the GPU core to the fin array to be discharged out the rear and front of the card. A shroud extension is used to help direct airflow from the heat sink to the mounting bracket.A percentage of the thermal load is going to be recycled into the chassis where it can be exhausted by the chassis fans.
Connectivity is standard for the series with a pair of Dual Link DVI ports, an HDMI 1.4a port, and a single DisplayPort 1.2 port supplying the outputs to the monitors. NVIDIA Surround is supported by a single GTX 660Ti but it will take a second card or a higher spec one to run 3D Surround. The back end of the card is dominated by the large overhang of the DirectCU II heat sink assembly. This overhang coupled with the design of the shroud dumps the air up into the airflow to the CPU and/or airstream from the case fans to be pulled from the chassis rather than being ducted right back toward where the HDD(s) normally reside in the chassis; a positive step toward keeping that section of the system cool. Most modern chassis have enough built in airflow with large 120mm and 140mm fans to quickly turn over the chassis air volume to keep the impact of the heat dump to a minimum.
Along the top spine of the card are the SLI bridge connections. The GTX 660Ti supports up to three cards in an SLI configuration, although depending on the design of the shroud, a three way connection such as the one ASUS offers on many of its motherboards may not work. In this case ASUS has eliminated this as a cause for concern. A support bracket is used to add structural support for the card to eliminate any bending of the PCB that can cause cracks in the trace routes rendering the card inoperable. The dual 6-pin PCIe power connections deliver power up to the 150 watt TDP of the card. One of the biggest hurdles for the user installing video cards is the fact that connecting the power supply cables is sometimes an afterthought. ASUS has its Protective Design feature set built into this card and part of that is the VGA LED that lets the user know with a visual cue whether they have power to the PCIe connection points on the card. Red means no power and to connect the power plugs, and green means all is well with the requisite 6-pin PCIe power connections in place.
The direct contact heat pipe design of the DirectCU II cooling solution helps it to effectively dissipate the thermal load of the GPU and on board components. Featured beyond the heat sink are the “Dust Proof” fans used to provide the airflow through the heat sink assembly. These fans feature double sealing to keep out dust to ensure a life span increase of up to 10,000 hours. The heat sink feature an aluminum fin array using five dissipation points and a 125% greater dissipation area seen in the extended length heat sink. A trio of 8mm heat pipes running through the contact surface channels the thermal load from the overclocked GK104 core to the fin array. While not polished the contact surface is smooth to the touch allowing for an even transfer of heat to the pipes. Riding under the main heat sink is a small extruded aluminum heat sink used to cool the Digi+VRM/SAP 6 phase power circuit. Airflow through the DirectCU II cooling solution blows over this heat sink keeping the circuit cool.
The fans used on the 660Ti DCU II are 70mm x 10mm in size with 11 blades to drive the airflow through the heat sink at a higher static pressure. As such the pair of fans improve cooling over a reference solution by 20%. A significant increase when you look at the voltage and clock speeds required to run the numbers on this highly clocked card. The fans made by FirstD are sealed twice to prevent dust build up around the hub that can slow down the the fan over time reducing the cooling efficiency and ultimately leading to fan and video card failure. This feature is part of ASUS protective design suite. When it comes to fan noise performance video cards have gotten a bad rap over the years but ASUS has alleviated that concern on the GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP as this card is dead silent inside a chassis and is 9db quieter than the reference version of the GTX 660Ti.
Stripping the shroud and DirectCU II cooling solution off the card shows how the components are arranged on the PCB. The VRM circuit is on the front end of the card near the I/O bracket. This card uses ASUS' Super Alloy Power technology that is meant to increase efficiency, extend component life, run cooler, and reduce electronic noise. Developing components that meet these needs was paramount to delivering a card that performs well and lasts for a long time without failure. The SAP chokes use special alloys and a concrete core to reduce the buzzing so commonly heard with less robust designs. The SAP Capacitors allow a 30% increase in the maximum voltage threshold all while increasing the lifespan by 2.5x over the reference card. The Super Alloy MOS is smaller, runs cooler, and handles up to 30% more current than traditional designs. All of this is controlled by ASUS Digi+ VRM controller resulting in a highly efficient solution. Cooling duties for the 6 Phase power circuit are handled by a small extruded aluminum heat sink held in place by a pair of screws. THis heat sink easily fits under the main sink and is cooled by the air stream through the shroud.
ASUS GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP is built around the same 28nm GK104 Kepler core as the rest of our review samples. However as a TOP edition card the GPU has to go through s strict binning process to allow the 157MHz clock speed boost over the reference card right from the factory. The GTX 660Ti uses the same four GPC (Graphics Processing Cores), seven SMX design as seen on the GTX 670. On board are 3.54 billion transistors, 1344 CUDA cores, 24 ROPs, and 112 Texture units with 2GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 192-bit bus. Clock speeds on the reference cards are going to be the same as the GTX 670 at 915MHz on the core with a 980MHz "Boost" clock on the GK104 core. With a 1079MHz base clock with a boost clock of 1137MHz right from the start the GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP is the fastest GTX 660Ti being offered today. The memory does not see the same clock speed boost as the GPU core, but still runs at 1502MHz (6008MHz effective). The memory used on this card is from Hynix and rated for operation at 1500MHz using part number H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C.
So far we have looked at two highly clocked cards both with exceptional feature sets that drive graphics performance, reliability, and efficiency. Let's see what Galaxy has to offer in terms of feature set and how it compares to the ASUS and MSI offerings.