NVIDIA GTX 660Ti Roundup with ASUS, Galaxy, MSI Review

ccokeman BluePanda - 2012-08-08 18:02:25 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   BluePanda   
Reviewed on: August 16, 2012
Price: $309

Introduction:

The introduction of NVIDIA's Kepler architecture opened a new salvo in the video card wars; the architecture proved to be a match for what the red team had to offer. The GTX 690, GTX 680 and GTX 670 easily proved their gaming worth as far as raw performance was concerned. With the edict to be more power efficient the design team took the failures of FERMI and worked the architecture to deliver a more power efficient core that ran cooler. Each of those goals were met. Not only did you get a better performing video card, but you got one that was able to deliver surround gaming with a single video card. Plus you can take advantage of NVIDIA's latest technologies including 3DVision, PhysX, GPU Boost, Adaptive VSync, and TXAA - a new anti-aliasing algorithm designed to reduce temporal aliasing. All features that have been proven to work and offer improved visual quality or a unique view in games.

When you look at the Kepler product stack, the lowest priced video card, the GTX 670, is in the $399 and up range leaving a huge section of the market unable to take advantage of having a GTX 6XX series video card. NVIDIA waited roughly three months to deliver a product for consumers not looking to spend upwards of $400 for their gaming fix. Much like the GTX 560Ti the GTX 660Ti is poised to fill that void in the product stack with a card that offers up all of the features and technologies of its big brothers without all of the cost. The GTX 560Ti was impressive in its own right and the GTX 660Ti is poised to do the same.

Packed with the same amount of CUDA cores as the GTX 670 (1344) as well as running 2GB of GDDR5 memory through a smaller 192-bit bus, performance should not be an issue at a resolution of 1920x1080 or even 5760x1080. Clock speeds on the reference cards will be 915MHz (GPU Boost of 980MHz) on the cores and 1502MHz (6008MHz effective) on the memory. However it looks like the vast majority of cards to be seen today are going to be factory overclocked cards including the ASUS GTX 660Ti Direct CUII TOP, MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition and Galaxy GTX 660Ti GC. Clock speeds will be significantly higher on this batch of cards ranging from 1006MHz on the Galaxy to 1019 and 1072MHz on the MSI and ASUS offerings, respectively. Each of these cards offer significant upsides over the reference version cards with custom PCBs, improved power delivery systems, improved cooling solutions, and reliability enhancements to ensure that these cards make it to the end of a typical three year retention or upgrade cycle.

As part of the Kepler family the GTX 660Ti is able to take advantage of all the features embedded in the feature set including SLI (with up to 3 cards), PhysX, TXAA, Surround, and 3DVision.

Closer Look:

 

Much like the GTX 670, the GTX 660Ti uses the same 28nm Kepler SMX architecture introduced on the GK104-based GTX 680. The GPU consists of a series of GPCs (Graphics Processing Clusters), four in this case, on each GK104 with two SMX units in each GPC. A single SMX is disabled leaving a total of 1344 CUDA cores on the GTX 660Ti; identical to the configuration on the GTX 670. To more effectively manage power consumption, the traditional method of running the shader clock at twice the core clock was abandoned and now the clock speeds run at a 1:1 ratio. Each GPC has a single raster engine and dynamically share 1MB of L2 cache. The GPU core features 112 texture units and 24 ROPs on the GTX 660 Ti. A new feature with GK104 is hardware and software-based GPU Boost technology, which dynamically boosts the clock speeds of the GPU cores when there is available TDP headroom, much like the latest CPUs from Intel and AMD. The base clock speeds for the GTX 660Ti are 915MHz with a GPU Boost core clock speed of around 980MHz. The GTX 660Ti memory subsystem is dropped to 3x64-bit (192-bit) memory controllers handling the installed 2GB of GDDR5 memory running at 1502MHz (6008MHz effective). In essence you have a card that is very similar to the GTX 670 and is scaled down to fit in the price performance point for the vast majority of gamers.

 

 

While OCC is not looking at all of the cards coming out today we do have a representative of samples with three different clock speed points from ASUS, Galaxy, and MSI. There will be plenty of reference cards out but the upper end cards offer a value in terms of increased longterm reliability and stability through enhanced cooling and component selection. Seen below are a good selection of the performance offerings from many of NVIDIA's partners, including the cards we are looking at today.

 

 

 

 

Each of the cards we will be looking at today have features that make a point of difference when it comes time to spend your hard earned cash on a video card upgrade. Special cooling, build quality, component selection, noise reduction, warranty, performance, brand recognition, and any added value items such as game bundles all factor into the purchase decision. Lets take a look at what ASUS, Galaxy, and MSI have to offer for the mainstream gamer. With performance increases of up to 3x over previous generation products there is no better time to look at an affordable Kepler-based video card.

Closer Look:

The front of the packaging is fairly mundane but the messaging is far from that. The front panel identifies this card as a Power Edition series card that can make use of a triple over voltage feature due to the enhanced PWM controller and 5+2 phase design. As such the GTX 660Ti PE is a factory overclocked card that comes with a three-year warranty. Highlighted on the front is that the GTX 660Ti PE is equipped with the latest revision of MSI's Twin Frozr cooling solution. The back panel list the generic feature set for the GTX 660Ti along with the system requirements. Where the packaging gets interesting is when you flip open the front cover and find a window that shows off the card. There is a wealth of information about the MSI specific features of this Power Edition card including the Military Class III components, Twin Frozr IV cooling solution, and MSI Afterburner functionality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internally the packaging has a foam core that holds the GTX 660Ti PE with the accessories held in a cardboard compartment beside and under the card. The bundle of accessories includes a quick start guide, manual, driver and utilities disk, DVI to VGA adapter, and a pair of dual 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCIe connectors to power the GTX 660Ti PE. Most newer power supplies should have at least one PEG connection. Included is pretty much all you will need to get the card installed and running.

 

 

The MSI GTX 660Ti Power Edition is about as far as you can get from a reference card. Using NVIDIA's GK104 Kepler core at its base, the MSI GTX 660Ti Power edition features a non-reference black PCB with an enhanced 5+2 phase power delivery circuit, a dual fan Twin Frozr revision IV cooling solution, and MIL-STD-810G certified parts used as a base for the Military Class III component selection that allows MSI to offer its Triple Overvoltage controls. The card is designed to be used in a PCIe 3.0/2.0 expansion slot and measures 9.75 inches in length from the expansion slot bracket to the edge of the slight overhang on the Twin Frozr IV shroud allowing the card to fit in smaller form factor cases. The dual 80mm "Propeller Blade" fans push up to 20% more airflow than a conventional design. The back side is rather pedestrian without a backplate or any thing to show the brand. On the back are two Hynix memory modules that help make up the 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The top view of card shows a bracket on the spine of the card that is actually part of the "Form in one" heat sink covering the memory and PWM circuit. The bottom view shows the four 6mm heat pipes and how they spread the thermal load to the fin array.

 

 

 

 

Connectivity options are standard for the GTX 6XX series with a pair of Dual Link DVI ports, an HDMI 1.4a port, and a full size DisplayPort 1.2 port. By using these connection points the GTX 660Ti supports three monitors in a surround configuration. At 5760x1080 the GTX 660Ti is not going to give you the best overall combination of FPS and visual quality but it can deliver playable frame rates with some visual quality compromises. Adding 3DVision to the mix in surround may well prove a bit too much for a single GTX 660Ti but most assuredly is an option in SLI or on a 1080 display. The back end of the card is open to allow the thermal load to be vented from the front and rear of the card. The fin array hangs over the PCB by roughly 5mm.

 

 

Along the top of the card are two SLI bridge connections that allow this card to be used in an SLI configuration using more than two cards, provided you have a motherboard to support the configuration. Power is supplied via two 6-pin PCIe connections that deliver up to a maximum of 225W. The board power design is 170W and up to 190W when overclocked. However the Triple Overvoltage feature of the MSI GTX660Ti Power Edition allows for voltage increases to the memory, GPU core, and an auxiliary voltage for an increase in stability.

 

 

To manage the thermal load of a factory overclocked video card with the potential for some serious overclocking and over volting, MSI has equipped the GTX 660Ti Power Edition with its Twin Frozr IV cooling solution. This solution uses two propeller blade fans that push 20% more air than conventional designs. This allows the cooling solution to run up to 14 °C cooler and 17dBa quieter than reference designs. A unique feature of the propeller blade fans and Twin Frozr IV is the the dust removal technology that spins the bades in reverse when the system starts to help prevent dust buildup in the large heat sink. The heat sink uses a nickel plated copper base with four 6mm heat pipes radiating out to the aluminum fin array so that airflow from the fans can carry the thermal load out into the chassis airflow stream. Under the main heat sink is the "Form in one" plate that acts as both a stiffener for the PCB and to cool the memory modules and enhanced PWM circuit.

 

 

 

The Twin Frozr IV cooling solution uses a pair of "Propeller Blade" 80mm fans to push up to 20% more air through the heat sink. These fans are made by Power Logic and are carried under part number PLD08010B12HH. These fans are PWM controlled, 10mm thick, run on 12v, use two ball bearings, and spin at up to 4000RPM at 34.5dBa. Power consumption is 4.20 watts at 0.35a. The noise generated by these fans seems lower than the advertised 34dBa maximum rating. With the case buttoned up the card is virtually silent when the fan speed is ramped up. Controlled by the card the fans are dead silent.

 

 

MSI has put together a custom PCB for the GTX 660Ti Power Edition. The black PCB sets off the card nicely. MSI uses Military Class III components on this card for added reliability and stability. An enhanced 5+2 phase PWM circuit is capable of delivering up to 17% more current to the CPU for improved overclocking. The Military Class III components include a Tantalum core Hi-C Cap with 15% less current leakage, Super Ferrite chokes that are 10% more efficient yet are able to handle 30% more current flow, and solid aluminum core capacitors that have a 2x improvement in resistance over standard capacitors. By using these components MSI can utilize the Triple Overvoltage feature of this Power Edition card to increase the voltage options available to the enthusiast for improved overclocking margins without fear of cooking the card. Even so MSI offers a three-year warranty.

 

 

The GTX 660Ti is built around the 28nm GK104 Kepler core. Surprisingly 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, 112 Texture units, and 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. MSI has the Power Edition clock speeds significantly boosted up on the OC model seen here to 1019MHz stock with a 1079MHz "Boost" clock. The memory sees a slight boost to 1502MHz (6008MHz effective) over the GTX 670. The memory used on this card is from Hynix and rated for operation at 1500MHz using part number H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C.

 

 

As a custom built video card, the MSI Power Edition cards usually over perform the reference versions by way of the higher clock speeds but really shine when you put all of the cooling and power features to use while overclocking. If the past is any indication of how well MSI can deliver, than the GTX 660Ti should deliver exceptional performance and overclocking. Add in Triple Overvoltage controls and the MSI GTX 660Ti should offer increased overclocking margins.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

The box on the Galaxy GTX 660Ti is that of a standard Galaxy 600 series card. It has the silver stripe along the left edge of the box with the manufacturer's name "GALAXY" in all caps. A three dimensional "G" pops away from the box leaving nothing but space behind it – a still seemingly futuristic type view on things as space was/is a future frontier. The added sticker at the bottom of the box reads off some quick features to get your blood flowing: 2GB frame buffer, three-year extended warranty, GC Factory overclock, force air bracket for increased air flow, custom cooling, and of course a 3 + 1 for gaming displays. The back of the box goes on to give you a little more excitement. It has the usual HD banter, Windows 7 compatibility, and all the standards to sell it at your local store, but it also has something us OCers really like to see – a nice new designed OC software utility: Galaxy Xtreme Tuner Plus. It allows for full visible control over the card with no extra hassle. I'll cover this a little more in depth in the OC section of the review, I will say however, that it is a neat little tool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the box is another box; really there is, it's a black box, kinda like an airplane holding all the secrets of the last flight. A little message is left on top of the card to remind you to register your card online to get the three-year extended warranty (you should probably remember to do this). Beneath the styrofoam protection around the card is another neat little secret box to pull out; it reads "Galaxy" across the middle in glossy black letters. It isn't much a surprise to find reading information and adapter cables packaged within, but it was pretty neat to see them packaged in neat anti-static zip bags. There’s a dual Molex to 6-pin and a dual Molex to 8-pin adapter for those of you short a few plugs and of course a DVI to VGA dongle is included as well.

 

 

 

The Galaxy GTX 660Ti out of the box is already a unique card – it's super lightweight and has a new shroud design that doesn't expand past the edge of the PCB making it perfect for SLI configurations. The shroud also has some neat features I'll show off just a bit later. The card itself isn't quite a reference unit with it's almost Sapphire-esque blue PCB: it also has 5+2 phase power circuitry above the 4+2 reference circuitry. The card is designed to be used in a PCIe slot with a wingspan of only 9.5 inches in length allowing it to fit in even some of the smaller cases out there. The two fans with the nickel-plated heat pipes greatly improve cooling without making your case sound like it has a tornado inside. The "Force Air Bracket" maximizes the airflow so that less heat recirculates inside the chassis itself. The back of the card shows off the thru-board ventilation near the MOSFETs for enhanced cooling on the easiest to "fry" components. You can also see the two memory modules that help make up the 2GB of GDDR5. Overall it’s already got a nice start being super light and showing off some style – I hope its looks can keep up with the performance I'm looking for.  There's a bit of text on the side of the shroud talking about "Cleaning Mode," but more on that later.

 

 

 

The back end of the card is open to allow for maximum thermal performance – it allows full ventilation from the front and rear of the card. The fins hang just past the PCB to drop heat away from the card. The front end of the card has your standard connection options for the GTX 600 series cards – a pair of Dual Link DVI ports, a full size DisplayPort, and an HDMI port. This allows the GTX 660Ti to support three monitors in surround configuration (that's essentially Eyefinity for you AMD nuts) though at the 5760x1080 resolution it won't be amazing, but it with some compromising down from "ultra" settings this thing ought to still be quite a beast.

 

 

The fingers are there for SLI configurations as I mentioned before, so you may use two or more cards if you desire and if your wallet can handle the bill. The card requires you to feed it power through both an 8-pin and a 6-pin connector, which allows for a full 300W pull with PCIe and technically 375W with PCIe 2.1 and up. The board design power is 170W so you won't get close to those theoretical maximums, but it's nice to know they're there and won't be limited.

 

 

Pulling things apart to see how this cooling works, I got to see what that "Cleaning Mode" was exactly. The edge has some special flexible plastic that allows you to unclip it from the edge of the heat sink to release a gullwing-esque fan shroud. The fans move with the shroud and allow you to blow out the dust bunnies from the fins without a complete tear down of the card. I was pretty impressed with this feature and look forward to having a more happy, clean card. You can unscrew it completely, but with the hinge setup why would you?

 

 

 

Flipping it over there is a massive cooling pad for the GPU itself with a nice solid mount. There are four plastic spacers to prevent you from crushing the card if you have the desire to take it apart; the screws also bottom out preventing issues as well. Not that I would guess many of you would be taking it a part to look at, but it is designed well from the manufacturing standpoint. The four heat pipes dissipate the heat to the fins and away from the GPU. The VRMs have a nice chunk of aluminum with fins to again pull away the heat. The memory on the other hand is cooled by airflow alone, which I found a bit interesting and I hope I won’t see a damper on the OC.

 

 

Two 85mm fans from EVERFLOW push all the air through the heatsink. These PWM controlled fans run on 12V consuming up to 0.50A. Maxing them out with the Xtreme Tuner Plus (which only allows a "max" of 80%) spun the fans at 3100RPM. It was nice to actually hear how quiet these fans actually are – even at this "full" speed, the card was more than tolerable. I assure your game volumes will cover up the noise. The board does a nice job adjusting the fan speed as it needs it and isn't a harsh binary function of a fan.

 

 

The PCB is a Galaxy custom design increasing energy efficiency and OC potential. It feeds a bit more power with the previous mentioned 5+2 phase power allowing for more power when pushing harder. A dual BIOS allows you to recover if you try flashing the BIOS and something doesn't go right – a well appreciated backup. The 8-pin and 6-pin power as I've mentioned before ensures you will be providing more than this card can consume, so there is less chance of a voltage drop or lack of power for your maximum OC.

 

 

The Kepler core is back as the 28nm GK104 core is found beneath all the beauty the heatsink is. There are four Graphics Processing Clusters and seven SMXs just like the GTX 670. On board as well are 1344 CUDA cores, 112 texture units, 24 ROP units, and 2GB of GDDR5 through a 192-bit memory interface. The base core clock comes in at 1006MHz with a Boost clock speed of 1084MHz, which is the variable speed it will allow the clock to speed up to if headroom allows for it. The stock memory clock also comes in at a respectable 1502MHz (6008MHz effective), which has a bit of play room as well for you OCers out there. Xtreme Tuner Plus will show to be a good friend for you indeed.

 

Specifications (MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition):

Model:
V284
GPU:
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
Codename:
GK104
CUDA Core
1344 Units
Core Base Clock:
915 MHz (OC: 1019 MHz)
Core Boost Clock:
980 MHz (OC: 1097 MHz)
Memory Clock:
6008 MHz Effective (OC: 6008 MHz)
Memory Size:
2048 MB GDDR5
Memory Bus:
192-bit
Output:
DisplayPort / HDMI / DL-DVI-I / DL-DVI-D
TDP:
170W (OC: 190W)
Card Dimension:
265x113x38mm
DirectX:
11
OpenGL:
4.2
PCI Express:
3.0

 

 

Features:

 

 

 

Specifications (ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP):

Model:
GTX660TI-DC2T-2GD5
Graphics Engine:
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
Bus Standard:
PCI Express 3.0
Video Memory:
2 GB GDDR5
GPU Boost Clock:
1137 MHz
GPU Base Clock:
1059 MHz
CUDA Cores:
1344
Memory Clock:
6008 MHz Effective
Memory Interface:
192-bit
DVI Max. Resolution:
2560x1600
DVI Output:
Dual-link DVI-I + Dual-link DVI-D
HDMI Output:
1x Native
DisplayPort:
1x Native (Full size)
HDCP Compliant:
Yes
Adapter Bundled:
1x DVI to D-sub adapter + 1x power cable
Software Bundled:
ASUS Utilities and Driver, GPU Tweak
Dimension:
10.7" x 5.4" x 1.7"

 

 

Features:

 

 

 

Specifications (Galaxy GTX 660 Ti):

Graphics Processing Clusters:
4
SMXs:
7
CUDA Cores:
1344
Texture Units:
112
ROP Units:
24
Base Core Clock:
1006 MHz
Boost Clock:
1084 MHz
Memory Clock:
6008 MHz Effective
Total Video Memory:
2048 MB GDDR5
Memory Interface:
192-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth:
144.2 GB/s
Texture Filling Rate (Bilinear):
24.1 GPixels/s
Fabrication Process:
28nm
Transistor Count:
3.54 Billion
Connectors:
2 x Dual-Link DVI, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Display Port
Form Factor:
DualSlot
Power Connectors:
6-pin + 8-pin
Recommended PSU:
450 W
Thermal Design Power (TDP):
150 W
Thermal Threshold:
98 C

 

 

Features:

Testing:

Testing of this trio of GTX 660Ti cards will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark 11 testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA Control Panel, if applicable. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. The latest press release driver will be used in testing of these GTX 660Ti as well as the GTX 560Ti. THe AMD comparisons will be tested with the 12.6 Catalyst drivers and latest CAP file.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Each of the manufacturers tested today has its own utility to overclock its own cards as well as other companies cards. Overclocking this ASUS GTX 660Ti was accomplished using ASUS' latest version of GPU Tweak (Version 2.2.0.1). When Kepler-based cards first launched there were concerns that overclocking would be limited due to how the onboard monitoring would downclock the card to keep within the power and thermal limits of the GPU. In fact there was just another wrinkle added to the process. Manage the thermals and only adjust voltage enough to reach the next clock speed plateau and all is good. If the power draw gets too high the symptoms will be that gaming performance or benchmarks will be drastically reduced from the expectations. To that end each of these cards overclocked differently.

Starting with the ASUS card I ran into some initial troubles that were traced to the incorrect BIOS on the card, a situation that was remedied quickly. The default voltage on this card is slightly higher due to the big factory overclock it has so the amount of voltage margin and overall clock speed margin was lower, but when looking at the screenshot below boost clocks were pegging the utilities monitoring window at 1333MHz with Heaven 3.0 running in windowed mode. By toying with the Power Target and adjusting it to the 114% limit with the minimum voltage adjusted to 1037mv and the fan speed to 100% I was able to push the boost clock speed up to 1190MHz and the memory up to 1708MHz (6830MHz effective). Any higher on the core voltage resulted in reduced performance while any higher on the clock speeds resulted in a driver crash. A 53MHz jump in boost clock does not seem like much but when put into context the boost clock is 210MHz higher than what comes on the reference card. That is significant. The memory clocked quite well on this sample with a boost of +202MHz or +816MHz effective over the baseline speeds.

ASUS did its homework on this card in regard to thermal performance. The stock numbers are good but only get better when the fans are cranked up. I saw load temps after 20 minutes of looping Unigine Heaven 3.0 maxed out of only 54 °C. The cool temperatures are a big plus, but the main thing that caught my attention was that there was no noise penalty. With the chassis buttoned up I could not hear it at 100% fan speed. Great job on this!

Now ASUS' utility has been revamped with features that include monitoring and tweaking, verclocking range enhancements to push the limits higher, a video recording option so that there is no need to spend money on FRAPS (that's money in your pocket if you use the feature), built in GPU-Z reporting, and a pair of widgets. Overall it was easy to use and navigate through while testing out the functionality.

 

MSI's N660Ti Power Edition did just that when it came to overclocking using all of the power options available to put together some decent clock speeds. Using MSI's own utility Afterburner I was able to boost up the clock GPU core clock to +154 on the core and +202 on the memory delivering increased performance. Throttling did not seem to be an issue with the N660Ti Power Edition. I used the Triple Overvoltage tools in Afterburner to increase the memory voltage and PLL voltage to gain stability with the higher clock speeds. While throttling was minimal under load, the dynamic boost clock speed stayed closer to programed differential showing that similar clock speeds will deliver similar performance most times when you look deep enough into the results and monitoring tools. The final results are a base clock increase of +154MHz on the Kepler core and a +202MHz jump on the memory. Using Afterburner is fairly straightforward as most will have already found out. A new twist comes into play with the addition of the Predator software that allows the user to record gaming video without having to purchase another software tool that you can get for free.

 

Overclocking the Galaxy GTX 660Ti was probably one of the easier overclock jobs I’ve had for a video card in a while. Though I honestly have dealt with a lot more AMD cards than NVIDIA cards in the past year or so perhaps this may be an explanation for the newfound ease. Galaxy made it super easy with the new Xtreme Tuner Plus, which is also being released with the GTX 660TI. It opens up to show your current temperature, fan speed, and power target on the card. It also reminds you of the number of CUDA cores, memory size, bus width, and memory type that is running on your card – I’m assuming to make it easy to find this information on a variety of cards as it isn’t just for the 660Ti alone.

The core clock, memory clock, and shader clocks are available (shader clock N/A on this card), below that are the base clock, boost clock, as well as the current running speeds. There is also an actively updating display to show GPU load as a percentage as well as MCU and VPU. The monitoring tab opens up an almost MSI Afterburner type window showing live feeds to your GPU clock, memory clock, temp, and fan speed so you can see if perhaps you are pushing too hard. The right overclock tab pops out a window with sliders to manage your OC. You can control the GPU Clock Offset, Memory Clock Offset, GPU Voltage, GPU voltage, Power Target, and Frame Rate Target with the GTX 660Ti; the tool allows for a Memory Voltage control if the card supports it. You can even save different profiles as you work to find stability. Playing with the GTX 660Ti from Galaxy I found +100 on the GPU Clock and +320 on the Memory to be stable with an effective 1250/1663 OC with 1175mV. Lucky for me all the crashes I did find getting to stability successfully recovered with the new 305.37 driver – so not too painful and a nice OC as well.

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Unigine 3.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds fail when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds are adjusted and the test is rerun until each card passes the testing.

 

 

  1. Metro 2033
  2. Batman: Arkham City
  3. Battlefield 3
  4. Sid Meier's Civilization V
  5. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
  6. DiRT 3
  7. Mafia II
  8. 3DMark 11
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX, and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied – in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses, chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting out the testing the GTX 660Ti cards deliver performance equal to or better than the HD 7870.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009. This action adventure game based on DC Comics' Batman super hero was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal 3 engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Batman: Arkham City the performance of the GTX 660Ti's are bookended by the HD 7950 and HD 7870 showing that there is value in this card.

Testing:

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbyte 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1920x1080 looks like the sweet spot for the GTX 660Ti with all three cards delivering 60+FPS on ultra settings, besting the HD 7950 and HD 7870.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes – Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1920x1080 the HD 7870 and GTX 660Ti are very close in terms of raw performance in both stock and overclocked scenarios.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 150 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this game GTX 660Ti is well in front of the HD 7870 but falls short of the HD 7950 at 1920x1080.

Testing:

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All three GTX 660Ti cards deliver performance closer than the clock speeds would indicate at stock speeds. Even so it easily crushes the HD 7870.

Testing:

Mafia II is a third-person shooter that puts you into the shoes of a poor, Sicilian immigrant, Vito Scarletta. Vito has just returned home from serving overseas in the liberation of fascist Italy, to avoiding his jail sentence, to finding his family in debt. The debt must be repaid by the end of the week, and his childhood friend, Joe Barbaro, conveniently happens to have questionable connections that he assures will help Vito clear the debt by that time. As such, Vito is sucked into a world of quick cash. Released in North America for PC in August of 2010, the game was developed by 2K Czech, published by 2K, and uses the Illusion 1.3 game engine.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1920x1080 the ASUS and MSI cards are faster in this game than AMD's HD 7950 at stock speeds. Overclocked it could be called a draw.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment in Futuremark’s 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the year proceeding its release (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage is only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark, while the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing; one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulation and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests. Unlike the tests, however, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and presents a location similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story – they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides – the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 3DMark 11, all three GTX 660Ti cards deliver higher performance than the HD 7950.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 3.0, with EVGA's Precision overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1080 using 8xAA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cool-down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTX 660Ti Cards were all pretty comparable for idle and load tests at stock and overclocked. The ASUS card did have a surprising "win" with the overclocked load test with a near ten degree drop versus the MSI card and still about seven degrees from the Galaxy card -- clearly the cooling on the ASUS card was the best of the bunch. 

Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak wattage of the entire system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 3.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to simulate maximum load with the highest measured wattage value recorded as the result. The idle results will measured as the lowest wattage value recorded with no activity on the system.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Galaxy GTX 660Ti was consistently the most power efficient of the three GTX 660Ti cards. At stock the MSI card held middle ground but took over the maximum power consumption title when overclocked in both idle and load tests. The ASUS card consumed the most at stock speeds but backed off a little for the overclocked settings while remaining higher than the Galaxy card by a somewhat large margin. 

Conclusion: ASUS

Starting out I was impressed with what all three of these cards had to offer in respect to how they performed in the target 1920x1080 resolution. There was not a game in the test suite that could not be run with the eye candy turned up. Each card has a specific envelope that it will perform in based on the clock speeds it is programmed to run from the factory. The ASUS GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP has the highest base clock of any of the cards I tested today. As such it is going to outperform the field based on clock speed alone.

All things being equal it is going to come down to feature set and the build quality of the product along with the included bundle. What ASUS brings to the table with the GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP is a card that has all of these bases covered from its Digi+ VRM and Super Alloy Power power circuits to the massive cooling solution. A solution that is not only impressive for its cooling ability, but that it goes about it so damn quietly. When compared to the last generation GTX 560Ti DirectCU II it is a night/day type of difference in terms of noise levels. Everything on this card is done for stability, efficiency, and performance. The fans have dual seals to protect them from dust intrusion. The Digi+/SAP six phase power circuit takes care of the power delivery with increased current capacity running at cooler temperatures with less electronic noise. You get real tangible benefits long term.

Performance wise the GTX 660Ti DCU II is a great performance card that is able to play just about any game with the eye candy turned up at 1920x1080. From Metro 2033 to BF3 it delivers solid playable performance at stock speeds and even more so when overclocked. Packing two of them together should deliver significant increases in performance without having to shell out for the big cards. While the GTX 660Ti can run in surround it is not the ideal performing gaming solution, but is still capable of keeping some games well over the 30FPS threshold for playable frame rates. Running a second card in an SLI configuration just improves upon that performance. If you have to have NVIDIA 3DVision in your gaming environment it's best to stay away from surround with a single card.

Overclocking pays dividends on the Kepler GPU, as you just have to manage the clock speeds and power thresholds to gain the maximum amount of performance from the cards. I was able to pull a respectable boost clock of 1190MHz with a dynamic boost that went much higher into the 1300MHz+ range. This core was less voltage tolerant when it came to throttling down and seemed to hit that limit earlier. Even so the performance up swing was enough to spend the time playing the overclocking game. Cooling performance was excellent with the DirectCU II cooler keeping load temperature in check.

Pricing on the GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP is going to be slightly higher than the competition at $329 with the pricing cascading sown to $309 for reference versions. The card presents a great value when you look at the fact that a $20 bump in price buys a more efficient cooler running card. ASUS says that the reference GTX 660Ti will be available today with the standard DirectCU II and TOP version coming within the next ten or so days. When compared to a reference card you get so much more.

To make the cards even more appealing when you buy a GTX 660Ti from select retailers they will include a key for the game Borderlands 2, so you are both equipped with the hardware and software to enjoy this upcoming game. ASUS has built a great card that does not disappoint on any front. It has a strong feature set to go along with the good looks, All for the right price.

Pros:

Cons:

 

 

 

Conclusion: Galaxy

Overall the Galaxy 660Ti was rather impressive. Usually with a release like this you always wonder exactly how it will compare to other manufacturer's cards, but luckily for us at OCC we’ve got three here on release day. The three honestly compare pretty well, considering the Galaxy starts out with the lowest core clocks it competes well in the stock clocked tests. Overclocking was much less a pain with the Xtreme Tuner Plus allowing for some pretty stellar performance once overclocked; however, I wasn’t able to push as hard as the ASUS and MSI cards, but it didn’t really seem to make that much a difference (a few FPS here and there). It is a good card overall; it competes fairly with the ASUS and MSI cards, but falls a little short for the same price – which pushes me away. This card definitely blows away the HD 7870 from AMD and puts up a fight with the HD 7950 as well, and for the near equivalent price (beyond the cheapest 7870s) the card has itself sold.

Also for those of you who are still waiting to pre-order Borderlands 2 or thought you’d wait to get it after it comes out – here’s another chance for you. If you order a GTX 660Ti from specific retailers (should be listed) you will also get a copy of BL2. So if you look at the cost of the game $60, the card is really only $250; so for the $309.99 you get a GTX 660 and BL2. That is for more than just GTX Galaxy cards as well; a noteworthy mention at best.

Pros:

Cons:

 

 

Conclusion: MSI

Having the ability to look at several cards at one time puts some real perspective on what you are seeing and the performance delivered by the video cards. MSI has put together a solid offering as well that delivers excellent performance both in stock and overclocked trim. It uses MSI’s own Military Class III power delivery system and component selection to increase efficiencies, reduce temperatures, and increase stability long term. The enhanced 5+2 phase design uses solid aluminum caps, Super Ferrite chokes and Tantulum infused Hi-C Caps that meet MIL-STD 810G.

Cooling duties are handled by the latest revision of the Twin Frozr cooling solution the Twin Frozr IV. What's special about this revision is that a pair of Propeller blade 80mm fans deliver the airflow needs of the card but turn backwards upon start up to to help keep the heat sink free of dust. An innovation I see in use at work as a way to keep down maintenance costs long term. Cooling performance matches the gaming performance keeping temperatures below 70 °C even when overclocked and over volted. The only concern I have with the cooling solution is that it will keep a hard SLI brdge from connecting due to the height of the shroud.

Overclocked from the factory the N660Ti Power Edition is equipped with triple voltage controls allowing the end user to tweak the voltages to reach the highest clock speeds possible, but as seen overclocking using traditional methods can send performance a few steps backwards. These voltages are applied in MSI’s own Afterburner utility that is widely used and works with just about every card on the market. Like ASUS' GPU Tweak, MSI has added value to this application with its Predator software that does all the things FRAPS does yet for no cost to the end consumer. Make it work and make it work better. This card from MSI kept scaling when overclocked and was able to deliver good solid results.

Priced at $309, MSI’s custom cooled and overvolted GTX 660Ti presents value as the reference card that is clocked almost 100MHz lower costs just $10 bucks less, so the up charge for the best GTX 660Ti that MSI currently has to offer is less than a lunch out on the town. Like the rest of the GTX 660Ti crowd the Borderlands 2 game will ship when you purchase from selected retailers adding even more value. Cost competitively with its AMD competition, a good bundle, and overclocks with the best of them means you cannot go wrong with a Power Edition GTX 660Ti.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: