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GTX 660 Ti Roundup (ASUS, EVGA, Gigabyte, Galaxy, MSI)

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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The GTX 660 Ti burst onto the market about two weeks ago and has gone on to become extremely popular. The overnight superstar status shouldn’t come as a surprise since this affordable $299 graphics card provides excellent performance –in some cases surpassing the previous generation’s GTX 580-, relatively low power consumption and widespread availability. Gamers have a bevy of choices as well since NVIDIA’s board partners had custom, overclocked designs in the pipeline since day one. Those cards are precisely why this article came to fruition.

Considering the large selection of non-reference GTX 660 Ti SKUs in the channel right now, anyone looking of a $299 GPU will likely be considering a product with a custom cooler or higher clock speeds or a combination of both. Naturally, the premium GTX 660 Ti cards available in North America come from the usual selection of partners: ASUS, EVGA, Galaxy, Gigabyte, MSI and Zotac so there’s something for everyone. Five of those six are being represented here so if you are looking for a comparison between these manufacturers’ cards, you’ve certainly come to the right place.



At the top of our GTX 660 Ti pile is ASUS’ GTX 660 Ti DirectCu II TOP. Not only is this the highest clocked (and one would assume the highest performing) GTX 660 Ti available but it is also the most expensive. At $325 the TOP certainly isn’t cheap but as we’ll see in upcoming sections, its list of features is long and it boasts one of the best heatsinks around.

EVGA has a huge selection of GTX 660 Ti’s –from a card equipped with 3GB of memory to an FTW model with ultra high clock speeds- but their SC version is simply overclocked by a small amount and given an understated upgrade to its heatsink. With that being said, this card’s $309 price tag may be only $10 more than the reference design but EVGA may have a hard time competing against options that have substantially higher clocks but don’t cost all that much more.

The Galaxy GTX 660 Ti GC and MSI’s GTX 660 Ti Power Edition are within spitting distance of one another on the clock speed front and both incorporate upgraded PWM designs. We’ll likely see a real fight in the trenches between these two but there are some items which will likely make one stand out so make sure you read through this review thoroughly before deciding between them.

Like the ASUS card, Gigabyte’s GTX 660 Ti OC boasts some impressive base and Boost speeds which should put it within spitting distance of its arch rival. However, at $319 this is one of the more expensive cards in this roundup so Gigabyte will need a great showing to differentiate their design from those of their competitors.


Ironically, this is one of the only graphics card roundups we’ve done here at Hardware Canucks that doesn’t include at least one card with overclocked memory. Considering one of the GTX 660 Ti’s main weaknesses is its limited bandwidth, we’re actually quite surprised that not a single board partner has moved to alleviate this deficiency. Another thing is quite evident as well: board partners can’t equip their GTX 660 Ti offerings with ultra high performance or they’ll begin competing against the GTX 670. The last thing these companies want is to cannibalize their enthusiast market with a sub-$375 card. Nonetheless, expect some mavericks to do just that as NVIDIA’s $299 product matures in the coming months.

Throughout this roundup, the presence of AMD’s HD 7950 and its Boost Edition sibling shouldn’t be overlooked. At $299 and $319 respectively, they represent a clear and present danger to every GTX 660 Ti on the market but that doesn’t mean NVIDIA’s board partners aren’t avoiding the challenge. Some have already begun their own rebate programs and the end result will likely be a more affordable mid to high end price bracket.
 

SKYMTL

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ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCu II TOP

ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCu II TOP


Product Number: GTX660 TI-DC2T-2GD5
Warranty: 3 Years


With a price that exceeds other cards in this roundup, ASUS’ DirectCu II TOP has a lot to live up to if it has any hope of finding buyers. However, it looks like this card exceeds expectations on the specification front since it boasts high clock speeds, a 6-phase digital PWM (versus the reference design’s 4-phase analog design) and the excellent DirectCu II heatsink. While it won’t have any issue fitting into most enclosures, the upgraded components do mean a slightly larger footprint and a length of about 10.5”. One interesting thing to note is that ASUS doesn’t have a reference GTX 660 Ti available and all of their cards will be using this heatsink.


The DirectCu II heatsink uses a pair of large fans which push cool air down onto a large aluminum fin array that’s fed by a trio of large heatpipes. These heatpipes boast five contact points with the fins and interface with the GPU core through a copper substrate in order to increase conductivity and cooling efficiency. ASUS claims this setup result in 20% better temperatures than the reference design and if our past experience is any indication, this may be slightly conservative. Due to its weight, ASUS has equipped the TOP with a retention bracket to stiffen the PCB and prevent flex.


Like many other manufacturers, ASUS utilizes a long list of features that should not only extend the life of their cards but may also prove beneficial for overclockers. In many ways, ASUS feels these items add to the value of their cards and justify their premium price.

Most of the additional features on the GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP fall under the purview of ASUS’ SAP or Super Alloy Power design. When used in conjunction with the 8-phase (6 phases for the core and 2 phases for the GDDR5) Digi+ VRM, these higher end components allow for an impressive setup.

The chokes used in the SAP design are supposed to offer cool and quiet operation without any of the coil whine that’s normally associated with some graphics card designs. The coil itself is wrapped tightly around a core of concrete substrate that acts as a buffer, thus lowering vibrations and efficiently dispersing the heat evenly throughout the choke’s structure.


The Super Alloy Capacitors may sound like nothing more than a fancy marketing term that’s meant to draw in naïve first time buyers but there are some actual benefits to the components which ASUS has chosen. Not only do these capacitors boast a lifespan that’s 2.5X longer than standard units but they also factor heavily into the long term stability of an ASUS graphics card.


Typically, the MOSFETs on graphics cards, motherboards and many other high end PC components are relatively large and produce quite a bit of heat. This is why they’re usually covered by extensive heatsinks but the ones used by ASUS buck this trend. Their components are crammed into an amazingly small package that’s efficient and thus produces very little excess heat. These “Super Alloy MOS” units also allow for a 30% higher voltage threshold, thus increasing overclocking capabilities in some instances.


Alongside all of these components, the all-digital Digi+ VRM results in lower power noise and could in extreme instances, improve overclocking results. We doubt most end-users would ever encounter a situation where these components will be put to their fullest use but no matter how you use your card, they’re still good to have around.


Due to the size and relatively low-slung nature of ASUS’ DirectCU II heatsink, the PCI-E power connectors have been flipped around and the PCB has been notched to ensure the PSU cables can still click into place. ASUS has also added small LEDs to each connector which turn green once the connector has been properly plugged in. Meanwhile, the TOP’s backplate retains the reference design with two DVI outputs and connectors for HDMI and DisplayPort.
 

SKYMTL

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EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC

EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC


Product Number: 02G-P4-3662-KR
Warranty: 3 Years (upgrades available)



Unlike the EVGA cards of yore, most new GeForce products in their current lineup come with a limited 3-year warranty and without access to the Step-Up program. However, EVGA does offer clients the possibility of extending their warranty to up to 10 years and with any warranty upgrade purchase, you will immediately get access to the Step-Up program. EVGA also has an Advanced RMA service that can be purchased at the time of registration which allows for cross-shipping of a new card in the case of any failures. However, remember that the warranty now covers the product rather than the buyer so you can resell the card without the buyer worrying about a voided warranty.

The GTX 660 Ti SC is based off of NVIDIA’s reference design so it carries a blower-style heatsink / fan setup and full coverage shroud. As such, it is about 9 ½” long but otherwise, not really unique in any way other than the few EVGA markings and a good looking silver / black design.


Unlike some other cards in this roundup, EVGA has decided to stick with the standard power connector layout as they believe it is more than sufficient to handle everything from overclocking to voltage tuning. Considering these two connectors can provide up to 150W (225W when combined with the PCI-E slot), we have no worries about there being a lack of current to the GTX 660 Ti SC.


As we can see, even though EVGA went with a mostly reference design for their card with an analog 4+2 phase PWM and standard PCB, the internal heatsink design has been modified and expanded in order to ensure adequate cooling when overclocking. Remember, even the GTX 670 incorporated a slightly flimsy cooling assembly so it is good to see that EVGA went a slightly different route for their SC card.


Much like its predecessors, the GTX 660 Ti uses a standard Kepler backplate configuration though EVGA has chosen to modify it somewhat with larger exhaust openings for increased airflow. A pair of DVI connectors and single full sized outputs for DisplayPort and HDMI are included, making it compatible with 3+1 NVIDIA Surround setups.
 

SKYMTL

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Galaxy GTX 660 Ti GC

Galaxy GTX 660 Ti GC


Product Number: 66NPH7DV6VXZ
Warranty: 2 Years (3 years upon registration)



Galaxy has been hell bent on making a name for themselves in the North American market and if past experiences are any indication; they’re well on their way to achieving success. Their new GTX 660 Ti GC comes with a comprehensive 2 year warranty which is upgraded to three years once the card is registered. In addition, Galaxy has really stepped it up in the customer service department with USA-based phone help and an online forum presence that helps augment an already robust support structure.

The GTX 660 Ti GC uses a unique angled heatsink shroud to mask a large internal fin array and a quartet of nickel plated heatpipes. There is also a pair of quiet 80mm fans to feed this heatsink with an optimal amount of airflow. The GC is about 10” long, making this is also one of the shorter cards in this roundup even though it incorporates an expanded PCB which houses an advanced 5+2 PWM design.


Galaxy has decked this card out with a custom blue PCB that has an interesting layout and dual BIOS chips. Like on some motherboards, the primary BIOS on this card is writable and can be flashed with the version of your choice while the secondary chip acts as a backup. It will only be engaged automatically when the card detects a corrupted primary BIOS and will immediately flash itself over to return the GC to its factory state.

We can also see that Galaxy implemented a number of small cutouts through the PCB. Supposedly, these allow for additional ventilation around the MOSFETs, resulting in lower temperatures better efficiency and higher overclocking potential.


In order to ensure optimal power flow to the GTX 660 Ti GC under all circumstances, Galaxy has used a 6+8 pin power connector layout. While this has changed from the reference design, the backplate connectors have remained the same with dual DVI outputs and connectors for HDMI and DisplayPort. However, the ventilation strips have been substantially expanded which guarantees that at least some hot air is exhausted outside of your case
 

SKYMTL

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Gigabyte GXT 660 Ti OC

Gigabyte GXT 660 Ti OC


Product Number: GV-N66TOC-2GD
Warranty: 3 Years (from manufacturing date)



Gigabyte’s last few cards from the current generation (both NVIDIA and AMD products) have met with some huge success in our reviews. Their GTX 660 Ti OC, with the second highest clock speeds in this roundup- certainly has what it takes to compete with the best but to many, their warranty may be a bit confusing. Instead of starting from the date of purchase, Gigabyte’s coverage starts from the day the card leaves the factory. This means you may never know exactly how long you card is protected. Nonetheless, a warranty length of three years should cover most people’s needs.


The GTX 660 Ti OC uses a WindForce 2X heatsink that incorporates what Gigabyte calls “Triangle Cool” technology. Essentially, Triangle Cool uutilizes angled heatsink fins in order to direct airflow and a large copper contact plate to deliver optimal cooling efficiency. Gigabyte also cantilevers out a portion of the heatsink so it covers the PWM section for additional heat dissipation.

This is topped by a pair of lethargic 100mm fans that push huge amounts of air without putting out too much noise. Unfortunately, while the heatsink is extensive and the technology seems to work, the whole affair tends to feel rather flimsy due to the thin plastic shroud.


Gigabyte has used a custom PCB for this card but the PWM hasn’t been expanded from the reference 4+2 layout, albeit it has been upgraded to an all-digital design. We can also see that the heatsink exceeds the PCB’s outer edge by about an inch, making the GTX 660 Ti OC about 10” long.

Output connectors haven’t changed from the reference design and include a pair of 6-pin power inputs and outputs for DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.
 

SKYMTL

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MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition

MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition


Product Number: N660 Ti PE 2GD5/OC
Warranty: 3 Years



It seems like every generation has its Power Edition or Twin Frozr-branded MSI card. We’ve seen the HD 6950 PE, and HD 7950 Twin Frozr and next week the GTX 670 Power Edition will hit our pages as well. MSI’s all-out assault has hit the GTX 660 Ti market right away with a new Power Edition card which incorporates upgraded PWM components, the famous Twin Frozr IV heatsink and triple overvoltage capabilities.

MSI also backs up their cards with a three year warranty. Now, this many not seem like much to the average consumer but it is part for the course in the GPU market and MSI has the advantage of localized RMA facilities in Canada and the United States. This should hopefully facilitate the handling of any problem-plagued cards.


The Twin Frozr IV heatsink found on the Power Edition uses the same design as the one found on MSI’s Lightning series so it certainly has cooling capacity to spare. It uses a quartet of large heatpipes, an extensive aluminum fin array, a secondary heatsink for the PWM and two large fans for quiet yet efficient operation.


The fans are programmed to counter rotate at high speeds for about 30 seconds at system startup in order to remove any dust that’s been accumulating on the heatsink fins. This “dust removal technology” is supposed to keep the Twin Frozr IV heatsink operating at peak thermal efficiency so temperatures don’t deviate over the Power Edition’s lifetime.





All of the components listed above have similar goals: increase card longevity, optimize overclocking results and lower heat production. Unfortunately, we can’t conclusively test any of these claims here but the Power Edition incorporates all of them so overclocking stability should be great.


MSI has been talking about Military Class III components for some time now and most of their high end graphics cards ship with a certificate proclaiming this status. Military Class III is simply a marketing term that means MSI chooses the highest quality components, all of which are MIL-STD-810G certified. While this may not mean all that much for your run of the mill layman, it should (hopefully) lead to increase ASIC longevity.


As with all of the other cards in this roundup, MSI has decided to stick with the reference connector layout on both the power input and video output sides.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup / Benchmark Sequences

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 3930K @ 4.5GHz
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB @ 1866MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79 WS
Cooling: Corsair H80
SSD: 2x Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T / 3x Acer 235Hz
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2600K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68V-PRO Gen3
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
NVIDIA 304.48 Beta
AMD 12.7 Beta

***Note that the GTX 660 Ti used in the following tests is an EVGA Superclocked version that has received a BIOS flash with reference specifications. Unfortunately, downclocking a Kepler-based pre-overclocked card WILL NEVER result in performance that replicates a reference design as the only way of modifying the base clock is through a modified BIOS.

Application Benchmark Information:
Note: In all instances, in-game sequences were used. The videos of the benchmark sequences have been uploaded below.


Batman: Arkham City

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Battlefield 3

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Crysis 2

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Deus Ex Human Revolution

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Dirt 3

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Metro 2033

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Shogun 2: Total War

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Skyrim

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Wargame: European Escalation

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Witcher 2 v2.0

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​

*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.

Performance Preset



Extreme Preset

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Batman: Arkham City (DX11)

Batman: Arkham City (DX11)


Batman: Arkham City is a great looking game when all of its detail levels are maxed out but it also takes a fearsome toll on your system. In this benchmark we use a simple walkthrough that displays several in game elements. The built-in benchmark was avoided like the plague simply because the results it generates do not accurately reflect in-game performance.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Battlefield 3 (DX11)

Battlefield 3 (DX11)


For this benchmark, we used a sequence from the Rock and Hard Place mission. The results may seem lower than normal and this is due to the fact that after playing through the game multiple times, this one are was found to be the most demanding on the GPU. As with all of the tests, we try to find a worst case scenario in order to ensure a given card can properly play through the whole game instead of just a “typical” section.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

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