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NVIDIA GTX 660 2GB Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Taking 1920x1200 Image Quality to the Next Level (pg.2)

Taking 1920x1200 Image Quality to the Next Level (pg.2)


In this section we take a number of games we have tested previously in this review and bring things to the next level by pushing the in-game settings to the highest possible level. All other methodologies remain the same.

Shogun 2: Total War

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The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

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Wargame: European Escalation

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The Witcher 2

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Temperature & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Temperature Analysis


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped. For this test we use the 3DMark Batch Size test at its highest triangle count with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled and looped it for one hour to determine the peak load temperature as measured by GPU-Z.

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.


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Let’s start with the good news first: MSI’s Twin Frozr heatsink is as efficient as ever and provided extremely low temperatures. However, EVGA’s Superclocked returned higher than expected temperatures. 84 degrees is by no mean high but we’d prefer to see this staying under 80 degrees in order to ensure the card has sufficient TDP overhead to attain its Boost frequencies.

We have been assured by EVGA that this is an exception rather than the rule and in reaching out to our fellow reviewers, it seems the Superclocked should be running at well under 80 degrees. Our results, while still perfectly acceptable, could be due to anything from a lack of mounting pressure to misapplied thermal compound. Indeed, after our benchmarks and photos were complete, we reinstalled the heatsink with some MX-2 TIM and temperatures sank by nearly 10 degrees. Note that all overclocking results were done with this slightly modified approach.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, a loop of Unigine Heave 2.5 is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 20 minutes.

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Ironically, EVGA’s card might post some of the highest temperatures but it also boasts an extremely small acoustical footprint. The MSI Twin Frozr OC meanwhile posts impressive results and was nearly silent throughout testing.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption. We have also included several other tests as well.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.

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The GTX 660 is a very efficient card but due to its high base and Boost frequencies, power consumption remains ever so slightly above a HD 7870. This shouldn’t be of any concern for gamers with entry level 400W power supplies. In addition, it really is amazing to see how far NVIDIA has progressed on this front considering their GTX 560 Ti is the previous generation’s GTX 660 analog and it consumes significantly more power.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Using MSI’s AfterBurner and EVGA’s Precision overclocking software, we searched for the limits of these cards at their default voltage. Initially, expectations weren’t all that great but with a few judicious modifications to the Power Offset, both cards ended up posting some impressive results. Naturally, due to its lower temperatures allowing for higher Boost clocks, the MSI Twin Frozr OC was a slight core speed winner here.

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Unfortunately, the timing of this review didn’t allow us to explore voltage tuning but expect that to be covered in an upcoming roundup.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


With the Kepler architecture gradually cascading down into lower price points, it was only a matter of time until a new card was released to compete for the hearts and minds of budget-conscious buyers who still want adequate performance. The GTX 660 Ti may have introduced NVIDIA’s updated initiatives and feature sets to a broader range of gamers and yet the mid range $199 to $249 bracket is what usually makes or breaks a GPU family. Currently, AMD’s Pitcairn-based HD 7850 and HD 7870 enjoy a position of nearly unchallenged leadership within this highly popular segment but after the successes of previous GTX 600-series products, NVIDIA was well positioned to offer something of their own. The result is the GeForce GTX 660, a card whose $229 sticker price may not be quite as inexpensive as some hoped but it has proven to be more competitive than we initially expected.

Typically, graphics cards that hit a magical $199 to $249 “sweet spot” either play things safe by not competing with cards above them in a product stack or (as with the GTX 460 and 8800 GT) they go on to be genre defining products which are talked about for years afterwards. The GTX 660 2GB achieves neither of these two extremes. Rather, it strides somewhere within the grey space between safe and legendary by providing surprisingly good performance without costing a dime over $230. This may be a disappointment for anyone waiting for the 8800 GT’s Second Coming but it makes perfectly good sense when compared directly against the rest of NVIDIA’s current lineup.

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Before this review goes on to talk about actual performance, let’s put the current mid-range offerings into perspective. AMD’s HD 7950, HD 7870 GHz Edition and HD 7850 have recently gone under the price cutter’s knife and are now available for $319, $249 and $199 (before rebates) respectively according to AMD’s latest information. The online average price for reference clocked versions of these three cards is $321 / $255 / $207 so AMD’s board partners seem to be keeping things well in hand. Additionally, for a limited time, the HD 7870 and HD 7950 also come bundled with a download code for the game Sleeping Dogs. Meanwhile, NVIDIA’s own GTX 560 Ti goes for about $205 while the recently released GTX 660 Ti sits at $299 or thereabouts.

With each of these card’s prices in mind, we can start coming to some clearly defined conclusions. NVIDIA’s GTX 660 puts the GTX 560 Ti to shame in every benchmark and can likely match a GTX 570’s framerates. But even though it provides significant advantages –both framerate and feature-wise- over the previous generation’s price / performance champ, we doubt most GTX 560 Ti users will be running out to buy a GTX 660 when it launches. Rather, NVIDIA is targeting their latest creation at anyone still using a GTX 460 or 8800 GT / 9800 GT, and with good reason since the in-game benefits from the Kepler architecture are massive.

Recent purchasers of the GTX 660 Ti don’t have anything to worry about either since their card maintains a comfortable lead over the GTX 660. Ironically, situations which are directly impacted by ROP to shader ratios or memory bandwidth cause the GTX 660 Ti and GTX 660 to usually perform within spitting distance of one another. The higher end product still maintains a firm grip on pole position, albeit a very small one from time to time.

Against AMD’s cards the GTX 660 is almost untouchable from a value standpoint, particularly when using a 1920 x 1080 or 1920 x 1200 display. At those resolutions, it runs dead even with the more expensive HD 7870 and significantly outpaces the 10% cheaper HD 7850. There is a small performance drop-off at resolution and detail setting extremes but the difference is not enough to sway our opinion in any way. But make no mistake about it, with a few well timed and minimal reductions, the HD 7870 could become a very serious threat to the GTX 660's newfound position.

The GTX 660 doesn’t break any of the predetermined molds which define performance increases from one generation to the next, nor did NVIDIA really blaze a new path on the cost front either. However, this launch will likely cause AMD to rethink their HD 7850 and HD 7870 strategies. In many ways, the 660 may be a slightly “safe” graphics card which won’t drastically shake up the market but it does provide a very real alternative to the now overpriced Radeon products.

One area which showed some interesting results was power consumption. While the GTX 660 2GB is a frugal card (particularly in a head to head comparison with the GTX 560 Ti), our tests did find the HD 7870 needed slightly less operational power. Again, this results will likely vary from one situation to the next depending upon core utilization and a number of other points but it should be quite obvious that AMD and NVIDIA have made some huge strides in the efficiency field.

Both the MSI and EVGA cards in this review will be available at launch for just $219, making for great value added propositions. Though EVGA does hold a slight edge in performance and warranty support, MSI surges ahead when temperatures and acoustics are taken into account. The choice between these two products will likely come down to brand preference since each provide a phenomenal gaming experience without charging a premium. We’d highly recommend either one even though they only add 3-7% to in-game framerates. More importantly, both of these GTX 660s showed plenty of overclocking poise which allowed them to match and in some cases surpass the GTX 660 Ti with minimal effort on the end user’s part.

The GTX 660 isn’t quite a game changer but it offers enough performance to satisfy the vast majority of gamers and its mere presence will likely cause mid-tier graphics card prices to reach new levels of affordability. Many were hoping that Kepler would finally hit the $199 price point but that hasn't quite happened, nor will it happen anytime soon unless the GTX 660 receives a price cut. But until then, the GTX 660’s accessible price, relatively high performance and wide-ranging feature set should have a profound impact upon the PC gaming market.

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MSI GTX 660 Twin Frozr OC & EVGA GTX 660 Superclocked
 
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