The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti is NVIDIA’s latest GPU offering to gamers and just so happens to be the most affordable one as well. The GTX 660 Ti is based on Nvidia’s Kepler Architecture
<> but is a cut-down version from the GK-104 based GTX 680. The GTX 680 features 1536 CUDA Cores while the GTX 660 Ti features 1344, additionally, the base clock and boost clock are lowered from 1006 and 1058 on the 680 to 915 and 980 MHz on the 660. This results in a reduced texture fill rate of 102.5 billion pixels per second compared to 128.8 billion pixels per second.

Interestingly, both cards ship with the exact same amount of frame buffer (Graphics RAM) with both cards featuring 2GB of RAM at 6.0 Gbps, however, the GTX 680 has a wider 256-bit bus vs the 192-bit bus on the GTX 660 Ti. This difference affects the overall memory bandwidth of the GPU and reduces the memory bandwidth down from 192.2 GB/s to 144.2 GB/s. The GTX 660 Ti does this while reducing power consumption down to 150w from the GTX 680′s 192w. Even though the GTX 660 Ti is 42w lower, it still requires two 6-pin power connectors because it pulls 75W from the motherboard and 75W from each 6-pin power connector. So, Theoretically, this card could draw up to 225w, but realistically, the card only needs 150w to operate. The second 6-pin power connector is purely there in order to make sure that there’s enough power if the card needs to go over 150w since otherwise the card would have to throttle itself if it were running at its maximum current draw.

From left to right: GTX 680, HD 7870, GTX 670, GTX 660 Ti

You get all of this for the price of $300, which is less than the $399 for the GTX 670 and $499 for the GTX 680. There was a lot of talk about this card going for $199 or $249, however, it leaves to large of a price gap in NVIDIA’s line-up and underprices the card to the point where NVIDIA likely cannot produce enough cards to fulfill demand at that price. In our full review, we will evaluate the value of this card relative to other NVIDIA Kepler GPUs as well as AMD Radeon HD 7000 series.

With that introduction, we want to delve into the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC <>. This card is EVGA’s median offering of the GTX 660 Ti as they have a GTX 660 Ti, a GTX 660 Ti SC and a GTX 660 Ti FTW. The primary difference between these cards is based upon their base and boost clocks as the SC clocks in at 980 MHz base and 1059 MHz boost, while the FTW clocks in at 1020 MHz base and 1098 MHz boost. In addition to having three clock speeds, EVGA also offers each clock speed in 2GB and 3GB variants, however, without the added memory bandwidth, the 3GB variants are effectively a complete waste of money. Furthermore, in our graphical testing of 4K resolution (4x 1080P) we were just barely able to max out the 2GB of VRAM on the GTX 680 with BF3 running at maximum settings and 4096×2160 resolution. Not to mention, if you plan on playing at those settings and resolution (3+ monitors), you should be buying a GTX 680 or HD7970.

The carbon texture of the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC really seems to attract dust particles like a magnet.

As a result, our expectation is that this card will ever so slightly outperform the reference clocked model from NVIDIA.The funny thing is that this card does not actually come to us as a reference design from NVIDIA as all the board partners are responsible for their own cards and designs, however, many of them appear to mimic the GTX 670 design in both PCB and cooling, with less power consumption. The EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC retails for $309.99
The card itself comes with the standard faire of power cables, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a ton of EVGA materials ranging from user guys, posters, case badges, driver CDs and other EVGA branded material. The card itself is inside of a plastic clamshell, indicative of a slight cheaper card as most of EVGA’s higher-end cards tend to come in nice foam enclosures rather than the cheaper clamshells.

Test Setup

Intel Core i7 3960X
Gigabyte X79-UD3
Kingston 16GB @ 1600 MHz DDR3
Patriot 120GB Pyro SSD
Western Digital 600GB Velociraptor
Thermaltake 1475w Toughpower Platinum PSU

Testing

In terms of performance we will be providing our synthetic benchmark results from 3DMark 11, PCMark 7 and Unigine Heaven 3.0 as well as our gaming benchmarks for games like Battlefield 3 and CS:GO (Counter Strike: Global Offensive). Admittedly, these benchmarks are not going to be representative of all gaming scenarios, however, any trends between the three are very likely to be seen across most games that we test anyways. In our full review we will be testing multiple titles to compare actual frame rates and gaming experiences at 1080P resolutions.

3DMark 11

In 3DMark 11, we were able to test the most graphics cards and to give the greatest spread of performance, as you can see from our tests, the GTX 660 Ti SC actually performed close to where the HD 7970 did while handily beating the HD 7870. We admittedly don’t expect this to happen in our game tests, however in 3DMark 11, this did happen.

PCMark 7

PCMark 7 is also a synthetic benchmark, however, it is more designed to measure overall system performance. Taking a look at these results you can see that once again the GTX 660 Ti SC beats out the HD 7870, while expectedly lagging behind the GTX 590 and GTX 680.

Unigine Heaven 3.0

In Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark, which we consider to be one of the most strenuous graphical benchmarks out there today. In this test, we effectively set every possible setting to the maximum possible setting and then ran the test at 1920×1080 resolution. Our results pretty much indicate that the GTX 660 Ti performs at the level that is expected of it, however, it’s minimum frame rate is actually higher than that of the GTX 670. Since this is a preview, we will also be adding the HD 7870 to this graph to improve the comparison chart.

Battlefield 3
With Battlefield 3, we really wanted to capture the FPS gaming experience and to see the performance difference between various NVIDIA cards as well as competing AMD cards. In order to stress the cards to their absolute maximum, we actually set the graphical settings to their absolute maximum. For the most part, the performance of these cards was pretty much in line with what we were expecting.

The GTX 660 Ti SC scored an average framerate of 63 while the 670 got 72 and the AMD HD 7870 got 58. Since the GTX 660 Ti SC and AMD HD 7870 are so close together (less than 10% apart), we can chalk up some of that to the fact that the GTX 660 Ti SC is a slightly overclocked variant of the reference clock. Even so, we’d only expect a 1-2% difference. So, there’s no doubt that the GTX 660 Ti beats out the HD 7870 here. We actually believe that Battlefield 3 is probably one of the most graphics card agnostic titles out there as they spent an enormous amount of time optimizing their game for both graphical architectures.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive
The reason we went with CS:GO is a simple one. This is a $300 graphics card and a lot of people wanting to play brand new games like CS:GO are not going to want to spend $400 or $500 on a graphics card when their system needs to cost under $1K. To be frank, the GTX 660 Ti SC seems like it would be overkill for this game, however, many Counter Strike players obsess with having ultra-high framerates especially when paired with high refresh-rate monitors. We have found, however, that AMD’s graphics cards tend to perform better with the Source Engine than NVIDIA’s.

Looking at our results, the GTX 660 Ti SC is actually the second slowest card that we tested. Overall, the Kepler based cards actually did worse than the GTX 590 and AMD based cards. This may be some room for improvement for NVIDIA, but realistically the framerate is already so high that there really isn’t much need to try to continue to improve upon it to get to AMD’s level.

Overclocking and Temperatures
We were able to overclock the card to 1150 MHz which enabled us to get the card to perform at about the same levels of the NVIDIA GTX 670. The easiest way to measure the performance difference is in 3DMark 11 where we tested it in Entry, Performance and Extreme. Since this card is a bandwidth starved card with a chopped down GPU, having higher clocks doesn’t always help when pumping up the graphical settings.

In terms of temperatures and noise, this card does run a little hot as it ran Unigine loop in the mid 70′s but it never got excessively loud like the GTX 590. While a little disappointing, we can’t necessarily say that we expected this card to necessarily be the best performing card in terms of heat since these are the most chopped down GK-104 GPU. The GTX 660 Ti is simply a GTX 680 GPU that couldn’t cut it as a GTX 670 and was instead relegated to GTX 660 Ti. That’s why the clocks are lower than on the GTX 670 and GTX 680 as well as the core count. These are their lowest yielding chips and it definitely shows since they’re not the greatest overclockers either.

This card with a good GPU could do quite a bit of overclocking since the card only draws 150W, but is electrically designed to do 225w. That leaves about 75W of budgeted wattage to supply to the GPU and RAM. The problem, however, is that NVIDIA hasn’t necessarily been as accommodating as they have been in the past in terms of overclocking.

From left to right: GTX 680, HD 7870, GTX 670, EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC (note that the EVGA card has a high-flow bracket)


Value
If you look at the performance and price point of this card $299 for the reference clocked card and $309.99 for the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC, you can see that it is NVIDIA’s most affordable Kepler desktop gaming offering. Compared to AMD, this card beats it out for about the same price. Most of the AMD Radeon HD 7870 graphics cards now come with rebates that price them under $299, however, at that price difference it is hard to justify getting an HD 7870 over a GTX 660 Ti unless you play predominantly Source Engine games.

Plus, NVIDIA is actually running a promotion where if you buy a GTX 660 Ti from authorized retailers, you get a free copy of Borderlands 2 which isn’t even out yet and is yet another added value to the game on top of being fast and relatively cheap at $299. The card also comes with a three year warranty instead of a one year or two year warranty. However, this isn’t the lifetime warranty that EVGA so used to be known for and probably won’t be in the future. Their technical support is top notch, but you still only get a three year warranty unless you want to pay for an ‘extended warranty’.

Conclusion
Based upon our review’s findings, the GTX 660 Ti SC is a fantastic card for the money. Before any price drops from AMD (as there is a rumor that the 7870 will drop to $249), this card priced at the same level as the HD 7870 is definitely a better buy, especially with Borderlands 2 being bundled. NVIDIA has always done a good job of bundling exciting and hot titles with their graphics cards in order to create an added value. Admittedly, there’s nothing really hot about this card’s release as it is basically a midrange card specifically made as a way to dump the lowest binned parts.

We really wish there was something sexy to say about this card, but the truth is that it looks just like the GTX 670 and performs a little worse than it. The exciting part about these cards, though, is that they do deliver Kepler performance at a very low power envelope and at a reasonable price when you consider that the other Keplers are $399 and $499. Taking everything into account, though, this card is still a pretty good value at $309.99 and comes with a three year warranty.

Based upon this, we are happy to award the EVGA GTX 660 Ti SC our mainstream value award because this is more of a mainstream card than anything that NVIDIA has put out so far this year for gamers. Plus, when you add EVGA’s 3 year warranty, customer service, and a free Borderlands 2 game you do get a pretty good value at $309.99. If I were building a system for myself for the fall on a budget, this card would likely end up in it.