When Nvidia came out with the GTX 660 Ti, there were some murmurs that there was going to be a GTX 660 variant card as well. When we asked Nvidia about the existence of such a card, we were told that it would be an OEM only card. However, today, we can clearly see that the GTX 660 is not an OEM card, but rather a fully blown retail card.
The GTX 660 SC from EVGA is based upon Nvidia’s GTX 660 GPU which is actually Nvidia’s first GK-106 based graphics card for desktops. All of the past cards have all been GK-104 based and Nvidia is also releasing the GT-650 which will be based on GK-107, which is Nvidia’s slowest Kepler based GPU. Remembering that GK-100 and GK-110 are going to be Nvidia’s flagship cards (one or the other) and then GK-104 the mid-to-high range cards and GK-106 the midrange and the GK-107 the bottom.
The point of the GTX 660 is really to fill the niche that Nvidia has left empty for quite some time for gamers. Most gamers have been watching Nvidia release all of these Kepler cards without being able to afford most of them as they have consistently been above the $300 price point. The 15 year old version of me would have never been able to go out and build my own computer if sub-$300 graphics cards did not exist. As such, Nvidia’s desire to release a sub-$300 graphics card for the mainstream gamer really makes a lot of sense. The EVGA GTX 660 SC is a slightly overclocked version of the reference clocks of the GTX 660 with an almost recycled cooler from the GTX 660 Ti.
The difference between the GTX 660 and GTX 660 Ti is surprisingly drastic, more so than we would have thought when thinking logically. The truth is that the price difference between the two models is about $100, which is unlike anything we have ever seen from Nvidia before. We are not entirely sure this is a good move on Nvidia’s part, but we believe this is the only way Nvidia is able to cope with AMD’s relatively competitive price cuts.
The Card and Accessories
With the GTX 660 SC, EVGA went pretty minimal in terms of accessories and packaging. They went with a smaller box than they did with the GTX 660 Ti, and they also went for much simpler packaging. In addition to the smaller box and simpler packaging, EVGA also included fewer accessories knowing that fewer accessories were necessary for a video card that only uses a single 6-pin PCIe power adapter.
When it comes to the card itself, this card looks very similar to the GTX 660 Ti, however the GPU and power adapters are not the same. The single power adapter on the GTX 660 vs the dual power adapters on the GTX 660 Ti means that the GTX 660 is a less power consuming graphics card and doesn’t necessarily need the full 150w supplied by the PCIe slot and a single 6-pin 12v power adapter. The GTX 660 Ti actually only needs 150w, however, because it could hit 150w Nvidia opted for two 6-pin 12v. Generally speaking, this card should draw up to 130w, but will more likely draw up to 127w.
From left to right: GTX 660 SC, GTX 660 Ti SC, HD 7870 and GTX 680
From Left to Right: HD 7870, GTX 660 Ti SC, GTX 660 SC, GTX 680
The EVGA GTX 660 SC is a 2GB card with a 192-bit memory interface. The base clock of the GTX 660 is 980 MHz, however, the GTX 660 SC has a base clock of 1046 MHz and a boost clock of 1111 MHz. Also note that this card only has one SLI finger on it, which means that the maximum you can do in terms of SLI is just two-way SLI and not three way or four way.
When it comes to benchmarks we decided to do a blend of synthetics, game and real world GPGPU benchmarks.
Synthetics – 3DMark 11
When it comes to 3DMark 11, we really don’t expect to get much other than raw numbers that generally depend upon the driver’s latest release. Admittedly, this is one of the most synthetic benchmarks out there, but it does still measure graphical performance. Looking at our results, the GTX 660 SC out performs the HD 7870 while slower than the GTX 660 Ti, which is to be expected.
Synthetics – PCMark7
With PCMark7 we don’t expect the scores to deviate much, however, since this test is supposed to be an overall system benchmark we can still see the effect of switching GPUs. Interestingly, in PCMark7, the GTX 660 SC loses against the AMD HD7870 and the GTX 660 Ti.
Synthetics – Unigine Heaven 3.0
In Unigine Heaven 3.0 we run the benchmark at the absolute maximum settings in order to create the largest performance scenario and to show the biggest performance deltas. With the GTX 660, we saw the GTX 660 unsurprisingly performing slower than the GTX 660 Ti. Unfortunately, we had an issue with Unigine Heaven 3.0 and our HD 7870 so we weren’t able to test the card in time for this review.
Game – Battlefield 3
In Battlefield 3, a game which we consider to be the most vendor agnostic, we saw the GTX 660 SC losing to the AMD HD 7870 in terms of performance and actually being the slowest card that we tested in this game to date.
Game – Counter Strike: Global Offensive
From what we’ve seen in the past, CS:GO tends to be favored by AMD graphics cards and AMD’s graphics cards tend to outperform the NVIDIA cards by a pretty significant margin. Even though, we must admit that both cards are playing in the hundreds of frames per second and the difference is relatively minute. In this case, the GTX 660 SC did not perform the worst out of all of our cards, however it still did underperform when compared against the AMD HD 7870.
Real World GPGPU – Elcomsoft EWSA
Since we’ve been seeing an increase in the importance of GPGPU in today’s world we’ve decided that we wanted to include a real world GPGPU test of both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards. Elcomsoft’s WSA or Wireless Security Advisor uses the power of your GPU to help crack the password of a wireless router. Different GPUs accelerate this program differently depending on their design, speed, and architecture.
Looking at our results, it appears that AMD’s HD 7970 is without a doubt the clear winner against all of the Nvidia cards. But if you look at Nvidia’s cards overall, the performance delta between all of the cards is narrower than it is with AMD. But once again, the AMD HD 7870 is still faster than the GTX 660 SC as it appears to be the case with most of our graphics cards.
When it came to overclocking this card, we were actually very disappointed because we were expecting the card would be a very high overclocking due to being GK-106 and generally being a high clocked card. Part of the reason why we believe that the GTX 660 SC is not the best overclocker on earth is because the card is already overclocked almost 200MHz over the stock GTX 660 clocks as well as being limited to 150w of power. The card itself will draw up to 127w at the stock 980 MHz, however, this card is running at 1046.
As such, we weren’t really able to get much out of this card as we were only able to squeeze out a boost clock of 1243 MHz or an additional overclock of almost 100MHz, which we find disappointing considering all of the other Kepler GPUs that we overclocked so well in the past. Our expectations for this card were that it would overclock really well and provide a great value for users at $229, but this does not seem to be true. Unfortunately, this card really has a real potential for power but it lacks the power necessary to really be an impressive overclocker. We understand Nvidia’s desire to make this card more popular and accessible regardless of power supply, but we believe that they may have sacrificed overclocking at the cost of having one PCIe 6-pin connector.
The EVGA GTX 660 SC is without a doubt a very nice card at $229, the one thing that you must consider, however, is that AMD’s HD 7870 has been cut to the price of $249 from $299. Obviously, AMD’s price cuts have been in response to Nvidia’s release of the GTX 670 and GTX 660 Ti which have forced AMD’s hand. Based upon our findings, though, the GTX 660 SC is placed at about the right price in order to be competitive with the HD 7870. Even though we were hoping it would be more competitive with the HD 7870, it seems reasonable to believe that the HD 7870 was never intended to be sold at the GTX 660 SC’s price point until Nvidia introduced the GTX 660 at ~$200 with custom cards like the GTX 660 SC at $229. For $20 more, you can get the HD 7870 over the GTX 660 SC, but the truth is that it is almost a 10% price increase which likely does not justify the price increase because the performance differential is not that great.
Unfortunately for EVGA and NVidia, we have decided to not give this card an award not because it is not a good card, but rather because we do not consider it to be the best choice unless you want to spend less than $250 on a graphics card. Most people, however, work within either $200 or $300, so the HD 7870 would be a better choice in the sub $300 scenario. It also isn’t innovating in any drastic way and we do not believe that this is our favorite or recommended card considering the overclocking capability, or lackthereof.