NVIDIA Brings Kepler To The Sweet Spot
Last month NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX 660 Ti video card series and showed they they had what it took to compete at the $300 price point. NVIDIA has some space to fill in the product lineup between the $100 and $300 price points, so today they are launching two new video cards, the GTX 660 and GTX 650. These cards are priced at the gamer’s sweet spot and NVIDIA wants these to be the video card that you must have for the holiday shopping season. The pricing on the new cards isn't bad, with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 starting at $229 and the GeForce GTX 650 at $109. NVIDIA told LR that 90% of discrete graphics cards that are sold cost under $299, so this is a critical price point as you can imagine and one that both AMD and NVIDIA desperately want to control.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 has a clock speed of 980MHz on the core that is able to boost to 1033MHz and the 2048MB of GDDR5 memory runs at 1502MHz (6008MHz effective). The card features five SMX units, providing 960 CUDA Cores for pixel/vertex/geometry shading/PhysX calculations and 80 texture units. In addition to its five SMX units and GPU Boost, the GeForce GTX 660 also ships with three 64-bit memory controllers (192-bit bus), 384K L2 cache, and 24 ROP units. These SMX units are distributed across three Graphics Processing Clusters (GPCs). Under load, the GeForce GTX 660 typically draws 115W of power in most non-TDP apps. This is what you’ll experience with the power target slider set at its default 100% setting. If you wish to overclock the GeForce GTX 660, NVIDIA suggests that you max the slider out at +110% and in this setting, the GTX 660 will draw around 127W in non-TDP apps.
If you follow te GPU industry closely, you'll be happy to know that NVIDIA made fresh silicon for the GeForce GTX 660 series, so these cards will all be running the GK106 'Kepler' GPU core pictured above. This new die is smaller than the GK104, so NVIDIA and TSMC can produce more GPU's per wafer, which helps to reduce costs. NVIDIA told us that thie GK106 die is 214 sq mm^2 and has 2.54 Billion transistors.
Next up we have the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650. This card is based on the GK107 GPU, which is the Kepler core that is also used on the GT 630 and GT 640 video cards. The GeForce GTX 650 has the same 384 CUDA Cores as the GT 640, but they are running at 1058MHz instead of 875MHz. The higher clock speeds mean that more power is being used though, so the GeForce GTX 650 has TDP of 64 watts versus 50 watts on the GT 640. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 has up to 2GB of 5GHz GDDR5 memory, which is also the same as some of the GeForce GTX 640 models. NVIDIA says that the GeForce GTX 650 has enough power to play the latest DX11 games at 1080p HD resolution, but did not want to sample any for this launch. Since this card looks pretty much like a GeForce GT 640 with higher clock speeds we can understand why.
NVIDIA did not send us any GeForce GTX 660 or GeForce GTX 650 video cards this time around, but our friends over at MSI and EVGA were able to send over a version of their respective cards for us to take a closer look at. AS you can see from the image above, the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 is based off the NVIDIA reference design and the MSI GeForce GTX 660 looks like it is running a custom PCB and GPU cooler.
When we first got our hands on the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 it looked like a GeForce GTX 660 Ti with a different sticker and indeed at first glance that looks to be the case. Upon closer inspection we noticed that the EVGA PCB number on the bottom edge of each card is different.
When you flip the cards over that you can easily see that the PCB and even the plastic housing for the fan is different. Let's take a closer look at each of the GeForce GTX 660 cards that we will be reviewing today and get straight to the gaming benchmarks!
EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SuperClocked
EVGA is launching six NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 video cards today with half coming with the standard 2GB of GDDR5 memory and the other half having 3GB of memory.
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked 2GB - $229.99
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC Signature 2 2GB - $229.99
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 FTW Signature 2 2GB - $239.99
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked 3GB - $269.99
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC Signature 2 3GB - $269.99
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 FTW Signature 2 3GB - $279.99
EVGA said that there is absolutely no difference between any of the cards in regards to their physical design or the components used on the cards. The difference between the models is the clock speeds and the GPU cooler being used. The Superclocked cards use the NVIDIA reference design cooler and the Signature series cards use a custom GPU cooler that has dual fans.
We received the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked 2GB video card from EVGA to review today. This card is similar to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 reference design as it features the same PCB and GPU cooler. It is a little different though as it is factory overclocked. The Superclocked version that we have here has a base clock of 1046MHz and a boost clock of 1111MHz on the 960 CUDA cores. The 2GB of GDDR5 memory runs at 1502MHz (6008MHz effective).
The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked comes with a DVI to VGA video adapter, a 4-pin MOLEX to 6-pin PCIe power adapter, the setup guide and driver disc. The picture above does not show it, but we have been told that NVIDIA will be providing game keys for Borderlands 2 when retail cards are purchased. Borderlands 2 comes out on September 18, 2012, so obviously it will be a game key that you'll be able to use later month.
The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC is 9.5" in length and is a dual-slot card. EVGA went with the NVIDIA reference design cooler, which keeps things simple and it liked by many as it exhausts pretty much all of the hot air out of your PC case through the exhaust bracket.
Flipping the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC graphics card over we can see that it is pretty bare with the exception of four GDDR5 memory chips that make up part of the 2GB of on-board memory. The overall length of the card is 9.5", but if you look close you'll notice that the black PCB measures just 6.875" in length! If you wanted to watercool your video card the EVGA cards should be on your radar as these cards would be under seven inches in length with a full coverage GPU water block.
The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclock 2GB GDDR5 graphics card has a total of four display connectors. You have a dual-link DVI-I, dual-link DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs. All of the video outputs are standard size, so no adapters are needed, which is nice. The only downside to using full size connectors is that the exhaust fan outlet is small, but EVGA is uses a custom high-flow exhaust bracket that has more openings than the reference design. This also helps reduce air restrictions, which could possibly help out when it comes to noise.
From this angle you can see how air comes in the fan at the end of the video card and is pushed across the GPU heatsink and then out the exhaust bracket. There are no real 'holes' in the fan shroud, so most of the hot air should exit the case.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti supports 2-way SLI, so you'll find a single SLI connector along the top of the PCB for multi-GPU systems.
EVGA uses one 6-pin PCIe power connectors on the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclock video card and recommends at least a 450 Watt power supply with a minimum +12V current rating of 24A.
MSI GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr
First up we have the MSI N660 TF 2GD5 OC (or N660 Twin Frozr 2GD5 OC). This video card uses the new GK106 GPU along with MSI Twin Frozr III GPU cooler and a custom PCB design. This card has an MSRP of $239.99, which is $10 more than the NVIDIA reference design. For an extra $10 you get an entirely custom card with a factory overclock, so MSI certainly looks like they are offering a pretty good value here with this GeForce GTX 660 video card model.
MSI will have two GeForce GTX 660 offerings. The fist is the N660 TF 2GD5 OC, which is gracing our pages here with a price of $239.99. The second card will be the NVIDIA reference design and it will carry a $229.99 price tag. For $10 more, the N660 TF 2GD5 OC is a steal!
Inside the box we found a small bundle of goodies that includes a DVI to VGA adapter and a molex to 6-pin PCI-e power adapter. Also included was an owners manual, user guide and a driver disk with the MSI Afterburner
overclocking utility and drivers.
GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr is clearly a departure from the reference
design heat sink and cooler. At start up the fans are audible but
quickly fade to nearly inaudible. The heat sink does a great job of
keeping the card cool but does tend to dump some heat into the rest of
the system since there is no fan shroud to push exhaust out of the system. The MSI Twin Frozr III GPU cooler is comprised of three heatpipes (1x 8mm SuperPipe and 2x 6mm pipes) along with two 80mm Propeller Blade fans.
The clock speeds of this overclocked card are 1033MHz GPU Core, 6008MHz memory, and 1098MHz GPU Boost. The MSI GeForce GTX 660 PCB measures 8.75" in length, so this card is fairly short and should be able to fit in almost any PC case without a big issue.
MSI uses a single 6-pin PCI-e power connector on the GeForce GTX 660 TWIN FROZR OC Edition and suggests a minimum 450W or greater PSU with at least 24 Amps on the +12V rail. Getting to this power connector is easy as it is located on the top edge of the card and the GPU cooler tapers off just before it. In the image above you can also see the massive 8mm SuperPipe that runs along the top edge of the card.
The MSI GeForce GTX 660 might feature a custom PCB, but MSI kept the reference design connectors on the card. This means you have a pair of DVI connectors, the bottom is a DVI-I while the top is DVI-D. You also have Display
Port and HDMI video connections on the left side of the card. One thing that we did notice is that MSI moved the DVI ports to the bottom edge of the card, which allowed them to put more exhaust ports in the bracket.
Here we have the back side of the card where we can see that MSI is using four Samsung GDDR5 memory chips, but that is about all the interesting stuff to look at.
All NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 cards have a single SLI interconnect/bridge, which means they are 2-way SLI ready! Running 3-way or 4-way SLI is impossible on these cards.
Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test
system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows
7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no
other software programs running.
Drivers used for testing:
- Catalyst 12.8 - AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition
- GeForce 306.23 - GeForce GT 640, GTX 660 & GeForce GTX 660 Ti
Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform
The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0906 that came out on 12/22/2011. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.15.
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
Intel Core i7-3960X
ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
16GB Corsair 1866MHz
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Video Cards Tested:
- AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition 2GB - 1000MHz Core / 1200MHz Memory
- Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition 2GB - 902MHz Core / 1782MHz Memory
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 2GB - 1046MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
- MSI GeForce GTX 660 2GB - 1033MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti SC 2GB - 980MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Super Clocked GPU-Z Information:
MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC Edition GPU-Z Information:
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.
Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.
Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.
Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.
This game looks great and we tested with the highest settings possible. This means we used 'ultra' settings and really punished the cards being tested. We ran FRAPS for two minutes on the single player map called 'Rock and a Hard Place' for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: There isn't much of a difference between the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC or the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC. At our lowest resolution of 1280x1024 the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC had a slight lead of .9 fps or ~1.2%. Once we increased the resolution to 1920x1080 the tables turned and the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC took the lead by .6%. Unlike in Batman: Arkham City neither of the GeForce GTX 660's were able to keep up with the EVGA GeForce GTX 660Ti.
Dirt: Showdown is a video game published and developed by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was released in May 2012 in Europe and in June in North America. It is part of the Colin McRae Rally game series.
Dirt: Showdown removes several of the gameplay modes featured Dirt 3, and introduces new ones. Gameplay modes can be classified as Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan or Party. We ran the built in Benchmark at Ultra settings to get a true feel of what this engine has to offer!
It is very important to note that Global Illumination and Advanced Lighting have massive performance penalties when enabled, something not seen in other titles in the Dirt series. It seems to affect NVIDIA hardware more so than AMD. We ran with and without the settings enabled to show our readers that these two settings can make a world of difference to your gaming experience.
Benchmark Results: Both the EVGA GTX 660 SC and the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC were spot on with each other. The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC averaged 88.3 frames per second at 1280x1024 and 70.6 frames per second at 1920x1024. The MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC averaged 88.4 fps at 1280x1024 and 70.5 fps at 1920x1080 these performance numbers put our cards within .1 fps of each other. If we compare the GeForce GTX 660 graphics cards to the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti SC, there was a pretty solid performance difference. At 1280x1024 the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti SC was nearly 14 frames per second or ~15% faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660's, once we increased the resolution to 1920x 1080 the difference between the GeForce GTX 660's and the GTX 660 Ti SC closed slightly to 12.4%.
Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.
This is another extremely demanding game. Image quality settings were raised to Very High quality with 4x AA and 16x AF. We turned off PhysX and DOF (Depth of Field) for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: There is definitely a pattern starting to emerge with between the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC and the MSI GTX 660 OC. Both of the cards are taking turns leading at one resolution or another. This time around the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC leads at 1920x1080 with an average of 34.33 frames per second while the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC leads at 1280x1024 with an average of 49.33.
Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix. The game was released on August 14, 2012, for Microsoft Windows. The game uses the Havok physics engine.
We used the Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark tool to benchmark this game title to make sure the benchmarking was consistent. We tested with 'High' quality setting at 1280x1024 and 1920x1024 resolutions.
Benchmark Results: Once again there is very little performance difference between the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC and the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC. At 1280x1024 both of the cards managed a very respectable frame rate of 78.9 frames per second. Increasing the resolution to 1920x1080 the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC took a slight lead by .3 frames per second with an average of 54.1 frames per second.
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.
3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:
Running our NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660's on the Futuremark 3DMark 11 performance preset, there is very little difference between the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC and the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC. The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC took the lead with an overall score of 7113 3DMarks, the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC was less than 1% behind with an overall score of 7048 3DMarks.
3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:
The extreme setting had similar performance results with EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC scoring 2335 and the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC scoring 2321 3DMarks.
For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it
into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system
to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load
numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running
the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.10.1 at 1024x768 resolution. We also ran four game titles at 1920x1080 and averaged the peak results recorded the highest Wattage seen on the meter for the gaming results.
Power Consumption Results: The MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC managed to pull slightly less power than the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC during our gaming and Furmark testing. It isn't a huge difference though and is partly due to the fact that its clock speeds are lower (lower voltages) and the custom PCB design that features a different PWM setup. During our Furmark runs, the MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC pulled 296 Watts while the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC was pulling 298 Watts. Taking the average of four games gave the MSI GeFoce GTX 660 OC an average power consumption 9 Watts lower than the EVGA counterpart which averaged 299 Watts. All of these cards are very power efficient compared to what we were using just several years ago.
Temperature & Noise Testing
Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit and did some temperature testing on the EVGA and MSI GeForce GTX 660 video cards.
EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC Idle:
The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclock had an idle temperature of 35C in a room that was 26.0C (79F).
EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC Furmark:
With Furmark fired up and running at 1024x768 we saw the temperature reach 80C and level off there. The single fan was on auto and was spinning at 51% or ~1950RPM during this test. The fan could be heard and boost was not enabled as the card was running at 953MHz due to how strenuous the GPU load and power draw was.
MSI GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr III OC Idle:
The MSI GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr III OC edition had an idle temperature of 32C in a room that was 26.0C (79F). This is 3C better than the EVGA card with the NVIDIA reference cooler design. Also notice that the idle voltage is 0.8620V, which is slightly lower than the 0.8750V seen on the EVGA card.
MSI GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr III OC Furmark:
With Furmark fired up and running at 1024x768 we saw the temperature reach 64C. This is a 16C lower load temperature than the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked! The dual fans were on auto and spinning at 44% or ~1920RPM during this test. The fans were not that loud and the core clock was running at 1032.8MHz, which is higher than the EVGA cards due to the lower temperatures.
We recently upgraded our sound meter to an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 38dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.
The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC takes advantage of the typical squirrel cage fan design which isn't known for running silently. While stressing the EVGA GTX 660 SC with Furmark our meter read 47.8dBA which isn't bad considering that under the same conditions the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti SC was running at 58.1dBA. The MSI GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr III OC edition card runs a vastly different cooling option, and subsequently runs quieter and cooler as we saw above. Twin The MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC was a bit quieter running at only 46.3dBA. The MSI GTX 660 OC was also 1.7dBA quieter at Idle.
Overclocking The GeForce GTX 660We installed the EVGA Precision X 3.0.3 software utility to overclock the EVGAGeForce GTX 660 Superclocked video card to see just how far we could push this card. With the new Kepler core architecture design used on the GeForce 600 series, you can now adjust the power target of the video card along with GPU and Memory clock offsets within a certain range.
EVGA Precision X v3.0.3 lets you increase the power target to 110%. This is less than what we have seen on the higher end cards like the GeForce GTX 690 as you can increase the power target on that card to 135%.
the GPU clock offset to 549MHz and the Memory clock offset to 1000MHz.
After spending a morning with the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked we found that we
were able to reach +110MHz on the core without any voltage increases. In games and benchmarks we saw the card hitting over 12540MHz when it was running boost! We
didn't mess with overclocking the memory much as most of the gains on Kepler are with the GPU clock speeds and a 50MHz increase in the memory was not stable.
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 at Stock Settings:
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 6690 w/ 110% Power Target & +110MHz GPU Clock Offset:
With this overclock we were able to hit P7732 on 3DMark 11 with the
performance preset, which is a nice increase from P7113! This is a around a 700 point in our score,
which is a 9% improvement in performance.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The launch of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 breaths new life to the ~$200 video card segment and that is great news for gamers and enthusiasts. It also brings the latest NVIDIA microarchitecture (Kepler) down to price points that are more affordable. This is the sweet spot for gamers and, so to have a card that provides a substantial performance improvement and power savings is a must. This is a card that should be an easy choice for those that have not updated their systems in a long time. If you are still using an NVIDIA GeForce 8000 or 9000 series card, the GeForce GTX 660 is a compelling graphics card to upgrade to. It has also been roughly six months since NVIDIA launched the the first Kepler card, so the drivers are also mature with no major bugs. As with any Kepler card you also get NVIDIA PhysX, 3D Vision, SLI, TXAA and a slew of other features that NVIDIA fans have grown to love.
We also like that the GeForce GTX 660 uses the brand new GK106 'Kepler' core as it is a fully enabled core. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti uses the larger GK104 GPU that is also used on the GTX 690/680/670 products lines, although it has a number of features disabled.The fact that the GeForce GTX 660 core is fully functional might not matter in the long run, but the fact that all the transistors are powered up and running right just sounds good to us.
When it comes to gaming performance we put the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 up
against the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition as you can find the Sapphire
RADEON HD 7870 GHz Edition OC for $240 shipped. The MSI GeForce GTX 660
that we looked at today is $240 and the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 was $230,
so this was a fair comparison. We included the GeForce GTX 660 Ti to
show what a little extra money will get you and the GeForce GT 640 to
show you what performance is like on a less expensive card. The new GeForce GT
650 is basically a GeForce GT 640 with higher clock speeds and that is
it. This is reason that NVIDIA didn't sample those cards for launch as
it really isn't anything new. The results are what we expected and GeForce GTX 660 and AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition traded blows in the various game titles we tested at 1280x1024 and 1920x1080. This card was designed for 1080p gaming and it did pretty good in our testing and use. You can't crank up all the image quality settings on all the game titles, but you can easily set most up to high and get amazing performance and silky smooth frame rates. Not bad and what gamers expect from a video card!
We don't have an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 reference card to look at today, but thanks to our friends at EVGA and MSI we were able to get us cards, so we could take a closer look at two very different models. The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked 2GB costs $229.99 and is basically an NVIDIA reference design card with higher clock speeds. It was found to be stable and is the go to card for those that want to exhaust the heat from the GPU cooler out of the case and for those that want to do watercooling. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 reference PCB is under 7-inches in length and with a full-coverage waterblock it would make for an awesome little card. We like how EVGA are offering an overclocked card on day one at the MSRP as well, but then again they aren't even offering a GeForce GTX 660 at stock speeds!
The MSI GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr OC Edition is a great example of what an extra $10 will get you over the GeForce GTX 660 reference design (EVGA also offers a step up for $10). With the MSI product line an extra $10 gets you the Twin Frozr III GPU cooler a custom designed PCB and a factory overclock. Not bad at all and the MSI GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr OC Edition was quieter and ran cooler than the reference design card, which helped the overall user experience. The only downside to this design is that the PCB is slightly larger and since it is custom, there is a chance that no one will make a waterblock for it. This or any custom card is highly suggested for those that don't plan on going with a water cooling solution as for a little extra money you get what we feel is a much nicer card. Both cards are backed by a 3-year warranty, although EVGA allows you to upgrade it to 5 or 10 years upon registration.
Legit Bottom Line: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 proved to be a great performing card and the price is right. This is the card to look at below $250 if you want to build a 1080p gaming rig!