We all enjoy the results possible from the very highest levels of hardware. Nobody dreams of owning something middle-of-the-road after all. Aspiring to own the premium enthusiast products is what keeps us all coming back for more, finding out what is possible when money is no object.
However, unless you happen to have recently won the lottery or your Uncle is a Lord, it's very likely that you do the same as we do. You look at how much performance is available within your budget and get the best value you can afford. If you were in the market for a graphics card in the last generation it was difficult to tear your eyes away from the incredible value for money that was given to us by the nVidia GTX560Ti.
We recently took a look at the GTX670, the follow up to our favourite card from the last generation, the GTX570, and we found it was a powerhouse of a thing. Comparing it to the last generation was akin to comparing an i7 to a Q6600. So you can imagine the relish with which we sat down to take a look at the follow-up to the midrange king, here in Gigabyte Windforce guise.
What better way to start your Thursday and the ride towards the weekend than seeing if nVidia can capture lightning in a bottle twice. Welcome, to the GTX660Ti.
The default GTX660Ti clocks in at 915MHz, but the Gigabyte Windforce comes out of the box at just over 1GHz, with another 78MHz available from the boost mode. The other big number to grab your attention is actually a small one. A TDP of a mere 150W. A 25% reduction in the power draw of the big GTX680. If you're looking for a card that is not only affordable to purchase, but affordable to run, then this might be just the ticket.
|Base Clock||1033 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1111 MHz|
|Memory Clock||6008 MHz|
|Total Memory||2048MB GDDR5|
|Transistor Count||3.54 Billion|
|Connectors||2 Dual-Link DVI|
|Form Factor||Dual Slot|
|Power Input||2x 6-pin PCIe|
Gigabyte have really got a handle on their packaging lately. Whilst their motherboard boxes are in need of a refresh, the GPU ones are classy, clear and really grab your attention. It's wonderful to not be looking at some 80s style fantasy figure.
The Windforce cooler has been on a few cards now and every one that we see it on it just gets worse and worse. We understand that to a certain degree the performance outweighs the aesthetic, but this doesn't remotely fit the PCB and looks more like a Heath Robinson solution than something from one of the major players in the hardware world.
You don't even get a hefty chunk of nickel-plated goodness. We know that a low power card naturally needs less cooling performance, but the Windforce GTX660Ti will never win any beauty contests, custom blue PCB or not.
The business end has the usual selection of outputs, two DVI, an HDMI and a DisplayPort. Power is provided by two 6-pin PCIe connectors which should be more than enough to keep things running smoothly even under heavy loading.
Gigabyte GTX660Ti Windforce
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Noctua NF-F12 Fans
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Despite already being overclocked from the reference speeds, the GTX660Ti could still be pushed another 100MHz up from the stock speeds. Most impressive is the memory overclock. 996MHz effective is a big overclock in anyone's book.
Although the cooler might look like it was cobbled together in a shed, it definitely does the business. Stock or overclocked it's cool, but more importantly, really quiet. Seriously quiet. The Northbridge fan on our test Rampage IV is louder than this card becomes when it's working hard.
3D Mark Vantage
Technology marches on. When you compare the Windforce to its predecessor the GTX560Ti, it's so far ahead that we can't believe it's only been a year. Looking through the list of other cards it's streets ahead of the equivalent model in the AMD range, the HD7870, but nicely sandwiched between the HD7950 stock and overclocked. Although as you can see our overclock doesn't bring much extra performance.
3D Mark 11
In the more modern 3D Mark 11 the Windforce is outperforming the reference HD7970. If it keeps this up in the gaming scores we could have the bargain of the year on our hands.
In Alien vs Predator the Windforce slots in between the stock and overclock settings of the HD7950. Unlike that card though the overclock doesn't really give us any massive performance improvement. It's not far behind the next model up in the nVidia range, the GTX670.
Batman Arkham City
Thanks to a combination of some driver tweaking, game patches, and a frame-rate cap, nearly everything is capable of running Batman Arkham City these days. However, even allowing for that the GTX 660 Ti performs very well indeed.
Such are the demands placed upon the card by Battlefield 3 we don't get the same level of performance that we've seen so far. It's still perfectly playable though, and perhaps most importantly is looking down the bottom of the graph where we can see the little GTX660Ti is equivalent to the GTX580!
Considering how brutal the demands of Crysis 2 are, it's a serious statement of intent that the GTX660Ti is capable of matching a GTX670, even with the high-res texture pack installed.
Once again the Dirt 3 results are, at best, curious. We don't know whether things keep getting broken in the beta drivers, but it's becoming harder to trust that the results we're obtaining are a true reflection of the performance of the card. Moving on.
Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 has never been a great performer on the nVidia cards, but even by those standards the performance of the Windforce is disappointing. Barely over 60fps on a brand new GPU isn't good enough.
Mafia 2 gives us the first indication that the overclock can actually bring us extra performance. Once again the big surprise is how well the GTX660Ti stacks up against the GTX670 and slides in just ahead of a reference HD7950.
As is often the case with cut-down cards, when things are very intense it quickly reaches its limits. A single nVidia GPU in Metro 2033 has never been a producer if incredible frame-rates, but even still the GTX660 Ti Windforce struggles to make a good fist of things, topping out at a mere 30FPS average.
Resident Evil 5 - DX9
Flipping the demands around after Metro 2033, Resident Evil 5 is very well optimised and doesn't push a graphics card very hard at all, as you can see from all of our cards averaging over three figures. It does however demonstrate that the GTX660Ti hasn't quite got all the power we'd hope as it's a long way (relatively) behind any contemporary cards.
Resident Evil 5 - DX10
Moving on to the DirectX 10 version, we see a similar set of results emerge. Although it performs better when compared to the GTX570 than it did in DX9.
If Resident Evil 5 hinted that the reductions in architecture led to some average performance then Unigine enhances that feeling. When you're over a year down the line and the similarly positioned GTX570 is keeping up with you, and a lot cheaper, then it makes it harder to be fully appreciative of the GTX660Ti.
Things get even worse with the antialiasing added to Unigine. Now even the HD7870 happily bests the Windforce and for about £80 less. Although admittedly this is only the case in Unigine.
The Witcher 2
Showing that there are many gaming scenarios in which the GTX660Ti can spring a surprise, in The Witcher 2 it's up there with any of the single-GPU cards in our graphs. Impressive.
Technology is still happily following Moore's Law. Every new generation is so much faster than the last it's difficult to keep up. In some ways it's actually better to just stick with the midrange cards, because the premium models will be outperformed so much by the next batch that it's pointless to spend a fortune on an expensive card.
There is one element of the current generation that hasn't been so beneficial though, and that's the pricing. When we first saw the GTX680 and HD7970 prices we were shocked at how much they were, but hoping that the usual midrange ones would remain as affordable as ever. Then the GTX670 appeared and it, although powerful, still wasn't exactly within the pocket of the majority of people. Now, with the GTX660Ti, we're still finding it difficult to explain where the card fits in the grand scheme of things.
Performance is only average in our synthetic benchmarks, but in gaming it's generally up there with anything else that you care to choose. Of course certain games are better than others, so if there is a particular title that you're desperate to see in all its glory then you have to look carefully, but generally it's fair to say that the GTX660Ti has you covered.
So when looking at the performance alone it's very close to a GTX670, so it should be a bargain, right?
Except the price is also really close to a GTX670. Pricing is only rumoured at the time of writing this, but we expect it to come in around £270. That's not exactly midrange pricing, even if the performance is good. We can't see why you wouldn't save the little extra and get the more powerful and well-rounded GTX670. nVidia claim in their literature that this is in the same segment as the HD7870, but with the performance of a HD7950. Yes in terms of the amount of models above it that's true. It's the third card in the single-GPU range. But if the price is to be believed it's not remotely close to either of those, and is actually competing with a stock HD7970. Given how powerful that card is, and how much overclocking headroom is available from AMDs behemoth, it's not even close. The GTX660Ti is either £50 too much, or 15FPS too weak in performance.
Back to the specifics of the Gigabyte Windforce card itself it is unquestionably a mixed bag. The cooler is ugly. There is no two ways about it. It doesn't look at all as if it was designed for this card. But it performs excellently, keeping the GTX660Ti cool in all scenarios and, most importantly, it's whisper quiet even under full loading. It's definitely a case of function out-doing form.
So all in all it's a great gaming card, and if those final few notes needed to put a GTX670 in your rig are too much to shoot for then it's the most affordable nVidia card. Realistically though if you're looking for power on a budget you'd be better off with an AMD HD7950. Still you can't deny the results, and for that reason we give it our OC3D Gamers Choice award.
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the GTX660Ti for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.