GIGABYTE has made a name for themselves with very overclockable motherboards and their extremely highly clockable “Super overclock” graphics card offerings. Coming from this same brand, we have their overclock offering for the GTX 660 Ti.[review_ad]
Introduction – GIGABYTE GTX 660 Ti Windforce OC
GIGABYTE has a long list of performance offerings ranging from the entry level business system products all the way up to insanely overclocker-centric models such as their SOC cards and OC branded boards. Today we have the newest offering stemming from the new GTX 660 Ti chipset. This is GIGABYTE’s overclocked variant it has a performance boost out of the box. The card comes equipped with a Windforce cooler, and like all other 660 Ti models, supports up to 3 way SLI. This card has the exact same GPU as the GTX 690, 680, and 670, so you can bet this will be one hell of a performer.
GIGABYTE is no stranger to performance 6-series parts as we reviewed a Windforce GTX 670 in the past, and we can say with utmost certainty that it has not only a nice cooler with the Windforce design but also a nice overclock, and great performance.
The GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 660 Ti Windforce OC has alot going for it and looks like a damn nice card. We will run it through its paces and look over its features and add it all up to give you an idea of the card’s capabilities. As of this time we did not have access to the exact pricing but based on other cards, it should be somewhere in the $299.99 – $329.99 range. Let’s take a deeper look at what this card has to offer.
Ultra Durable VGA
GIGABYTE has coined the Ultra Durable for their motherboards and GPU’s for some time now. This simply is a statement from GIGABYTE that they select top shelf components for their product to ensure your card has the best chances of living a nice long happy life no matter what kind of punishment you may dish out to it.
The Ultra durable component choices include full Japanese solid caps, top tier VRAM IC’s, ferrite core metal chokes, and Low RDS MOSFETs, all for a package that should run more efficiently with lower temperatures and even provide better overclocking potential over reference components.
Windforce is the name that Gigabyte gives its custom cooler design to ensure you now that this card is setup to blow you away with quiet performance while also keeping the GPU nice and cool for teh best gaming experience.
GIGABYTE complimented special shaping into the plate that the fin array is placed on which allows for a optimized airflow pattern to more efficiently move air through and away from the cooler which will help keep heat away from the card and the GPU cooler.
Here we see the Triangle cool feature in action. As the air from the fan enters the cooling stack it is directed through the array and then away as to avoid a cooling dead spot that otherwise might hold hot air in a trapped area or a hotspot behind the cooler.
PCI Express Gen 3 Capable
GIGABYTE wants to ensure everybody knows they are Gen 3 ready not just with their cards but also with their motherboard supporting ful PCI-E Gen 3 spec out of the box.
What is the GeForce GTX 660 Ti?
Nvidia hit the market hard and fast with the introduction of the GTX 680 and delivered a card that was simply a marvel of new technologies such as Adaptive Vsync, GPU Boost, TXAA and more. The GK104 GPU is ultimately efficient and powerful for an excellent price/performance ration no matter which card you chose.
The 680, 690 and 670 round out the highest-end Enthusiast SKU’s, and so the natural progression is to replace the aging top performance level SKU in the GTX 560 Ti. This SKU is very important, as it has always marked a middle ground of excellent performance without enthusiast-class price. The 660 Ti utilizes the same GK104 GPU which powers the flagship GTX 690, 680 and 670.
Nvidia does a lot of market research when it comes to GPU’s and for this they know that not every gamer upgrades with every new GPU launch so they wanted to make sure that this was something special and worth the upgrade.
Here we see the chart provided by Nvidia where the GTX 660 Ti clearly blows away previous generation GPU’s, and gives gamers a reason for an upgrade with performance levels tripling what is seen on the GTX 260 which is still a card used quite popularly today.
Once again data provided by Nvidia shows that compared to the HD7870, the GTX 660 Ti simply wins hands down and by a large margin in some areas.
To some this may be a surprise but after testing both the GTX670 and GTX680 we know that these cards not only beat their closest competitors but even take shots at levels above them. Here we see that in some cases the GTX 660 Ti out performs the lowest enthusiast-class GPU from AMD.
The GK104 GPU found in the GTX 660 Ti happens to carry the same shader count and overall spec as the GTX670 which no doubt contributes to its excellent performance. The difference is that the GTX 660 Ti employs a 192Bit memory bus for its 2GB of onboard framebuffer. The TDP of the GTX 660 Ti is 150W which is comparable to the GTX 560 Ti but with performance that can best the previous generation flagship (GTX580).
The GTX 680 was designed to be a powerhouse and well deserved flagship model for the GeForce lineup; the GTX 670 was made to back it up with excellent performance at a little better pricepoint; and finally the GTX 660 Ti is the gamer’s card. It is designed to be the card that brings Kepler to the masses, as many gamers simply want to game and don’t need or want the very best money can buy, but rather a card that simply plays their games well.
The real question that comes to our minds is whether the GTX 660 Ti is able to overclock to the same level we have seen from the GTX 670, and whether this will be a real performance monster knocking out everything in its path, or simply be a beast of a card with a limit.
Overview of the GIGABYTE GTX 660 Ti Windforce OC
The packaging on the GIGABYTE card is fairly simple as it is a thinner rectangular box with basic specs on front and the robotic eye peering at you. We don’t know why, but it feels like the eye is trying to hypnotize us.
Here is a list of all items included in the accessory pack:
Dual 4 Pin Molex to 6 Pin PCI-E Power adapters
The accessory package is sparse, but it does its job and gives us all the necessary components. We have not used a VGA monitor in quite some time but it might have been a wise choice to include one such adapter for legacy users.
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Here we have the card ready to run, and with some really huge looking fans. We can see why they call it the Windforce, as this cooler houses dual 100mm fans capable of moving lots of air. The rear of the card shows us a custom PCB design ready to run with a custom PWM ready to do some overclocking. Note that GIGABYTE is serious about its cooling: serious enough that the cooler extends past the PCB edge by about a full inch just to get that little bit of extra cooling power to work.
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The Windforce cooler is a dense array of aluminum fins fastened to a large heatpipe base just waiting to blow away any heat the GPU will produce. Note that the main fin array attached to the base also has 2 island fin arrays attached via heatpipe to extend GPU cooling just that much further.
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The rear I/O supports multiple connectivity options including:
The supported connections are diverse and you should not have an issue finding at least one connection to match your display or displays should you want to run multi GPU. Remember that the 6 series offers connectivity up to 4 displays for ultimate gaming or productivity configuration.
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Here we get a better look at the heart of the cooler and the 2 massive heatpipes connecting the island heatsinks to the main cooling plate along with the memory and VRM cooling which is all integrated into the Windforce cooling assembly. This is definitely nice as some of the other GTX 660 Ti models do not actively cool the memory and we could see this being a possible issue under extended loading environments especially if running large resolutions or heavy texture loads as that is sure to heat that memory up in a big hurry.
The card itself is a large PCB and definitely not a reference design, but strangely, the area outside the VRAM looks almost blank with multiple connectors that appear to be for extended debug, or possibly signs for connections that may be available on a higher model. Considering the number of connections though, we’re not sure it would be anything other than just some debug blank header points.
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The GTX 660 Ti comes with dual 6 pin PCI-E power just like its bigger brothers and they are arranged at teh far edge of the board which i personally like alot better than the stacked 6 pins like what came on the reference 680. Now to the parts being fed by those power conenctors the VRM which houses the Ultra Durable components mentioned earlier from the solid caps special metal chokes and even the Mosfets designed for high efficiency and better power delivery.
Click Images to Enlarge
The dual SLI connector onboard tells me that the card is definitely a step up form previous get GTX 560 which supported only 2 way SLI as the 660 Ti is now opened up for up to a 3 GPU configuration. This is nice especially as SLI scaling has never been better, and it is improving all the time as drivers are optimized for multi GPU functionality.
Here is the area we mentioned earlier which has a bunch of open solder points. By our guess, these are for debug purposes based off the silk screening on the PCB. We have a dream that in the near future all of these connectors will be used on a supercard for some crazy volt modding made just for LN2 overclockers, for now that is unlikely.
Testing & Methodology
We’ve expanded our testing suite considerably since the X79 chipset release, and will continue to use the same methods for most of the motherboards and CPU’s we test. In the interests of thoroughness and accurate results, we run each test at least three times, and some tests more than that. We average the total of all the tests from each benchmark then report the average here.
The OS we use is Windows 7 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.
Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear Prefetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.
We are revamping our testing method in order to better represent motherboard performance and offering to the consumer. Also we want to make it an easier read for you without miles of endless charts. We ask that you provide feedback in an effort to help us deliver better reviews for you.
|Case||Open Air Test Bench|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-3770K|
|Motherboard||GIGABYTE Z77X-UP5 TH
|Ram||16GB Patriot Viper Xtreme 2400MHz +|
|CPU Cooler||Swiftech H20-320 Edge|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Velociraptor 300GB|
|SSD||Intel 510 series SATA III 120GB|
|GPU||GIGABYTE GTX 660 Ti Windforce OC
|PSU||Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W|
|Mouse||Tt eSPORTS Black gaming mouse|
|Keyboard||Tt eSPORTS Meka G1 mechanical gaming keyboard|
We will use the following applications to test the performance of the graphics card.
Synthetic Benchmarks & Games
|Just Cause 2
|Sniper Elite V2
Note that due to time constraints all 660 Ti’s tested are all on the chart so you can compare to eht other models and teh marginal or in some cases not so marginal differences.
We were surprised by the GIGABYTE 660 Ti’s short-handedness. The GPU core fell a little short by approximately 10 MHz from the next leading competitor, and even more as you moved up spots. This left its boost clock 14 MHz behind its closest competitor and far behind the leader. This looks like luck of the draw as some of the 660′s we have tested are absolute gems to overclock and some are about average, and while this card is not bad, it is definitely not the best we have clocked. Once again this just goes to show that the CPU/GPU lottery is in effect.
|Clock||Max stable MHz
|GPU Base clock||1082|
|GPU Boost Clock||1160|
|Max dynamic clock Observed||1251|
|Memory clock||1755 (7020)|
The memory, on the other hand, is the absolute definition of flat out raw power, as it easily jumped past all of the competition settling in at over 7020 QDR (a little over 1GHz overclock QDR for the memory) which is huge! This kind of perfomance jump in some ways can definitely make up for the slightly lower GPU overclockability.
In order to ensure no system bottleneck we clocked the CPU to 4.6GHz to ensure there is no reason the system will slow down the cards performance at all.
Some may ask why we chose the mainstream Z77 system, and we can explain. Up until recent the X79 enthusiasts platform did not really support PCI-E Gen 3 on the Nvidia 600 series GPU’s. Because of the inherent instability many have seen with the X79 platform with Gen 3 products, Nvidia has been hesitant to enable it, and now there is a workaround via registry to get it working. However, in order to ensure the most consistent testing possible, we have stuck to the natively supported Z77 platform.
Important note: Overclocking can cause component failure. Please exercise caution when attempting any level of overclock on system components.
The temperatures were recorded with full loaded Heaven benchmark looping for over 30 minutes or longer depending how long it took for the card to level out in temps and sat at a plateau for more than 10 minutes.
|GPU Temperatures||Temperature (Idle/Load)|
|GIGABYTE GTX 660 Ti OC||33C/72C|
|GIGABYTE GTX 660 Ti||33C/70C|
The Windforce cooler did its job well and when pushed to full fan speed let out a mild whirring, but overall was not overly unpleasant. When left on auto we’re am betting it would be very difficult to even discern it from the other components in the system.
Real world/Gaming Benchmarks
3DMark 11 is the newest in Futuremark’s suite of benchmarking utilities. Its a fully capable DirectX11 benchmark which also stresses and analyzes the system performance as a whole to simulate a heavy rendering environment such as a high end game or other app the end user may run. This benchmark was run with Performance settings 5 times and all runs were averaged for the result below.
3DMark 11 shows a nice picture of the cards placement as it falls right behind the 670/680′s and well ahead of the 580. Now we just need some 7950′s to add to this mix. The GIGABYTE offering pulls a nice advantage here, and even though it is a small gain, it shows the raw power the GIGABYTE card harnesses as the card help quite consistent dynamic clocks compared to some of the others which tells us that internal tuning may be at play here as some tweaking likely was done behind the scenes to kee the card running strong under the consistent load.
Heaven Benchmark 3.0
Heaven Benchmark version 3.0 is the newest iteration from Unigine and a improvement to stability along with I am noticing much more consistent scoring as well.
In order to make sure we got these cards tested and up to show off to you guys we did not have time to retest our card suite in this newest benchmark, although we hope to update that very soon. Till then, you can compare the different 660 Ti’s we have here.
Metro 2033 has always been extraordinarily stressful for GPU’s, and this has not changed with time. The 660 Ti cannot play Metro 2033 without minimum framerate, but for a midrange performance card it definitely holds its own as the previous generation flagship GTX580 is bested by this midrange beast. This round the GIGABYTE card is slightly off pace from the fastest but overall still a very fast card.
Just Cause 2
We brought a rather old but good game back for testing this card. Here the cards are neck and neck but the GIGABYTE pulls a slight lead for the win with the 660′s and, in this test the 660′s all trounce the 580 by a decent margin.
Sniper Elite V2
Those of you that have been paying attention to games recently will know that Sniper Elite V2 was recently released on the scene only a few months back. It is a fun game and once we found a benchmark tool we knew we had to put it in a review. The game is as it sounds: you are a sniper and your job is to sneak around and kill pretty much anything that moves. It has an x-ray mode that shows bones breaking or being shattered with hits.
Here the 660 Ti’s definitely shine as they clearly leap over the previous gen 580 again and from the looks of the FPS numbers this could be in or even beating the 7950 territory.
When we had heard that a new midrange 560 Ti replacement would be on the scene soon, we were excited. We love overclocking and playing with cards. We were eager to see how well a performance-level Kepler card would do, and once we got our hands on a few of these cards we can definitely say that these cards handle and even clock like their big brothers and with the ability to triple SLI they really don’t feel anywhere near the performance segment at all.
The GIGABYTE variant is a simple card, it just works. It adorns its oversized custom cooler proudly and it performs right there neck and neck with the best 660 Ti has to offer. The custom cooler is silent and performs really well as even our overclocked and overvolted testing netted temps not exceeding 72C.
The memory overclock was the highest in the group at a strong 7020 QDR a 1GHz clock over the default clock.
All in all the GIGABYTE GTX 660 Ti is a great board and pending price point could definitely be a value contender for an excellent gaming card to carry you for another few years until the next significant upgrade.
|OUR VERDICT: GIGABYTE GTX 660 Ti Windforce OC|
|Summary: The GTX 660 Ti is a strong card out of the box and the GIGABYTE variant is excellent with memory clocking that is tough to beat along with an amazing cooler. For this it receives the Bjorn3D Silver Bear Award.|