MSI pushes ahead with its newest addition built upon the recently released 660 Ti chipset and its Twin Frozr IV cooler design to make one awesome card that could possibly top them all. Let’s take a look and see if it has what it takes.[review_ad]
Introduction – MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition
MSI builds both Nvidia and AMD cards, as you have seen with our recent HD 7870 HAWK Edition review. Since they occupy roughly the same market space, we’ll be pitting this GTX 660 Ti against MSI’s own HD 7870 HAWK. So far, the 660 Ti has proven to be a veritable powerhouse. Built upon the same core as the GTX670, 680 and 690 you can bet this card came prepared to fight. The 660 Ti Power edition comes sporting the Twin Frozr cooler and a custom PCB/VRM design to ensure any hurdles will be mere pebbles on its path to excellence.
One thing you will notice is that since this is a Power Edition card, it lacks some of the bells and whistles that comes with the HAWK edition we recently viewed. Features such as the GPU Reactor and backplate have been trimmed off. The Power edition uses SFC components just like the golden ones we had seen before, though these are more of a subtle gunmetal grey color.
The MSI GTX 660 Ti Power edition rolls in at a MSRP of $309.99 which puts it in the performance gaming space, and only $10 ahead of the reference card. The reference design is not bad, but upgraded components and design for only $10 more is a great deal.
Military Class III Components
MSI has long touted the Military Class components on their cards due to the fact that they are specially tested components, not just by them but by a third party testing center according to the enclosed certificate. “Military Class components” sounds nice, but are they really necessary on a card or motherboard? Honestly, no, as most times the reference components are good enough to do their job. However, they are not designed to push the limits to the extreme. The answer is better and stronger components. Most manufacturers worth their salt will use better components, so in order to try and stand out, MSI uses “Military Class” components, in an attempt to ensure better hardware reliability.
Here is some info provided by MSI regarding their choice in the SFC chokes and its advantages over standard offerings found on other model cards.
The Hi-C cap or Flat cap as many call them are nice for overclockers who need to insulate for LN2 as barrel caps tend to be much harder to work with when prepping for sub ambient cooling.
These are the barrel caps we mentioned earlier. The big deal here is that they are solid caps which are much more reliable and provide greater stability over the lifetime of the card and components. They also do tend to be more efficient which can help them run cooler as well.
The VRM is a special design with select components to help with not only durability, but overall efficiency for optimum power delivery with minimal waste and excess heat.
Twin Frozr IV Cooler
MSI introduced the Twin Frozr cooler quite some time ago. The Twin Frozr is MSI’s version of the custom cooler to keep the GPU and components cool on the card.
Here we see some advantages of the cooler design, including the dual 80mm fans which work in tandem to ensure plenty of air is moved through the fin array for a cooler running GPU and also onboard components.
The propeller blade design is supposed to offer better airflow and it seems to really move some air but there is a penalty as when the fan is ramped up to full speed, it is simply louder than any of the other 660 Ti cards we tested.
The complete cover heatsink is a nice dual purpose design as it works as a heatspreader for the VRM/memory components but also it helps stiffen the PCB quite a bit which makes for a much stronger and more durable card.
Dust Removal Technology
MSI has implemented a dust removal technology into the card which enforces a reversed rotation of the cooling fans for the first 30 seconds of operation to blow dust away from the cooler and help keep it clean to avoid blockages. This could definitely be helpful as we have seen in many cases of overheating and failure caused by dust that users did not know was there.
MSI offers its own software utility. MSI Afterburner is co-developed with Rivatuner which is very similar to what the other top manufacturers are offering.
There we see it above with multiple options including voltage control and power limit controls to ensure our overclock ceiling is just a little bit higher.
Here is the Triple overvoltage which can be unlocked for full overclocking potential if a user is so willing to want to push the limits on the card it is there simply waiting for you to flip the switch in the afterburner program.
PCI Express Gen 3 Capable
MSI is one of many manufacturers who offer 6 series Nvidia cards supporting PCIe Gen 3 along with motherboards to place them on.
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 MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition
The packaging for the GTX 660 Ti Power Edition is fairly simple on the cover, but below the surface it is packed with loads of information. On the front we find a fairly sedate P logo for Power Edition. Some key specs adorn the front panel. Once you flip up the front flap, you see the full gamut of data, from Military Class III components to the cooler and pretty much anything else.
Here is a list of all items included in the accessory pack:
Dual 4 Pin Molex to 6 Pin PCI-E Power adapters
- DVI to VGA Adapter
The accessory package is good enough to get you moving along. Since all output ports are standard full size, no special adapters are needed, with the exception of the VGA adapter for legacy users.
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Here is the card. It has a full size PCB which allows more space for components and more custom VRM fitment. The dual propeller fans can be seen easily shrouded within the Twin Frozr IV cooler.
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The cooler from both sides can easily be seen with its large nickel plated copper base and massive heatpipes to carry the heat away from the GPU.
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The standard power connectivity for the 660 Ti is in place with the dual 6 pin PCI-E connectors.
The rear IO supports multiple connectivity options including:
This connectivity is standard for the 600 series cards and is quite nice now that a single GPU card can support up to 4 displays.
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The dual SLI connectors tells us that unlike the previous gen 560 Ti, this card supports up to 3 way SLI connectivity for some really awesome performance.
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The cooler can be seen here; the heatpipes snaking away from it are simply huge. The copper base which contacts the GPU is also very good and flat and makes excellent contact with the GPU, leading to better thermal performance.
The full cover VRM heatspreader works well for dispersing heat away from key components where the cooling air passing through the heatsink can do dual duty and carry this heat away as well. As stated before this cooler design actually serves dual (though perhaps unintended) purpose: it stiffens the PCB by a good amount and makes the card feel a lot more rigid.
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Here the main cooler/stiffening bracket is removed and you can see the custom VRM. It is not all flashy like the HAWK card’s, but appearance is somewhat immaterial as the card has a cooler over it.
Here is a peek at the memory IC’s which are Hynix, and at default, come clocked at 1502MHz or QDR 6008 MHz but in our testing we have seen these well above 6900 – 7000MHz.
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||MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition
|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
The GTX 660 Ti Power Edition is just like all of the other 6 series models in which it clocks via the boost clock to give you the overclock you want. Some overclockers and benchmarkers find this to be a pain as on top of the boost clock there is a dynamic clock which kicks in and can overclock even higher depednig upon power target and thermal envelope. This is nice for gamers as it gives a free performance boost in some applications, but for those running on the ragged edge (such as extreme benchmarkers) this can be a huge hindrance as it’s just another variable they have to contend with to get top clocks.
The MSI 660 Ti Power Edition comes out of the box clocked below the competition, with a base GPU clock of 1020 and boost of 1098. This capped off our max observed dynamic clock at 1175, which was actually quite good due to likely power target tuning to give the card more headroom.
|Clock||Max stable MHz
|GPU Base clock||1122|
|GPU Boost Clock||1137|
|Max dynamic clock Observed||1241|
|Memory clock||1755 (7020)|
When overclocked, the card wakes up quite well with a good showing and a dynamic boost clock beating the GIGABYTE card but falling slightly short of the Zotac and ASUS models. This allows for some very good performance, but as always, GPU and CPU overclockability varies slightly by chip sample; this one seems to hold some promise.
Memory overclocking for the MSI offering was the best by 20MHz, as it topped out at 1755MHz (7020MHz QDR). This is a strong showing and likely made up the difference for any GPU clock it might be lacking.
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)|
|MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition OC||33C/70C|
|MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition||32C/68C|
The Twin Frozr cooler kept the card in a very workable temperature range, and we actually ran out of air cooling GPU overclockability before we ran out of temperature headroom.
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 MSI card falls a little behind here as the lower base and related boost and dynamic clock simply put it a step behind. MSI may be coming out with a HAWK version of the 660 Ti, which may perform better than this card.
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. The MSI card is simply outmatched at stock due to the lower clockspeeds, but it still performs great and within a percent of its upper clocked buddies. Also one thing to consider here is that these cards can overclock well, so when clocking it will even the playing field considerably.
Just Cause 2
We brought a rather old but good game back for testing this card. The MSI card is off pace by about 0.5 FPS which is not even visible in real world experience.
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.
The GTX 660 Ti is a force to be reckoned with and we have seen many cards from many manufacturers. Most cards arrived as the top model of the 660 Ti line, but MSI chose a more modest approach with a card that is clocked below the others. We knew it wouldn’t wipe the floor with the other combatants, but the possibility of a 660 Ti HAWK Edition might level the playing field a bit more.
At the card’s price point, it is only $10 more than the reference standard model, and $20 less than the top performing Zotac model in this go around. While it is slightly slower out-of-box, it overclocks damn well, with a memory clock at 7020MHz QDR (a 1GHz overclock over the out of the box clock).
One slight issue we have with this card is the fans, as they are definitely noisy, and its seems like the extra airflow from the propeller style fan blades has an adverse side effect. This is not really loud during game tests but in a hot chassis or when pushing the card at max fan speed, the noise is definitely audible.
|OUR VERDICT: MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition|
|Summary: The MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition is a really solid performer with build quality to match. For this it earns the Bjorn3D silver Bear Award|