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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tom's Hardware - "Seven GeForce GTX 660 Ti Cards: Exploring Memory Bandwidth"

Image source: Tom's Hardware

Tom's Hardware posted a pretty interesting article looking at the recently-released GTX 660 Ti. Specifically, the article takes a look at seven cards from various manufacturers and examines the impact of the 660 Ti's 192-bit memory bus on gaming performance when anti-aliasing is cranked up. One feature of the article that I thought was cool was their noise comparison amongst the cards; seems like Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI are still among the best options.

I still don't know what to think of the 660 Ti. The card seems like a dud at the $300 price point now that you can find HD 7950s in the $290-300 range after rebate. Present performance aside, the 7950's 3GB of VRAM and 384-bit memory bus are going to have a lot more staying power than the 660 Ti's 2GB and 192-bit bus. If you're planning on upgrading your GPU every 12 months or so that might not matter, but for someone on a budget the prospect of a card lasting 2-3 years sounds pretty nice.

Tom's Hardware only tested Batman: Arkham City for this article, so it's not exactly a comprehensive look at the performance of the cards tested. Still, the results look pretty interesting:

Image source: Tom's Hardware

Pretty crazy how the 660 Ti (and to a lesser extent, the 670) falls off the table as AA is increased. By comparison, here's the graph from Tom's original 660 Ti review representing Batman: Arkham City performance at 1920x1080:

In case you missed the memo: Tom's Hardware

You can see that settings were a bit lower this time around compared to the original review. Also from the more recent article is the following, emphasis theirs:

So what does this tell us?

We aren't saying that anyone else ran their benchmarks on Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660 Ti incorrectly. Really, the card that wins depends on games, settings, and resolutions. This card isn’t a good choice for less demanding titles, but it does make a strong showing when a lot of GPU performance and, relatively speaking, not a lot of memory bandwidth are needed. But this exposes the card's big issue. Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660 Ti isn’t really a premium card. It would need to perform better at higher-end settings to satisfy the folks shopping for a less expensive alternative to the GTX 670. If you're really only looking for a middle-of-the-road card to game at mainstream resolutions and modest settings, the less expensive Radeon HD 7870 is ample.

The last statement is what really hurts the 660 Ti. 7870 "GHz Edition" cards are currently going for $230-240 after rebate on Newegg. Most reviews that I've read put the 660 Ti above the 7870, but I don't think I've seen a single review that puts it ahead of the 7950. It seems like the 660 Ti really needs to come down to the $270-280 range to be worth considering - there's a Gigabyte card on Newegg for $285 after rebate, so hopefully we're heading in that direction.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like the bang-for-the-buck factor isn't quite there with this generation of cards. The only true "gaming" cards available for under 300 bucks are the 7850 (~$180-200) and the 7870 (~$230-260), unless you're willing to throw the 7770 into the conversation at $100-130. Coming from a 560 Ti, which launched at $250, the 7850 doesn't seem like much of an upgrade, so my options are limited and pretty pricey.

Guess it's time to play the waiting game. Thinking back, I usually end up skipping roughly every-other generation anyway so this is my year to sit out, as evidenced by my upgrade path: 6800 GT (and SLI later), HD 4850, HD 4890, GTX 560 Ti. AMD released the 6970 and 7970 in December 2010 and 2011, respectively; Nvidia released the 580 in November 2010 and the 680 in March 2012. I wouldn't be surprised if we started hearing rumblings about the next-gen within the next couple of months.


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