It’s hard not to notice that NVIDIA has a bit of a problem right now. In the months since the launch of their first Kepler product, the GeForce GTX 680, the company has introduced several other Kepler products into the desktop 600 series. With the exception of the GeForce GT 640 – their only budget part – all of those 600 series parts have been targeted at the high end, where they became popular, well received products that significantly tilted the market in NVIDIA’s favor.

The problem with this is almost paradoxical: these products are too popular. Between the GK104-heavy desktop GeForce lineup, the GK104 based Tesla K10, and the GK107-heavy mobile GeForce lineup, NVIDIA is selling every 28nm chip they can make. For a business prone to boom and bust cycles this is not a bad problem to have, but it means NVIDIA has been unable to expand their market presence as quickly as customers would like. For the desktop in particular this means NVIDIA has a very large, very noticeable hole in their product lineup between $100 and $400, which composes the mainstream and performance market segments. These market segments aren’t quite the high margin markets NVIDIA is currently servicing, but they are important to fill because they’re where product volumes increase and where most of their regular customers reside.

Long-term NVIDIA needs more production capacity and a wider selection of GPUs to fill this hole, but in the meantime they can at least begin to fill it with what they have to work with. This brings us to today’s product launch: the GeForce GTX 660 Ti. With nothing between GK104 and GK107 at the moment, NVIDIA is pushing out one more desktop product based on GK104 in order to bring Kepler to the performance market. Serving as an outlet for further binned GK104 GPUs, the GTX 660 Ti will be launching today as NVIDIA’s $300 performance part.

  GTX 680 GTX 670 GTX 660 Ti GTX 570
Stream Processors 1536 1344 1344 480
Texture Units 128 112 112 60
ROPs 32 32 24 40
Core Clock 1006MHz 915MHz 915MHz 732MHz
Shader Clock N/A N/A N/A 1464MHz
Boost Clock 1058MHz 980MHz 980MHz N/A
Memory Clock 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 3.8GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 192-bit 320-bit
VRAM 2GB 2GB 2GB 1.25GB
FP64 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/24 FP32 1/8 FP32
TDP 195W 170W 150W 219W
Transistor Count 3.5B 3.5B 3.5B 3B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 40nm
Launch Price $499 $399 $299 $349

In the Fermi generation, NVIDIA filled the performance market with GF104 and GF114, the backbone of the very successful GTX 460 and GTX 560 series of video cards. Given Fermi’s 4 chip product stack – specifically the existence of the GF100/GF110 powerhouse – this is a move that made perfect sense. However it’s not a move that works quite as well for NVIDIA’s (so far) 2 chip product stack. In a move very reminiscent of the GeForce GTX 200 series, with GK104 already serving the GTX 690, GTX 680, and GTX 670, it is also being called upon to fill out the GTX 660 Ti.

All things considered the GTX 660 Ti is extremely similar to the GTX 670.  The base clock is the same, the boost clock is the same, the memory clock is the same, and even the number of shaders is the same. In fact there’s only a single significant difference between the GTX 670 and GTX 660 Ti: the GTX 660 Ti surrenders one of GK104’s four ROP/L2/Memory clusters, reducing it from a 32 ROP, 512KB L2, 4 memory channel part to a 24 ROP, 384KB L2, 3 memory channel part. With NVIDIA already binning chips for assignment to GTX 680 and GTX 670, this allows NVIDIA to further bin those GTX 670 parts without much additional effort. Though given the relatively small size of a ROP/L2/Memory cluster, it’s a bit surprising they have all that many chips that don’t meet GTX 670 standards.

In any case, as a result of these design choices the GTX 660 Ti is a fairly straightforward part. The 915MHz base clock and 980MHz boost clock of the chip along with the 7 SMXes means that GTX 660 Ti has the same theoretical compute, geometry, and texturing performance as GTX 670. The real difference between the two is on the render operation and memory bandwidth side of things, where the loss of the ROP/L2/Memory cluster means that GTX 660 Ti surrenders a full 25% of its render performance and its memory bandwidth. Interestingly NVIDIA has kept their memory clocks at 6GHz – in previous generations they would lower them to enable the use of cheaper memory – which is significant for performance since it keeps the memory bandwidth loss at just 25%.

How this loss of render operation performance and memory bandwidth will play out is going to depend heavily on the task at hand. We’ve already seen GK104 struggle with a lack of memory bandwidth in games like Crysis, so coming from GTX 670 this is only going to exacerbate that problem; a full 25% drop in performance is not out of the question here. However in games that are shader heavy (but not necessarily memory bandwidth heavy) like Portal 2, this means that GTX 660 Ti can hang very close to its more powerful sibling. There’s also the question of how NVIDIA’s nebulous asymmetrical memory bank design will impact performance, since 2GB of RAM doesn’t fit cleanly into 3 memory banks. All of these are issues where we’ll have to turn to benchmarking to better understand.

The impact on power consumption on the other hand is relatively straightforward. With clocks identical to the GTX 670, power consumption has only been reduced marginally due to the disabling of the ROP cluster. NVIDIA’s official TDP is 150W, with a power target of 134W. This compares to a TDP of 170W and a power target of 141W for the GTW 670. Given the mechanisms at work for NVIDIA’s GPU boost technology, it’s the power target that is a far better reflection of what to expect relative to the GTX 670. On paper this means that GK104 could probably be stuffed into a sub-150W card with some further functional units being disabled, but in practice desktop GK104 GPUs are probably a bit too power hungry for that.

Moving on, this launch will be what NVIDIA calls a “virtual” launch, which is to say that there aren’t any reference cards being shipped to partners to sell or to press to sample. Instead all of NVIDIA’s partners will be launching with semi-custom and fully-custom cards right away. This means we’re going to see a wide variety of cards right off the bat, however it also means that there will be less consistency between partners since no two cards are going to be quite alike. For that reason we’ll be looking at a slightly wider selection of partner designs today, with cards from EVGA, Zotac, and Gigabyte occupying our charts.

As for the launch supply, with NVIDIA having licked their GK104 supply problems a couple of months ago the supply of GTX 660 Ti cards looks like it should be plentiful. Some cards are going to be more popular than others and for that reason we expect we’ll see some cards sell out, but at the end of the day there shouldn’t be any problem grabbing a GTX 660 Ti on today’s launch day.

Pricing for GTX 660 Ti cards will start at $299, continuing NVIDIA’s tidy hierarchy of a GeForce 600 at every $100 price point. With the launch of the GTX 660 Ti NVIDIA will finally be able to start clearing out the GTX 570, a not-unwelcome thing as the GTX 660 Ti brings with it the Kepler family features (NVENC, TXAA, GPU boost, and D3D 11.1) along with nearly twice as much RAM and much lower power consumption. However this also means that despite the name, the GTX 660 Ti is a de facto replacement for the GTX 570 rather than the GTX 560 Ti. The sub-$250 market the GTX 560 Ti launched will continue to be served by Fermi parts for the time being. NVIDIA will no doubt see quite a bit of success even at $300, but it probably won’t be quite the hot item that the GTX 560 Ti was.

Meanwhile for a limited period of time NVIDIA will be sweeting the deal by throwing in a copy of Borderlands 2 with all GTX 600 series cards as a GTX 660 Ti launch promotion. Borderlands 2 is the sequel to Gearbox’s 2009 FPS/RPG hybrid, and is a TWIMTBP game that will have PhysX support along with planned support for TXAA. Like their prior promotions this is being done through retailers in North America, so you will need to check and ensure your retailer is throwing in Borderlands 2 vouchers with any GTX 600 card you purchase.

On the marketing front, as a performance part NVIDIA is looking to not only sell the GTX 660 Ti as an upgrade to 400/500 series owners, but to also entice existing GTX 200 series owners to upgrade. The GTX 660 Ti will be quite a bit faster than any GTX 200 series part (and cooler/quieter than all of them), with the question being of whether it’s going to be enough to spur those owners to upgrade. NVIDIA did see a lot of success last year with the GTX 560 driving the retirement of the 8800GT/9800GT, so we’ll see how that goes.

Anyhow, as with the launch of the GTX 670 cards virtually every partner is also launching one or more factory overclocked model, so the entire lineup of launch cards will be between $299 and $339 or so. This price range will put NVIDIA and its partners smack-dab between AMD’s existing 7000 series cards, which have already been shuffling in price some due to the GTX 670 and the impending launch of the GTX 660 Ti. Reference-clocked cards will sit right between the $279 Radeon HD 7870 and $329 Radeon HD 7950, which means that factory overclocked cards will be going head-to-head with the 7950.

On that note, with the launch of the GTX 660 Ti we can finally shed some further light on this week’s unexpected announcement of a new Radeon HD 7950 revision from AMD. As you’ll see in our benchmarks the existing 7950 maintains an uncomfortably slight lead over the GTX 660 Ti, which has spurred on AMD to bump up the 7950’s clockspeeds at the cost of power consumption in order to avoid having it end up as a sub-$300 product. The new 7950B is still scheduled to show up at the end of this week, with AMD’s already-battered product launch credibility hanging in the balance.

For this review we’re going to include both the 7950 and 7950B in our results. We’re not at all happy with how AMD is handling this – it’s the kind of slimy thing that has already gotten NVIDIA in trouble in the past – and while we don’t want to reward such actions it would be remiss of us not to include it since it is a new reference part. And if AMD’s credibility is worth anything it will be on the shelves tomorrow anyhow.

Summer 2012 GPU Pricing Comparison
AMD Price NVIDIA
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition $469/$499 GeForce GTX 680
Radeon HD 7970 $419/$399 GeForce GTX 670
Radeon HD 7950 $329  
  $299 GeForce GTX 660 Ti
Radeon HD 7870 $279  
  $279 GeForce GTX 570
Radeon HD 7850 $239  

 

That Darn Memory Bus
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  • TheJian - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Pity I hadn't dug a bit further and found this also...I just checked 3 sites and used them...LOL.

    Even crysis 2 is a wash ~1fps difference 1920x1080 and above again we see below 30min fps even on 7950B. It takes the 7970 to do 30 and it won't be there all day. It will likely dip under 30. Ryan comments a few times your experience won't be great below 60 as those will dip :)

    The 7950 or B rises with volts and a lot of them have a hard time hitting over 1150 and run 80watts more. Not good if that's how you have to clock your card to keep up (or even win...it's bad either way). The one at guru3d.com was a regular 7950 that those #'s came from so it will have a hard time beating a 1300mhz much on NV's side. Memory can hit 7.71 as shown at hardocp with ONE sample. Must be pretty easy. Memory won't be an issue at 1920x1200 or even less at 1920x1080 and you can OC the mem any time you like :) Interesting article.

    Again, 1322/6.7ghz on mem. Above Zotac Amp in both cases. Easy to hit 1300 I guess ;) and it still won't be as hot/noisy or use as many watts at those levels. Not that I'd run either card at max. They're all great cards, it's a consumers dream right now, but NV just seems to be in better position and Ryan's comments were just out of touch with reality.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Well as far as the overclocking that's almost all amd people were left with since the 600 series nVidia released.
    All the old whines were gone - except a sort of memory whine. That gets proven absolutely worthless, but it never ends anyway.
    Amd does not support their cards with drivers properly like nvida, that's just a fact they cannot get away from, no matter how many people claim it's a thing of the past it comes up every single launch, and then continues - that INCLUDES this current / latest amd card released.
    So... it's not a thing of the past.
    No matter how many amd liars say so, they're lying.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    I saw this when their article hit but here is a good laugh... after the you know who fans found it so much fun to attack nVidia about " rejected chips" that couldn't make the cut, look what those criticizers got from their mad amd masters !
    " These numbers paint an interesting picture, albeit not one that is particularly rosy. For the 7970 AMD was already working with top bin Tahiti GPUs, so to make a 7970GE they just needed to apply a bit more voltage and call it a day. The 7950 on the other hand is largely composed of salvaged GPUs that failed to meet 7970 specifications. GPUs that failed due to damaged units aren’t such a big problem here, but GPUs that failed to meet clockspeed targets are another matter. As a result of the fact that AMD is working with salvaged GPUs, AMD has to apply a lot more voltage to a 7950 to guarantee that those poorly clocking GPUs will correctly hit the 925MHz boost clock. "
    ha
    ROFLMHO - oh that great, great, great 40% overclocker needs LOTS OF EXTRA VOLTAGE - TO HIT 925 mhz ..
    LOL
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6152/amd-announces-n...
    Oh man you can't even make this stuff up !
    HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAAAAAaaaa
    Reply
  • Ambilogy - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Oh you were comparing it to the 7950? I was promoting the 7870 :) in the spanish forums they did they own kind of review because they don't trust this kind of page reviews and the OC 7870 of a member performs better than the OC 660TI.

    So if we talk about the 7950

    The winner is clear, the 7950 wins, you are all facts well deal with this:
    Techpowerup did the most quantity of games, also reviewed the 660TI in 4 diferent reviews for each edition, you can talk all you want nvidia fanboys but techpowerup showed that for your 1080p, 7950 is 5% slower than 660TI, but then w1zzard himself has a post in the forum that you have to suppose a 5% increase in performance for 7950 for the boost he did not include. Which yields equal performance at average, not only that but tom's hardware shows something you have forgotten, minimum FPS rendered in the games, which shows 660TI horrible minimum FPS that indicate a very unstable card, my guess is your god card has very high highs for the good GPU core but when things get demanding the memory bandwidth can't keep the pace, inducing some kind of lag segments.

    It's easy, if they render the same performance average in games with almost the same price, the card that wins is the one with the better features: That is GPGPU, frame stability and overclock, which is by far much more important than closed source Physx for 2 games every hundred years. Why? OpenCL is starting to get used more and more, and it's showing awesome results. Why does nvidia cards sell more? well they still tell the reviewers how to review the card to make it look nice, they made a huge hype of their products and they have a huge fanbase that cannot see:

    1- Nvidia is selling chips which only look good today so they have faster obsolescence and therefore they can sell their next series better.
    2- They are completely oblivious to the fact that they see amd cards with a non objective point of view.
    3- Proofs of equally performing amd cards with more OC rom is ussuallly defended by them talking about the past and attacking the so called amd fanboys as follows:

    "REALLY IS CRAPPY CHIPS from the low end loser harvest they had to OVER VOLT to get to their boost...

    LOL
    LOL\
    OLO
    I mean there it is man - the same JUNK amd fanboys always use to attack nVida talking about rejected chips for lower clocked down the line variants has NOW COME TRUE IN FULL BLOWN REALITY FOR AMD....~!
    HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA
    AHHAHAHAHAHAA
    omg !
    hahahahahahhahaha
    ahhahaha
    ahaha
    Holy moly. hahahahahhahahha"

    Telling chips are bad without using them, manipulating info showing reviews that favor nvidia, exaggerating features that are not so important, ignoring some that are.

    Explain to me how what I quoted (in example) changes the fact that I can go and buy a 7950 with pre OC and have same performance in average due to w1zz studies, and even OC more and forget about 660TI. Explain to me, how that overly exaggerated laugh changes the minimum frame rates of the TI and makes it good for no reason. Well It doesn't change anything actually.

    The only cure I see for you fan-guys is get a 7950 and OC it, or buy a good version already, then you would stop complaining the moment you see its not a bad card. And also get the 660TI so you can compare also. You will see no difference that could make you still think AMD cards are crap, you will not see the driver issues, you will notice that physx don't make the difference, and hopefully you will be a more balanced person.

    I'm not a fanboy, I like nvidia cards, I have had a couple, and to me the 670 is a great card, but not this 660TI crap, I'm not a fanboy because I know to see when a company makes a meh release.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    I've already had better, so you assume far too much, and of course, are a fool. YOU need to go get the card and see the driver problems, PERSONALLY, instead of talking about two other people on some forum...
    Get some personal experience.
    NEXT: Check out the Civ 5 COMPUTE Perf above - this site has the 6970 going up 6+fps while the GTX570 goes down 30 fps... from the former bench...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4061/amds-radeon-hd-...
    LOLOL
    No bias here.....
    The 580 that was left out of this review for COMPUTE scored EQUIVALENT to the 7970, 265.7 fps December of 2010.
    So you want to explain how the 570 goes down, the 580 is left out, and the amd card rises ?
    Yeah, see.... there ya go and famboy - enjoy the cheatie lies.
    Reply
  • Cliffro - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    The comment section is filled with delusional fanboys from both camps.

    To the Nvidia fanboys, the 600 series is great when you get a working card, that doesn't just randomly start losing performance and then eventually refuse to work at all. Doesn't Red Screen of Death. or get constant "Driver Stopped Responding" errors etc etc. No review mentions these issues.

    To the AMD Fanboys, the drivers really do suck, the grey screen of death issue is/was a pain, card not responding after turning off the monitors after being idle for however long also sounds like a PITA. Again no review has ever mention these issues.

    I've been using Nvidia the majority of my time gaming, and have used ATI/AMD as well though. Neither one is perfect, both have moments where they just plain SUCK ASS!

    I'm currently using 2 GTX 560 Ti's and am currently considering up/sidegrading to a single 670/680 or 7970/7950, and during my research I've read horror stories about both the 600 series and the 7000 series. What's funny is everyone ALWAYS says look at the reviews, none of which mention the failures from both camps. none speak of reliability of the cards, because they have them and test them in what a week's time period at most?

    Here's a good example, one of the fastest 670's was the Asus 670 DCII Top, it got rave reviews, but got horrible user reviews because of reliability issues, got discontinued, and is no longer available at Newegg.

    I can see why EVGA dropped their lifetime warranty.

    All of this said, I'm actually leaning towards AMD this round, sure they have issues and even outright failures but they aren't as prominent as the ones I'm reading about from Nvidia. I don't like feeling like I'm playing the lottery when buying a video card, and with the 600 series from Nvidia that's the feeling I'm getting.
    Reply
  • Cliffro - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    I forgot to say YMMV at the end there. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, September 03, 2012 - link

    Right at the newegg 680 card you cherry picked for problems..

    "Cons: More expensive than the other 670's

    Other Thoughts: This card at stock settings will beat a stock GTX680 at stock settings in most games. I think this is the best deal for a video card at the moment.

    I sold my 7970 and bought this as AMD's drivers are so bad right now. Anytime your computer sleeps it will crash, and I was experiencing blue screens in some games. I switched from 6970's in crossfire to the 7970 and wished I had my 6970's back because of the driver issues. This card however has been perfect so far and runs much much cooler than my 6970's! They would heat my office up 20 degrees!

    I also have a 7770 in my HTPC and am experiencing driver issues with it as well. AMD really needs to get there act together with their driver releases! "

    LOL - and I'm sure there isn't an amd model design that has been broken for a lot of purchasers....
    Sure....
    One card, and "others here are rabid fanboys" - well if so, you're a rabid idiot.
    Reply
  • mrfunk10 - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    lol you've gotta be one of the most ridiculous, blind, hard-headed fanboy troll noobs i've ever seen on the internet. The amd 7 series atm are great cards and at $300 for the 7950 i'm sure they make nvidia sweat. I myself am running a gigabyte windforce 660ti an am very happy with it but mygod can the 79's oc. Reply
  • Cliffro - Saturday, September 08, 2012 - link

    "One card, and "others here are rabid fanboys" - well if so, you're a rabid idiot. "

    Have you not noticed your own constant posting of Pro Nvidia statements, and at the same time bashing AMD? And I said delusional not rabid. Though you may be on to something with that.....

    EVGA recalled a lot of 670 SC's, gave out FTW models(680 PCB) as replacements. Something about a "bad batch".

    Maybe it's an partner problem, maybe it's an Nvidia problem I don't know. But I know Asus DCII cards have lots of low ratings regardless if it's AMD or Nvidia. The Asus 79xx cards with DCII have 3 eggs or less overall, similar to the 6xx series from them. Gigabyte has better ratings, and less negatives than Asus, MSI and even EVGA on some models. So maybe it is a partner problem.

    I also must be imagining my Nvidia TDR errors or drivers/cards crashing (with no recovery) while playing a simple game (Bejeweled 3, yeah I know...) and other games occasionally as well since Nvidia can do nothing wrong in the driver department right? Just like my AMD friend seemed to think I was imagining my AMD driver issues when I had my HD 2900 Pro.

    It's also funny that I'm being attacked by a "Devoted Nvidia fan", and my friends usually consider me a "Devoted Nvidia fan". Go figure. I've never been totally against any company, never anti-Intel or AMD, or Nvidia or ATI/AMD. The only company I have avoided is Hitatchi and their hard drives, and Intel initially because honestly their stuff seemed overpriced during the P4 days.

    Maybe I'm just getting cynical as I get older...but Hard Drives started becoming unreliable the last couple of years, and now video cards are suffering more failures than I'm used to seeing. And SSD's with Sandforce seem to suck ass as well reliability wise, they are almost comparable with the 600 series, high speed and more failures than I'm comfortable with. Though in Nvidia's defense even the 600 series isn't as bad as Sandforce or OCZ or Seagate.
    Reply

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