NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 660 2GB Reference Video Card Review

With one more release date to break for the 600 video card series, we check out the upcoming GEFORCE GTX 660 from NVIDIA.

Manufacturer: NVIDIA
13 minutes & 40 seconds read time

Introduction and Specifications

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 660 2GB Reference Video Card Review 01

We're a little later then we had hoped this time bringing you our look at the upcoming GEFORCE GTX 660. While we actually received our first retail sample about a week ago it wasn't till a week later that we managed to score a reference card from a company that gave us the ability to bring you an early look at the new GTX 660 that NVIDIA is set to launch in just over a week.

We're being super cautious this time as NVIDIA seemed to work really hard to figure out where our GTX 660 Ti sample came from originally to the point where they seemed to just blame everyone hoping that one company would eventually crack. Because of that we're not going to be including a GPU-Z screenshot or anything like that. We will cover the main specifications of the card, though. It's fairly safe to say, though, that our track record speaks for itself when it comes to having the latest NVIDIA cards prior to the official release date.

The GTX 660 marks almost the end of the 600 series that we're interested in with only one more model due in the form of the GTX 650. There's no denying that the GTX 660 is going to be one of the more important models for NVIDIA and consumers, though, as it hits in at that mid $200 price bracket, one of the most popular price points when it comes to quantity. What kind of performance does a mid-$200 NVIDIA based video card bring to the table this time around, though? Well there's ultimately only one way to find out and that is to benchmark it.

There's really not much more that we need to talk about. We'll quickly cover the main specifications and once we've done that we'll move onto test system side of things and cover the cards that we'll be using in our graphs today before we finally get into the performance side of things.


Out of the box a reference clocked GTX 660 is going to come in with a 980MHz core which via boost gets pushed up to 1033MHz. A lot like the GTX 660 Ti, though, we should see companies offer overclocked variants of the model quite quickly. Some of the other main specifications include 960 CUDA cores which compares to the 1344 present on the GTX 660 Ti.

On the memory side of things we've got 2GB of GDDR5 on a 192-bit memory bus which is the same as the GTX 660 Ti. As far as clocks go we've also got the same 6008MHz QDR present. The big difference between the GTX 660 and the more expensive Ti, though, is the CUDA cores.

How much difference, though, we'll find out in just a moment. For now let's quickly see what's going on with our testbed and the cards that we'll be including in our graphs today.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

Outside of the reference GTX 660 that we have here today two of the main video cards from the NVIDIA side of things we'll be comparing it against is last generations single GPU king, the GTX 580. Along with that, though, we also want to see what kind of difference the Ti adds.

Of course we've also got the GTX 670 and GTX 680 for good measure as well. On the AMD side of things we've got the typical top to bottom line up starting with the HD 7870 which is going to be the main competition for the GTX 660 as it falls in at that mid-$200 price range as well.

Above that we've also got the HD 7950 and HD 7970 along with the new GHz Edition of the HD 7970 to round off everything.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 660 2GB Reference Video Card Review 20

Starting off with 3DMark 11 we can see that performance between the new GTX 660 and the older GTX 580 is near identical.

Against the AMD side of things you can see we're sitting around HD 7950 level performance. Of course 3DMark 11 isn't always the best to gauge a whole model off, but it helps create a good benchmark of what we're expecting to see.

Let's see if we continue to sit around GTX 580 numbers as we continue on with our benchmarks.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Looking at Heaven numbers we can see that performance is looking good again for the GTX 660 with a decent gain over the older GTX 580 and strong numbers compared to the HD 7870.

Tessellation has always been a strong point for NVIDIA, though, so let's see what happens when we continue on with the benchmark line up here today.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx

Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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While not quite GTX 580 numbers here we've got extremely playable numbers across the board. Compared to the AMD side of things you can see we're very close to the HD 7870 in this case with little separating both at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/

Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Moving into Mafia II we've got a few important things here. The first is that we're again sitting around GTX 580 performance across the board. The second is that we manage to break that 60 FPS barrier at 2560 x 1600.

The third is compared to the AMD side of things you can see we're ahead of the HD 7870 at the lower resolutions, but fall a little behind when we get to the highest. Again, though, the most important thing is that we're able to break that 60 FPS number at the highest resolution for what we consider to provide a smooth gaming experience.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Looking at Lost Planet 2 we can see we don't quite get the numbers we need at 2560 x 1600, but below that, the numbers look good.

Compared to the GTX 580 you can see we're ahead as we climb the resolution table. Against the HD 7870 we can also see that performance is stronger for the GTX 660. Overall we continue to see the GTX 660 perform exceptionally well.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 660 2GB Reference Video Card Review 25

Aliens vs. Predator hasn't been super kind to the GTX 600 series, but you can see, the GTX 660 manages some strong numbers at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050.

Compared to the GTX 580 you can see we're lagging slightly while against the HD 7870 we can see that the numbers are near identical at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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We can again see that performance between the HD 7870 and GTX 660 are extremely close here. On the playability level side of things we can see that 2560 x 1600 isn't an option, but below that we've got very strong numbers.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 660 2GB Reference Video Card Review 27

You can see that the GTX 580, HD 7870 and GTX 660 are putting out almost identical numbers across the board here. That means that while 2560 x 1600 isn't an option, 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 looks good with some strong FPS present.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 660 2GB Reference Video Card Review 28

We continue to see this trend where the HD 7870, GTX 580 and new GTX 660 perform very close to each other. We also see that while we fall shy of the numbers we need at 2560 x 1600, but 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 continue to not be an issue.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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It's no surprise that across the board we've got very strong FPS here. Let's see what happens when we get into the AA and AF side of things.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to an unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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Starting off with Mafia II you can see we manage to just sneak in that 60 FPS number at 1920 x 1200 for a solid gaming experience. Compared to the HD 7870 you can see we do trail behind by about 10% at this resolution with a similar loss being seen against the GTX 580.

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You can see under Aliens vs. Predator AA and AF just isn't an option at 1920 x 1200 let alone 2560 x 1600.The same is seen out of the GTX 580 and HD 7870.

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With AA and AF on we can see that we lag behind the GTX 580 and HD 7870 here with the latter card being able to do 2560 x 1600 with a minimum above 30 FPS.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 660 2GB Reference Video Card Review 33

Like Aliens vs. Predator you can see that AA and AF again isn't an option when moving to an intensive engine like Metro 2033.

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 660 2GB Reference Video Card Review 34

Just Cause 2 numbers line up with the HD 7870 again here and that means we manage to scrape a playable number in at 1920 x 1200. Of course just scraping in at 1920 x 1200 means that 2560 x 1600 isn't an option.

Final Thoughts

NVIDIA's GEFORCE GTX 660 isn't the dominant force that we feel the other GTX 600 series based video cards have hit us at during launch. Performance overall is extremely strong, but when we refer to the "dominance" that we've seen from the other models, the GTX 660 looks like it will hit at a price point near identical to the AMD Radeon HD 7870 and ultimately offers performance that is near identical to it.

The GTX 660 isn't going to cause the headaches for AMD like the other models we've seen. If the price point was in the lower $200 range or performance was overall maybe 10% faster than it would cause problems, but the price it's going to hit at that level and the performance it offers, it's ultimately sits perfectly against the HD 7870.

This is good news for AMD as they finally get a little bit of a break it seems as no doubt the last few months have been extremely stressful as NVIDIA ultimately beat AMD at their own game which consists of being more aggressive on the pricing side of things.

We're going to see partners offer pre-overclocked models at a slightly higher price point which in turn will help boost performance, but we've also got these options from AMD and its partners, too.

The one thing we really just need to find out now is the overclocking potential of the new model as that could be what ultimately separates the two models apart from each other. As always, though, that's something we'll be taking a closer look at soon enough. Stay tuned for that.

Overall the GTX 660 is just a really good video card that looks like it will come in at a really good price point. The HD 7870, though, is also a really good video card that comes in at a near identical price point. Of all the model battles in this generation of cards, the HD 7870 / GTX 660 is the closest thing to a coin flip when it comes to deciding what to buy.

It looks that no matter which one you buy, you're going to end up with a good product at a good price point. Does your blood run green or red? You get the drift.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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