Review: New weapon of choice for gamers
Gainward’s GTX 660 Ti Phantom 2GB is the new weapon of choice the company has in store for its gamer base. The card comes strapped with Phantom cooling and a factory overclock that includes both the GPU and the memory, which should make this card very popular in the mid-range segment. Of course, price and performance come first, so let’s move on with the review.
The Phantom’s Base clock is 1006MHz while Boost is 1084MHz. Note that reference values are 915MHz and 980MHz, respectively. You probably know by know that Nvidia decided to clock the GTX 660 Ti same as the GTX 670. Gainward clocked the GTX 660 Ti Phantom to GTX 670 Phantom’s clocks and we somehow doubt this is a coincidence. We’re also quite confident that the 660 Ti Phantom’s cooler could’ve handled higher GPU clocks, but we’ll leave that for the overclocking part of our review.
GTX 660 Ti cards use the GK104 GPU, which we’ve seen on GTX 690/680/670 cards. We’re talking about a mid-range card of course so don’t expect miracles. We have 1344 CUDA cores, just like on the GTX 670, but the latter has 256-bit memory interface, while the GTX 660 Ti comes with a 192-bit one. This adds up to 144GB/s bandwidth on the GTX 660 Ti whereas the GTX 670 has 192GB/s. Both cards have 2GB of memory but we’ve seen that a 3GB GTX 660 Ti is possible as well. Naturally, although 3GB of memory isn’t necessary for 1920x1080, it won’t hurt either.
Gainward used its tried and true packaging for the GTX 660 Ti Phantom 2GB. It’s well made, has a carrying handle and allows users to take a peek inside by removing the front part. One of the things that we really liked is the Borderlands 2 voucher. Although the game isn’t out until mid-September, free games are always welcome.
Gainward also bundles dongles for DVI-to-VGA, HDMI-to-DVI, molex-to-6-pin as well as a short installation guide. We didn’t find the driver CD inside, most likely because Nvidia didn’t have the driver ready at the time it shipped the packages. Of course, retail packages will come with drivers CDs*.
Gainward GTX 660 Ti Phantom 2GB is the spitting image of the company’s GTX 670 Phantom. The only difference between the coolers is in the small sign on top.
The fans are hidden behind the heatsink but if you peek through, you’ll see two silhouettes.
GTX 660 Ti Phantom is 24.5m long, which is about the same as the reference GTX 660 Ti. Reference GTX 660 Ti cards (including GTX 660 Ti Phantom) are powered via two 6-pin power connectors, just like the GTX 670. The power connectors are not at the end of the card because the PCB is only 17.3cm long, picture below.
Looking at the back, Gainward GTX 660 Ti Phantom looks much like the reference GTX 660 Ti card. Gainward also extended the PCB with the plastic part. The reference card’s plastic “extension” holds a fan though, whereas Gainward used it to better fasten the massive Phantom cooler. The Phantom’s fans were placed inside the plastic shroud, which is easily removable, picture below.
We’re looking at the same fans used on GTX 670 Phantom series. In fact, we didn’t notice any difference between the coolers. Of course, that’s a good thing, since the GTX 660 Ti should end up cooler and, in turn, really quiet.
The Phantom’s cooler uses three copper heatpipes and strangely enough, an aluminum base. The GTX 670 Phantom wasn’t really quiet when under load and we think that the cooler would’ve been better off with a copper base. Still, the GTX 660 Ti shouldn’t get as hot, so we’re expecting better results in both fields.
Gainward’s GTX 660 Ti Phantom runs Hynix memory chips (model No: H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C). The chips are specified to run at 1500MHz (6000MHz GDDR5 effectively). GTX 660 Ti Phantom’s memory runs at 1527MHz (6108MHz effectively). Two of the eight memory modules are on the back of the PCB.
The GTX 660 Ti Phantom has two SLI connectors. We’re not sure about Quad SLI support but the GTX 670 initially didn’t support it, only to get it in 301.42 driver. Nvidia officially supports only 3-way SLI, however, we're talking about driver restrictions.
Gainward GTX 660Ti Phantom graphics comes with two dual-link DVIs, one standard HDMI and DisplayPort connectors. It’s important to note that Nvidia addressed its previous multi-display “disadvantages” so Kepler based cards can now run up to four displays simultaneously.
Motherboard: EVGA X79 FTW
CPU: Sandy Bridge-E Core i7 3820 (3.6GHz)
CPU Cooler: Thermalright HR-02 (Thermalright-Europa Distri www.PC-Cooling.de).
Memory: 8GB ADATA DDR3 1600 XPG Gaming series
Harddisk: OCZ Vertex 2 100 GB
Power Supply: CoolerMaster Silent Pro 1000W
Case: CoolerMaster Cosmos II Ultra Tower
Operating System: Win7 64-bit
Aliens vs Predator
Gainward GTX 660 Ti Phantom ran at very high clocks. We managed to set the Base clock at 1136MHz (221MHz overclock), where maximum Boost clock was 1292MHz. After our 250MHz memory overclock (1000MHz effectively), we’ve seen the card outperform the GTX 670 by 5 percent in Crysis 2. We sped up the fan to 90 percent and while we could hear the cooler it well, it still wasn’t too loud.
Thermals and Noise
Thermals are good when the fan is in AUTO mode and temperatures are 5-7°C lower than on the reference card.
Once the fans are sped up, temperatures can be kept at about 66°C. This was enough for 1292MHz Boost clock.
When idle, the Phantom cooling is inaudible. Two fans and the large heatsink are enough to keep the thermals in check. Note that the cooler remains quiet even after long gaming sessions and we couldn’t hear the fans until we went for our overclock.
More extreme overclocking takes its toll on consumption. While the GTX 660 Ti Phantom OC managed to outrun the GTX 670, it also ended up consuming more power. Note however that when running at its factory clocks, the GTX 660 Ti Phantom won’t consume more than your average, mildly-overclocked GTX 660 Ti.
At the beginning of our review, we said that the GTX 660 Ti Phantom may do pretty well if the performance and price are right.
As far as performance goes, we were pleasantly surprised. We didn’t get GTX 670’s performance at factory clocks, but it was close enough. Gaming at 1920x1080 is a joy and most games will allow maximum settings. Of course, depending on the game, higher resolutions are definitely not off limits.
As far as pricing goes, it may work against the Phantom. Gainward priced the card some €15 higher than the reference GTX 660 Ti but to be fair, overclocked GPU, Phantom cooling and extra overclocking headroom may very well justify the price. However, the GTX 660 Ti starts just below €300 in Europe, and tends to go up to €350 or even €370 (for the 3GB model), whereas most gamers were expecting €250-300. Furthermore, this price range is quite popular and you’ll find many quality cards there, such as the HD 7950.
If you’re looking for quiet cooling with a nice factory overclock, then the Phantom is definitely worth looking at. Note however that the card is three slots wide.
Powerful Phantom cooling really helped us in our overclocking and we managed to squeeze out additional 130MHz for the GPU and 250MHz (1000MHz effectively) for the memory, which was enough to leave the GTX 670 in the dust.
So, if you’re looking for an affordable card that still packs a nice punch, and then some, then Gainward’s GTX 660 Ti Phantom will be more than a worthy weapon of choice.