Retail Cards and the GPU Testbed – Sandy Bridge-E, X79, New Games

Retail Cards

As I mentioned earlier, we did receive a handful of GTX 660 Ti cards for testing and we'll be doing a roundup of them soon.  For our testing today though we took the MSI option and set it at reference speeds.  Let's see what the vendors provided for us – just to tease!

Galaxy GTX 660 Ti GC – 1006 MHz Base / 1084 MHz Boost

MSI GTX 660 Ti Power Edition – 1019 MHz Base / 1097 MHz Boost

EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked – 980 MHz Base / 1059 MHz Boost

Zotac GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition – 1033 MHz Base / 1111 MHz Boost

GPU Testbed

For the Radeon HD 7970 3GB review (and all those going forward) we decided it was high time we replaced the somewhat dated Nehalem-based infrastructure (even though honestly, it was fast enough) with something a bit more current.  Obviously that meant going with the new Intel Sandy Bridge-E processor and X79 motherboard – by combining support for 40 PCI Express lanes and 3-4 full size GPU slots it makes for the perfect GPU base.

From this point on, our reviews will based around the following system:

  • Intel Core i7-3960X CPU
  • ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard
  • Corsair DDR3-1600 4 x 4GB Vengeance memory
  • 600GB Western Digital VelociRaptor HDD
  • 1200 watt Corsair Professional Series power supply
  • Windows 7 SP1 x64

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The ASUS P9X79 Pro

The Intel Core i7-3960X gives us the fastest consumer-level CPU on the market to help eliminate the possibility of any processor-based bottlenecks in our testing (whenever possible).  There are still going to be some games that could use more speed (Skyrim comes to mind) but for our purposes this is as good as you get without getting into any kind of overclocked settings.  The ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard has enough space for three dual-slot graphics cards when the time comes for testing 3-Way SLI and CrossFire and 8 DIMM slots should we want to go up from our current setup of 16GB of Corsair Vengeance memory.  

I chose to stick with the 600GB VelociRaptor hard drive rather than an SSD as our total installation size with Windows 7 SP1 x64 and 6+ games was already hitting the 115GB range.  Finally the 1200 watt power supply from Corsair offers up more than enough juice for three power hungry graphics cards while running quietly enough to not throw off our noise testing drastically.

Speaking of noise, we are re-introducing our sound level testing thanks to the Extech 407738 Sound Level Meter capable of monitor decibel ratings as low as 20db.  This allows me to accurately tell you the noise levels generated by the graphics cards that make in-house at PC Perspective.

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Along with the new hardware configuration comes a host of new games.  For this review we will be using the following benchmarks and games for performance evaluation:

  • Battlefield 3
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • DiRT 3
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Metro 2033
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • 3DMark11
  • Unigine Heaven v2.5

This collection of games is both current and takes into account several different genres as well – first person role playing, third person action, racing, first person shooting, etc.  3DMark11 and Unigine Heaven give us a way to see how the cards stack up in a more synthetic environment while the real-world gameplay testing provided by the six games completes the performance picture.

As I mentioned, we had to downclock one of our retail cards to get the reference speeds of the GeForce GTX 660 Ti and we did so using the EVGA PrecisionX software.  Setting a -105 MHz base clock rate on the MSI card result in a fairly close estimate.

For our review we are going to compare the new GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB to the GeForce GTX 670 2GB as well as the Radeon HD 7870 2GB and the HD 7950 3GB from AMD.  Yes, we are using one with the newly released BIOS

AMD Catalyst 12.6 was used for our AMD cards, NVIDIA 305.37 was used for GeForce cards.

The comparisons you should be paying particular attention to:

  • GeForce GTX 660 Ti vs GeForce GTX 670 – How performance delta is there between these two GPUs that are SO similar in specs?
  • GeForce GTX 660 Ti vs HD 7870 2GB – While pitched as the competitor to the 660 Ti, it costs a bit less.  Can it consistently best this card from AMD?
  • GeForce GTX 660 Ti vs HD 7970 3GB – This will be the comparison most people will look to make – can the new 660 Ti compete with the more expensive HD 7950 even with the new, higher clock speeds?

Also keep an eye out for our SLI and CrossFire results to see how a pair of GeForce GTX 660 Ti cards stand up to a pair of Radeon HD 7950s!

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