Power, Temps, and Conclusion
I must say that I find it odd that this non-Ti variant of the GTX 1660 is still using an 8-pin PCIe connector, though I can't complain about the overclocking potential this provides.
8-pin connections aside, the power draw with our test platform was the lowest of the group from both the stock and factory-OC cards – lower than the GTX 1060 6GB and its single 6-pin connector.
Load temperatures are going to vary based on board partner designs of course, and of our two samples we saw very good temps with an edge going to the stock-clocked EVGA card under load. Idle temps also vary quite a bit as an increasing number of cards are using a zero-RPM idle fan profile, and for this reason the MSI GAMING X shows a higher idle which will be subject to room temp and enclosure airflow.
As to noise, the EVGA XC Black was a very quiet 32 dBA at idle and only 35.1 dBA under load, with the MSI GAMING X totally silent at idle (0 RPM fans) and 34.2 dBA under normal loads… though overclocking with a more aggressive fan profile did result in numbers as high as 52 dBA when the fans were really pushed.
The GTX 1660 brings Turing down to the $219 price point, where it currently competes with the the outgoing GTX 1060 6GB cards. Once Pascal is out of the market the GTX 1660 will fill in for that card nicely, but is around a 15% overall increase over the GTX 1060 6GB all that exciting? Until AMD releases Navi GPUs or drops the RX 590 price even further (it currently starts at $239) there won't be the competition needed to lower prices on these cards. Once factory-overclocked GTX 1660's from various manufacturers are released (this has of course already happened as you read this) at or just above the $219 launch price, the GTX 1660 will become a much more interesting alternative to the GTX 1060 6GB.
At this point I have to talk about this overclocking topic from the previous page once again. Quite simply, the GTX 1660 seems to be made to overclock, as even the totally stock EVGA XC Black was stable after a +135 GPU clock (based on the +143 result after running the OC Scanner, and given the 15 MHz increments of Turing +135 was more stable than +150). The TU116 GPU is very conducive to overclocking, and I don't expect to see a lot of partner cards without at least a small Boost clock increase.
However, due to the 100% power limit with the stock card sustaining this OC under load is not really possible, as the card does drop below 2 GHz in game benchmarks while the MSI card was able to sustain 2 – 2.1 GHz. Memory with both cards is easily overclockable, though GDDR5 is not the screamer we have found GDDR6 to be. Any memory bandwidth increase does help to bring this card closer to the performance of a GTX 1660 Ti and its 12 Gbps GDDR6, though a 400 MHz increase (800 effective) was the upper limit in my testing.
I think what makes the overclocking component of this review so compelling (to me, anyway) is just how much performance seems to have been left on the table in the interest of product segmentation with the GTX 1660. Naturally, board partners can do as they like with Boost clocks and power limits, mitigating the difference between this GPU and the more GTX 1660 Ti, and there is a lot of room to play with added performance and features within the $60 window between the two GPUs.
The GTX 1660 is, for all practical purposes, the final, direct replacement for the GTX 1060 6GB, and offers improved performance (an increase of up to 23% in our testing) over that card while launching at a price lower than the 3GB variant of the GTX 1060, which started at $249. We have, therefor, received pretty much what one might have expected of a midrange sucessor: an increase in performance and a reduction in price. The extent of both of these varies by game and card design, and as this – like the GTX 1660 Ti before it – is an AIB (add-in board)-only launch the actual performance characteristics of the GTX 1660 will vary quite a bit from partner card to partner card.
As to our two sample cards, provided as with the 1660 Ti launch by EVGA and MSI, I found both to offer a very good mix at their respective price and performance levels. I'll provide a mini-review for each based on our experiences with both leading up to this review.
EVGA GTX 1660 XC Black – $219, Amazon.com
- 1785MHz Boost Clock
- 3-year warranty
The stock EVGA XC Black card is being offered at the base $219 price point, and offers excellent cooling from the very thick 2.75-slot cooler design. I am still somewhat on the fence about a GPU design that requires three expansion slots when it is also limited in the overclocking department, but I digress on the OC subject here yet again.
For what it is designed to do – stock performance, excellent temperatures, low noise – the EVGA GTX 1660 XC Black is a great effort, and a solid choice at the launch price.
MSI GTX 1660 GAMING X – $249.99, Amazon.com
- 1860 MHz Boost Clock
- 3-year warranty
For those who can spend more, MSI's highest-end GTX 1660 is a blend of custom PCB, efficient Twin Frozr 7 cooler, and higher factory Boost clock (1860 MHz vs. stock 1785 MHz) that makes a real difference in gaming and reduces the performance gap with the GTX 1660 Ti.
This card also overclocks quite well in testing, and has a price premium of $30 over the stock GTX 1660 that is more than offset by its further OC potential in my opinion. It was quiet under load out of the box, but you will definitely hear it if you really push things with a manual overclock and custom fan profile. If the price holds at $249 this will be hard to beat if you make use of its overclocking potential.
If you're shopping for a 1080p gaming card and had previously had your sights set on the GTX 1060, there is just no reason to consider that card anymore. Apologies to those trying to sell through remaining Pascal inventory, but unless the price of the 6GB GTX 1060 drops significantly (and it probably will) I'd have a very hard time choosing one over a GTX 1660. Now that the dust has settled we do indeed, finally, have our successor to the GTX 1060 after nearly two years, and it's a good one. It would be a more exciting story if the 1660 Ti had been the $219 card, but we need some more competition to drive prices down. 2019 is just getting started, but NVIDIA is making a pretty good case for their midrange GPUs with the 1660 series already.