Sandwiched almost cynically between the £200 HD 7870 2GB and the £160 HD 7850 2GB, the £180 GTX 660 2GB accounts very well for itself, although it is a marked drop from the grunt of the GK104 powered GTX 660 Ti 2GB.
In Battlefield 3 at 1,920 1,080 with 4x AA its minimum frame rate of 44fps matches that of the £20 dearer HD 7870 2GB, with the HD 7850 2GB 20 per cent slower with a minimum frame rate of 35fps. At 2,560 x 1,600 the GTX 660 2GB’s minimum frame rate of 25fps is 1fps behind that of the HD 7870 2GB, again a good result considering the price differential between the two.
In Crysis 2 the GTX 660 2GB again performs closer to the HD 7870 2GB than the HD 7850 2GB, with a minimum frame rate of 43fps at 1,920 x 1,080 at ultra-detail. The HD 7870 2GB’s minimum is fractionally faster at 44fps, while the HD 7850 2GB offers a ten per cent drop down to 38fps. At 2,560 x 1,600 it’s much the same situation, with the HD 7870 2GB marginally ahead with a minimum frame rate of 22fps to the GTX 660 2GB’s 21fps. This result is likely bottle-necked by the GTx 660 2GB’s 144GB/sec memory bandwidth as the similarly equipped GTX 660 Ti 2GB produces the same minimum frame rate.
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Dirt 3 was the game in which the HD 7870 2GB’s superiority was most pronounced, as it out-paced the GTX 660 2GB by at least ten per cent at every level, and surpassed it by as much at 18 per cent at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x AA. The GTX 660 2GB’s minimum frame rate of 82fps at 1,920 x 1,080 was 11fps behind that of the dearer Radeon card, with a similar margin between minimum frame rates at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x AA.
Skyrim saw a far smaller gap between the HD 7870 2GB and the GTX 660 2GB though, with the GeForce card’s minimum frame rate of 70fps just 1fps behind that of the 7870 2GB at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4x AA. At 2,560 x 1,600 with 4xAA the gap between the two grew to over five per cent though, with the GTX 660 2GB’s minimum frame rate of 50fps surpassed by the 7870 2GB’s 53fps.
Pulling a peak system-power of 202W under GPU load, the Zotac GTX 660 2GB, while extremely efficient, is around 14W thirstier than the HD 7870 2GB. Its peak delta T of 41°C is also 1°C hotter than the stock Radeon card, although the Zotac’s pair of down-draft cooling fans were wonderfully quiet even under extended heavy load.
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Slotting between AMD's 7800 cards, GTX 660 2GB fills a gap in that ever-important sub-£200 market. The HD 7850 2GB is 10-15 per cent slower but 10-15 per cent cheaper, while the HD 7870 2GB is, on average, seven per cent faster but ten per cent dearer at around £200. All three cards come out of the mix competitively then, each offering a healthy amount of additional performance the further up the pricing ladder you go.
The GTX 660 is solid value in comparison to Nvidia’s higher-end options too. Averaged across all our benchmarks, the GTX 660 2GB is around 25 per cent slower than the GTX 660 Ti 2GB. While this is a steep drop off (we’re used to around 10-15 per cent gaps between cards), the GTX 660 2GB’s £180 price is also, predictably, 25 per cent less than the £240 GTX 660 Ti 2GB. At least in this case, if you spend that much more, you'll get that much more.
All things considered then, it’s hard not to rate the GTX 660 2GB as the mid-range card of choice for this generation. Positioned precisely between the HD 7850 2GB and HD 7870 2GB by offering a competitve middle ground, at that key sub-£200 price point, it looks like it was worth the wait after all.
It's been pointed out to us by a number of readers that our initial pricing for the HD 7870 2GB was incorrect. As such, we've amended the final page of this review to reflect this.