The 1660 Ti — NVIDIA’s answer for average gamers

NVIDIA just released the GTX 1660 Ti – a new, entry level gaming-oriented graphics card.  At a recommended price point of $279, it’s certainly affordable, but before we get into whether or not this card is a good value, I feel I need to address the name – where exactly did NVIDIA get “1660 Ti” from?  After jumping from the GTX 10xx series to the RTX 20xx series, it seems strange and arbitrary to start a new, GTX 16xx series of cards, and it seems even more arbitrary to have the first card released be a “Titanium” (Ti) card, when there is no base GTX 1660 card.  The naming convention is so arbitrary that we figure it must be some sort of inside joke.

With my short rant over, let’s dive into what the 1660 Ti actually means for consumers.  The 1660 Ti, like its much more expensive RTX brethren, is based on NVIDIA’s newest Turing architecture, but, in a rather strange move, the 1660 Ti has had a lot of the RTX 20xx series’ new features removed, including the RT cores that power the RTX series’ real-time ray tracing, as well as its Tensor cores (Note that there have been reports of AIDA 64 displaying tensor cores, though that is possibly a bug).  In short, the 1660 Ti is a lean, cut-down card with only the features that gamers need.

That said, the mere existence of the GTX 1660 Ti begs the question, is real-time ray tracing dead?  The number of titles that support it are already limited, and it goes without saying that developers are unlikely to spend money implementing real-time ray tracing in their games if it’s only available on niche, enthusiast cards.  This move is especially strange considering that it was only about a month ago that NVIDIA’s CEO, Jensen Huang, called AMD’s new Radeon VII “underwhelming”, largely because it lacks the ray tracing capabilities of the RT cores, and the DLSS (deep learning supersampling) powered by Tensor cores.  One could argue that merely having a single cost-effective, cut down card that doesn’t support the bells and whistles of the RTX series of cards doesn’t necessarily mean that NVIDIA has given up on real-time ray tracing and the like, but it isn’t the number of cards that is important, it’s the percentage of consumers that have cards that support the newer technologies that matters, and the average gamer isn’t using an expensive, top-of-the-line card, they’re using a card that gives good performance per dollar – like the 1660 Ti, but that’s enough speculation for now, let’s get into what the 1660 Ti brings to the table.

In terms of specs, the 1660 Ti has 1536 CUDA cores, 6 GB of GDDR6, and runs at a base 1500 MHz GPU and memory clock, with a 1770 MHz boost clock before any overclocking. Compared to the RTX 2060, NVIDIA’s last release, which has also been touted as a value card, the 2060 has more CUDA cores at 1920, but a lower base GPU and boost clock, at 1365/1680 MHz respectively. The 2060’s memory clock, however, is higher – while it boasts the same 6 GB of GDDR6, its base memory clock is 1750 MHz giving it significantly higher bandwidth, and it goes without saying that the 2060 is an RTX model, thus it has the RT and Tensor cores that the 1660 Ti lacks, but this comes for a price – the RTX 2060’s launch price is $70 USD higher than the 1660 Ti, at $349 USD, which is around a 25% increase in cost.

Performance-wise, the 1660 Ti is extremely close to the GTX 1070 in gaming, a card that launched about a year and a half ago for $379 USD, though it does lag behind in some workstation tasks. This means that for under $300, it is now possible to obtain a graphics card that will easily handle today’s games on high settings at 1080p.  1440p, however, is a different story – the 1660 Ti is simply not powerful enough to provide a smooth experience at 1440p without turning down settings in today’s games.  By comparison, the RTX 2060, at around 25% more expensive, provides on average an increase of about 20% in gaming performance, which is enough power to comfortably play in 1440p, though it isn’t going to be powerful enough to really take advantage of a high refresh rate monitor at this resolution, though realistically if you can afford an expensive 1440p gaming monitor, you can likely afford a more expensive video card to power it, and it goes without saying that neither card is going to be really acceptable at 4K without really lowering detail levels.

All in all, the 1660 Ti does something that we’ve been waiting for for a long time now – it actually provides an increase in value (based on performance/cost), while being powerful enough for pretty much anything you may want to throw at it at 1080p – and recent statistics from Steam show that the average gamer is still playing at this resolution.  For its cost, the 1660 Ti is a great upgrade for gamers playing at 1080p who have cards that are a couple generations old.

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