Nvidia's GeForce GTX 680 may have swiped the performance crown away from AMD's Radeon HD 7970 earlier this year, but at $500, the initial Kepler offering was inaccessible to most system builders. That situation improved slightly in May with the GTX 670, a popular choice among enthusiasts for delivering an incredible value. In our testing, it provided GTX 680-like performance at a $100 discount.

Although nothing matched the GTX 670's price-to-performance ratio, the $400 entry fee remained a steep one. Gamers who wanted to spend less were left with the $230 HD 7850, the $300 HD 7870 or a card from Nvidia's last-gen lineup. Naturally, it would only be a matter of time before Nvidia tried to fill this gap with tons of hearsay about a GeForce GTX 660 Ti in the pipeline for a mid to late summer launch.

Well, we're here and the rumors proved true: Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 660 Ti has its crosshairs set on the HD 7870. Assuming it's priced competitively (more on this in a second), the GTX 660 Ti seems like it could put a real hurting on AMD's offering, as it features the same DNA as existing Kepler products and boasts the same number of CUDA cores and texture units as the GTX 670.

Nvidia has been pretty aggressive with Kepler's pricing and we'd look for the GTX 660 Ti to retail for about $300. Considering the fact that we expect it to deliver performance on par with the $350 HD 7950, this could spell disaster for AMD, prompting the outfit to administer yet another price cut. As fun as it is to speculate, let's move on and see where our evaluation board from Gigabyte stands...

Gigabyte's GTX 660 Ti in Detail

There isn't an official Nvidia reference board for the GTX 660 Ti, leaving it up to manufacturing partners to come up with their own products. This means PCB designs and length could vary significantly between cards.

We were sent Gigabyte's take on the GTX 660 Ti (GV-N66TOC-2GD). The board's PCB measures 8.46" (21.5cm) long, which is quite compact on its own, but the cooler pushes that to 9.84" (25.0cm), slightly longer than the HD 7870 reference design. At this length, Gigabyte's GTX 660 Ti should easily fit in most ATX cases as it's still much shorter than higher-end cards such as the HD 7970.

The GTX 660 Ti's GPU ships with 1344 CUDA cores and 7 SMX units, 1 SMX unit and 192 CUDA cores less than the GTX 680 but the same number as the GTX 670. The TAU count also matches the GTX 670, while the ROPs have been reduced from 32 to 24.

The memory subsystem has changed from the GTX 680 and GTX 670, which have four 64-bit controllers for a 256-bit wide bus, to one 64-bit controller with a 192-bit bus. Combine that with 2048MB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1502MHz (6008MHz DDR) and you end up with a bandwidth of 144.2GB/s, which isn't bad, though it is 33% less than the GTX 670 and that's where the performance difference lies.

Nvidia's specification for the base clock frequency is 915MHz, while the average boost clock speed is 980MHz. Gigabyte has increased this to 1032MHz and 1111MHz, while the memory operates at the standard 6008MHz.

What really makes Gigabyte's iteration unique is its WindForce 2X solution. The cooler employs dual 75mm ultra quiet PWM fans connected to a custom shroud. Under these fans is a massive heatsink consisting of three main parts connected by 8mm copper heatpipes.

At the heart of this setup is the biggest block, which has a unique RAM heatsink to cool the GDDR5 modules and "Triangle Cool" technology that uses a series of fins and triangular clip modules to better direct airflow over the heatsink.

Gigabyte says its Triangle Cool technology can reduce temperatures by up to 10% over traditional designs, so we're keen to see just how cool this card runs.

To feed the card enough juice, Nvidia's specification calls for dual 6-pin PCI Express power connectors – identical to the HD 7870, 7850 and GTX 670. Nvidia also says those wishing to use a single GTX 660 Ti graphics card should have a 450 watt power supply or greater.

Naturally, the GTX 660 Ti supports SLI (3-way SLI in this case), so it has a pair of connectors. The only other ports are on the I/O panel where you'll find a pair of dual-link DVI-I connectors, a single HDMI 1.4a port, and a DisplayPort 1.2 socket.