GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

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GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:45 am

So you have some money to spend on a nice graphics card, and you're wondering if you should go for an SLI setup with two mid-range cards, or buy a single high-end card.

In this case, I'll be subjectively comparing 2x ASUS GTX660 DirectCU II in SLI vs 1x Galaxy GTX680GC.

http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=76367- ASUS GTX660 OC DirectCU II - $220 x2 = $440CAD.

http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=70704- Galaxy GTX680GC - $567CAD (this model is no longer available. The GTX680GC 4GB is available for $572.55, and the GTX680GC white edition is available for $549.99, but has a different cooler (triple fan vs double fan).

So, it's a valid question. Should somebody who's looking at building or upgrading a mid-high range gaming rig look for 2x smaller cards, or 1x higher end card. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I have experienced both solutions, and will give my subjective opinion. You can go look at reviews and FPS averages yourself, they're all over the web. This is going to deal more with user experience.

PRICE:
Clearly, 2x GTX660's (custom cooled) are cheaper than 1x GTX680 (custom cooled). By going with the GTX660's, you'll be saving about $120 vs buying the GTX680. Advantage: 2x GTX 660's

PERFORMANCE
If you look at benchmarks, you'll see that the GTX660's in SLI pull slightly ahead of the GTX680. We're not talking much, but about 10-15 frames per second. This is in games that scale SLI well. I play BF3, and I play it on ultra with all the eye candy turned on, at 1920x1200. BF3 scales very well on SLI. I am indeed seeing about 10FPS more with the GTX660's than with the GTX680. This is simply by turning on render.fpsdraw in BF3, and observing the FPS number in the top right hand corner. It is by no means a scientific comparison, but I can confirm that in BF3 at least, the GTX660's do not perform any less than a GTX680. YMMV. Different games scale differently. You may see less performance than a GTX680 in certain games. Advantage: Draw

COMPATIBILITY
It is often said that one single large card is better than two smaller cards. Newer games do not always have SLI profiles ready until a couple of weeks after release. Even then, these games may be buggy for a little while until driver issues get resolved (if ever). If you like to play a lot of new releases immediately upon launch, SLI may not be for you. If, however, you're like me, and you play a game for a long time after release, without trying a lot of new titles, then this may not be an issue. For BF3, I have experienced zero compatibility issues. Advantage: GTX680

MICROSTUTTERING
Newer methods of benchmarking (using frame times vs FPS, and using video capture cards vs FRAPS) are revealing microstuttering (drastically uneven frame times resulting in 'unsmoothness' during gameplay) in a lot of video solutions. The very nature of SLI promotes microstuttering to some degree. Frames are alternatively rendered by each card (the master card and the slave card). Frames rendered by the slave card are sent to the master card, then sent to the display (plugged into the master card). This additional pathway vs a single GPU increases frame latency, potentially resulting in microstuttering. The degree and severity of microstuttering is usually determined by the effectiveness of the graphics drivers. Personally, I have not noticed much microstuttering at all. During most game play (BF3), the illusion of motion appears to be smooth and fluid. There is however, the occasional 'hitch' from time to time. It doesn't happen oftern, (every five minutes or so, if at all), but it is definitely there, whereas with the GTX680 it never happened. Is it enough to affect my gameplay experience? No. Each person is different, however. Somebody else may be able to perceive Microstuttering where I see smooth gameplay. For me, however, Microstuttering is so far not an issue. Advantage: Draw, but leaning towards the GTX680

QUIETNESS
First let me say that I was blown away by how quiet the GTX660's in SLI are. I by no means have a silent rig. My Coolermaster 690II Advanced is populated by a few Corsair AF fans (both 120 and 140mm), all throttled by the included resistor (to run at slower RPM's), and the H80i in Push/Pull is by no means the quietest AIO in existence. BUT, it is not a LOUD case. It certainly does not sound like a jet plane. More like a constant whisper.

The GTX680GC couldn't be heard over the rest of the rig at idle, but put some load to it, and the fans would ramp up to 40%, and you could definitely hear it over the rest of the rig. It was not what I would call 'loud', but it definitely made a distinguishable noise. Manually increase the fan RPM's to >70%, and the card made a significant 'whooshing' noise.

The GTX660's in SLI, however, cannot be heard at all, even under load. For whatever reason (lower power chip, better heatsink, whatever) the fans don't increase past 20% while under normal game load. These cards are SILENT, and can't be heard over the rest of my rig. Start adjusting the fans manually, and it takes a fan RPM of 60% to even begin to hear these two cards. Set the fans to 100%, and they were no louder than the GTX680 under normal loading (40% fan speed).

Advantage: 2x GTX660's - by a landslide

RELIABILITY
Cards fail. They don't all fail, but I've had a few cards in need of an RMA in my lifetime. First, let me say that Galaxy has excellent customer service. I had a to RMA my 680 with them, and they were very accommodating and easy to deal with. That being said, if you ever have to RMA a single card solution, your gaming experience will stop until you have your new card in your rig. With an SLI solution, if one card fails, you still have another one to fall back on. Reduce your game settings accordingly to run on one mid-range card, and keep on playing for the month that it takes to RMA your other card. This is a HUGE plus. Advantage: 2x GTX660's

CONCLUSION
So, what should you buy? 2 smaller cards in SLI, or one larger single card? Well, that depends. If you like to play a lot of brand new titles, or can perceive microstuttering, then definitely go for the single larger card (like a GTX670 or a GTX680). If, however, you're like me, and you continue playing titles for a long time after release, and can't perceive any microstuttering, then you may very well be better off with two smaller cards in SLI. You stand a good chance of saving money, have a potentially quieter rig (although it all depends on the cooling solution for your specific cards) and you have redundancy in case of failure.

I know that I'm happier with my 2xGTX660's than my single GTX680. YMMV.
Last edited by morphine on Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Tue Apr 02, 2013 2:48 pm

It's a good analysis, but what about the extra power, and increased cost of a board to properly support two 8x PCIe lanes? It's fine if you're planning for it in a system build, and it's hard to recommend a board and PSU that can't handle that stuff, but there's more to it. You need to plan airflow too, as most cases with just one intake and one exhaust fan aren't going to be enough for a pair of decent midrange cards.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Tue Apr 02, 2013 3:01 pm

Airmantharp wrote:It's a good analysis, but what about the extra power, and increased cost of a board to properly support two 8x PCIe lanes? It's fine if you're planning for it in a system build, and it's hard to recommend a board and PSU that can't handle that stuff, but there's more to it. You need to plan airflow too, as most cases with just one intake and one exhaust fan aren't going to be enough for a pair of decent midrange cards.


I would argue that someone who is planning on spending at least $400 on graphics horsepower will A) be purchasing a decent mid-range motherboard, at minimum, B) will also purchase a decent mid-range case with adequate cooling), C) will be purchasing a decently sized power supply. Also, the GTX660's are not power hogs, and only consume slightly more power than a 680. As far as heat output, don't kid yourself. This is a very efficient chip, and does not put out a lot of heat.

BUT, if these are concerns for you, then by all means, a single high-end GPU will fit the bill.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Tue Apr 02, 2013 4:12 pm

Thanks for the response!

It's important to consider the whole situation, especially when you're comparison metric is really the resulting experience vs. cost, and it would be important to someone that already has a competent system but wants more performance. Building up to a performance point is relatively easy, like you said.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 06, 2013 11:13 am

An excellent post by all means and timely too! I have just recently upgraded my processor and motherboard and I have been thinking of up grading my GTX 506ti. I bought the ASRock Extreme 4 board because all the boards that I had no SLI or crossfire capability. I always hated that I couldn’t SLI my video cards and get some performance boost at a lower cost than buying a new high end pair of cards. About the time I got the Extreme 4 I found Tech Reports and the article they did on frame latency. I knew they were on to something right away as this explained the issues I have had with other cards and my GTX 560ti. I was a bit put off that my GTX 560ti was a very poor candidate for SLI as it has major micro stuttering issues when in SLI mode. It has some when running one card as well but I have found that you can tune out the worst of the micro stuttering if you use the MSI Afterburner software. By recording the frame times as you play and then tweaking the settings you can lessen the effects of micro stuttering.
This brings me back to your post. Like you, I tend to play just one or two titles for a long time and BF3 is my current favorite (can’t wait for BF4!). I am a bit worried that BF4 will push me down to low settings. After careful tuning I have managed a mix of settings that allows me to get mostly high graphics and maintain 60 fps. I personally think that 60 fps is the minimum gameplay number and anything below 45 fps is unacceptable and a full on First Person Shooter. I can’t really afford a high end GPU like a GTX 680 and while the GTX 660 will bring a decent boost I’m not sure I can justify the price vs the performance gain. I am thinking, after doing much research, that the SLI mode might not a bad option. The ability to play the game in single card mode if one card goes bad or if the drivers are not available/optimized for that game is a pretty good thing even if it is on low settings. Secondly, and just as important, is the fact that I can buy just one card now and get a performance gain. Then, when I can afford it, buy the second card and get a very nice boost.
Enter the GTX 650ti BOOST… This is a great card and I am very impressed with the performance in both single card mode and SLI mode. Like the GTX 660 it is derived from it easily beats the GTX 680 in SLI mode and for only $340 USD in the 2 gig card! I am really tempted to purchase 2 over a couple of months. I was tempted to wait for the GTX 700’s to come out as my GTX 560ti still plays BF3 quite well. But man, 340 bucks for that level of performance? Simply amazing!!! The other thought is that a true high performance mid-range card usually takes quite a while to come out after the initial start of the new card series from either AMD or Nvidia.
BTW, look me up sometime on BF3. Pville_Piper is my tags.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:01 pm

Sorry took me a while to respond, I haven't looked at this post in a while. Funny you mention the 650Ti Boost. I bought a review unit (the ASUS version) a few weeks ago and put it into my HTPC. So far, it's a great card. I haven't stressed it too much in games yet, but I'll attest that it's quiet while folding!

Anyway, if you're ever playing BF3 on a pub server, and get knifed by someone from [XGU], well, that's my clan. Look us up at www.xguclan.com if you're interested. We're always recruiting.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:17 pm

How's 4x SSAA (2x2 Supersamling) work out on those GTX660s? Ah...

:peers over the side of her tower down at the SLI users: :lol:
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:50 pm

You know, I haven't actually checked. I'm assuming if it's enable under Ultra in BF3, then I haven't noticed a performance hit at all.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:52 pm

Great_Big_Abyss wrote:You know, I haven't actually checked. I'm assuming if it's enable under Ultra in BF3, then I haven't noticed a performance hit at all.
It isn't.

Enabling SSAA on a GTX660 or GTX650Ti Boost will cripple the framerate into single-digits. Maybe double with SLI! Hahaha...
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Fri Apr 26, 2013 5:01 pm

I'll have a look see tomorrow when I play in the morning.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:29 pm

Great_Big_Abyss wrote:I'll have a look see tomorrow when I play in the morning.
Do post with your results. I'm VERY curious.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:28 am

I think it depends a lot on the games;

Some games will have been coded in an SLI-friendly way, and some games will be intensively optimised by Nvidia. In these instances you will probably be pleased with SLI. However there are hundreds (thousands?) of games both historically and new releases that just don't work well with SLI, at which point you only getting 660 performance.

Secondly, you wrote
Personally, I have not noticed much microstuttering at all.

That's good for you, but that means you either don't play games that stutter or you are just not sensitive to the issue - in the same way that a few people were okay with 60Hz CRT screens whilst the rest of us needed at least 85Hz to avoid searing headaches and eyestrain.

Thirdly (and it's something you haven't mentioned yet, but is probably valid for people running high-end rigs) - 3D.

You may find that your average fps value is similar (if not better) using a pair of 660's but you will not be able to run games at 120Hz AFR Vsync using SLI with the same success. The difference is that the minimum FPS results are lower with weaker cards. When you combine their strengths you also combine their weaknesses, so when you hit a bandwidth or geometry bottleneck the SLI option blows and for 3D gaming the effectively-halved framrate turns what would be a mild slowdown on a 680 into a slideshow using two lesser cards.

Personally, I think you had a bad 680 experience (noisy card that failed) and I'm glad you're happy with your cheaper, quieter solution. For the first two reasons I've mentioned it looks like you've found the best option for your own gaming experience.
I've been dabbling with multi-GPU solutions since 3DFX first made one and no matter how much it has made me smile over the years, not once could I ever consider it better; Hardware and software still has a long way to go to bring the experience up to parity with a single GPU solution before I will accept it as superior.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:01 am

The power requirements aren't that bad. Most I've seen pulled from the wall on my UPS is 650w with my 660 Ti sli setup overvolted and overclocked. Actual psu demand is probably about 550w.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:02 am

auxy wrote:
Great_Big_Abyss wrote:You know, I haven't actually checked. I'm assuming if it's enable under Ultra in BF3, then I haven't noticed a performance hit at all.
It isn't.

Enabling SSAA on a GTX660 or GTX650Ti Boost will cripple the framerate into single-digits. Maybe double with SLI! Hahaha...


BS! I just bought an Asus GTX660 and I can run all settings at at the highest and maintain around 45 ps and that is with HBOA on. If drop a couple of things like shodows to High it will run 60 fps all day long.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:18 am

I'll take the 680 over 660 SLI any day. The 660 SLI may possess more processing power and on paper can outperform the 680. The problem is that in practice this doesn't happen as often as you would like. SLI/CF depend more on the drivers and profiles to deliver their results, which means you are stuck with games that are only relevant during the GPU shelf-life. You are SOL with older games (not a big deal) and titles that are coming down the road (forcing you to upgrade).

Then you have consider the drawbacks of multi-GPU solutions. The hardware itself requires additional space which turns requires you to get a larger chassis, motherboard, power and generates more heat. The software has the problems of micro-shuttering (AFR), stability (CTD/BSOD) and tweaking around with driver profiles and third-party tools to get optimal results.

Over the years, I have read and seen too many stores from ex-CF/SLI users who went back to single-card solutions after they had enough with the shenanigans of multi-GPU solutions.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:28 am

I too looked at the same setups, only difference is I prefer cards from EVGA, you compared here when I was putting my system together.

The noise factor depends on what case you are using and how much noise you get from your case fans. I have a Corsair White Graphite Series 600T case it comes with three cooling fans, a 200mm intake in the front and a 200mm exhaust in the top of the case and a 120mm exhaust in the back. I can barely hear the front fan running, probably similar to the quiet whisper you get from your case, but the sound is there and that is all I hear out of my system unless I push things and I will hear the CPU fan ramp up to its top speed, but that's rare. I don't remember ever hearing my 680 fan. This case comes with a window or mesh screen for the left side panel. I use the window. I'm sure I would hear lots more fan noise using the mesh.

What this comparison comes down to is what you prefer, aside from personal preferences this one is a draw I think.

GTX 680, Single card = less power use and less heat build up, better performance is certain areas at a higher price.

GTX 660 SLI, Two cards = more power usage and more heat build up, lower performance in certain areas, lower price compared to the GTX 680. Added bonus of being able to continue to use one card if the other fails.

My conclusion was I wanted the better performance. I think the price difference can be evened out if you factor in the electric cost of running the SLI system versus the single 680 over time.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:29 am

auxy wrote:How's 4x SSAA (2x2 Supersamling) work out on those GTX660s? Ah...

:peers over the side of her tower down at the SLI users: :lol:


Could you kindly post a screenshot showing how to enable SSAA in BF3? I have no idea what you're talking about. I tried looking for the option...but it doesn't seem to exist.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:31 am

I don't even think it is in the Nvidia profile settings.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:23 am

I think a lot of the drawbacks of SLI have been overcome. I remember with the GTX260 and GTX460s there were a lot of problems. For me it is just down to cost. The price of a GTX680 is just too much especially considering you get maybe 3 years out of a card before you need to upgrade. The performance just isn’t there and the technology advances quite a bit in that time, just look at the boost and adaptive VSynch that are out now. That card alone costs damn near as much as the rest of my computer. As for the "lack of support" for newer games issues… I have a friend who is running GTX460's in SLI on BF3 with no issues and better performance than running in single.
My GTX560ti had issues with playing BF3. I had micro-stuttering issues and minor screen tearing as well. The card wasn’t able to perform up to par in my opinion. VSynch never worked well and due to the loss of accuracy when shooting. Some nights it seemed like you shoot and never hit anyone and other nights you it seemed like you couldn’t miss. I could work at it but it needed to be worked on often. Micro-stuttering can be lessened by turning down the graphics settings in game using MSI’s Afterburner software to trend the frametime. With all these issues the GTX560ti card was a very poor candidate for SLI.
I just bought the Asus GTX660 and I am very pleased with it. Setup on custom and running most everything on Ultra and getting 60 fps (with rare drops into the upper 50's) is very impressive for a card that I got for $170 USD (thanks for that tip Tech Report!).
I laugh at the older games thing... I can run a very recent BFBC2 2 100+ fps with everything turned up to the highest settings and any COD is no match for this card or even my last one, the GTX560ti so why would I care if I couldn’t to run them in SLI?
My GTX660 runs very smoothly. The in game performance is very consistent and I never have to mess with the Nvidia settings to make my shots. I have never been able to run VSynch without performance lag issues but with this new card it seems like the game actually plays better with Adaptive VSynch turned on.
I can’t imagine the noise factor being a problem… My GTX660 is barely heard over the case fans when running at 70%. The Temps are way down as well at 70%.
So with that said I will most likely get another one sooner or later.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:17 pm

Great_Big_Abyss wrote:Could you kindly post a screenshot showing how to enable SSAA in BF3? I have no idea what you're talking about. I tried looking for the option...but it doesn't seem to exist.
Pville_Piper wrote:I don't even think it is in the Nvidia profile settings.
You can't, and it isn't. You'll have to use NVIDIA Inspector to twiddle the proper bits. I don't know if BF3 supports 2x2 mode; I don't own BF3 and have never played it, so I couldn't tell you. (Technically, I didn't really know it didn't support SSAA, but very few games do, because it's so taxing, so it was a fair assumption.) Even if 2x2 Supersampling mode won't work, try running 8x Multisampling with 8x Sparse Grid Transparency Supersampling. I imagine that will have a similar effect on performance.

As far as a a tutorial for using Nvidia Inspector goes, I can post one up tonight when I get home, if there's interest. It's pretty simple and easy to figure out, though.

Pville_Piper wrote:BS! I just bought an Asus GTX660 and I can run all settings at at the highest and maintain around 45 ps and that is with HBOA on. If drop a couple of things like shodows to High it will run 60 fps all day long.
You shouldn't post "BS!" if you don't know what you're talking about.

Krogoth wrote:You are SOL with older games (not a big deal) and titles that are coming down the road (forcing you to upgrade).
This is likely to be the case with the Kepler architecture anyway, thanks to its heavy reliance on driver optimizations. Sigh...
Krogoth wrote:Over the years, I have read and seen too many stories from ex-CF/SLI users who went back to single-card solutions after they had enough with the shenanigans of multi-GPU solutions.
I am one such user. Used to run GTX460 SLI, but it was such a problem, and I ended up using single card mode so much, that I finally just gave one of the cards to my girlfriend (to replace her aging 9800GT.)
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:58 pm

Pville_Piper wrote:BS! I just bought an Asus GTX660 and I can run all settings at at the highest and maintain around 45 ps and that is with HBOA on. If drop a couple of things like shodows to High it will run 60 fps all day long.
You shouldn't post "BS!" if you don't know what you're talking about.[quote]
I am calling BS because I do know what I am talking about because I own both the game and the card unlike you who sits on the side and spreads BS about things he doesn’t own!
BF3 does support SSAA and it is called Antialiasing - Transparency in the settings.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:01 pm

Let's all cool the inflamed tempers before involuntary time-outs become necessary.

Thanks for listening.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:06 pm

Pville_Piper wrote:I am calling BS because I do know what I am talking about because I own both the game and the card unlike you who sits on the side and spreads BS about things he doesn’t own!
BF3 does support SSAA and it is called Antialiasing - Transparency in the settings.
You don't, and it isn't. Their transparency AA may support SSAA for transparency, but that isn't the same as full-scene SSAA. I suppose I wasn't clear in my original post, but later posts make it obvious.

Besides, I wasn't talking specifically about BF3 until y'all brought it up, and I made it quite clear at that point that I don't own the game, so I don't think you have any right to call me out on not owning it.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:35 pm

I'll run down my experience with a similar setup (Ti).

Performance:
I get performance that matches or exceeds a Titan's for about $520. This is a plus.

Power:
The power usage doesn't concern me. It's seems rather low actually. I haven't plugged in a Titan to compare the draw directly so I can't comment. I just know I have no problems on my 650w psu.

Driver issues:
I do get more driver issues, but nothing unmanageable. My super clean install habit probably helps. Sometimes you have to wait a few days for SLI support on a new game, but they're usually pretty good about getting a beta driver out ahead of time. Sometimes I see stutter when I run without some form of vsync or with the wrong form of vsync. Solution? Change vsync method. The only stutter I see as being problematic is the one specific to these 192 bus cards, which brings me to -

Quirks:
Memory bandwidth. This was one issue for me that worried me the moment I turned on SLI. I went into my heavily modified Crysis 1 (runs at half the FPS of Crysis 3) and saw stuttering. I massively overclocked my memory to levels beyond what most 660s are capable of (7.4 GHz, thanks to Galaxy for decent non-reference pcbs) and the stutter disappears. I believe this is SLI related because I had the single card for a few days and it wasn't an issue.

Heat and noise:
This was a problem for me. I've been chasing my friend's 670 SLI setup with overvolting and maxing my overclock. The top stock cooler was very loud and still couldn't keep the heat down, where as the bottom card was cool and quiet. I bought two Twin Turbo IIs and noise went down a lot, but in C3 my top card still hits 79c at 1212 volts at 100% fan where as the bottom is at 58c at a much lower fan speed. It's not a case issue. I have my 550D outfitted with 8 140/120 fans. I've just bought a AC3 for the top card which should get me a 10c drop and be the end of it.

My conclusion? I'd do this again. Every issue I've had I've solved. Every game I find that can't support SLI is usually so old it only needs the one card, and in that situation power efficiency probably exceeds a Titan's. The coolers, well despite the cost they added for me it's still the best bang for the buck. If you don't want to mess with them don't overvolt and get an Asus. Their coolers are the closest to aftermarket coolers on the noise front.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:41 pm

Sorry, but some of us can’t afford to throw $500 (or more) at a pastime every couple of years so SLI systems are our best bet. I applaud people like Great_Big_Abyss for posting a great analysis and being reasonably objective.
We also talked specifically about BF3 in earlier posts, if you had bothered to actually read them instead of just sneering at us with your original question, "How's 4x SSAA (2x2 Supersamling) work out on those GTX660s? Ah..." which I took as elitist and incendiary remark (sorry if I’m wrong about that)… Unfortunately I am not sitting in front of my gaming computer (I’m in the armpit of Texas… the one known as Houston) and its 600 miles away. So trying to remember the exact names of each of setting in a game is a little difficult. So if I got that wrong, I apologize.
Your statement (even if made in jest) “peers over the side of her tower down at the SLI users: :lol:” can also be taken (as I took it to be) as an elitist and incendiary remark.
As far as SLI goes I have read very few bad remarks about it as it relates to the 600 series. Yes, there are some systems that don’t run it very well but overall, it works and scales very well with the majority of systems and games that I have seen reviewed. But like anything some won’t work. For that matter, I’ve got some friends that I used to frag with in BFBC2 and they can’t get BF3 to play worth a darn on their fancy and well upgraded computers. Meanwhile, I had a GTX560ti and a Q9550 Intel processor that played the game very well, if at lower settings. My new setup plays it very well. I wish I had the money for a GTX660ti but that is out of reach for now. The reality is that the GTX660 handles BF3 very well in the without running SLI and for the cost of a GTX660ti I can have a system that out runs and out plays the GTX680 in the games I’m interested in.
As for my knowledge level, I have taken an older system, (the GTX560ti and a Q9550 Intel processor) and made it run better than most can make their I5/I7, GTX660 or better systems run. They might boast better frame rates at higher settings, but I know how to make my system run much more consistently because I’ve had too. They sit there and complain about bad hit markers and how many rounds it takes to kill someone but they never fix the problems or even try.
I would be interested in learning about the Nvidia inspector as it would be interesting to hear how it can improve gameplay and graphics quality. Until today I have never heard of it so I guess you can say “you schooled me”.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:00 pm

Nice post, some good information and experiance there. In the coming weeks I want to explore some overclocking with my card but I'm not sure how much I will get as it already clocks to 1150 instead of the 1085 that the manufacture specs say it will do. I think 1200 is about as high as most get from this card so not too much to be gained. I also want to overclock my ram and cpu. I will be picking up a Corsair H60 tomorrow to help with the cooling duties.
Derfer wrote: If you don't want to mess with them don't overvolt and get an Asus. Their coolers are the closest to aftermarket coolers on the noise front.

My last card was an EVGA GTX560ti and it ran well with a decent factory overclock. But when I tried to overclock it the cooler kept me from doing much at all. EVGA has a great reputation but their coolers tend to be a bit lame unless you get the top tier card from them... And then it's pretty much overclocked to the max anyway. The Asus I have now has a very nice cooler and I'm very pleased with the card, just wish it was a ti like yours.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:08 pm

Pville_Piper wrote:Sorry, but some of us can’t afford to throw $500 (or more) at a pastime every couple of years so SLI systems are our best bet. I applaud people like Great_Big_Abyss for posting a great analysis and being reasonably objective.
$500 "every couple of years" isn't even ... ugh, well, whatever. SLI isn't your 'best bet' necessarily.
Pville_Piper wrote:We also talked specifically about BF3 in earlier posts, if you had bothered to actually read them instead of just sneering at us with your original question, "How's 4x SSAA (2x2 Supersamling) work out on those GTX660s? Ah..." which I took as elitist and incendiary remark (sorry if I’m wrong about that)...
No, you're right; it absolutely was elitist and incendiary. I'd apologize, but that would be a little dishonest of me, because I'm not sorry! Hehe.

People like me who have experience with SLI and know the limitations find people like you irritatingly naive. If it works great for your purposes, well, that's fine. Don't pretend that a little SLI660 setup is superior to a high-end board, though. It has its caveats, and if you're willing to deal with those, well, okay, sure. Some of us are not, and I would wager that plenty of those who are all too willing to make those trade-offs aren't even aware of the trade-offs they're making.

I made the point about Super-sampling to point out that there are certain things that weaker cards just can't do, and as I've said before, anything that's too tough for one card is going to be too tough for two cards. There are arguments to be made that Super-sampling is a niche function and the appeal is limited. I'm not going to involve myself in those arguments, but I almost never play games without anti-aliasing -- proper AA, not this FXAA/MLAA/SMAA rubbish -- so SLI 660s would never work for me. Actually, even a 680 isn't all that great for my purposes. That's another rant entirely, though.
Pville_Piper wrote:I’m in the armpit of Texas… the one known as Houston
I'm not that far from you, near Beaumont.
Pville_Piper wrote:Your statement (even if made in jest) “peers over the side of her tower down at the SLI users: :lol:” can also be taken (as I took it to be) as an elitist and incendiary remark.
That's really the same remark. Same post, anyway; it was all part of the same statement.

The OP made a choice to give up the higher-performance card in favor of a nuanced solution that he thinks suits his needs better, and I believe he made that decision out of naviete and short-sightedness. I hadn't actually stated that opinion in the thread, and I wasn't going to, because it amounts to raining on his parade (and I'm just not that cruel, usually.) However, since you decided to take me to task for my attitude, here I am explaining it. Maybe he or you don't care about high degrees of anti-aliasing or >60hz gaming, and that's fine. I sure do.
Pville_Piper wrote:As far as SLI goes I have read very few bad remarks about it as it relates to the 600 series.
Yes, it works very well, for what it is.
Pville_Piper wrote:(some long anecdotes)
Yes, I've had similar experiences, and I'm sure your experience mirrors that of most tech-savvy gamers. I don't know what that has to do with anything, though.
Pville_Piper wrote:I would be interested in learning about the Nvidia inspector as it would be interesting to hear how it can improve gameplay and graphics quality. Until today I have never heard of it so I guess you can say “you schooled me”.
I've no interest in saying such a thing myself.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:19 pm

auxy wrote: $500 "every couple of years" isn't even ... ugh, well, whatever.
Exactly…
auxy wrote: I'd apologize, but that would be a little dishonest of me, because I'm not sorry! Hehe.
I would have been worried if you had.
auxy wrote: Don't pretend that a little SLI660 setup is superior to a high-end board, though.

I wasn’t and the point the OP was making is that there are tradeoffs but they are limited. In the limited scope of what he was talking about, SLI is very doable, appropriate and cost effective. Why would you buy a Ferrari to run to the grocery store when you can’t do more than 75 mph. Let’s face it, even a GTX Titan has its limitations and you would have to SLI it at 5670 x 1080 if you were trying to get 60 FPS on the highest settings. Hey, I would love to have a multi monitor; GTX Titan setup to game on but that is way out of my price range. I used to love to hunt but I don’t have the time or place anymore. But if I did I wouldn’t buy $1500 of guns and scopes, $5,000 for an ATV, new pickup truck, trailer and portable deer stand. Not worth it… And neither is $6000 for playing a video game. But then you might feel differently. It’s your money; you spend it as you will.
auxy wrote: I've no interest in saying such a thing myself.
Shocked!

That's all I gonna say on this topic. Cleary, we’ve both bored everyone else to tears on this.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:14 am

Could we get a handle on the name calling please?

My reasons for changing cards are many, including a desire to experiment with different hardware. In the past two years I've bought (and sold) many different video cards, from a GTX295, 5830, 5870, 6950, 7950, GTX680, to my current setup of SLI 660's. For all I know, a GTX690, or even a Titan Ultra (when released) may be just over the horizon for me to try in my rig next. That's the thing about being an enthusiast. I'm never happy with my rig being 'as is'. I'm always wanting to make changes and 'improvements'.

In this case, I was merely recounting my experiences switching from one larger card to two smaller ones. My conclusion, based on personal experience with this generation of cards, is that the drawbacks of SLI simply aren't as pronounced as some people make them out to be.

It really has nothing to do with Short-sightedness and naivete, more just a sense of adventure and experimentation.
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Re: GTX 660 SLI vs GTX 680 - Subjective Comparison

Postposted on Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:20 am

Pville_Piper wrote:That's all I gonna say on this topic. Clearly, we've both bored everyone else to tears on this.
Right.

Anyway, as far as Nvidia Inspector goes, you can grab it here. Go through the usual installation process, and then I advise making a superbar shortcut, since that makes it rather more convenient to use. I'm writing up a guide right now with pictures to illustrate; it may be an hour or more before I'm done.

edit: "an hour or more", HAH! Who was *I* kidding? (ヽ'ω`)HONKHONK

So, NVIDIA Inspector:
Image

This is the main screen that shows you a bunch of info. It looks superficially like GPU-Z. I'm not going to go over this information all too much, because you should probably already know what most of this means, and there are better guides if you want to make use of the overclocking tools. (That said, there are better overclocking tools, and despite being updated for that purpose, the overclocking tools don't even work properly on my GPU.) You can click on the little "wrench and screwdriver" button to open the Driver Profile Settings UI, or you can -- without even having the program open -- right-click the superbar icon and simply select it from that menu. Look here:

Image

Handy, no? As you can see there, the tool also has GPU monitoring (works fine for me) and some kind of power saver feature I've never messed with at all. Anyway, get into the Driver Profile Settings UI and you'll be greeted with a screen kinda like this. Well, like this looked before I edited it, anyway.

Image

I know, my red-on-black-and-white-and-green scrawlings are kinda hard to read. Sorry! (Really, this time.) I didn't really realize it until after I was done editing. My girlfriend says it's still legible, so off to print it goes! Or, erm, to PicturePush, where I host my pictures. ANYWAY! The picture kinda explains the deal, but since it IS hard to read, I'll list the stuff here as numbered on the picture:

  • ① at the top is where you select which application profile to edit. There are a lot of them! NVIDIA has predefined a profile for virtually any retail game, as well as a lot of 3D applications, and even some open-source and fan-made stuff, which is fun and cool of them. You can click "in" the drop-down box to type and search by title.
  • ② is a place for you SLI users to fix your SLI shenanigans. You can find appropriate bitmasks to type in on google sometimes. USUALLY you'll want to use the nvidia-supplied one, but in case your game hasn't had an SLI profile added yet, you can try to fix it.
  • ③ is very important -- if this setting is set to anything besides "Override any application setting", then nothing you set in the Antialiasing area will work.
  • ④ is where you can enable Anisotropic filtering. As the picture says, I strongly recommend you force it all the way to 16x in your global profile; this can cause shimmer aliasing on distant surfaces, but the full-scene anti-aliasing will help overcome that, and you end up with much sharper textures all the way around. (However, if you are ever playing without anti-aliasing enabled, reducing anisotropic filtering can help reduce shimmer on surfaces at sharp angles, or distant surfaces.)
  • ⑤ is NVIDIA's driver-based Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) toggle. I don't really like the look of SSAO that much, usually, although sometimes it can look quite nice. (Most of the shadows in that picture were added via SSAO.) Anyway, SSAO doesn't work on all games, and enabling it concurrently with AA is just begging for a slideshow, but you can try anyway. I found 4x Multisampling + "Quality" SSAO to be fairly playable in that game at 1080p on a single GTX 460, and better on two. Just remember to set the SECOND SSAO setting to "Enabled" if you want to use it.
  • ⑥ is the most important part of this tutorial. Many games don't work well with driver-forced anti-aliasing without setting up the proper bit mask here. Now, I'll be honest with you -- I have no actual idea why this is. (Well, I have a few ideas, but I don't know.) Still, it's a fact of life. To find the correct bit mask for a game, you can sometimes use one meant for another game under the same engine, or failing that, some clever person will have figured one out online. Keep in mind that DX10/11 Antialiasing Compatibility bitmasks are few and far between, but most games are DX9 anyway.
  • ⑦ is a set-and-forget kind of thing, but still irritating when you forget before you set. This is basically a way for the NVidia driver to disregard all your hard work setting up bitmasks and AA modes. Just make sure it's set to 'none'.
  • ⑧ is the place you set the actual anti-aliasing mode you want. More on this later. "IQ" is image quality, by the way, in case you didn't know that.
  • ⑨ is, as usual, still an idiot.
  • ⑩ is a fun little trick to improve texture quality yet further. Basically, by setting a negative LOD bias value, you can force the game engine to use the highest-quality version of textures (the highest-resolution mipmap) more often. However, naturally, being too aggressive with this will cause shimmering, especially on distant objects. I list some suggested values there on the image. You could also leave this alone; as long as you're using AF you won't lose much by not fiddling with this setting. Make sure the second setting is set to "Allow" to enable this.

Whew! What a mess. I hope someone can read some of that. Anyway, so, anti-aliasing modes. Most of the time, you're going to want to use the standard ones exposed in the NVIDIA Control Panel, which are all listed there under Antialiasing - Setting. You can also experiment with the more esoteric settings, but I can't guarantee any of them will work for sure, or properly. I'd get something bog-standard (like "4x Multisampling") working before you start fiddling with stranger modes.

I was making a lot of noise about supersampling and you can enable it here, under Antialiasing - Setting. Now, while supersampling looks very good, it's also terribly inefficient. You're forcing the graphics engine to render the scene at a much higher resolution and then filter it down to a lower resolution. Supersampling requires an egregious amount of fillrate and memory bandwidth; most cards can't hack it at FHD+ resolutions.

If you can't, don't feel bad, though -- you might find that Multisampling + Transparency Supersampling suits your needs better anyhow. I myself have been quite pleased with the results of 4x Multisampling + 4x Sparse Grid Supersampling (under Transparency Supersampling), and such a combination really isn't too demanding for most modern GPUs.

Anyway, it's 5:25AM and my supervisor just called me in to come in at 11:00AM instead of my usual 2:30PM, so I've got to toddle off to bed now. One last thing before I go though:

Image

Profiles you've edited will show up in that little combo box on the home button.
Last edited by auxy on Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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