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MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G Review: Affordable 1080p Powerhouse

By Christopher Coke on March 14, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G Review: Affordable 1080p Powerhouse

So, you’d like to buy into the latest generation of Nvidia video cards but can’t afford the higher prices that come with RTX. We come bearing good news: MSI is here to help with the brand new GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G, a Turing powered graphics card beginning at only $249.99. We’ll be going over exactly what it brings to the table and whether or not it’s worth the upgrade, so read on for our full review.

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Specifications

  • Current Pricing: $249.99
  • Boost Clock: 1860
  • Memory: 8Gbps
  • CUDA Cores: 1408
  • Cooling: Twin Frozr 7
  • Fan: TORX 2.0
  • Backplate: Yes
  • Illumination: RGB
  • Power: 1x8-pin
  • Software: Afterburner, Dragon Center

There’s no denying that the latest generation of RTX graphics cards from Nvidia push them envelope. Thanks to the inclusion of tensor and raytracing cores, they’re able to bring realtime raytracing and the power of AI to bear on today’s most graphically stunning games. There’s also no denying that these features come at a hefty price increase and that the amount of games that fully take advantage of them is limited. When I reviewed the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti, the new hybrid rendering model had me almost giddy with excitement but at $799 and $1199 for the Founders Editions, buying into RTX just isn’t possible for many gamers.

Enter the GTX 1600 series. They’re still powered by the new Turing GPU architecture, which means improved processing and clock speed headroom, but the RT and tensor cores have been removed putting the emphasis on performance over DLSS and realtime-raytracing. The series debuted with the 1600 Ti and, as today’s 1660 indicates, the target here seems to be mainstream 1080p gaming. This makes sense as this segment includes many gamers likely to care less about those advanced features and more about pushing the highest settings they can at FHD resolution.

The GeForce GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G is MSI’s premiere custom overclocked version of this GPU. Like the reference model, it features 1408 CUDA cores. Compared to the 1660 Ti, it’s a modest 9% reduction but as coming from the GTX 1060, it’s about a 10% improvement over last generation. When it comes to clock speeds, the boost clock out of the box is 1860 MHz, which is another 5% improvement over the reference model. It also comes equipped with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM, which is more than enough for high-end 1080p gaming and frequently 1440p.

Of course, don’t take the factory overclock as gospel, since these cards are compatible with NVidia’s new OC Scanner technology and could potentially push even higher speeds. OC Scanner is Nvidia’s new “easy overclocking” technology that’s now built into MSI’s Afterburner software (which is my personal go-to tool for hardware monitoring). Simply by clicking a button, the card will run a series of tests on itself to determine the fastest possible stable overclock and will then apply it. On our sample, we were able to overclock to just over 1900MHz.

When it comes to connectivity, we find the GTX 1660 is a simpler beast than the RTX line-up, featuring three DisplayPort 1.4 ports and an HDMI 2.0b, bringing us to a total of four supported displays.

MSI is sparing no expense when it comes to cooling technology.  The GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G comes equipped with MSI’s Twin Frozr 7 thermal solution. It features dual Torx 3.0 fans featuring specially curved Dispersion Fan Blades to move more air. These fans are quieter than many others we’ve used (and vastly more so than blower style coolers) and take advantage of MSI’s Zero Frozr programming to turn off the fans below 60C to keep your system quiet when the GPU isn’t under load. They also claim that they’ve designed the Twin Frozr 7 system to direct air directly onto the heatpipes for more efficient heat dispersion.  The system is indeed effective at keeping the 1060 nice and cool even through extended gaming sessions, as we’ll see soon in the benchmarking section, but MSI states up to a 50% thermal improvement compared to a traditional fan and up to 15% cooler operation when compared even to Torx 2.0 fans.

Aesthetically, the GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G is a gorgeous card. They’ve dropped the red and black aesthetic from the 10-series and instead shifted to black and metal-tones. It makes the card much easier to fit into any build and the new brushed aluminum backplate should also help dissipate some heat on top of looking good. The RGB on the face of the card also looks great and makes a good case for vertically mounting your GPU.

That’s enough context. Let’s get into performance testing!

Benchmark Testing

Test System: i7-8700K at 5GHz, ASUS Maximus X Hero Z470 Motherboard, 32GB ADATA XPG D41 DDR4-3200 DRAM, 1TB Samsung 970 PRO NVME SSD, 1TB WD Black NVME SSD, 1TB WD Blue 2.5” SATA SSD, 1TB Crucial MX500 2.5” SATA SSD, 10TB WD Gold HDD, Corsair HX-1050 1050-watt PSU, Fractal Define R6 Case (open top panel)

For our testing, our aim is always to dig into the real world performance of each piece of hardware we benchmark. In today’s assessment, we decided to limit the scope of our testing to 1080p and 1440p resolutions. The main reason for this is that, ultimately, the 16-series are not designed for 4K gameplay. Likewise, we think it unlikely 4K gamers would consider the card anyway. Simply put, this is a 1080p and possibly 1440p card, so that’s what we tested at.

Let’s see how it performed!

Beginning with our FPS tests, we’ve updated our roster of games to reflect several modern AAA games capable of challenging high performance cards. Here, we can see that the GTX 1660 Gaming X holds its own at 1080p with max settings. The card easily held over 60 FPS in these four titles, as well as a number of others we tested but didn’t officially benchmark across all resolutions. Other 60+ FPS games included: DOOM, Grand Theft Auto V, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Elder Scrolls Online, World of Warcraft, Black Desert Online, and Overwatch.

At 1440p, the card was stretched but still delivered respectable performance for the price. At 2K resolution, you can expect somewhere between 45-60 FPS, which, in our opinion, is still very playable.

In terms of comparisons, the MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G delivered about 87% of the performance of the Ti version. Compared to the GTX 1060, it ran about 25% faster.

MSI’s Twin Frozr 7 did very well, providing some of the lowest temperatures on any of the cards we’ve looked at. Since the card runs cool, the fans never had to ramp up to levels that disturbed me while gaming.

Performance Conclusions and Final Thoughts

One of the looming questions surrounding the launch of the 16-series of cards is whether they would find a place in the market - whether they even should be finding a place. After running these tests, I think it’s clear that not only does the GTX 1660 and 1660 Ti have a place but that the 1660 in particular may find itself as one of the most popular mainstream cards of the generation. The price/performance proposition offers one of the best values since the release of RTX last year.

Looking back at the GTX 1060, I was surprised to see just how far it’s falling behind the curve for this generation’s most demanding games. If you’re running a 1060 today, or even a 900-series card, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the jump the GTX 1660 and, thanks to the great looks and thermal solution, the MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G in particular. For $249, it’s a great value. The real question is whether it would be worth spending just a little more to pick up the 13% of performance on the table with the GTX 1660 Ti, also available in a Gaming X variant from MSI. If you can afford to wait, that would be my suggestion, but if under $250, the MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Gaming X 6G is an excellent buy.

Pros

  • Solid 1080p performance, can also push 1440p in some games
  • Great price for performance - Turing for the masses
  • Good thermal performance and noise levels
  • Card looks great
  • Only takes two slots

Cons

  • 4K frame rates rarely topped 25 - so UHD is off the table

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight