EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 XC Ultra review: The new 'sweet spot' champion

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1660 and EVGA's superb XC Ultra custom design combine to (finally!) jettison AMD's Radeon RX 580 from its spot as the mainstream gaming champion.

Credit: Brad Chacos/IDG

Our test system

Our dedicated graphics card test system is packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($360 on Amazon)
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($120 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard ($260 on Amazon)
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($318 for 32GB on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($180 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow ($160 on Amazon)
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($78 each on Amazon)

We’re comparing the $250 EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 XC Ultra against its big sibling, the $310 EVGA GTX 1660 Ti XC Ultra, as well as its predecessor, an overclocked EVGA version of the 6GB GTX 1060. Rounding out the Nvidia side, we’re also including the GTX 1070 Founders Edition and the ray tracing-capable $350 GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition.

We received our review sample very close to deadline and didn’t have time to re-test the $200 3GB GTX 1060, but since the new GPU outclasses the 6GB GTX 1060, we’re comfortable omitting the slower 3GB variant from our results. (For what it’s worth, Nvidia claims the GTX 1660 is “on average 30 percent faster” than the 3GB GTX 1060 at reference clock speeds.)

To see how EVGA’s graphics card stacks up against the Radeon competition, we’ve also included performance results from the $260 Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ (which launched at $280 in November), the $400 Radeon Vega 56, and the Asus ROG Strix version of the Radeon RX 580. Many Radeon RX 580 models can consistently be found for $200 or slightly less on sale these days, even in 8GB variants.

Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets, with VSync, frame rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled, and temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) enabled to push these high-end cards to their limits. If anything differs from that, we’ll mention it. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test.

We limited our testing to 1080p and 1440p resolutions, as satisfying 4K gaming is mostly out of the reach of this class of card.

EVGA GTX 1660 XC Ultra gaming benchmarks

Strange Brigade

Let’s kick things off with Strange Brigade ($50 on Humble), a cooperative third-person shooter where a team of adventurers blasts through hordes of mythological enemies. It’s a technological showcase, built around the next-gen Vulkan and DirectX 12 technologies and infused with features like HDR support and the ability to toggle asynchronous compute on and off. It uses Rebellion’s custom Azure engine. We test with async compute off.

strange brigade Brad Chacos/IDG

The first game out of the gate doesn’t paint the GTX 1660 in the best light. It’s only about 9.5 percent faster than the GTX 1060, and it’s actually slower than the Radeon RX 580, much less the RX 590. But Strange Brigade loves AMD GPUs, and the GTX 1660 still delivers great framerates at 1080p resolution. Heck, it almost hits the hallowed 60 frames per second at 1440p! The step-up GTX 1660 Ti is significantly faster, however—as it should be for $60 more.  

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider ($60 on Humble) concludes the reboot trilogy, and it’s utterly gorgeous. Square Enix optimized this game for DX12, and recommends DX11 only if you’re using older hardware or Windows 7, so we test with that. Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses an enhanced version of the Foundation engine that also powered Rise of the Tomb Raider.

sotr Brad Chacos/IDG

EVGA’s GTX 1660 XC Ultra delivers much more impressive results here, beating the Radeon RX cards handily, and the last gen’s overclocked 6GB GTX 1060 by a whopping 27+ percent at 1080p resolution. Games should also be playable at 1440p if you tinker with the visual settings. Again, the pricier GTX 1660 Ti is about 20 percent faster than the new GTX 1660.

Far Cry 5

Finally, a DirectX 11 game! Far Cry 5 ($60 on Humble) is powered by Ubisoft’s long-established Dunia engine. It’s just as gorgeous as its predecessors, and even more fun.

fc5 Brad Chacos/IDG

Nvidia’s card shows up strong yet again, beating the GTX 1060 and comparable Radeon GPUs alike. The 1080p results prove especially strong, though you could play Far Cry 5 at 1440p with very few visual compromises, too.

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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