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

Should you buy the EVGA GTX 1660 XC Ultra?

If you’re looking for an affordable graphics card for 1080p gaming at 60 frames per second—the monitor specs for the majority of gamers—then the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 is the card you want.

The GTX 1660 rips the Radeon RX 580 from its years-long lockdown as the go-to “sweet spot” graphics card. Nvidia’s card trails its AMD counterpart in a couple of games that heavily favor Radeon architecture, but thoroughly triumphs over the competition in the other titles. With 6GB of memory, the capacity and longevity concerns that plagued the 3GB GTX 1060 are gone. And per usual, Nvidia’s new GPU proves very power-efficient. Now that Nvidia GPUs play nice with FreeSync adaptive sync monitors, that's no longer an AMD advantage, either.

dsc00526 Brad Chacos/IDG

EVGA’s custom cooling design and out-of-the-box overclock impresses yet again in the GeForce GTX 1660 XC Ultra, delivering great performance and downright frigid temperatures. It’s worth the $30 premium the card costs over the GTX 1660’s $220 starting MSRP, especially if you have no desire to overclock your graphics card manually.

But for as much as we love the $250 EVGA GTX 1660 XC Ultra, market pressures prevent us from awarding it an Editors’ Choice award like EVGA’s pricier GTX 1660 Ti cousin. That $30 premium, while reasonable, puts the card within spitting distance of entry-level $380 GTX 1660 Ti models, and as you saw in our benchmarks, the GTX 1660 Ti is significantly faster than the GTX 1660 non-Ti. A $30 premium is a significant markup percentage-wise for a GPU that starts at $220. I’d argue it’s worth the investment, but this is a very price-sensitive segment of the market, and there’s a good chance that entry-level GTX 1660 models will be able to deliver satisfactory gameplay results while still keeping temperatures from getting too hot. (They won’t run anywhere near as cool or quiet as EVGA’s XC Ultra, though.)

AMD’s Radeon RX 580 still plays well at 1080p/60, and we’ve seen sales drop 8GB versions of those cards well below $200 at times, often bundled with a pair of free triple-A games. The GTX 1660 is a better GPU all around, but if you’re on the hunt for a new graphics card, the economics of a particularly juicy Radeon RX 580 sale could sway you to Team Red. Don’t buy a Radeon RX 590 though—at $260, it costs more than even this overclocked EVGA GTX 1660 XC Ultra despite being outclassed in power efficiency and in-game performance (usually).

dsc00523 Brad Chacos/IDG

Don’t let all that market positioning talk dissuade you though. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 is the best “sweet spot” 1080p graphics card you can buy, priced well, and EVGA’s XC Ultra spin on it is spectacular. They’re going to sell a ton of these.

If you game on a higher refresh rate 120Hz, 144Hz, or 240Hz monitor, spend the extra cash on the GTX 1660 Ti instead—you’ll want the extra legroom it provides. And while the EVGA GTX 1660 XC Ultra can play games at 1440p with a few visual compromises, consider opting for a $380+ GTX 1660 Ti or (more ideally) a $350+ GeForce RTX 2060 instead if you want to push all those pixels well.

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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