A Blast from the Previous: GeForce GTX 980 Ti vs. GTX 1660 Ti vs. RTX 2060

Today we're visiting the GeForce GTX 980 Ti again to see how it can compete with the newly released RTX 2060 and GTX 1660 Ti, especially in newer titles like Apex Legends, Resident Evil 2 and Far Cry New Dawn. While the GTX 1660 Ti sells for $ 280 and the RTX 2060 sells for $ 350, the GTX 980 Ti was of course much more expensive when it started at $ 650.

The GTX 980 Ti is now four years old. So you expect new GPUs that are about half the price to offer a similar level of performance … or do you?

While the 980 Ti contains 2816 CUDA cores, the RTX 2060 has 32% fewer cores and the 1660 Ti has 45% fewer cores. However, these Turing cores are wider so that they can carry out more instructions, and they are also clocked higher. The Nvidia specification for the 980 Ti requires a 1075 MHz boost clock. This gives the RTX 2060 a clock speed advantage of 56% and the GTX 1660 Ti a clock speed advantage of 65%.

The Turing GPUs also have a higher clocked GDDR6 memory. Although the RTX 2060 has a 192-bit memory bus in contrast to the much wider 384-bit bus of the 980 Ti, the faster memory makes the difference from the same memory bandwidth of 336 GB / s. The 1660 Ti has been downgraded to 288 GB / s with its 12 Gbps memory, but as we've learned, it doesn't cripple that much.

Earlier this year, in our "Ultimate Guide to Buying a Used Graphics Card," we found that the average retail price of a used GTX 980 Ti was $ 235. We looked at the completed eBay listings again when we were working on this item and this price remains correct.

This comparison is all the more interesting. If you're considering it, should you buy the 980 Ti for around $ 235 or buy a brand new GTX 1660 Ti for $ 280? To find out, we got our Core i9-9900K test system, installed the 980 Ti, and benchmarked it. We tested a total of 33 games, but we'll discuss the results for a dozen of them before looking at the summary and performance breakdown charts. All testing took place at 1440p, and while using a reference card, we overclocked it at 1190MHz so it can maintain a typical 1.3GHz boost clock. Let's get out of the way with these notes.

Benchmarks

Instead of limiting this test to about a dozen titles, we wanted to aim for at least 30. This gives us a more comprehensive overview of how the older Maxwell GPU is built and how the performance is in older games compared to recently released ones. We mention this because to test such a wide range of games it didn't make sense to spend twice as much time testing the 980 Ti at different clock speeds. We chose the latter when choosing the Nvidia specification or an aggressive overclocking. The overclocked configuration mostly provides 10% performance, with increases of up to 15% under certain conditions.

Our first test Metro Exodus was the only game in which we took the 980 Ti result as a reference. Here we see that overclocking delivered a 9% increase in performance, which is decent.

The 980 Ti is a bit slower than the GTX 1070 and a little faster. This reference point serves us well and is usually what is found in high-end AIB models such as Gigabytes Gaming G1.

The overclocked 980 Ti offers excellent performance in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and beats the GTX 1070 a few frames to achieve only 2 fps less with the 1660 Ti and 1070 Ti.

As we progress, we find that Forza Horizon 4 is a good game for this comparison because it uses modern GPU architectures very well. The GTX 980 Ti could only keep up with the Radeon RX 590 and was ~ 10% slower than the 1660 Ti and RTX 2060.

Next we have Just Cause 4 and here the GTX 980 Ti came right behind the GTX 1070 and 1660 Ti. Nothing unusual about these results, so let's move on.

When we launch Resident Evil 2, we see that the overclocked 980 Ti can roughly keep up with the GTX 1660 Ti, making it 16% slower than the RTX 2060.

When tested with Hitman 2, the 980 Ti was found to match the GTX 1660 Ti while being 14% slower than the RTX 2060 and 16% slower than the Vega 56. Still a pretty solid result for the old Maxwell GPU.

Fortnite uses Unreal Engine 4 and this game engine is very familiar with the Pascal architecture.

Here the overclocked 980 Ti has displaced both the GTX 1070 and the 1660 Ti just behind the GTX 1070 Ti and not much slower than the RTX 2060. He also outperformed AMD's Vega 56 by 6%.

The GTX 980 Ti performs very well compared to the Pascal competition and beats the 1070 by a few frames. Nevertheless, Turing does very well in this title and so the 980 Ti was 10% slower than the 1660 Ti and 22% slower than the RTX 2060.

When testing with Battlefield V, we find that the overclocked GTX 980 Ti is on a par with the GTX 1070, and we find it similar to the GTX 1660 Ti.

The 980 Ti was 14% slower than a typical AIB version of the RTX 2060, no tremendous scope. Given the Maxwell GPU that we got back with $ 650, the fact that we can't get any higher performance for just $ 350 is good news.

Although it has gone through some important updates, World of Tanks is still a very old game at its core. It's also well optimized for older GPU architectures, and Nvidia has ensured that the older GPUs in this popular title continue to perform as they should. For the 980 Ti, this means that the GTX 1070 Ti-like performance is 16% faster than the 1660 Ti and only 6% slower than the RTX 2060.

Apex Legends is one of the newest games we are testing. As you can see, the overclocked GTX 980 Ti lags behind the GTX 1070, behind the GTX 1660 Ti and massively behind the RTX 2060.

The gap to Pascal is not too big, but the more complex Turing architecture offers a significant increase in performance here, especially when we compare GPUs with similar core numbers.

The last game in this round is Far Cry New Dawn. Here the overclocked 980 Ti corresponded to the standard GTX 1070 and 1660 Ti with an average of 74 fps. It was 15% slower than the RTX 2060, though I don't suggest that the affordable RTX option is a worthwhile upgrade for current 980 Ti owners.

Individual matchups

GTX 980 Ti against GTX 1070

As we have repeatedly found in the past, the GTX 980 Ti and the GTX 1070 basically offer the same performance. With the standard Nvidia specification, the 1070 is generally a bit faster and since both are maximally overclocked, they are also very close to each other, although the 980 Ti performs a bit better overall thanks to its enormous overclocking scope.

GTX 980 Ti against Vega 56

For the most part, we found the standard Vega 56 that beat the 980 Ti. On average, the old GeForce GPU was 7% slower with only 5 games, in which the 980 Ti won by 5% or better. Given what you normally pay for one of these things on the used market, they are often a better choice for price-conscious buyers.

GTX 980 Ti against GTX 1660 Ti

Overall, the venerable 980 Ti was a mustache faster and could only beat the budget Turing GPU by 2%. While we were using a standard MSI GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X, the 980 Ti was overclocked, of course. That means you can only squeeze about 5-10% more out of the 1660 Ti anyway. It's still great to see that we're finally getting a GTX 980 Ti performance for under $ 300.

GTX 980 Ti against RTX 2060

Even with the overclocking boost, the 980 Ti can't hang with a standard RTX 2060. The Maxwell part was 12% slower on average, but we've also seen cases where it was 20 to 25% slower, for example in Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Rainbow Six Siege, Wolfenstein II, and Apex legends.

Bottom line

The once powerful GeForce GTX 980 Ti is now a match for a GPU under $ 300 that only lasted about 4 years. If you lost $ 650 on a 980 Ti all those years ago and still have it today and play at 1440p, it's fair to say you got your money's worth.

Obviously, the GTX 1660 Ti and RTX 2060 do not warrant an upgrade for such a person, as this would be a secondary class. However, if you're a buyer for a $ 650 GPU, you're unlikely to ever be tempted by these mid-range deals. That's probably why you're looking for an RTX 2080 – with titles like Metro Exodus, you've seen a little over 60% increase in performance, which is far more significant.

If you switch between buying a new GTX 1660 Ti or a used GTX 980 Ti … while buying the 980 Ti (the used price is $ 235) could save you around $ 50, there is always the possibility that you may have to pay more for a good model. If you're ready to wait your time, you can also get one for even less. Buying second hand is an art, but no matter how good you are, there are still some unavoidable pitfalls.

Obviously, the 980 Ti is now an old product, so there is no guarantee. The risk of $ 50 savings doesn't seem to be worth it. There is also the problem of driver support. Without question, the GTX 1660 Ti will age better with game-specific optimizations.

All in all, the GTX 980 Ti has aged well and still offers a pleasant 1440p gaming experience. Ask every enthusiast and that says a lot.

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