NVIDIA's GTX 660 and 650 will target the Radeon HD 7870 and 7770, respectively

NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) today announced two GPUs based on GK106, a variant of the Kepler architecture.  NVIDIA's architectural variants increase in number as they decrease in stream processors and features, so the GK106 chips are designed to fill the mainstream niche between the high end GK104 (used in the GeForce GTX 680) and the GK107 (used in the GeForce GT 640).

I. Digging Into the GTX 660

The bottom line on the GTX 660 performance wise is that at $229 USD is narrowly the best buy in the $220-$240 bracket.

It trades blows with Advanced Micro Device, Inc.'s (AMDRadeon HD 7870 (a Pitcairn architecture), which is also typically available for as little as $229 USD, with discount.

In benchmarking by AnandTech the GTX 660 generally outperformed the HD 7870 at lower resolutions, while falling a bit behind at higher resolutions.

GeForce GTX 660
NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 660

Versus NVDIA's GK104-based GTX 660 Ti -- which landed in August for $299 USD; $70 USD more -- the GTX 660 is generally slower, but the gap is not as large as one would think, thanks to the higher clock.

The GTX 660 has a 980 MHz core clock, while the GTX 660 Ti only has a 915 MHz clock.  The memory clock also receives a small boost.  However, the card sheds nearly a third of the texture units and the streaming processing units (SPUs), hence a moderate performance gap was to be expected.

Thus the equally priced NVIDIA GPU is a capable competitor, hanging with the HD 7870 on performance, while besting it in power consumption, noise, and heat.  That power consumption is expected to allow NVIDIA's partner OEMs to deploy more overclocked options, which will be a bit pricier, but should further sway things in NVIDIA's favor -- although complicating the situation a bit for buyers.

Here's a quick table to recap the crucial details on the device and its competitors:
The GTX 660 card is a pretty standard 9.5-inch long.

II. Digging Into the GTX 650

The GTX is quite a different beast.  It has roughly half the SPUs as its big brother, the GTX 660.  And it's priced at $109 USD. That makes it roughly $10 USD more expensive than the GTX 640.  But the GTX 650 adds GDDR5 (though dropping the memory in some models to 1 GB) and bumps the core clock by 158 MHz.

GeForce GTX 660
NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 650

Here's a quick table comparing the two cards, along with AMD's closest competitor, the Radeon HD 7770 (~$109 and up): 
Again, as with the GTX 660, the GTX 650 seems pretty close with its AMD rival, though the higher SPU count in AMD's Radeon HD 7770 may push it ahead of NVIDIA's offering.

An important thing to note is that the GTX 650 is extremely compact -- it is only 5.7-inches long.  That means it may see a lot of pickup in HTPC (home theater PC) and other compact applications.

III. Conclusions

In short, we don't have solid benchmark data for the GTX 650, but from the GTX 660 benchmarks, it appears that NVIDIA and AMD are very close to each other, with NVIDIA enjoying a slight edge in power, noise, and heat.

Ultimately this is likely a testament to the fact that both companies primarily use the same chipmaker/process for their GPUs -- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd. (TPE:2330).  Differentiating one's architecture is important, but it appears to be taking a second seat in this round of the graphics war.

Still, this is a crucial launch for NVIDIA as it helps to fill in gaping gaps in its product line, gaps that were previously being exploited by AMD on the low end.  On the flip side of the coin AMD's aggressive pricing mean that this launch -- like others of this generation -- is no clear cut win for NVIDIA.

Sources: NVIDIA, AnandTech

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