Nvidia GTX 16-series: Everything we know so far

Thanks to some new leaks, the launch of Nvidia's GTX 1660 is all but confirmed

At the beginning of 2019, it seemed likely Nvidia would launch a GTX 1160 graphics card. What has risen from its ashes though, is rumors of a Turing-powered 1660, a 1660 Ti, and maybe even a 1650.

Odd naming convention aside, Nvidia’s mid-range lineup may soon be far more fleshed out, offering gamers an alternative to the RTX lineup and also greater competition for AMD’s aging Polaris RX 500 GPUs. They also could be some honest, worthwhile replacements for Nvidia’s own last-generation GTX 1060 and other entry-level GPUs.

Pricing and availability

nvidia gtx 16 series palit 1660 ti stormxoc 1000x750
Image via Videocardz.com

Videocardz’s snapshot of a private Nvidia partner event originally showcased a “GTX Turing” branding alongside an image of a “166X” graphics card is pretty solid evidence of the range’s existence.  However, Nvidia has made no official announcement of the 16-series of GTX GPUs at all, so any release dates or pricing speculation remains firmly that and little more.

There have since been several leaks supporting the incoming launch of the GTX 1660. A Reddit user going by the name of the Rukey_Lob posted images of the Galaxy GeForce GTX 1660 Ti retail packaging, including the front, rear, and sides of the box. Judging from “Turing Shaders,” branding on the box, the images otherwise confirm that the GTX 1660 is powered by the Turing architecture and not Pascal.

Additional reporting from VideoCardz also suggests a February 22 launch date for the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. That is later than earlier rumors, as HardOCP’s sources had claimed that the GTX 1660 Ti would launch on February 15 with a price tag of $279. It also believed that the rumored GTX 1660 will debut in early March with a price of $229, followed up by a $179 GTX 1650 later that same month. Nvidia does have a conference coming up called GTC in mid-March, though it’s focused more on AI and deep learning than gaming.

How about pricing? Well, with a $349 floor on the RTX 2060, we would expect a GTX 1660 to be priced well below that. $279 makes a lot of sense, as that would put the 1660 Ti well within the price range of the AMD RX 590 — the best mid-range card AMD currently offers. That also stops Nvidia from immediately invalidating its remaining overstock of GTX 1060s, caused by the so called, “crypto-hangover” from 2017’s major shortages.

We’d be surprised if it would launch a 1660 and 1650 in such short order. That is, unless Nvidia has big plans for discounting its GTX 1060 or is confident that it can clear older stock before those new cards arrive.

It would seem unlikely that Nvidia would launch 16-series products to compete with its high-end RTX-series solutions since the GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti (and AMD’s Radeon VII) do that already.

Performance

The most common aspect of Nvidia’s Turing-generation of graphics cards is that they tend to sit one market segment above their predecessors. With the new RTX 2060 overtaking the GTX 1070 Ti, the 1660 may be close in capabilities to a GTX 1070. A speculative 1650 may be more like a GTX 1060, and so on.

Performance is likely to be weaker than that of the RTX 2060 and if the pricing rumors are accurate, a card that is 15-20 percent faster than a GTX 1060 would make a lot of sense. Allegedly leaked performance numbers from Videocardz back this up, though with it being limited to the notoriously difficult-to-compare Ashes of the Singularity benchmark, it’s not a strong single point of reference to tar the whole graphics card with.

Press renders picked up by Videocardz also showcase the specs on two GeForce GTX 1660 Ti cards from Palit. The images confirm the cards will come with TU116 GPU, 1536 CUDA cores, and 6GB GDDR6 memory. A StormX OC variant, meanwhile, is said to include a clock speed of 1,815 MHz, while a standard version will clock in at 1,770 MHz.

If Nvidia doesn’t offer RTX cards below that of the RTX 2060, its GTX 16-series will be designed to take on AMD’s existing RX 500 series and anything Navi may be capable of. At $280, the 1660 Ti would price match the mid-tier RX 590‘s from third-party manufacturers, so we would expect performance to be at a similar level to make sure that the 1660 Ti is still a viable alternative.

The 1660 may end up as capable as an RX 580, and the 1650 as powerful as an RX 570. But this is heavily speculative at this time.

What about ray tracing?

Ray tracing ultra — Screenshot 4

Ray tracing is hard. We’ve seen that even with optimizations, ray tracing needs some seriously powerful hardware to operate at even 1080p, let alone higher resolutions. It’s a feature that costs framerates and for a series of graphics cards that would most likely be targeting good frame rates at 1080p and 1440p, ray tracing just won’t be possible on a 1660 Ti or lower without tanking performance.

Not only is the 1660 Ti and its potentially weaker brethren likely too underpowered to take advantage of ray tracing even at 1080p, but it’s a feature that will probably stay linked with the RTX branding for marketing purposes.

The GTX 16-series could be the first graphics generation of Nvidia’s transition to a dual-band graphics marketing platform where RTX represents the premium, and GTX the entry-level.

What about DLSS?

Deep learning super sampling (DLSS) is arguably the more exciting feature of the RTX-generation. It does require specific “Tensor” cores to work and the list of games that support it is still rather small, but its potential to actually improve performance without sacrificing detail means it could be a great feature for mid-range and entry-level GPUs.

Since it was bundled with the Turing GPUs and sold as a major new feature of the RTX-generation, it may be that Nvidia keeps it as an exclusive of its 2000-series, but it could also give the 16-series a major performance advantage over AMD’s hardware in compatible titles if it was offered as part of it.

It really depends on what sort of guise the 16-series takes. If the 1660 Ti ends up as an RTX 2060 with disabled ray tracing and a lower price tag, then DLSS may be a possibility. However, if it’s the Tensor and RT cores which have made the RTX-series so expensive, we may see the feature dropped to help keep the 16-series cost competitive in its bracket.

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