NVIDIA’s newly-released GTX 1660 Ti behaves almost like a new and improved GTX 1070. It comes with the new Turing architecture found in the RTX series, but without the ray-tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling technology; these premium features are still in the early stages of adoption, and aren’t useful or economical for a mid-tier GPU. The GTX 1660 Ti offers the advantages of new architecture without the expense and burden of superfluous features.
The GTX 1660 Ti achieves framerates at resolutions and settings roughly comparable to the GTX 1070. It doesn’t reach the level of a GTX 1080, but it’s an affordable upper-mid-range graphics card that will meet the needs of gamers and digital artists alike.
What would a versatile, powerful, balanced PC build look like with this GPU?
GTX 1660 Ti Specifications
Graphics Processor: TU116 (Turing)
Memory Type: GDDR6
GPU clock speed: 1500 Mhz
Boost clock speed: 1770 Mhz
The GTX 1660 Ti ranges in size from 168mm to 302mm, with fans ranging from one to three. Some versions have a boost clock up to 1890Mhz. (The version linked above is 204mm, has two fans, and features a max boost clock of 1830 MHz.) With these stats, the GTX 1660 Ti has the capacity to showcase great performance in modern games and digital art, but there’s a risk of pushing it hard and causing it to run hot. For this reason, a well-balanced PC should be built with an eye toward cooling to get the most out of the GPU.
It is important to treat this GPU as being nearly as powerful as a GTX 1070 in terms of expectations for its capabilities, and it will benefit from being paired with newer hardware.
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
AMD and Intel both offer excellent CPUs, but for this build, I would recommend going with the Ryzen 7 2700X. In terms of the price vs. performance, you will get more bang for your buck from the Ryzen 7 2700X than from the 9th-gen Intel options. It’s is a sturdy workhorse of a CPU that does an excellent job of handling gaming, graphic design, streaming, and general multitasking. It doesn’t reach the same cutting-edge performance as the new 9th-gen CPUs from Intel, but those CPUs are rather high-end and will be bottlenecked by the GTX 1660 Ti. The Ryzen 7 2700X is the perfect fit for our well-balanced build.
The Ryzen 7 2700X also comes with Precision Boost 2 and XFR2, which allows users to get more performance out of their chip. For many users, this eliminates the need to manually overclock, and offers better performance than most overclocks. These two features work best when the CPU is properly cooled, which is another reason to invest in a good cooling setup for this build.
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Shadow Rock Slim
If you’re not planning to do some serious overclocking, the stock cooler that comes with the AMD Ryzen 7 2700x is more than sufficient. The Ryzen 7 2700X comes with the Wraith Prism, which can handle a TDP of 140W. Even under full load, the Wraith Prism can handle a non-OC Ryzen 7 2700X (which is rated at a TDP of 105) and does fine even with mild overclocking.
To give the Ryzen’s Precision Boost 2 and XFR2 more headroom, we want a cooler that has a higher TDP. For this reason, I would select the Shadow Rock Slim. Its cooling capacity TDP is 160W, which is not absurdly high, but will still ensure there’s plenty of room for the Ryzen to push its max performance—with or without overclocking.
It has the added benefit of being one of the quieter fans on the market, which is a bonus for those who are sensitive to fan noise. Best of all, this CPU cooler avoids RAM clearance issues because it doesn’t extend over the RAM slots on the motherboard.
Motherboard: Asus ROG Crosshair VII Hero
This ATX motherboard comes with a boatload of useful features. It offers dual NVMe M.2 slots, eight USB 3.1 ports, thermal sensors, and a multi-colored Q-LED for troubleshooting. It comes with eight 4-pin fan headers, each with its own dedicated circuit to prevent over-heating. It’s designed to accommodate air-cooling and water-cooling options, and so if you choose to go the water-cooling route, this motherboard is ready and able to serve.
It also comes with the Asus BIOS, which is quite possibly the best BIOS available on the market. It is well-designed and intuitive to operate, and comes with features for overclocking, fan-control, RGB settings, and thermal read-outs. Choosing a BIOS is an important part of choosing the motherboard, because your BIOS is your window into the inner-workings of your machine.
Storage 1: Samsung 970 Pro 512 GB M.2-2280 SSD
The Samsung 970 Pro is a NVMe M.2 form-factor SSD, which will take advantage of one NVMe slot on the motherboard. NVMe is significantly faster than SATA, and the M.2 form factor puts this SSD in the form of a neat and unobtrusive little chip. NVMe reads, writes, and seeks data faster than just about anything else, making for a smooth user experience.
This SSD should be the SSD your operating system is installed on.
It used to be the convention, and often still is, to buy an SSD and add a larger hard-drive for storage. This is because SSDs are significantly more expensive than hard drives, and most people don’t need their secondary storage to operate at super speed.
But times and technology have changed. Rather than follow this convention, I would opt to buy a second non-NVMe SSD. For less than the price of a 512 GB Samsung 970 Pro, you can get a 1 TB Crucial SSD. This SSD will take up the other M.2 slot on the motherboard. This SSD is SATA, rather than NVMe, but it’s still faster than a hard drive.
Since this SSD is your secondary storage space rather than the primary, NVMe is not strictly necessary. But many people will happily upgrade to the Crucial P1 1 TB M.2-2280 SSD, which is NVMe, for an extra $15.
The average builder doesn’t require 2TB of storage and beyond. For most people, a combined storage space of 1.5TB is sufficient, and the faster read/write/seek times will lead to an overall better experience. If more storage is ever needed, there are plenty of SATA ports on the motherboard for future expansion.
The motherboard has four slots and supports dual-channel memory, which means that you only need two sticks to start with, and you’ve got two open slots available for future expansion. 16GB of memory is enough even for most heavy-duty multitasking applications, and DDR4-3200 RAM with a CAS of 16 is fast. Four sticks is ideal, but not essential.
If you choose to go with the Meshify C case (or any case with a glass window), you may as well go for RAM with a tiny bit of color and style.
Corsair puts out excellent PSUs, and while 650 W is excessive for this build, it can be difficult to find a well-made and well-priced PSU with a lower wattage.
It can be tempting to skimp on the power supply, but a poorly-made PSU can wind up damaging the rest of the components. A decent PSU is the best way to avoid that.
The Meshify C is a popular mid-tower case. It’s about $100, which is where most mid-range cases fall, and comes with a lot of desirable features: front-end, easily accessed USB ports; a PSU shroud with venting, which hides the PSU but still allows hot air to rise and be exhausted out the rear of the case; it holds up to six fans, including three 120mm fans along the ventilated mesh-front of the case, which is an ideal location to intake cool air. It’s got a nice glass side panel, which is all the rage these days, and the interior has an overall compact and very clean look.
Fans: Noctua NF-A14 PWM chromax 82.52 CFM 140mm Fan (x 3)
Noctua offers the best case fans on the market in terms of cooling capacity and noise level, but they’ve historically been… aesthetically challenged.
The new Noctua line of Chromax fans are the best of all worlds: they come in black, with colored accents of your choice (red, green, yellow, black, white, or blue), with 4-pin PWM and the quiet cooling of their predecessors.
Many cases can hold more than three fans, including the Meshify C. However, tests performed by Linus Tech Tips have shown that three fans is generally the optimal number of fans to get the most “bang for your buck”. We all know that adding fans improves cooling—two fans is better than one, and three is better than two. But after three fans, the rate of return takes a sharp drop. For this build, we’ll stick with three fans, two pulls in the front and one exhausting in the back.
Total Cost: $1600
All told, this build will run you about $1.6k, before you tack on a monitor and keyboard. It’s a robust, speedy and versatile build that should handle anything the average user will throw at it: modern games, livestreaming, digital painting, video and photo editing, programming, and normal browsing.
This build is set up to make the most of its components in a way that doesn’t require careful experimentation (e.g overclocking) and to facilitate hefty multitasking habits. It also leaves plenty of room for future upgrades and expansions.