I decided on a 660 Ti.
My first choice was the ASUS TOP model (GTX660 TI-DC2T-2GD5). They weren't available when the other manufacturers' 660 Ti cards were launched, but a note from an ASUS rep encouraged me to wait a week or two. I waited for several weeks, and the card has finally started to appear on a few web sites, but none of them have any stock on hand. One vendor's site says these cards are being drop shipped from the manufacturer. I guess ASUS isn't receiving very many chips that work well at TOP speeds. I would have purchased on backorder and waited for mine to arrive, none of the vendors that list this model have a good return policy.http://www.google.com/search?q=asus+gtx ... shop&gbv=1
That might be just as well. The ASUS card does look impressive (and quiet) on paper, but browsing the forums regarding their 670 TOP model revealed that a lot of folks had stability problems with that one. I'd hate to get stuck with a card that started overheating after I could no longer return it to the vendor. The RMA process has a reputation for being slow and painful.
The next step down in the ASUS line (GTX660 TI-DC2O-2GD5), which is overclocked a bit less than the TOP, would have been my second choice. I decided against it because (a) the vendor with the best return policy doesn't include the Borderlands 2 coupon with this model, and (b) I think it's safe to assume that this model is built with the second-best GF104 chips that ASUS gets, since they would naturally save the best for their more expensive TOP model. Some might argue that this would only matter for overclockers and that each DC2O card would be tested to work just fine at its stock base clock rate, but keep in mind that this GPU does automatic clock boosting and throttling depending on temperature, meaning that one chip might test as perfectly stable but still not perform as well as another chip with the same base clock. I think I'm much more likely to get a card that does well at its full range of stock clock rates if I don't choose one from a manufacturer who reserves the best chips for a more expensive model.
The MSI card (N660 Ti PE 2GD5/OC) was my next choice, until I learned about its "dust removal technology". Apparently, when it first powers up, it runs its fans in reverse at 100% (which is quite loud) for at least 30 seconds. I thought at first that I would be okay with this, but when I considered that my current card (an EVGA 8800 GTS 512) spins its fan loudly for just 3-5 seconds at every boot and that it sometimes irritates me, I figured 30 seconds of that might be too much for me. Then I read a report that the MSI card actually does this continuously until the operating system is fully booted and the driver has fully loaded, meaning that any time spent on a filesystem check or a dual-boot screen is also time during which the fans are quite loud. That made me sure that I didn't want the MSI. Even if more than 30 seconds of noise turned out to be a rare experience, I'm sure it would remind me every time that I paid $300 for a needlessly irritating device. I'd rather my money go to a company that designs with humans in mind.
Giving up on ASUS and MSI was a little disappointing, since both their coolers look quite sturdy and both have some kind of anti-dust system in place. I got over it when I considered that I don't really need either. Nobody is swinging hammers around inside my computer, and I have filters in place to keep most of the dust out of there even in my dusty home.
I finally settled on the Gigabyte GV-N66TOC-2GD. It was in stock at amazon for the same price as most non-overclocked 660 Ti cards. The return policy there is quite good. It came with the Borderlands 2 download coupon. It performed quite well in the most thorough review of these cards that I've read*, in some cases even beating the MSI and the ASUS TOP (which is overclocked higher) on both frame rate and temperature. Also, it's quiet. That same review measured it as slightly quieter than the ASUS TOP at idle (which is when quiet is most important to me) and only a little louder at full load.
Best of all, I'm not still sitting around waiting for an ASUS card to arrive. I have my card now, it's doing well in my tests so far, and the cooler is among the quietest I've ever encountered. (Possibly the quietest at idle.) I think I made the right choice.
*The review I mentioned is at hardwarecanucks.com. Page 21
is especially interesting, as it shows a possible explanation for the ASUS TOP being outperformed by cards with lower clock rates. It's worth noting that ASUS released new firmware since that review, but I haven't seen any measurements comparing clock behavior between the old and new firmware, so I don't know if it's any more stable.