As NVIDIA’s 28nm GPU supply situation has improved over the past couple of months we have seen their partners finally begin to branch out with unique designs. The first such cards were the requisite factory overclocked models, and more recently semi-custom and finally fully-custom cards have started appearing.

With the floodgates finally open for custom cards we have recently received several different GeForce cards covering a range of performance levels, prices, and cooler configurations. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be taking a look at such GTX 670 and GTX 680 cards from Asus, EVGA, MSI, and Zotac. NVIDIA is going through a period of tight control over their partners’ designs, but this hasn’t stopped their partners from putting their own unique touches on their cards.

Nowhere is this embodied more than with our first card, EVGA’s GeForce GTX 680 Classified. In EVGA’s product hierarchy the Classified is their top of the line product, where they typically go all-out to make customized products to scratch the itch of overclockers and premium buyers alike. The GTX 680 Classified in turn is EVGA’s take on a premium GTX 680, resulting in a card that is monstrous in virtually every sense of the word. What has EVGA seen fit to do with their fully-custom GTX 680, and does it live up to the hype and the price tag that comes with the Classified name? Let’s find out.

EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Condensed Product Lineup
  EVGA GTX 680 Classified EVGA GTX 680 FTW+ EVGA GTX 680 SC EVGA GTX 680
Stream Processors 1536 1536 1536 1536
Texture Units 128 128 128 128
ROPs 32 32 32 32
Core Clock 1111MHz 1084MHz 1058MHz 1006MHz
Boost Clock 1176MHz 1150MHz 1124MHz 1058MHz
Memory Clock 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5 6.208GHz GDDR5 6.008GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 4GB 4GB 2GB 2GB
Price $659 $629 $519 $499

Perhaps before we start anywhere else, it’s best to start with a quick explanation of our particular interest in fully-custom video cards.

All things considered, NVIDIA usually turns out solid reference card designs. For their high-end single-GPU cards NVIDIA typically uses balanced designs that are reasonably quiet, reasonably cool, and have some degree of overclocking potential. On the other hand NVIDIA also tends to go conservative in some ways, with NVIDIA favoring blowers so that their reference cards work in most cases, and rarely overbuilding their cards in order to keep the manufacturing cost of the card down.

This is where custom cards come in. NVIDIA’s reference design is a jack of all trades but master of none, which leads to their partners creating custom products not only to differentiate themselves from each other, but to target specific niches that the reference design doesn’t do a good job of covering. Even just replacing the cooler while maintaining the reference board – what we call a semi-custom card – can have a big impact on noise, temperatures, and can improve overclocking. But at the end of the day there’s only so much you can do with NVIDIA’s reference boards, particularly when it comes to form factors and overclocking. This leads us to fully-custom cards.

The bulk of fully-custom designs for such a high-end GPU are intended to focus on overclocking, and for good reason. Because NVIDIA is shying away from hardcore overclocking on the GeForce 600 series – something we’ll get to in a bit – to push GK104 to its limit and beyond a fully-custom card is necessary. These kinds of custom cards primarily allow partners to lay down bigger, better, and more VRM circuitry to improve power delivery and allow more power to be delivered overall, but it also allows partners to try their hand at improving the memory bus, adding support for additional memory chips (for more memory in total), and adding features above and beyond what NVIDIA directly provides. Whereas NVIDIA needs to worry about the larger market partners can worry about their niches, and in the world of premium cards it’s all about pushing GPUs to their peak.

This brings us to EVGA’s GeForce GT X 680 Classified, a card that embodies all of these design principles. Fundamentally of course it’s a factory overclocked GTX 680, with EVGA shipping the card at 1111MHz for the core clock and 6GHz memory, representing a 105MHz (10%) core overclock, but no memory overclock. The factory overclock is only half of the story though, as more so than any other GTX 680 card the GTX 680 Classified is meant to be overclocked. Even without voltage adjustment the card has a fair bit of headroom thanks to the binning EVGA does for its product lineup, and with voltage adjustment the limits can be pushed even further. But more on that in a bit.

Meet The EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Classified
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  • plonk420 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    i'm kinda more interested in 8xMSAA or 4xSSAA... Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Ahh, okay, I see what you mean.

    So the short answer is that the memory requirements on Ultra are so high that we wouldn't be able to test most of our previous-generation 1GB cards at 1920 if we used it. I did want to have Ultra in there somewhere so that was the compromise I had to make to balance that with the need for a useful test at 1920.

    Though I will agree that it's unorthodox.
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    At the same time that would be pretty useful to see if GTX570/580 run out of VRAM in Shogun with Ultra settings at 1080P. What if GTX660Ti only has 1.5GB of VRAM? We'd want to know if it's already starting to become a bare minimum in games :) Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    The 570 and 580 don't run out, but the 5750, 5870, and 6950 1gb and 6970 1gb do. A lot of amd fans have those 1gb cards because as usual, the amd fan is all about scrimping pennies and claiming they have the best anyway. Sad, isn't it.

    Sadder is the 1920x1200 rez they use here, which allows crap amd cards to lose by less when most people have 1920x1080 where nVidia stomps on amd ever harder, because as usual, amd fan boys are hacking away over pennies and buy the much cheaper and far more common 1920x1080 monitors instead of 1920x1200, saving $50 minimum amd more like $100+.

    So, amd loses, all around, again, as usual.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    There is no "1200p"

    Catch-phrases like "720p" and "1080p" refer to television formats; they aren't just the vertical pixel number. 1920x1200 is not a television standard, and the "p" is superfluous.

    ;)
    Reply
  • LtGoonRush - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    While EVGA's cooler is an improvement over stock, I wonder how a capable card like this would perform if paired with an high performance cooler like the Arctic Accelero Xtreme III. Kepler-based cards drop their boost clocks above 70C to compensate for increased leakage, so it would be interesting to see how fast this card could get while staying below that mark. Even at maximum RPMs the fans would probably be quieter than this one. Reply
  • pandemonium - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    I can't understand where the market for this card is. Wait, nevermind. I forgot how many nVidia fanbois there are out there... Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    So true. $740 GTX680 with a volt-mod kit vs. $450 HD7970 that overclocks on stock voltage to 1.175V and gives the same performance. NV marketing machine FTW! Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    Amd cards never give the same performance as they lack so many features.
    you can perhaps, if you're lucky, get an fps only equivlanet in a few old games, or a hacked equivalent with crappy IQ that I'm sure you cannot see anyway, and in that case your power/performance is a big fat loser too - we cannot suddenly forget that for just this latest round when it was the most important point ever made for several years just prior now can we...
    pffffft !~
    Reply
  • ypsylon - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Not with this card. When you buy reference for liquid cooling then you can't go wrong with EVGA. Best cards around. When you buy EVGA Hydrocopper - you can't go wrong. But EVGA Classified are usually only highly overpriced reference designs. Yes there are tweaks here and there, but for max performance [air cooler] out of GTX family most people [including my humble person] go to MSI TwinFrozr3 Lighting/EX.or Asus 3 slot bricks (name escapes me).

    Lately EVGA sliding with theirs top offerings. SR-X motherboard is cruel joke when compared to ASUS dual CPU creation and now this. Another misfire.

    But I think EVGA doesn't care too much. They have devoted customers who buy everything EVGA without thinking...
    Reply

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