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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  • Belard - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    This card is so old-school looking... like an Atari 2600... or 70s camera. Reply
  • ekon - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Few people are aware that EVGA was in the compact camera business back in the 70s:

    http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=65bac5&s=6
    Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Wow, Amazing!

    Its so cool how a 1970s camera's lens look just like a blower! What were the chances!

    :)
    Reply
  • Belard - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    Kinda funny. I showed my 7yr old the big picture of this EVGA GTX 680 classified card and he said "it looked really old"... wow.

    For the retro- look, it does look nice. There will come a time when the computer toys we have today will look like OLD OLD junk.

    If mankind makes it another 100 years, our PCs, tablets and GPUs would be like telegraph equipment.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    That's an amazing comment considering the years long AMD standard block look on 99% plus AMD cards we've been treated to.

    I remember being sick to my stomache seeing the same old red red red red red pcb on them all. Finally one amd fan promoter claimed he had a blue pcb amd card and linked a pic but it has the same old sad red square cover with the black lines.

    I do realize when the amd double D breast design recently hit many fanboys went into some sort of sexually perverse mental mode, but that shouldn't wipe out the endless years of amd standard fare we were all tortured with.

    In the case of this card, there's a lot of white on the outside I haven't seen anywhere else, the white "top" with printing will be staring at you out of the case, something so many cards have been oblivious too for far too long... then we also have the black carbon look - another unusual feature although with the fanboysim over anything and everything black that is understandable as I'm sure their pr boys figured that part a clear win, sadly enough.
    Reply
  • Haravikk - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    With 4gb RAM it seems like it's almost intended to be the ultimate Second Life card; powerful enough to handle that app's mediocre but insanely demanding graphics with the RAM to hold all the hundreds of overly high-resolution textures plastered onto every visible surface.

    But for $660 I'm not sure it's worth the novelly =)
    Reply
  • dave1_nyc - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    OK, I know that this is trivial, but the previous Classified at least looked kinda cool and unique. This one seems visually unappealing. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    But once you put it in the case, usually within a few minutes of having an insane "unboxing" session much like a religious pilgrimage with a possible absolutely boring youtube minutes somehow considered a "treat" by the disturbed (of which there are many), you shove it in the case and put on the side cover... never to really see it ever again in it's fully glory, until it's death.

    What you will see is the big fat WHITE laberl and red classified printing jamming at your face if you have a side window..... clearly the most important aspect - even though 98% don't have a window to look through... but if you do - you're set.

    Don't mind me - I'm still amazed how "the feel" of some look makes it or breaks it for 99% of the retarded humans that surround me - especially when "the looking" is done like .000001% of the time as in the case of these video cards.

    It must have to do with their estrogen levels I tell myself, or maybe they don't have a girlfriend and that's why...
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    > Software overvoltage control is forbidden.

    I can understand this for the reference design. But for custom designs? WTF?!
    Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    The instant I saw the original 680 I said that the 256bit memory bus was going to limit it severely. Even before I saw any other stats for the thing I knew id never buy one. Nvidia was cheap when they released the 680 because they saw what the 7970 was putting out and they said we'll call our 660 midrange our 680 high end and we can make more money (also love the fact that you guys test the handful of games that amd's 7 series beats the nvidia 6 series... not cherry picking your benchmarks at all nooo).

    This card does push the 680 to its limit which is cool and all but it just proves that a) the 256bit mem bus is still a midrange card designator no matter how much they claim gddr5 is fast enough to not need more than that... it does. And b) Nvidia could have pushed the 680's base clock up much higher and, while it would still be bottle necked bad, it would have been more attractive.

    Bring on the 700 series Im done with the 6's
    Reply

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