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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  • Grooveriding - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Very disappointing card for that price. $660 for this ?

    The MSI GTX 680 Lightning can also be overclocked and overvolted, showed higher overclocks, has a better cooler and costs less than this card.

    More disappointment from EVGA along with their scaled back warranty and the need to pay them additional money for extended warranty coverage/stepup program.

    /thumbs down
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    $740 for the EVBot controller + a card with a blower fan, dinky heatsink (compared to MSI Lightning 7970/680 and Sapphire TOXIC 7970) is overpriced imo. It's not like the extra 100mhz or 4GB of VRAM over 2GB 1230-1290mhz GTX680s will make this card more future proof for next generation games.

    To make it even more laughable, this card isn't even close to the fastest factory preoverclocked GTX680 either:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    If I wanted the best single-GPU with bragging rights, I'd rather get the GTX690 at that point. The 690 would be much faster and quieter and actually be good to go for next gen games. This seems like a marketing exercise.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    The thing is that I really don't consider a blower to be a negative thing here. This card barely passed 50dB under load, and at the same time it's fully exhausting. Open air coolers have their place, but not having to worry about additional case cooling is quite convenient. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Ya, I agree that this blower is one of the better ones. But even from your review, the blower was struggling to keep this card under 70*C with overvolting. Under regular overclocking, it worked perfectly fine but the card only reached 1211MHz (1301 with GPU Boost). Those clocks are nothing special and plenty of $500-560 GTX580s such as Gigabyte Windforce 3x, Asus Direct CUII, Zotac AMP!, Galaxy KFA2 can reach those clocks. So the question is why is this card $660? 4GB of VRAM is a waste at 1080/1200P and at 2560x1600 with AA, 1.2ghz HD7970 is faster.

    But if you are going to overvolt, the cooler suddenly becomes a limitation, especially after buying EVBot for $740. Suddenly you aren't too far off from a real special card - GTX690 - that's actually going to be fast enough to play today's and next generation games. Going from 1301mhz to 1377mhz with volt mod is not going to make GTX680 any better for newer games since that's not good enough, especially after you consider that because it gets too hot, the delta is less than 76mhz in actual gaming.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    The overvolted card reached 83C in the review - but the max recommended temp for a GTX 680 is 98C. It did that keeping the noise down to 56.3dB.

    I tell you what I think - the people that have problems with EVGA's choice of cooling here is simply that it's not sexy. The fact that it works well is secondary.

    The overclocked Classified is faster than the 7970GE in 4/5 games @ 2560x1600 in this review. It's faster in 5/9 of them.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Monday, July 23, 2012 - link

    I don't think you can call 56.3dB "keeping the noise down", though. That's approaching conversational levels of noise - more importantly the fans on blower heat-sinks sound subjectively worse; less like the broadband noise of a desk fan and more like the drone of a hair-dryer.

    So, it's not all about "style". There are other legitimate concerns at play here.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    " Supplying this power is a pair of 8pin PCIe power sockets, which means on paper the GTX 680 Classified can safely draw up to 375W. In practice it’s not clear whether GK104 can actually take that, at least with air cooling, so pushing this card much beyond 300W is mostly in the realm of hardcore water and liquid nitrogen overclockers. "

    blag blah blah blah: is overpriced imo. It's not like the extra 100mhz or 4GB of VRAM

    blah blah blah blah: To make it even more laughable
    blah blah blah blah: Those clocks are nothing special
    blah blah blah blah: This seems like a marketing exercise

    You seem like a moron.
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Sunday, September 02, 2012 - link

    We were discussing this card's value vs. the GTX680 Lightning. It's worse than the Lightning in overclocking, price and noise levels. Compared to the 7970, it's ridiculously overpriced and will get beaten by a 1250mhz 7970. So there are at least 2 better options on the market: GTX680 Lightning and Sapphire Vapor-X 7970 GE. Plus, at these prices, you can now get HD7950 Crossfire or catch a sale on 2 GTX670s for $340 each. Sorry but $660 for the Classified is a rip-off.

    As of September 2, this overpriced pile of garbage is still $660 on Newegg, and then you need to add $60+ for EVBot = $720:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    That's a joke and a half. Almost $300 more than the Vapor-X, $180 more than the GTX680 Lightning, and still more expensive than the fastest single GPU this round: Sapphire TOXIC 7970.

    Plus, this Classified pile of overpriced marketing will get owned by $640 MSI TwinFrozr III 7950s in CF or $730 GTX670 SLI.

    Seriously, only non-nonsensical fanboish noise comes out of your mouth. Even among NV's choices, this card is terrible.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    Nice link to a deactivated product in which 4/9 of the people that bought it had trouble. I wonder why it was deactivated? Speaks to the quality of your entire post. "Dinky heatsink". Did you read any of the article at all?

    Yeah, I'm going to be spending all my video card money on Galaxy products, for sure. I especially like that their card had one DisplayPort and 3 HDMI ports. I'm sure I'm going to run 3 TVs off it.
    Reply
  • ubernator44 - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    alright so you must realize that:
    1; you will never see the potential out of this card with only air or normal liquid cooling.

    2; because of #1 anyone who isnt into phase change/ln2/ or sub zero cooling thinks this is a waste.

    you must realize that this thing has 18 power phases O.o like holy crap. the only real perk this card has is its amazing ability to reach extreme clocks at low voltages given the fact you use subzero cooling. anything else is just not adiquate. so yes, for 90% of people, this thing is a 660 dollar brick, for us extreme overclockers, this is a godsend! just look at kingpin and what he got off this beast. for you gamers out there that only use a max of normal liquid cooling, a 680 FTW+ is probly all you will want to pay for. anything else (like this card) is useless to you. so yes, amazing card, small market target, but they made it anyway, which is rare for a company to do!
    Reply

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