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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  • ubernator44 - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    edit, sorry 17 phases :P 14+3 phases :P Reply
  • san1s - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    This isn't really intended for ordinary gamers, but rather overclockers using exotic cooling. In that case, the overclocking features this card provides makes it a far more valuable card to them in comparison to reference cards. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Ya, but in that case the MSI Lightning 680 imo is the better card. It has more premium components and is also ready for LN2. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    And has a 375 W ceiling..... right.... Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    As far as cooling solution, that's just your opinion, (actually from what I've read it's wrong because the Lightning gets warmer) and a lot of people aren't going to like MSI's because they want the warm air moved out of the case.

    The big kicker for me though is the 4GB of memory; if you plan on running 3x 2560x1440, 2GB just isn't enough. I'm an MSI fan, but I can't use their product to fill my needs. If I want 4GB and "unlocked voltage" my only choice is the EVGA Classified.
    Reply
  • Amoro - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I wonder why the SC version is the only one with overclocked memory. Does that mean that overclocking the memory isn't valuable? Typo maybe? Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Probably because stable memory overclocking is difficult to achieve when you are trying to drive double the VRAM. Seeing 4GB of VRAM seems to be overkill, keeping 2GB of VRAM and increasing memory clocks would probably have been more worthwhile although it doesn't quite have the same marketing ring to it as "4GB". Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    I wondered where all the blabbering amd fanboys skittered off to in their constant 3GB ram drone psychosis....

    Let me just share a quote : " Quote :

    The 4GB -- Realistically there was not one game that we tested that could benefit from the two extra GB's of graphics memory. Even at 2560x1600 (which is a massive 4 Mpixels resolution) there was just no measurable difference. "

    LOL

    So now the blabbering jerks will yapper about cost, complain about the 7970 6GB being "superior" and have the most enormous and gigantic brain fart concerning their endlessly godless and irritatingly stupid 3GB ram superiority dance vs 2GB 680 670.

    It's a freaking TOTAL BLACKOUT at alcoholic blood toxic death level.

    Just wait, because no amount of evidence will do it for the amd fanboy, and their masters at amd have known this for years, and have been playing them like a retarded out of tune fiddle gets played. A week or a day on they will be back at it, on some other article , any webspot they land... and the brain fart will be what they are not even aware of.
    It's clear how Hitler came to power.
    Reply
  • mpschan - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Where are their mid-range offerings? Where are their $200-300 cards on this latest architecture?

    I'm starting to think that by the time we see a 660 AMD will be releasing their 8000 series.
    Reply
  • superccs - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Yeah I totally clicked on this article thinking it was a 660 review. WTF? Nvida, you no like midrange anymore?

    Bork!
    Reply

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