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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  • SteveLord - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I too have been waiting on a mid range offering. This is crap nVidia....... Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    What's wrong with HD7850 for $200-210 or MSI TwinFrozr HD7950 $310, both with 30-40% overclocking headroom? HD7950 @ 1.1ghz > GTX680. No point in waiting for this mythical GTX660Ti. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    You have the mythical $200 or $210 7850 that bottom price is running anyone $220 for the crappiest version around.

    Why do you people always talk lies ?
    Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    nVidia will launch the 660 part on the day the entire Radeon 8xxx series shows up. On the very day.

    I know I've waited forever and a day for it, too. I've given up hope. I think it's a myth at this point. A story grandpappies tell their youngin's. A tall tale.

    The Geforce 660 is a legend wrapped in a mystery drizzled with lies and peppered with vague promise.
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Rumor: August 16th for 660 series. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    What does midrange mean to you ? The 460 560 560ti 570 580 have "midrange" covered... unless of course you mean non mid mid range, or middler lwor midrange, or range of ranges unranged of which there are none....

    WHAT are you people expecting ? What cards exactly is this mythical purportedly missing midrange supposed to fall in between for you ?

    I'm serious, it's been many, many months, but by logic alone, there isn't a card spot you so desire, and by absolute omission for just as long....

    What the freak do you people expect ? The only thing I can possibly imagine is a "midrange card" that falls above the 580, above the 7870, above the 6970, below a stock 670... and costs perhaps "$150=$200" for your "midrange budget" - right ?

    I don't get it. Won't one of you midrange wannabes explain it - sometime before it appears, or like is the fantasy supposed to be an absolute mystery forever ?
    Reply
  • Galidou - Sunday, August 05, 2012 - link

    What do we expect?? Mid range prices with last gen top of the line performance but new gen power consumption and temperatures.... Seems pretty clear to me. Ok you need an example... gtx 560ti between gtx470-480 performance but less power and lower temperatures so I don't have to change power supply if I go sli nor change my case, in the end, save some money and game as well + overclock better.

    Everything that came out from nvidia from THIS very generation is overkill for gaming at 1080p, and that's the most used resolution in the whole freaking world, end of the discussion... who do you beleive you are criticizing everyone's desire/needs? GOD?
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Ok, well thanks for trying.
    However, nothing is overkill for 1080P, they ALL have to be turned down except the TOP duals.
    So a 680 and 7970 are underkill for 1920 1200 + 1920 x 1080.
    Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Remember when the 4850 first came out as a $250 card... yet eventually ended up as a $100 card. Even todays modern $100 video cards are not much faster than the 4850... and that card is over 4 years old!

    If we go by the usual scale of GPU performance increases at targeted price points...

    For today, we should be able to get the performance of a 5870 card at a $100 price.

    What do we have? The 6870 is slightly slower than the 5870 (great model naming there AMD - idiots), it costs about $155. (okay, the 5870 was a $500 card).

    The smaller and cheaper to make 7850 is slightly faster than the 5870, but it costs about $225?! The 6870 is a better deal since its $75 cheaper yet about 7% slower.

    So realistically, the $130 7770 is over-priced as its 2/3rd the performance for a $20~30 savings over the older 6870.

    Of course, the 5770/ 6770 and 7770 are all pretty much the same card... not impressive.
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    MSRP for the HD4850 was $199, HD4870 was $299. HD4850 was never $250.

    I agree with you that most of the performance increase in GPUs has happened in the $250+ level. Although HD7850 OCed = GTX580. The 7850 can be found for $200-230 no problem and GTX580 cost $500 just 1.5 years ago. So it is progress, just not as fast as in the past.

    It's too expensive to make fast GPUs in the ~ $100 level. If you can only afford $100-130 GPUs, I think you are better off just getting a PS4 or the next Xbox. The allure of the PC are the games you can't play on consoles, controls, mods and better graphics and much cheaper game prices. $300 for a GPU isn't expensive when you consider the prices of games on the PC.

    But ya I agree with you that HD7750/7770 are a joke. The latter is just 25-30% fater than a 2.5 year old HD5770. NV has nothing for less than <$400 (GTX670) worth buying. I guess that's what happens when wafer prices rise and the market for <$100 GPUs disappears.
    Reply

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