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

    Its been a few years... so I was a bit off on the price ;P

    I've owned 3DFx, GF2/3/4/5/7 series and ATIs 9800Pro/4670.

    I paid $190 for the GF7600GT with the extra large cooler to reduce nice (Exhaust heat out the back)... and I laughed when the reviewers complained about the dual-slot being a "problem"... WTF?! Blowing heat out is better than blowing heat off the GPU and having it stay inside the case.

    After than, I spent $85 on the ATI 4670 with the HIS blower... With the way PC gaming is, I don't see the value of spending a dime over $200. And considering its been 3 years since the ATI 5000 series, the 7850 should be a $150 card at the most.

    Yes, I'm planning on the PS4 to replace my PC gaming and to rid me of Windows. NO PC games = Why use Windows?
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Console gaming has its appeals. Sitting on a nice couch in front of a 50-60 inch LED/Plasma after a long-day's of work is often more comfortable than gaming on a chair at a desk. However, that PS4 won't be $150, probably more like $400-500. Reply
  • Visual - Monday, July 23, 2012 - link

    Eh, what does your screen have to do with the rest of the hardware?
    I've been playing my PC games on a couch 2m away from a 47" TV for the last 5 years, a lot of them with a wireless XBOX360 controller as well, at least when I feel the extra precision of a mouse is not needed, and always at a resolution and details settings much better than the console alternative. I only play exclusives on the actual XBOX360. There is no way in hell I will ever consider console gaming a serious option.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    The same type of brainfart had the guy spewing nVidia has nothing below the $400 gtx670 worth buying.

    Thank you for adding a dose of reality.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    The 4850 has been below $100 for a long, long time. Brand new it has been $60 for a year.

    Now it's $40 with a special aftermarket HS
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/ASUS-ATI-Radeon-HD-4850-EA...

    Whatever, you're all screwy on numbers, as it makes it easy to moan and whine.
    Reply
  • will54 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    I read somewhere that the GTX 660 will be coming out in August and than they are going to focus on the 700 series. Not positive but I think I read on Toms Hardware. Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    WTF Anand? I post a link as a reply and its instantly marked as spam? that's bull shit. Reply
  • poohbear - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    why do you benchmark shogun 2 @ 1600p using Ultra Quality and then in 1200p you benchmark it @ very high quality? why did you drop the detail level exactly? makes no sense. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Because it was utterly unplayable at 5760x1200 at Ultra, even with 2 video cards. I'm all for bogging down a video card, but there has to be a limit. Reply
  • poohbear - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    no i mean u dropped the quality when u went down to 1980x1200. why did u do that? not many people really pay attention to 5760x1200, most of us are on 1080p (according to Steam hardware survey). Reply

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