EVGA GTX 780 Classified Review
EVGA’s GTX 780 lineup may hold an incredible eight different variations but their GTX 780 Classified is without a doubt the flagship. This card’s sole focus is to offer the highest possible amount of overclocking headroom to beginners and enthusiasts alike, which meshes well with the series’ pedigree. Fromm one generation to the next, it has always been Classified cards which headlined the overclocking charts and this time is no different.
Some may be wondering how EVGA can talk about this card’s overclocking prowess after their GTX 680 Classified was curtailed after launch by limiting headroom and effectively castrating EVBot support. We’ve often lamented that NVIDIA’s own policies restrict their board partners from exploring the Kepler architecture’s boundaries and the previous Classified couldn’t be a better example. Naturally, a situation like this could have left the GTX 780 version in a precarious position since much of its potential would have been inaccessible to the general buying public, rendering the numerous high-end features pointless.
The unenviable situation NVIDIA put their board partners into didn’t stop EVGA from approaching the issues from a different perspective. Instead of creating a piece of software meant only for overclockers and locking it behind iron-clad NDAs like MSI does, EVGA opened their Precision tool and the Classified’s BIOS to the public and developers. As a result, a vibrant, passionate community has been built up around the GTX 780 Classified and they’ve created a series of custom BIOS files and a number of unique applications. The modified software and BIOSes aren’t officially endorsed by EVGA but we have a feeling they’re sitting back, nodding in approval as their card runs away from the completion.
So what do these modified elements bring to the table? There’s a BIOS floating around which boosts the Power Target to 200% which Precision can take full advantage of while a custom designed Classified voltage tool offers a nearly unlimited amount of additional current. If that isn’t enough to get an overclocker salivating, we don’t know what would.
While the community involvement gives EVGA some plausible deniability, provided the PCB isn’t touched, the various community-developed additions won’t void your 3 year warranty. EVGA can offer this unheard-of support structure since there is a series of failsafes built into the card which should ensure safe operation, even in extreme conditions.
For those who aren’t willing to take the GTX 780 Classified to the next level, EVGA has implemented a robust set of specifications. With the core operating at 993MHz and Boost frequencies topping out at about 1046MHz, this is actually one of the fastest GTX 780 cards available. More importantly, due to its efficient cooling design and high efficiency components (more on those two aspects a bit later), the average frequency we saw was a staggering 1150MHz, over 200MHz faster than the reference card. These frequencies max the Classified one of the fastest GTX 780s available, one upping Gigabyte's WindForce, ASUS' DirectCU II OC and EVGA's own ACX SC.
As with ever other GTX 780 we’ve reviewed to date, memory allotment and GDDR5 frequencies remain at reference levels. This is due to the challenge in sourcing and binning modules that will reliably overclock to higher speeds. However, we can assure you that EVGA’s chosen memory has plenty of headroom.
At first glance, the Classified looks like an oversized GTX 780 ACX but there’s more here than what first meets the eye. Not only are there countless features hidden under the sleek exterior but a length of 11” and a titanic width of 5” should overcome any mistaken identity problems.
EVGA’s ACX (or Active Cooling Xtreme) cooler makes a comeback on this card but in an expanded setup with larger fin arrays for additional cooling capacity. This version is based off of EVGA’s first in-house heatsink design and like its smaller sibling, utilizes a large dual chambered heatsink layout with five chrome-plated copper heatpipes and a secondary reinforcement baseplate. This baseplate is supposed to increase rigidity while also lowering memory and VRM temperatures.
The two 80mm fans boast some impressive specifications as well. They are engineered to be extremely light, thus decreasing their acoustical signature and ensuring less power is needed for their operation. They are equipped with double ball bearings which grant a 12 year lifespan, a significant improvement over competing solutions according to EVGA.
Along the Classified’s side are a number of different connectors and other add-ons. There’s a port for EVGA’s unique tuning device, the EVBot (which is sold separately for $50) and a secondary hub for the $10 ProbeIT connector. ProbeIT is a unique take on the typical voltage read points found on many of these high-end, overclocker-friendly GPUs since it includes cabled multimeter adapters that make access infinitely easier.
EVGA has also included a dual BIOS switch on their card to change between the default setup and a preloaded custom BIOS which allows for an enhanced Power Target of 115%. Finally, there’s a number of LEDs which are supposed to glow when all components are operating with norms.
The GTX 780 Classified’s ultra widebody PCB is there for a reason: it houses an immense 14+3 phase all-digital PWM that features upgraded components. It also gives that ACX heatsink some much-needed expansion room so the fin array could be optimized for the core’s increased heat output.
Moving around to the card’s side, we have a pair of 8-pin power connectors with a total input rating of 300W. Meanwhile, the backplate may house a basic layout of HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI connectors but EVGA has expanded the cooling capabilities by adding larger ventilation slots.
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