EVGA is well known in the nVidia GPU market for their warranties, customer support, and high-end cards. They have also become a big player in the Intel motherboard market in recent years as well with their top of the line motherboards and even overclock-able dual socket boards. EVGA’s range of products consists of the mid- to high-end variety with EVGA’s Classified branding denoting their top products in both performance and overclocking. Today, we have one of those high-end products: the elusive EVGA GTX 580 Classified.
Specifications & Features
I got the tech specs by taking a screenshot of GPUz. The Classified has a hefty stock overclock on the GPU core, and this model comes with 3 GB of vRAM which can help in high resolution and/or high anti-aliasing situations.
Aside from all of the standard GTX 580 features, the Classified has a few noteworthy features.
- BIOS Switch – Switch to OC mode for voltage adjustment via Precision, disable OCP, disable thermal protection, and fix cold slow for sub zero cooling.
- Voltage Measure Points – Get accurate voltage readings straight from the graphics card.
- EVBot Support – Adjust voltages, change PWM frequency, and disable OCP all without software.
- Three PCIe Power Connectors – Provides plenty of stable power that the Classified needs while heavily overclocking.
Packaging & Accessories
EVGA’s packaging for the Classified is pretty simple and not very flashy, which I personally prefer. On the front, it has the product name, vRAM amount, and a few features listed. On the back, it goes into a little more detail on the features and shows a picture of the GTX 580 Classified.
The card is wrapped in an anti-static bag and completely surrounded by foam for protection while shipping and handling. With there being a silhouette cut into the foam and the card placed in the center, there’s no way the card will move around causing possible damage.
The accessories that come with the GTX 580 Classified are pretty typical. We have a DVI-HDMI adapter, DVI-VGA adapter, Molex-6pin adapter, Molex-8pin adapter, driver CD, documentation, case badge, and a strip of non-conductive film. The purpose of the non-conductive film is to prevent shorting in the VRM area when an aftermarket cooling solution is used. Something I wish was included in the accessories is some probes to attach to the voltage measure points that will be seen in the next section. MSI includes probes with their Lightning cards which makes using a Digital Multimeter much easier.
The GTX 580 Classified
Let’s take a look at the Classified as whole. The card isn’t flashy at all, being mostly black with a couple of red “Classified” logos. The Classified resembles a personality like the following: low-key and doesn’t try to be the center of attention, but very self confident and rightfully so. Whether or not that’s actually the case will be seen throughout the review.
Here’s a close up of the 80 mm fan with a few features printed around its circumference: 14+3 phase PWM, engineered for extreme OC, native 3-way and 4-way SLI support.
The display connectors are limited compared to other GPUs out there. The GTX 580 Classified only has two DVI connectors, so adapters will be needed for any other type of connection to a monitor. You can also see the EVBot connector to the far left where normally the mini-HDMI connector is located on nVidia GPUs. The power connectors required are two 8-pin PCIe connectors AND one 6-pin PCIe connector, which can provide plenty of power even under extreme overclocking conditions.
Looking at the back of the PCB, we can see the physical size of this card. It’s about an inch wider than reference PCBs at 5″ wide, and it’s about a half inch longer than reference PCBs coming in at 11″ in length. All that extra PCB real estate is put to good use with the beefy 14+3 phase power section. On the back of the card, there is a BIOS switch with two settings: Normal and OC. Setting the switch to OC allows for voltage adjustment, disables overcurrent protection (OCP), disables thermal protection, and enables cold slow fix when taking the GPU into sub-zero temperatures. Overcurrent protection and thermal protection are similar safety measures in case the GPU starts drawing too much power or starts getting too hot. When the OCP or thermal protection thresholds are crossed, the card will either throttle itself or shutdown to prevent damage. Cold slow is a phenomenon in which benchmark results will drop solely because the temperature is too low, the threshold at which this happens can vary.
Also, there’s an optional back plate available for the GTX 580 Classified air cooled version. The back plate is included with the Hydro Copper version of the Classified, and would have been nice to see with the air cooled version as well. It makes the back of the card look so pretty! However, I don’t believe the Classified cares how it looks since the sub-zero overclocker will remove the back plate anyway for insulation and evaporator installation.
Taking apart the GTX 580 Classified was different than a lot of cards in that everything had to be taken off individually. The shroud, 80 mm fan, core heatsink, and vRAM/VRM heatsink all are removed from the PCB separately. One thing I like about the modular design of the cooler is that you can keep the black vRAM/VRM cooler installed and change the cooler for the GPU core. In the last picture, we can also see the 14+3 phase power circuit on the card; the GPU core has 14 phases dedicated to it, and the vRAM has 3 phases.
In the next group of photos, we first see the twelve Hynix H5GQ2H24MFR-T2C vRAM chips which are rated at 2.5 GHz with 1.5 V based on documentation from Hynix. Next, we have the voltage read point connectors with white LEDs to the left of those read points. Then we have the three PCIe power connectors required from this power hungry card. I also noticed a 2-pin connector near the end of the PCB to the lower right of the power connectors. I have no idea what this connector is for, there was nothing connected to it when removing the shroud, fan, and heatsinks. The last picture shows the 4-pin power connector for the 80 mm fan.
Test Setup & Methodology
|CPU||Intel i7 2600K @ 3.4 GHz|
|Motherboard||EVGA P67 FTW|
|RAM||2×2 GB Corsair Dominator GT DDR3-1600 6-6-6-20|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 580 Classified 3 GB|
|Solid State Drive||50 GB OCZ Vertex 2|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic SS-1000XP|
|Operating System||Windows 7 x64 SP1 (24/7 OS, no fresh install)|
|Graphics Drivers||nVidia 285.62 WHQL Drivers|
|Tenma Sound Level Meter|
|Fluke 52 II Dual Input Thermometer|
|Fluke 115 True RMS Digital Multi-Meter|
The synthetic tests were run at the default settings: “Performance” for 3DMark software and “Xtreme” preset for Heaven. As for the game test, they were ran at a mainstream resolution of 1920×1080 with anti-aliasing set at the highest allowable up to x8 and all other settings at their max value.
When testing the stock cooler, the Auto fan profile was used and temperatures were monitored with EVGA Precision while running 3DMark11. The ambient temperature was measured to be 24 °C (+- 0.5 °C) with the Fluke 52 II thermometer at about 1″ from the fan’s intake. Also, the sound level (dBA) of the stock cooler was measured by placing my Tenma meter 2 feet away from the intake fan.
For system power consumption, while running benchmarks and game tests, the highest wattage reading seen on a Kill-a-Watt meter was recorded for each test.
For the synthetic and game results, I added the GTX 580 Matrix and HD 6970 IceQ to the mix to show some comparison. The Matrix was added since it is the high-end GTX 580 from Asus, and the HD6970 is AMD’s high-end single GPU card. Our other GPU reviews, including more GTX580 reviews can be found here. The reference GTX 580 was released over a year ago and there have been many non-reference models manufactured since then as well. With the many GTX 580 reviews done in the past year, I think it’s safe to assume the majority of our readers know where the GTX 580 lands on the performance hierarchy by now. Nevertheless, on to the stock testing!
The synthetic results at stock clocks are pretty much on par with what I expected, even though the Classified is clocked higher than the Matrix. The Classified and Matrix trade blows in tests, except for the one outlier here is 3DMark06 turned up 11.2% better on the Matrix. There are a couple things that could have attributed to that increase. It could be differences between my test setup and the one used in our Matrix review and/or normal variance in benchmark runs. My setup is different in RAM speed, drivers, and OS. My benches were done on my 24/7 Windows 7 install since that’s what the majority of people looking to buy a GPU to run at stock will be using.
The same goes for the game testing as did with the synthetic testing. We have the Classified and Matrix trading blows again in these tests, and we even have one outlier in favor of the Matrix. HAWX 2 DX10 happened to be ~10% better on the Matrix for some reason. Also, the HD 6970 didn’t seem to stack up very well at all with the GTX 580’s, coming in between 23-39% slower in three out of the five tests.
Stock Cooling & Noise
The stock cooling on the Classified worked well enough. I used the Auto fan profile while testing on air and temps would get into the mid 70s °C with ambient at 21 °C, and that wasn’t at a quiet fan speed either. That’s the real downside to the stock
leaf blower style cooler, it’s not quiet by any means. The fastest I could run the fan without the noise bothering me was between 25% and 50%, so maybe 37% or so. The EVGA Classified’s cooler is louder than the DirectCuII and TwinFrozrIII coolers of the Asus Matrix and MSI Lightning by around 5-6 dBA at 100% fan speeds based on testing I did for this review. Since decibels are measured in a log scale and directly proportional to the acoustic intensity, those 5-6 decibels means the Classified can have up to 105/10 to 106/10 (or simplified to roughly 3-4) times the acoustic intensity of the DCuII and TFIII coolers, assuming constant particle velocity.
System Power Consumption
The total system power consumption never reached the 400 W mark during testing while the CPU and GPU were both running at stock clocks and voltages. However, when I cranked the voltages and clocks while on water cooling I was seeing 550-560 W from my Kill-a-Watt. So, it’s possible to squeeze some serious watts out of this thing when overclocking.
Now that we have the stock results out of the way, which many people could have guessed, it’s time to have some fun! Let’s find out how well the GTX580 Classified does at what it was designed to do, overclock!
Precision is EVGA’s GPU overclocking program, which allows for core, shader, and vRAM clock adjustment. The recently released Precision v2.1.1 also allows for core, PLL, and vRAM voltage control. Before the release of v2.1.1 of Precision, EVGA’s ELeet software was required for the voltage adjustment and Precision was required for the clock adjust. It’s nice to see they combined the two features into one easy-to-use program. Precision allows for up to 1.300 V on the core (1.275 V measured with DMM).
Another EVGA program useful when overclocking a GPU is their OC Scanner, which is a program that stresses the GPU and scans for artifacts simultaneously to help determine whether an overclock is stable or not.
The EVBot is a great on-the-fly overclocking device that only works with EVGA motherboards and GPUs via a proprietary connector. Also, EVBot has to have a EVBot compatible motherboard for flashing firmware; it cannot be flashed through a GPU connection. Unfortunately, 1155 boards are not compatible with EVBot, so I couldn’t flash it to a GTX 580 Classified specific firmware.
Without the proper firmware and no way to flash the EVBot, these are the only options I had in EVBot with the GTX580 Classified. I was allowed to disable overcurrent protection (OCP) and set the core voltage to a max of 1.300 V, PLL voltage to a max of 1.221 V, and vRAM voltage to a max of 1.905 V. One thing to note about the core voltage, is that when 1.300 V is set with the EVBot, the actual voltage is 1.32 V measured with a DMM, and it will show 1.31825 V in Precision even though you aren’t allowed to set that voltage with Precision. With the proper firmware I should be able to adjust core voltage up to 1.800 V and adjust the PWM frequency at the least.
Overclocking on air was done with the stock cooler’s fan profile set to Auto while staying below 80°C on the GPU core. I realize the TJmax for these GPUs are around 100 °C, but I like keeping mine cooler than just a few degrees below the TJmax. So, I started increasing clocks at stock voltage (1.13125 V) with short OC Scanner testing between increments. When I got up to 935 MHz on the core, the temps were reaching the upper 70s °C so that’s where I stopped. I also got the vRAM up to 1188 MHz with its voltage at stock 1.595 V, the chips are rated to 2500 MHz at 1.5 V so the voltage shouldn’t need increasing.
Let’s move on to overclocking with a quieter and better performing cooling solution, a custom water loop.
For the water cooling overclocking, I used an EK-VGA Supreme HF block and a Swiftech MCR420 radiator with four Gentle Typhoon AP-15 fans. I was really happy that I was able to keep the vRAM and VRM heatsink installed and still get good contact between the waterblock and the GPU core. So, the RAM and VRMs should remain cool and allow for some decent overclocking results.
First thing I did was increase the the core voltage and PLL voltage to their max values, 1.3 V and 1.221 V respectively, to see where I could get with maxed voltages and check out the hottest temperatures I would be seeing on the core. I used EVGA OC Scanner for 5 minutes between core clock increases and I stopped after being able to run OC Scanner with a core clock of 1100 MHz. I decided to try running 3DMark11 at 1100 MHz because I wasn’t believing 1100 MHz to be bench-able on water at 1.3 V. As I suspected, 3DMark 11 failed at 1100 MHz and failed at 1085 MHz, but I was able to consistently complete the benchmark at 1075 MHz on the core. After I finished with the core, my goal was to get the vRAM running at their rated 2500 MHz. So, I set the vRAM to 2500 MHz and started increasing the voltage from the stock 1.595 V and used 3DMark11 to test. The drivers crashed quite a few times and usually crashed very early in the benchmark on Graphics Test 1, so testing went quickly. I ended up getting the vRAM to run at 2500 MHz with the voltage set to 1.705 V. Also, not only could the GPU passed a 7-looped session of 3DMark11, it would also pass the entire STALKER benchmark at these clocks. So, I would feel safe trying to use these clocks as a 24/7 overclock until any issues start popping up.
Throughout the testing for max overclock, the temperatures of the core stayed very cool with the EK universal block only getting up to 38 °C while running OC Scanner! This was my first time with a GPU being water cooled and I was simply stunned at the max core temperature while testing.
Finally, on to the best cooling solution at my disposal, a phase change unit!
I used a 2-stage cascade unit for taking the GTX580 Classified cold. The cascade kept the GPU at around -110 °C when idle and the hottest temps that I saw throughout the session was -76 °C. This was also my first time taking any GPU cold; it was a lot of fun and a good learning experience. When I first tried booting with the card cold, I would get into Windows fine, but quickly get patterned artifacts. This issue turned out to be the vRAM getting too cold, so I had to increase the vRAM voltage to keep the Hynix chips warm.
I increased the core speed by 5 MHz increments starting at 935 MHz and running 3DMark11 after each increase to test “stability”. I ended up getting to 1135 MHz with the CPU at stock speed and 1130 MHz with the CPU at 5188 MHz. The vRAM seemed really flaky and I was only able to get 1100 MHz on the vRAM with up to 1.775 V which is less than I got on air at 1.595 v and less than I got water at 1.705 V.
I only got 55-60 MHz more out of the core on the cascade over the water loop which confirms I’m either limited by the 1.32 V allowed by EVBot and Precision or that I have a really bad GPU core for cold benching, I’m betting on the former.
- i7 2600K: 5188 MHz @ 1.541 V cooled with a Thermalright Venomous X and a shrouded San Ace 109R1212H101 at 100%
- GTX580 Classified: 1130/1100 MHz @ 1.32/1.24/1.775 V (voltage measured with my DMM)
I’m very pleased with the GTX580 Classified’s showing. It’s a highly overclock-able card even on ambient cooling. It was designed to be overclocked and it shows starting with the pictures of the power section all the way through to the overclocking results. The vRAM and VRM heatsink can be kept installed while running my water loop or cascade to help with cooling the Classified’s 14+3 phase power section. EVGA has a couple of good applications when it comes to overclocking their GPUs too, Precision and OC Scanner. EVBot support for the GTX 580 Classified is a nice touch for the extreme overclockers out there as long as they can get the correct firmware on their EVBot.
There were a few disappointments, but nothing major. The first being that there were no probes included to plug into the voltage measurement points on the card to make monitoring voltage hands free. MSI supplies those with their Lightning cards, and it would be good to see EVGA do the same. Also, the stock cooler really isn’t any good at all if one plans to use this card overclocked 24/7 on air, the noise to performance ratio is just too high for my liking. However, this card was designed for serious overclocking so I would guess the stock cooler was the least of EVGA’s concerns and they just needed something that worked. Finally, it would have been nice to see EVGA include the backplate with the air cooled card like they do with the Hydro Copper cooled card.
The 3 GB version of the air cooled GTX 580 Classified goes for $600 on Newegg and EVGA’s website, but they are out of stock a lot. The $600 price tag is $50 more than the cheapest 3 GB GTX 580 on Newegg, but given the overclocking features of this card, I believe the extra $50 to be well worth it. I also noticed I don’t see the 1.5 GB versions listed any more, not even on EVGA’s website… I’m not sure if those models were discontinued or what. However, there is a new model with the “Ultra” branding reminiscent of the 8800 Ultra from 4-5 years ago. If you remember the release of the 8800 Ultra, then don’t worry; the Ultra branding doesn’t mean the card is priced at over $800 like the 8800 Ultra. The Classified Ultra comes with a 900 MHz default core clock for an additional $20, but as with most factory overclocked cards, that’s just a waste of $20. From reading around the ‘net, there seems to be demand for the GTX580 Classified, but not enough supply. The lack of availability of these cards makes the Classified branding ironically fitting…
Overall, the EVGA Classified lives up to the Classified name without a doubt. So, strap a better cooling solution on it, whether it be ambient or subzero, and then clock to the moon. The card especially exceeded my expectations on ambient cooling by a long shot. Not to mention I was limited by a low core voltage of 1.32 V while sub zero, so I’m confident this card has a lot left in the tank. In my opinion, the GTX580 Classified has earned the right to be in the top tier of GTX580 graphics cards.
– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)