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Whether it’s a motherboard or graphics card, when EVGA adds ‘Classified’ to the name, it usually means their best available option in any given product line. The GTX 780 Classified edition is no different, as it has a higher base/boost clock than any of their other GTX 780 models. Decked out with EVGA’s new ACX (Active Cooling Xtreme) cooler, all the latest NVIDIA technologies, and the promise of performance worthy of the Classified name, let’s get this party started and see what EVGA has in store!
Specifications and Features
Here are the specifications as provided by EVGA. Of note here is the 993 MHz base clock and the 1046 MHz boost clock, but we all know that boost clock is likely to go much higher when put under load. The memory specs also look impressive with 3 GB running on a 384 Bit bus.
|EVGA GTX 780 Classified ACX Specifications|
|GPU||NVIDIA GTX 780|
|Base Clock||993 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1046 MHz|
|Memory Clock||6008 MHz Effective|
|Bus Type||PCI-E 3.0|
|Memory Detail||3072 MB GDDR5|
|Memory Bit Width||384 Bit|
|Memory Speed||0.33 ns|
|Memory Bandwidth||288.38 GB/s|
|Testure Fill Rate||190.6 GT/s|
|Display Ports||DVI-I, DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort|
|SLI||NVIDIA SLI Ready|
|Refresh Rate||240 Hz Max|
|Operating System Support||Windows 8/7/Vista/XP 32/64 Bit|
|Power Supply||Minimum 600 Watt power supply|
Recommended 42 Amps on +12V
|Power Connections||Two 8-pin PCI-E connectors or four 6 pin PCI-E connectors|
|Total Power Draw||250 Watts|
The EVGA unique features associated with the GTX 780 Classified are rather impressive. EVGA is strong on the community side of things with their Mods Rigs, Social Media, and EVGA Gaming websites. Software wise, there is the EVGA Precision X overclocking software and OC Scanner X for monitoring. EVGA’s award winning 24/7 Tech Support is also available if any problems are encountered.
EVGA is proud of its new ACX cooler design; and as MattNo5ss found out during his EVGA GTX 780 Superclocked review, it seems to perform quite well. We’ll see if that holds true here with the increased base/boost clocks. Below is some marketing information from EVGA describing the advantages the ACX cooler provides.
When compared to the reference design single fan coolers, EVGA claims a 15% lower temperature. This will go a long way to insuring maximum clock speeds now that GPU Boost 2.0’s ability to raise the clock speed can be adversely affected by out-of-control temperatures.
Ultimate GPU Cooling
15% average lower GPU and Memory temperatures give you the low temperatures needed for extreme overclocks, and with GPU Boost 2.0, it ensures your card maintains the maximum boost clock possible.
The Heatsink fin volume has been greatly increased for even and efficient heat dissipation.
No Compromise Heatsink Design
An increase of 40% in heatsink fin volume distributes heat evenly and efficiently.
Having an effective cooling solution can be less attractive if the noise level is too high. EVGA claims greatly reduced noise levels based on the dual fan design that provides increased airflow.
Low Noise Levels
The dual fan design dramatically increases airflow, meaning the fans only need to spin at a much lower RPM, reducing noise levels significantly. In fact it is 15% quieter on average!
Specially designed fan blades are said to be stronger and lighter in weight than standard fan blades, meaning less power to operate.
A dual slot design has been implemented in an effort to keep from blocking other PCI-E lanes, thus making SLI fitment easier to accomplish.
Dual Slot Design
No need to worry about bulky heatsink designs that cover unnecessary PCI-E lanes, the EVGA ACX cooler is a dual slot design, the optimal size for all forms of NVIDIA SLI.
In order to optimize airflow through the fins, reduce fan turbulence, and reduce noise; EVGA has used what they call a Dual Cooling Subsystem design in the ACX cooler.
Dual Cooling Subsystems
Minimizing air turbulence between fans, this makes sure that the airflow is distributed evenly, and reduces noise level.
To minimize board flexing and aid in MOSFET and memory cooling, you’ll find a “Reinforcement Baseplate” under the ACX cooler.
This helps to maintain a straight PCB, and helps lower mosfet temperatures by 7% and memory temperatures by 15%.
Packaging and Accessories
The EVGA GTX 780 Classified comes packaged with an elegant look as far as the box graphics go. I like the fact that it’s not overdone and simply provides what one might be looking for at first glance. The box front lets you know the basics on what’s inside, and the back goes into greater detail on the key features. The box sides are home to additional branding and a word or two about awards EVGA has received over the years.
In a break from what we normally see with video card packaging, we do not have a box-in-a-box. Instead, we have a thick foam pad surrounding the video card and a cardboard bed for the accessories to rest in. Between the cardboard bed and the foam block, you find a full size poster, two stickers, and a film strip to ward off any shorting issues should you decide to install an aftermarket cooler. Once all the goodies are set aside, you’ll find the GTX 780 Classified well-protected in an anti-static bag.
- Driver/Software Disk
- DVI to VGA Adapter
- 2x 8-pin PCI-E Power Adapters
- User Guide
- EVGA Game of PWNS Poster
- Non Conductive Film Strip
- Installation Manual and Various Documentation
Meet the EVGA GTX 780 Classified
Before we dive in for a closer look at the GTX 780 Classified, here are some glamor shots taken from several different angles. The GTX 780 Classified is one of the best looking efforts EVGA has ever put out in my opinion. I love the clean lines and elegant look EVGA has implemented with this release. It certainly looks the part!
…And a few more
A Closer Look
A quick trip around the card reveals several items worth mentioning. The GTX 780 Classified requires two 8-pin PCI-E power leads, and EVGA recommends a 600 watt (or greater) PSU with 42 amps on the +12v rail. There are two SLI bridge connection points, which should allow for up to 4-way SLI if you have a motherboard that supports it. For display connectivity, there are two DVI (DVI-I and DVI-D) ports, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort. Also found along the top edge of the card are an EVBot connection, a dual BIOS switch, and a place to connect a voltage readout belt (more on these later).
Once you get past this card being a Classified version of the GTX 780, the other highlight is EVGA’s new ACX cooler. EVGA claims a 40% increase in heatsink volume, which they say correlates to 15% better cooling of the GPU and memory. The dual ball bearing fans are said to offer a 4X longer lifespan than competitors’ sleeved bearing fans. EVGA also touts the fans as being easy on the ears and providing 15% quieter operation. The fan blades themselves are specially designed to be 700% stronger and 15% lighter weight, and as such, require less power to operate. We’ll assume EVGA is using the reference card as their comparison basis for all of these claims.
The ACX cooler can be easily removed by simply relieving five screws from the back of the PCB: four spring loaded screws around the GPU and one located at the top edge. Once the ACX cooler is removed, we can see the TIM was very well-applied and the overall design of this massive cooler. There are a total of six nickel plated heatpipes that all pass through the nickel plated block. The best way I found to describe the design is that it acts as a two stage cooler. The first stage is the block, fan, and fin stack positioned directly over the GPU, while the second would be the fin stack behind it with five of the heatpipes running through it. Any heat left over from stage one will travel through the heatpipes into the rear fin stack and be whisked away by the second fan. The sixth heatpipe makes a u-turn into the fin stack covering the GPU. It’s worth mentioning most of the heat will be exhausted into your case, so good case airflow will be at a premium here.
With the ACX cooler removed, you’ll find what EVGA calls a “Reinforcement Baseplate.” EVGA states the plate will keep the card from flexing, as well as provide additional cooling for the MOSFETs and memory. Thermal pads are applied to the baseplate, which cover the memory and MOSFET chips.
With the Reinforcement Baseplate removed we get our first look at the massive 14-phase power delivery section. Yes, you read correctly…. 14-phases! I think it’s safe to say there is more than adequate power available to get the most out of this card; and undoubtedly, the custom PCB is a complete breakaway from the reference design GTX 780.
All this power needs a good VRM controller, and the ever popular CHiL CHL8318 provides a good platform for the task at hand. The 3 GB of memory is provided by the Samsung K4G20325FD-FC03 and is rated at 1502 MHz (6008 MHz quad-pumped GDDR5) and up to 1.545 V.
The GTX 780 based video cards use the NVIDIA GK110 GPU core, which is a slightly scaled down version of the same GPU used on the NVIDIA TITAN series. Even so, the GTX 780 GK110 version is no slouch as we’ll find out in our benchmarks.
Along the top edge of the card, there are a couple other things worth mentioning. There is a connection point for the EVGA EVBot, five white LEDs, and a place to connect the voltage readout belt. The belt does not come with the card, but it is available for purchase at the EVGA store. Another great feature the GTX 780 Classified offers is a dual BIOS switch, which thrown in the correct position offers a higher power target for better overclocking.
Performance and Overclocking
|Motherboard||ASUS Z87 Deluxe|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K Haswell|
|Memory||G.SKill TridentX DD3-2666 MHz 2x4GB|
|SSD||Kingston HyperX 3KSSD 240 GB|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||EVGA GTX 780 Classified w/ACX Cooler|
|Cooling||Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block – 3X120 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
When starting down the overclocking trail, you’ll want to install EVGA’s Precision X software. Precision X has all the tools needed to overclock, monitor, and control fan speeds. Here is a list of the key features associated with EVGA’s Precision X.
- GPU and Memory Frequency/Clock Offset
- Power Target Control (GeForce GTX TITAN / 700 / 600)
- Temperature Target Control (GeForce GTX TITAN / 700)
- Pixel Clock Overclocking – OC your refresh rate!
- Frame Rate Target Control
- GPU Voltage Adjustment + Overvoltage (GeForce GTX TITAN / 700)
- Custom Fan Control/Fan Curve
- Profiling system allowing up to 10 profiles with hotkey
- Robust monitoring allowing ingame, system tray and/or Logitech LCD monitoring
- In game screenshot hotkey, supports BMP, PNG and JPG formats
- Custom skins including ones created by the EVGA community!
- Support for wireless Bluetooth overclocking via custom Android app
- Multi-language support: English, Dutch, French, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese
Overclocking for Stability
The GTX 780 Classified is in the Double BIOS family of video cards offered by EVGA. By throwing the switch to the secondary BIOS, we gain a slightly higher power target option than the stock BIOS offers (from 110% to 115%). Another nice thing about the Double BIOS feature is being able to try some of the custom BIOS mods floating around without having to worry about permanently bricking your card. If you’re not into trying custom BIOS mods, then I’d suggest throwing the BIOS switch to the secondary position from the start. There is no harm in doing so, and everything is still completely adjustable just as with the stock BIOS.
As I’m sure most of you know, today’s NVIDIA graphics cards require keeping GPU temperatures and the available power target limit under their respective thresholds. Once either of those thresholds are surpassed, the GPU will begin to throttle down until they fall back within the limits. Luckily, the secondary BIOS allows for a little headroom in both these areas. For a stable 24/7 overclock, I landed on 1293 MHz boost for the GPU and 1603 MHz (6412 MHz quad pumped) for the memory. With those settings, I set the GPU voltage to the highest available setting of +0.038 V. That isn’t a whole lot of available voltage increase, but it’s better than nothing! After running a few benchmarks, I found I was getting somewhat close to the 115% power target limit. So, in an effort to save some room for the ‘Pushing the Limits’ section of this review, we’ll call this good for now!
Since the release of the Haswell/Z87 platform earlier this year, we have been using our new “GPU Testing Procedure.” If you are not yet familiar with it, click the provided link to learn more. Below is the down and dirty version of the new procedure.
- i7 4770K @ 4 GHz
- Dual Channel DDR3-1866 9-9-9-24
- GPU @ stock
- Monitor capable of 1920×1080
- All Synthetic benchmarks set to their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run using the “extreme” setting
- Aliens vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
- Dirt 3 – 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
- Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
- Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, VSync OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, VSync off, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation set to high, Extreme Detail Level, PhysX Off
Beginning with our synthetic testing, we see a clean sweep by the GTX 780 Classified. Even the NVIDIA TITAN fell short of this card’s performance, and that’s nothing to sneeze at! I attribute this to the much higher GPU clock speed the Classified has over the TITAN. When the GTX 780 Classified is overclocked, things just got better as the card scaled pretty well. Any way you look at it, the synthetic benchmark results are impressive. I’ll let the graphs speak for themselves.
Moving on to the game benchmarks, we see a similar pattern, except for a loss to the TITAN in Battlefield 3. Aliens vs. Predator and Dirt 3 had the TITAN and Classified coming in with the same score, but all the rest of the game benchmarks belonged to the GTX 780 Classified. Again, we see nice scaling with the applied overclock.
Power Consumption and Temperatures
Our power consumption testing is done with a Kill-a-Watt with the wattage usage recorded at idle and load. We run both HWBot Heaven and 3DMark 11 (Combined Physics Test) to hopefully get the maximum power draw the video card can produce. I tend to take this testing one step further and also provide results while the video card is overclocked.
The highest power draw recorded was 444 watts during the overclocked run of HWBot Heaven. Pretty impressive numbers for a card this powerful!
Our temperature testing procedure requires running HWBot Heaven at both stock and overclocked settings. The results are normalized to 25 °C ambient. I ran tests with the fan control set to auto, and then again with the fan speed set to 100%
As you can tell by the graph below, the ACX cooler has no problems keeping the temperatures nice and cool under all conditions. With the ability to set the temperature target well into the 90° C range, you’re likely not going to have a problem with the GPU throttling because of temperatures. I don’t have a decibel meter to measure noise levels, but I can tell you the ACX cooler is one of the more quiet GPU coolers I have encountered as of late. When the cooler is set to auto mode, it’s almost inaudible while still doing it’s job admirably. For those occasions when you need to set the fan speed to 100%, you’ll begin to hear it doing its job, but definitely no what I would consider obnoxiously so. All in all, the ACX cooler does its job extremely well at a noise level that is more than acceptable.
Pushing the Limits
One of the great things about this video card is the enthusiast community it generates. That being said, it didn’t take long for a voltage utility to hit the internet. With this voltage utility you can raise the GPU voltage up to 1.35 V, the memory voltage to 1.80 V, and the PCI-E Voltage to 1.24 V. I suspect it wont take long to reach the power target limits when raising the GPU voltage, but we’ll see what we can come up with. I have seen a couple custom BIOS mods floating around that supposedly allow for raising the power target up to 200%. I don’t have a good level of confidence in the ones that can be downloaded right now, so we’ll stick to what we have in conjunction with the voltage utility. Disclaimer: EVGA in no way condones the use of this voltage utility and by using it you do so entirely at your own risk. The voltage utility is aptly named Classified.exe and can be downloaded HERE.
Just as I expected, I didn’t have a whole lot of headroom left before reaching the 115% power target limit. I could only raise the GPU voltage to 1.250 V, anything higher would trigger throttling. I decided to run 3DMark Fire Strike because it’s perhaps our most demanding benchmark. We ended up with a score of 10403, which is a pretty decent increase from our 24/7 overclock results above. Our only limiting factor is that darn power target limit, which doesn’t have anything to do with EVGA… That all rests on NVIDIA’s shoulders! Time permitting, I plan to flash this card with a BIOS that gives a 200% power target limit, so keep an eye on the forum thread for any updates!
Let’s get the elephant out of the room from the start here, the GTX 780 Classified is not a inexpensive piece of hardware. Currently it’s selling for $699.99 at Newegg, but as expensive as that may sound the cheapest GTX 780 is still going to run you $649.99. So, what’s the extra $50.00 get you? For starters you get one of the fastest stock GPU core speeds of any GTX 780 out there right now. Couple that with a performance level even the much more expensive TITAN struggles to keep pace with, and I think you’ll begin to see the value the Classified has to offer.
Overclocking with EVGA’s Precision X software is easy enough to accomplish and is quickly becoming known as the go-to software for overclocking NVIDIA GPU’s. While I didn’t expect too much of an increase based on the stout OOB core speed, I did manage to get 1345 MHz stable enough for completing 3DMark Fire Strike. The secondary BIOS allows a slightly higher power target, but the 115% it offers still isn’t enough to match the potential this card has. If you’re the adventurous type, there are modified BIOS versions in the wilds that allow for up to a 200% power target limit. Using one of those BIOS should take the power target limit out of the equation, leaving only the temperatures to contend with. Luckily, the ACX cooler is up to the task and kept temperatures during our testing way below the thermal threshold.
So, in the end we have a great performing video card in the GTX 780 Classified that looks fantastic too. Performance, good looks, excellent overclocking, and an awesome cooler sitting on top of it all. It not only lives up to the Classified name, but to our Approved stamp as well!