EVGA Corporation is a California-based company which is renowned for producing NVIDIA-based computer hardware targeting consumers, but it has recently aspired to produce Intel-based motherboards as well. EVGA has established itself as a major player emphasizing on motherboards, graphic cards, and factory overclocked graphic cards. The company considers its customer relations and services a unique selling proposition and is globally renowned for its support forums and content fan base.
Earlier this year, EVGA released the X58 SLI Classified;a specialized overclocking-friendly motherboard with an added NVIDIA NF200 chip allowing for optimized use of 3-Way SLI beyond anything ever imagined, thus raising the bar for enthusiast-level motherboards.
The X58 Classified 760 comes without nVidia's NF200 chip, reducing the power consumption and the latency.
The EVGA X58 SLI Classified E759 featured an unheard-of feature combination covering 3-Way SLI + PhysX + 1x PCIe device on a single board, two +12V 8-pin ATX connectors capable of delivering 600 watts of power to the CPU alone, a ten phase Digital PWM switching up to 1333 KHz, and three times the amount of normal gold content in the processor socket. It was simply a small revolution altogether.
The E760 is the second edition of the original E759 which without the NF200 chip substantially decreases the latency of data access through the PCI Express bus. This carries with it similar 3-Way SLI performance as the E759 boasts, and even better 2-Way SLI performance than its predecessor. The Classified E760 is also less expensive owing to the fact that it’s not delivered with the ECP [EVGA Control Panel] unit. One might add that this board is even more overclockable that the previous one, since NF200 bridge chip is known to be quite a beast, thermal and power-consumption wise.
Similar to its precursor, the Classified E760 is another [and almost identical, ed.] enthusiast-grade product, which looks state-of-the-art in terms of specifications, but how does its performance really compare against three other ‘Extreme’ entitled X58 motherboards?
The EVGA Classified E760 comes in a large and very sturdy box albeit without a carrying handle. The front has a very clean, hardcore look with carbon fiber - yet offers little else than make, model, and chipset of choice. The photos and information on the rear are, however, more than enough to focus your attention.
Simple packaging, yet a powerful statement - this board is definitely classified.
The package is basically a reused Classified E759 box; the taped over line in the specification section is the "True 3x16 PCIe 2.0 Performance" due to this being a non-NF200 revision, although still being able to run 3-Way SLI. This is typical EVGA - company has one box design and then just applies stickers that differentiate the products, such as their GeForce line-up with standard, SSC and FTW editions. A similar sticker has been affixed to the right side of the package too, whereas the left side contains the original information concerning the EVGA Step-Up Program--allowing you to upgrade the board within 90 days following the purchase.
The board is placed in an antistatic bag surrounded by cardboard casing with a foam frame. All accessories are sealed in plastic wrappings with EVGA logo.
Note the sticker covering the "NF200 Bridge chip included" part.
Having subjected the packaging to our drop and kick test, we can report that the packaging survived without issues. Even with repeated attempts the box corners remain dent and partially cracked, but the cardboard keeps its shape and protective capabilities. The packaging is made up of recyclable cardboard, and all parts shipped in the kit are RoHS compliant, i.e. lead free.
Once opened, all contents and accessories are easily unpacked although a carrying handle for a package of this size and weight would have been nice. Altogether, we do consider it to be one of the better boxes in terms of motherboard packaging.
That being said, you can see the distaste for AMD's products e.g. ATI Radeon graphics cards. There isn't a single notion of Crossfire or CrossfireX on the packaging [or ATI logos as such]. Seeing that the E760 can run up to four ATI cards together; wouldn't that be an equally strong unique selling proposition? The answer is very simple - EVGA produces only nVidia boards and it will stay that way for quite foreseeable time, given the big "no" that happened a while ago - EVGA was told to "go away" on the subject of overclocked Radeon boards in order to protect the players such as Sapphire, Power Color and so on.
While the packaging does not mention support, the visual guide as the only object does. The quick start guide is affixed with EVGA Premium Services mentioning both email and telephone numbers for technical support throughout Europe as well as North America.
EVGA also has its main website, EVGA.com, printed everywhere on the box, visual guide, and user’s manual. There you can complete product registration, learn about the Step-Up Program, and visit its support forums which are frequented by both staff helping out customers, and customers helping each other.
The Step-Up Program was formed to grant customers the greatest amount of flexibility when purchasing EVGA products: Participants will be allowed, for one time only, to trade in their existing EVGA item and upgrade to a greater or newer revision. Note that not all customers and products are eligible for this program.
In terms of warranty information, the Classified E760 – instead of limited life-time warranty for the U.S. - now calls for a limited 10 year warranty in the EU, upon product registration within 30 days of the original date of purchase. Bear in mind that the difference in warranties between EU and US has nothing to do with EVGA. Just like Corsair, OCZ and other premium vendors, EVGA cannot offer lifetime warranty in European Union. Instead, they all had to opt to offer the maximum allowable warranty, and given that EU allows a maximum of 10 years - 10 years it is. This applies to other products from EVGA as well.
As we have come to expect a pleasant color combination from EVGA motherboards, the Classified E760 is no exception. The black PCB, an all black and red design provides the board with a daring, almost dangerously looking design which reminds us of colors from the animal kingdom.
Demanding our immediate attention at the very centre of the board is a huge north bridge cooling unit, which - once in operation - seems even more ominous with its flashing red EVGA logo. With the expected air flow inside a case, a heat sink of this size covering the north bridge would supply sufficient cooling, thus eliminating the need for an active cooled solution.
But what we really like with this cooler is the fact that it won't limit the usability of PCIe x1 board nor the graphics card. For instance, we had experience with catastrophically bad design calls on GigaByte EX58-UD5 and EX58-Extreme boards, where a bad cooler design rendered x1 and x4 ports practically useless. EVGA was very careful with the design and span the cooler all the way to memory modules, yet stayed unobtrusive - you can connect PCI Express versions of Creative X-Fi or ASUS Xonar with no issues, and if you're using this motherboard as a base for a powerful workstation, a PCIe SAS controller would fit the bill as well [but in that case, we advise max dual GPU setup and occupying one PCIe x16 slot for the x8 SAS RAID card].
Making a one slot clearance between first and second PCIe x16 port is a welcoming improvement in layout
Another feature that makes the board stand out from its immediate competitors is the PCI Express layout. As you recall from the front of the retail box, one of the E760’s biggest accomplishments is the ability to run 3-Way SLI and a PhysX card while still being able to use an added PCIe X1 audio or Killer Xeno Pro card. This could be done using dual slot GPU cards running 3-SLI in the three X16 slots, and having a single slot card in the third slot as a dedicated PhysX device. That still leaves the top X1 slot free, and is one of the most beefy setups you’re likely to witness on the X58 Platform.
On the other hand, if you will be running a standard SLI configuration, you could use the top and bottom X16 slots and still have space for an extra card in need of full PCI Express speeds. Note that in that case, you need a case that features eight expansion slots, not seven [standard ATX specification]. For instance, Silverstone Raven RV02 comes with eight rear brackets, while Raven RV01 features ATX-spec seven.
Undoubtedly, you will notice yet another feature - the use of dual 8-pin power connectors capable of supplying the processor with 600 watts of power. Using just one connector will be enough for most users and the motherboard will work in perfect order. But when you desire having a go at more extreme cooling methods, the second connector will come in handy. Note that you need to find a power supply featuring two 8-pin power connectors for the motherboard [NOT the 8-pin PEG - PCI Express Graphics one]. Intel's Skulltrail motherboard had the same requirement, so finding a power supply should not be an issue. We checked online and in enthusiast power supply segment, there are power supplies from Cooler Master, SilverStone, Tagan, Topower and many more.
Looking over the towering north bridge unit and onto the processor, the Classified has a quite clean socket area. This is due to the use of the10 phased digital PWM which eliminates the need for components around the socket, also making it easier to insulate when using exotic coolingmethods such as liquid nitrogen or dry ice. You can see that a combination of two hard core professional overclockers [Vince "kingpin" Lucido and Peter "Shamino" Tan] with the engineering team formerly of EPoX fame resulted in a product that caters to overclockers like none before. We might add that DFI now finally has competition in hard-core overclocking arena.
If you want to go extreme, just install a compliant power supply and your CPU will get up to 600W of juice!
Next to the processor socket area are six memory slots, now supporting a total of 24 GB [4GB DIMM modules are now supported]. Furthermore, having three DIMM slots kept in red nuances leaves the colored layout with a more complete impression. The Classified has an otherwise typical layout with a low heat sink on the south bridge, angled outside SATA connectors and a single ATA/IDE connector. Kudos and thumbs up to EVGA for tilting the connectors to help avoid cluttering cables and interference with multiple graphic cards which we equipped the E760 with during our extreme cooling test runs.
With the EVGA Classified targeting the enthusiast crowd, the bottom side of the board has been equipped with power and reset buttons as well as a Clear CMOS button – which is great for those of us not strapping this motherboard in a case as well as when overclocking on bench tables. EVGA brought these features couple of years ago, and it is good to see that now majority of enthusiast motherboards come with same features.
Looking at the top side of the Classified E760, directly above the DIMM slots you will find small voltage read points. Using a multimeter or voltmeter will give you an accurate reading compared to values set through BIOS and Windows, which are often not all that precise.
The rear I/O panel of the Classified E760 has all the necessary connectors you would expect to see; PS/2 keyboard, eight USB 2.0 ports, 6-pin FireWire, eSATA, Coaxial and Optical SPDIF, Dual Gigabit LAN, and HD Audio ports. The board was also fitted with a Reset CMOS button, not to be mistaken with the Clear CMOS button previously mentioned. The difference is that the Reset CMOS only wipes current settings; say if the E760 won't complete BIOS Post, whereas the Clear CMOS button totally clears the CMOS.
It seems clear that a lot of thought has gone into the development of the board design, and that the E760 like its predecessor has a well thought through layout.
Taking a brief look at the EVGA Classified E760 internals, the BIOS is based on a regular Phoenix-Award revision albeit with few newer elements. As many of us are familiar with most of its ordinary features, we are instead going to turn our attention to the "Frequency/Voltage Control" section with all its overclocking and performance settings as seen below - this is likely where you will be spending most of your time anyway.
Generally, the BIOS is kept very clean and made easy to use. Most of the BIOS sub menu items are pretty straightforward, and their feature or function is easily recognizable from previous versions.
Configuring the system settings lets you immediately know what to expect at next POST
Kicking off with the "Dummy OC" feature, it's basically the easiest way to overclock your Core i7 processor. Once enabled, this auto overclock function will increase the base clock from 133 MHz to 150-160 MHz [depending on which i7 you are using], while voltage levels are set automatically.
The "Extreme Cooling" option will assist you in avoiding most cold bug issues related to either too low temperatures or a too hefty temperature drop. Based on your choice among one of the three available modes, cold bugs shouldn’t pose a challenge for an overclocker any longer.
In the "Memory Feature" section you will find the largest amount of adjustable settings, enabling you to change every conceivable setting. If in doubt about an option, it can always be left at "Auto". Nothing really ground-breaking new to add concerning the "Voltage Control" sub-section that contains all the voltage management settings. Setting values suitable for extreme cooling will be highlighted in red, but the sub-menu also has an added column of default/standard settings.
The "CPU Feature" menu allows toggling technologies such as Intel Speed Stepping, CxE function, Turbo mode, and logical processor settings [i.e. Hyper Threading] and QPI controller parameters.
Also very handy is the optional creation and saving of up to eight performance or overclocking profiles, but sadly we cannot add titles to a profile. Make sure to keep in mind which profile slot is in use, as you will not be warned when attempting to overwrite an already occupied slot with a new profile.
Conclusively, the BIOS is optimized for extreme overclocking and optimal performance.
Included with the EVGA Classified E760 are an installation CD, the user’s manual, and a visual guide i.e. quick start guide. Furthermore, you will find one 3-Way SLI with PhysX Bridge, a standard 3-Way SLI bridge, one SLI bridge, a 2-port USB and 1-port 1394 bracket, an I/O shield, one ATA-133 cable, three 2-port SATA power cables, and six ordinary SATA cables.
The motherboard comes with a decent set of and all 10 SATA ports have appropriate EVGA-branded SATA cables.
The included installation CD of course has drivers for the chipset, LAN, audio, and the extra JMicron controller. Also on the CD are NVIDIA SLI video drivers and the Intel Matrix Storage Manager. At this point in time, we would like to turn your attention to the EVGA E-Leet Tuning Utility, its new overclocking and monitoring software based off of the CPUID application, CPU-Z.
Although at first sight identical with CPU-Z, one quickly realizes that the E-Leet utility has a series of added tabs - Monitoring, Overclocking, and Voltages. The monitoring tab is divided into three functional and foreseeable sub sections; Voltages, Temperatures and Fans. Thus all readings provided in the BIOS are also available from this tab in Windows.
If E-Leet utility looks familiar, this is a combination of CPU-Z and a tweak utility... small and bloatware-free.
The overclocking tab grants you direct and on-the-fly access to sliders changing both QPI as well as PCI Express frequencies, and below is the optional adjustment of the Turbo function, which can alternatively toggle Turbo mode all together if required.
Another nifty little check box is the "Brink O/C" feature that enables the E-Leet utility to save a new validation whenever changes are made to the QPI value. Trust me; it’s very practical when closing on such high frequencies, where one more step up the base clock ladder can mean the difference between a stable and a crashed system.
The last of the new tabs, the voltage tab, allows for - as you may have guessed - real-time voltage adjustments. Please note that later versions are also fitted with a "vcore boost" ability which adds the selected and applied amount of voltage to the vcore. This appears to be a great feature, allowing a smaller incremental step, so to speak, for those that prefer to boot in, say, a daily overclock rather than crank things up via E-Leet.
Overall, we were impressed with the E-Leet software and the possibilities it encapsulates into a single application; we also think EVGA really hit the nail on the head when deciding to hook up with CPUID, rather than develop their own tools of the trade. Especially due to the fact that most enthusiasts - and to a certain extent, regular users as well - are already familiar with the CPU-Z interface.
Taking the above into consideration, real-time adjustment of QPI and BCLK frequencies still needs some thought, as going from low to high values or vice-versa can make the system crash. Seeing how great this piece of software is, we would not be surprised to see other manufacturers put a greater effort in further enhancing existing "live" overclocking tools.
Our primary test setup consisted of an Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Edition engineering sample, an Intel X-25M 80GB SSD [with new firmware], 3x2 GB OCZ Platinum DDR3-1333, a Zotac GeForce GTX 285 card and a 1200 Watt Silverstone Zeus power supply. All test runs were done using Microsoft Windows Vista x64 SP2. To get a more accurate result of the capabilities of the boards, we used an Intel Core i7 920 2.66 GHz retail processor when looking at the ability to overclock.
Do note that the board was also used in our overclocking session with three EVGA GeForce GTX285 1GB in 3-Way SLI mode, three ATI Radeon HD 4890. If you missed that article, we would advise you to go to BSO* bathes EVGA Classified 760 in Liquid Nitrogen.
SiSoft Sandra 2009 is a synthetic benchmark evaluates performance in terms of specific tasks such as processor arithmetic values and memory bandwidth. Inching ahead in either category here is indicative of how much work was put in optimizing sub-routines as well as memory sub-timings.
As probably could be expected the Classified E760 takes the lead here, although by a very small margin - followed ever so closely by its ASUS counterpart.
Checking out memory bandwidth, the X58 motherboards line up similarly to the arithmetic results. Even the AsRock is putting out numbers keeping up with the rest of the pack. The tendency continues as we look at Lavalys Everest; the Gigabyte is picking up speed and the AsRock can still keep up.
The Cinebench rendering benchmark shows us the relative difference in rendering with one CPU core as well as simultaneous multi-threaded processing.
Interestingly enough, at least to me, the Gigabyte isn’t keeping up yet - its boards are usually quite optimized with regards to memory sub-timings. Just like we saw in SiSoft Sandra and Everest, the ASUS and EVGA are close to evenly matched, yet tilting the scale in favor of the EVGA Classified E760.
No benchmarking would be complete without throwing in a few numbers from Futuremark, thus PCMark Vantage is next up. The test suites cover gaming, productivity, and many other aspects.
Again we see the EVGA Classified nudging ahead of the competition, leaving the Gigabyte on par with the ASUS board. Sticking with Futuremark products, here is how the boards ranked in with the Performance preset of 3DMark Vantage.
In 3DMark Vantage we are looking into how well the system handles overall gaming performance, and--truth be told--there is again little differences in our results. EVGA comes out on top with a result nearly similar to its immediate competitor from ASUS, and the Gigabyte falls short again. The AsRock is still trailing behind the rest of the field, but is now closer than ever.
Running our X58 line up through a round of Far Cry 2 yielded a more surprising result as both the EVGA and ASUS achieved the exact same average frame rate per second.
However, when attempting the same in Crysis the differences are more apparent and the EVGA is reduced to second place with the ASUS coming out on top.
What really makes the boards stand out from each other is in terms of overclocking results, as the EVGA Classified E760 is truly in its element leaving the competition gasping for air. Note that we tested both their ability to overclock with the BIOS left on all auto settings and compared it to using specialized settings.
In order to simplify the top base clocks achieved with custom BIOS settings, a base clock value of 247 means our Core i7 920 was running close to 5.2 GHz while the 230 of the Gigabyte “only” leaves us with a speed of 4.83 GHz.
Available throughout Europe at approximately €355 - 100 Euros more than the Gigabyte EX58 Extreme and Asus Rampage II Extreme, and nearly thrice the price of the AsRock X58 Extreme - the EVGA X58 SLI Classified E760 has a very spicy price tag.
So, is the E760 worth that price level? Not for most people, no.
Ultimately, the answer varies depending on who you ask. For normal users we feel it would almost definitely be overkill. But for ultra high-end gamers having at least two cards running SLI and - more importantly - with the craving for the best hardware, also considering other hardcore enthusiasts and overclockers with the need to go beyond the 5 GHz "border" on their Intel Core i7 processor - the Classified E760 is, simply put, the very best choice out there.
Of course you could get the AsRock equivalent for much less, but it won’t spit out similar results or keep your Core i7 just as stable on everyday operation. Or you could get the Gigabyte or ASUS Extreme models, which are both good boards that I’ve also owned myself, yet none of the two boast similar overclocking values, efficient phases, and an equally great PCI Express layout.
Having experienced the Classified E760 under heavy load in various situations, taking a spoiled Intel Core i7 975 engineering sample past 5 GHz, and boosting a retail Intel Core i7 920 up to almost 250 QPI, I would personally be happy to throw my money at an E760.
I have known EVGA products for a few years already. I have owned both their 680i motherboard as well as the 790i-based unit. Where the 680i was truly horrible, the 790i rectified most of that situation - and processor class and performance aside, the Classified E760 still manages to play in an entirely different league altogether.
Having had the pleasure of putting the board through its paces using air and liquid nitrogen with both Radeon and GeForce cards, and having experienced performance and stability first-hand, I’m left with overall satisfaction.
As such the Classified E760 has no flaws, and I can think of only a few minor issues that need be addressed. I would like to see the possibility of BIOS flashing via a solution similar to EzFlash from ASUS, instead of the current method of burning an ISO-file to a CD and flashing from there. And although not really called for on a daily basis an optional fan included in a $500 board package might also be a good idea.
Our end verdict is that EVGA has built the ultimate in Nehalem boards. Keeping in mind that the E760 will not fit everyone - nor was it developed to do so - it nevertheless is the true kingpin of overclocking [Sorry Vince, ed.].
So, if you happen to find yourself hunting for an X58 mainboard equipped with the muscle to handle the most extreme overclocking experiments, you should take a closer look at the EVGA X58 SLI Classified E760. Disappointment is not an option, really.
- Overclocking craziness, reaching up to ~250 base clock/QPI
- 3-Way SLI + PhysX + Audio, excellent PCI Express layout
- Features and the E-Leet Tuning Utility with its real-time options
- Heavy-duty Digital PWM capable of 600 watts of power
- An outrageously good-looking color combination
- Somewhat limited availability [at least throughout the EU]
- At about €355 it’s not exactly a cheap investment
- Unable to add titles to profiles, no warning when overwriting
- LED tends to flash erratically when doing +240 base clock
- Windows Hibernate does not always power off the board