Before we start, you should know that there are three variants of this X58 SLI Classified model from EVGA. As you can see here on EVGA's website, even with the listed specs, it can be quite difficult to differentiate between them, especially as they look identical, from the package to the actual board. It's a potential source of confusion that made us quite leery, especially when we had to download the latest BIOS before testing; there's nothing like flashing the wrong BIOS.
The main difference for our review unit is that it does not have an NVIDIA NF200 chip onboard like the E759 version. This means that it's slightly constrained when it comes to the PCIe lanes for multi-GPU configurations. Or simply put, you may have to run some of your graphics cards at x8 instead of x16. The E760 variant has two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots that can run at the full 16 lanes, with the other two slots at x8. The E759 meanwhile has an additional PCIe 2.0 x16, for full 3-way SLI/CrossFireX at x16.
Now that we have settled the exact board that we're reviewing, let's look at this EVGA board, which surely ranks as one of the more extreme designs when it launched last year. Firstly, it's larger than the usual ATX form factor. Classified as EATX by EVGA, this board is slightly wider than the typical ATX form factor, something that you probably won't notice initially. We don't see installation as an issue, unless your chassis is a compact design. This is unlike the case with Gigabyte's UD9.
Next, this board purports to support 3-way SLI with PhysX. It's a good use of the fourth PCIe slot that would be left unused in cases where dual-slots graphics cards are installed. As seen from the image below, the second PCIe slot from the left has only sufficient clearance for a single-slot graphics card, perfect for an older GeForce 9600 GT or something of its class to take up the PhysX burden. EVGA has also provided two SLI bridges as accessories, one of which factors in the PhysX card arrangement.
Of course, given that it debuted before the introduction of SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 controllers, these features are not found here. We have heard that EVGA is planning a refresh sometime this year, so we may yet find these new features making their way to an updated Classified. Nevertheless, one gets a decent number of SATA ports, with a JMicron controller adding to the default six from the Southbridge.
The layout of this board was generally good, marred however by one flaw, which has to do with the large cooler installed right over the chipset. This chunk of aluminum even has a glowing red LED light at the top to complete the look for the hardcore enthusiast, but then we didn't care too much about the LED because we were quite irritated by something else.
Here's what happened: the Intel Core i7-980X comes with its own stock cooler, specially designed to handle the higher cooling requirements of the 6-core processor. It's a pretty decent, enthusiast class cooler from Intel. The problem is that it can be quite difficult to install, due to the aluminum fins cutting a bit too close to the screws. Now, add the huge, onboard EVGA cooler and there's even less space for our fingers during installation. Suffice to say, we got quite a few scratches for our troubles, some of the blame partially falls on Intel of course, but EVGA's design isn't helping.
This is the only major flaw we saw for the Classified's layout. Having the SATA ports and other connectors at the edge show that EVGA does know something about their board designs and the fact that you can fit four graphics card along with a PCIe 1.0 add-on card is a sign that things do work according to plan.
EVGA has also added some features to cater to the overclocking, enthusiast crowd that would pay for this S$749 board. This includes a set of voltage check points, which can be used together with a voltmeter. There's the EVGA Control Panel that we saw earlier of course, while the BIOS include a comprehensive set of settings for voltage and frequencies that match the best from other vendors. Some of the voltage settings even seem rather unrealistic, e.g. a maximum of more than 3V for the memory, without seriously destroying your components, but perhaps EVGA has the serious overclocker, armed with liquid cooling in mind when it decided on such values.