Upon initial boot we are greeted with the same image as found on the packaging and while this is attractive I would like to see a little animation as with the Asus ROG range of motherboards. Progression in this area is something that appears to be overlooked and while hardly important in the greater scheme of things, I do think it is an area which could do with freshening up somewhat.
Straight from the word go I went to the overclocking section of the BIOS where I was greeted by what appeared to be an extremely basic setup. After consoling myself and getting over the initial dismay I realised that this was just a frontpage with each option displayed opening up a new window containing more options that I could ever have wished for. Unfortunately I don't have extreme cooling available at the time of writing the review but should I have, EVGA recommend setting the Extreme cooling option to enabled for greatest stability. If I were forced to make a best guess then I would assume it was to prevent cold boot scenarios.The manual does not however expand on why or what the three modes do so I can only suggest EVGA's recommendation is followed. The Dummy O.C option allows an quick and dirty automatic overclock but I doubt many users of this motherboard will settle for this, not when there are so many options to explore.
The memory section is very complex, containing a huge array of options. The memory divider ranges from 800 - 2933MHz which should be enough for any kit on the market at present. However, If you are not familiar with memory overclocking and instead wish to concentrate solely on the CPU then EVGA will automatically overclock your memory for you in line with the CPU speed.
Both Channel and rank interleave setting are out in force with the Pheonix BIOS. Channel interleave divides the memory blocks and spreads the data across the interleaved channels which can have a benificial effect on bandwidth due to the fact the data requests can be made to all the affected channels via overlapping rather than queuing. Rank interleave works pretty much the same as the old SDRam Bank interleaving allowing each rank to be read while another is being refreshed. Memory performance is then increased as the refresh cycle of each memory bank is masked while access is taking place. Most memory modules are double sided these days and as such you can take advantage of rank interleaving. For best performance I would leave this to the 4 way setting (default) for optimum performance.
Memory low gap is a feature often overclocked. Personally I have never seen much point in this feature either as I have never had to set this to anything other than Auto, if indeed the options is available at all. In it's most basic form it is a throwback to the AGP aperture size of yester year. If memory subtimings are your bag then the EVGA Classified has plenty of them to keep you busy. I have never really seen much benefit in adjusting the settings for performance gain but the odd tweak can certainly give a boost in stability.
The EVGA classified is crying out for some extreme cooling and as such EVGA have allowed for some extreme voltages to be applied to your hardware. A ridiculous 2.24v on the CPU is a crazy amount of Vcore for even the most extreme of benchers but the fun does not stop there with a whole host of mad voltages available with which to fry your silicon. Perhaps the first section you should visit when aiming for high overclocks is the CPU feature where, in the Classifieds case all the usual suspects are lined up and disabled one by one.
I have yet to see an i7 CPU hitting anything near 300 Base Clock but should you have a God like CPU, the Classified will allow you to reach it's heavenly potential by allowing up to 500 Base clock frequency, or as EVGA like to call the CPU Host frequency. Lowering the MCH strap used to mean an increase in memory performance (but more often than not a drop in stability). However, the X58 Chipset no longer has a MCH (Memory controller Hub) as Core i7 CPU's have an IMC (integrated memory controller) so why have EVGA instilled this setting? Its really quite simple, the MCH strap just adjusts the subtimings according to the memory frequency. The MCH strap works by using a set table of equations that derive final subtimings and latencies for any given strap. It's a nice one size fits all setting but for the most part, it is simply a way to auto overclock the subtimings of your memory to predefined levels as opposed to overclocking the memory controller itself.
The rule of thumb for CPU Uncore frequency is 2x the ram ratio but should you think you have a miracle CPU then increasing this setting will ultimately increase performance. Another throwback to BIOS options of yesteryear is the CPU clock skew. While of some use in older sockets such as the Skt775, Core i7 automatically compensates for this. The greater the overclock, the more risk there is for clock signals being mis-timed when arriving at different compenents. Many things can cause this timing skew, not least temperatures but in testing I have noticed very little difference in adjusting this setting.
Once you have waded through the wealth of BIOS options it would be very frustrating should your overclock fail and you therfore have to clear the CMOS to get the board back to a bootable state. EVGA have thankfully afforded the end user the chance to back up those settings into one of eight profiles which can be easily reloaded at a later time with a couple of keyboard presses. The health status screen gives a comprehensive run down of the current voltages and temperatures of the main components and should you wish to decrease temps further the EVGA board allows configuration of each fan header to run the fans at a given percentage allowing you to balance noise with cooling performance.
Any premium motherboard designed for overclocking should have a complex but easy to navigate BIOS so I was expecting great things from the classified. I was one of the many poor souls who had to suffer at the hands of the 680i BIOS, attempting to convert the multitude of options to something that resembled the more popular Intel format. I am happy to report that for the most part, EVGA have made the Classifieds BIOS easy to navigate yet as complex as the user requires. There is very little criticism I can aim at the BIOS as all the major settings are there for Joe Average with many hidden gems available for those more experienced overclockers out there.