AMD Radeon HD 6950 Review

By Julio Franco · 23 replies
Dec 27, 2010
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  1. At $299 the new AMD Radeon HD 6950 has no direct competition, but we'll be keeping a close eye on how it compares to the GeForce GTX 470 and 570, and whether it makes more sense to scale down or up to get better value.

    Read the full review at:

    Please leave your feedback here.
  2. fpsgamerJR62

    fpsgamerJR62 TS Rookie Posts: 489

    AMD's 6950 is a very intriguing card indeed with a huge 2 GB buffer and a price that's not too high nor too mainstream. A pair of these cards in CrossFire configuration would make a very compelling addition to any high-end gaming PC. At least until Nvidia releases the GTX 560 in early January, if the rumors are to be believed.
  3. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    If the production models in a couple of months time can be unlocked I'll be buying 3 of these to unlock the BIOS as HD6970's.

    It'll be a bargain price for HD6970 performance along with my 3 HD screens. :D

    Thanks for the outstanding, detailed review as always guys. :)
  4. princeton

    princeton TS Addict Posts: 1,676

    Aside from the fact that they can become 6970s(for now, not forever) I wasn't the least bit impressed. Looks like Nvidia took this round...
  5. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,715   +855

    I'd say with that hack turning this into a 6970, it would certainly be worth consideration. Man, between ATI and nVidia, there sure are hella lot of cards to pick from these days.
  6. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,958   +215

    Hmm, but isn't that like stealing TomSEA?
    I mean ATI will be missing out on a sell of a 6970, so in effect they will have lost 70$? ;)
  7. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    @Per Hansson
    Could you really call it stealing though?

    I mean, the same would be true of 3x to 4x unlocking of AMD CPUs, and well, you'd think AMD would make better efforts to protect this information and ensure it isn't possible to bypass.

    On the upside though, if you do it you lose your warranty, so I see it as equals all things considered.
  8. princeton

    princeton TS Addict Posts: 1,676

    It isn't stealing. They aren't physically losing anything. They're losing potential revenue. Same with pirating software.
  9. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    Remember that the shader blocks "fused off", are probably done for a reason other than the vendors whim.
    Most likely, the shaders have been disabled because the GPU is exhibiting higher power draw/ higher heat output than what AMD/AIB's deem the acceptable norm.
    If these GPU's need a higher power draw to keep the chip stable when fully enabled:
    1. How is raising the GPU clock from 800 to 880MHz and the memory clock from 1250 to 1375MHz going to affect power draw in a less than optimal card?
    2. If the power draw and heat production are outside standard norms for the card, what effect is this going to have on cards stacked up in Crossfire configuration? (example here - bear in mind that having the cards stacked in CrossfireX if you also have adjacent slots being utilized is likely to produce numbers somewhere between CrossfireX with 2 and 3 cards)
    3. Long term viability for what is essentially an oc'ed 6950 - a card which at the present time has shown woeful overclocking headroom ?
    4. Higher power draw while retaining 2 x 6pin connectors (as opposed to the 8pin + 6pin arrangement on a "true" 6970) ?

    Don't get me wrong, I think being able to turn a 6950 into a 6970 is a great plus, and I have merrily "experimented" with/tested to destruction more than a few cards via BIOS hacks/editing, overclocking and volt-modding. Just be aware that this is not a risk-free operation, and rest assured that vendors will probably be a little more watchful of RMA's now that TPU has brought this unexpected bounty to the tech community.

    @Per Hansson
  10. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,715   +855

    Uh yeah, sure. It's stealing in the way overclocking a CPU is stealing. :p
  11. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Yet another quality post, thanks for the detailed information dude. :)

    I see your points totally, and in all honesty never even considered them. I guess some of them can be overcome, like water cooling if they're running really hot in tri-CF, but that then brings additional costs, and will remove entirely the money savings by going for the HD6950's over the HD6970's.

    I guess I was looking at it purely as a bargain way of getting 3 cheaper than normal HD6970's and didn't even consider the implications, mainly as I thought each card was made to its specification, rather than reject HD6970's becoming HD6950's instead.

    I love this place, every single day I learn something new. :D
  12. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,958   +215

    @Leeky & princeton, please note the smiley at the end of my post above ;)
    I'm just poking fun at the fact that downloading a movie is doing something illegal because companies loose "possible revenue" while unlocking a GFX card is not, even tho the same logic still applies :)
  13. Sarcasm

    Sarcasm TS Guru Posts: 367   +46

    It's an unusual line to cross from stealing. You can argue that people who buy the 6950 have paid the amount for the product legitimately. What they do with the product afterwards is up to the buyer. What's the difference between hacking the Bios compared to those who OC their cards and add coolers to them? Either way there's huge risks involved in the process and more often than not could void the warranty.

    And for those who don't want to bother doing bios hacks and tamper with a $300+ product, they probably will end up buying a 6970 anyway.

    This reminds me of the GTX 465s that were unlockable to 470s. Some people didn't even know until after they bought it.

    So I think making it seem like the intention of "OMG, people are going to buy 6950s and unlock them to 6970s destroying the sales of 6970s!!!" is a bit overexaggerated. :)
  14. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,224   +164

    Anyone remember this? I was surprised I was able to find it. This was back in the day when those of us were Superglueing after market heatsinks because there was no other ways to attach them (superglue was surprisingly conductive BTW) to our CPU's to get an extra 20 Mhz out of our 486's. anyway, an interesting perspective from about 14 years ago.,15-3.html
  15. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    Looking over TPU's quick-and-dirty measurements you'll note that unlocking the extra shaders shows a fairly minimal performance gain of 3% (albeit in CoD4. You could realistically expect a little higher in more shader intensive games since going from 1408 to 1536 shaders is a 9% increase) and most of the performance bump is due to Core/Memory speed increases -hardly surprising- but something that should be achieveable once some better binned/higher clocked non-reference cards arrive on the scene (Sapphire Toxic/ PowerColor PCS+/XFX xXxBlackEditionXTGTFO/Giga SOC etc.) with the added bonus of a better cooling solution.
    Which brings me to...
    Unfortunately, many of the reviews and the hubbub of this BIOS tweak haven't made a salient distinguishing point between the two cards. The HD 6970 has the all-new-all-dancing 7Gb GDDR5, while the 6950 has been saddled with last generations 5Gb GDDR5 in order to save on production costs. Not a massive difference in the greater scheme of things, but it does mean that the BIOS tweaked 6950-to-6970 clones are probably at the upper limit of the vRAM's ability. The main problem probably lies in that once the 6950 has been BIOS changed to a 6970 some people are going to think that they, in effect, actually have a 6970, and that the temptation is going to be be to gain further performance by overclocking (further). Maybe Powertune steps in (all good), but how is the Powertune function handling a 6950 that thinks it's a 6970 since the feature isn't set up the same way for both cards ?

    No doubt the answers aren't too far away...
  16. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,958   +215

    @sarcasm, you aren't reading too much into your own nick now are you? :D
  17. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117


    Reading your link above, the following jumps out at me:

    HD6950 modded +20% OC = 252W / 115FPS / 92'C
    HD6970 + 20% OC = 277W / 115FPS / 92'C

    So basically, in simple terms, Furmark shows them to be identical in FPS, and temperature, but showing less power consumption from the Hd6950.

    That's hot though, and three of those on top of each other is going to become very toasty! I'm gonna have to have a serious think about this once again, as I'd be worried they'd run too hot together, and overheat, I'll be overclocking them just like I have every GPU in the last few years.

    The backup BIOS feature is a nice touch though, makes the risk of doing the BIOS flash considerably less worrying!
  18. Sarcasm

    Sarcasm TS Guru Posts: 367   +46

    Sorry it went over my head, its the internet, hence its hard to detect real comments from sarcastic ones haha
  19. I just want to say one thing. I am going to get flamed for it, but I don't care. I play WOW and ATI cards crash or have many problems with WOW. I don't know why, but they do. So, until they can fix the ?? driver issue ?? for the ATI cards I won't buy one. If you don't believe me about the troubles of WOW and these cards Google it. Pages and pages will come up. Let the flaming begin.
  20. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,868   +2,035

    Whats WOW? :p I don't think anyone cares so don't expect a flame war.
  21. @ WOW Guest

    I have played wow with ati cards since release, currently 5850 and have never crashed? Guess your doing something wrong.
  22. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    As I alluded to (somewhere in the forum) the 6950 doesn't seem to be a great overclocker. Seems AMD have noticed also, so I'd wait to see what kind of improvements the revision brings. Most certainly the blower/shroud is going to get reworked for better airflow. I don't know about the hard-locking of the shader blocks comment - it doesn't seem in character with AMD, although with better voltage regulation and better cooling it places the 6970 in a precarious position since it's price/performance ratio compared with the 6950 is likely to suffer further.
    Could pay to wait until the revisions are out. If the overclocking headroom is raised substantially that will likely negate any gain you could achieve by unlocking the shaders- assuming the revisions are shader locked. If the revision brings negligable gains then you should still be able to source the current launch version (I doubt a great number of people will be drawn to unlocking their cards- most will be unaware of the unlocking, while it could remain outside the comfort zone of many who do know to try the mod). If the revisions remain soft-moddable then its a win/win situation ;)
  23. I Picked a powercolor 6950 up for £180 and while i haven't unlocked shaders justin case it runs a stable OC @ 960 core 1375 mem for 15% performance boost in heaven ON STOCK VOLTS. so yeah^^ not bad for a card that doesn't Oc too well eh?
    Haven't found a stable Vcore for the old 1GHz mark and without better cooling I'm reluctant but people on overclockers forums have done.
    In summation, you might get lucky like I did and bag yourself a card that's faster than stock 570/6970 for ~£100 less, plus no danger of hitting a RAM ceiling like the 560
    Oh and before anyone thinks fanboi I was looking at a 560 till I found the deal for the 6950
    Only drawback; this is a BIG card, with only 3mm clearance of the 3.5" bays in my CiT Storm

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