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Written by David Ramsey   
Sunday, 22 May 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
PowerColor PCS+ HD6950 Vortex II
Closer Look: PowerColor PCS HD6950
PCS HD6950 Detailed Features
Features and Specifications
Unlocking Extra Shaders
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis Warhead
DX11: 3DMark 11
DX11: Aliens vs. Predator
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.5
DX11: Battlefield Bad Company 2
PCS HD6950 Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
Vortex II Edition Overclocking
AMD Radeon HD6950 Final Thoughts
AX6950 2GBD5-PPV Conclusion

PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD6950 Vortex II

Manufacturer: PowerColor (TUL Corporation)
Product Name: PCS+ HD6950 2GB GDDR5
Model Number: AX6950 2GBD5-PPV
Price As Tested: $315.00 (Call of Duty Edition) at NewEgg

Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by PowerColor.

It's a predictable progression: NVIDIA or AMD release a new GPU, along with a "reference design" video card built around it. All of the marketing partners introduce new video cards that are the reference design card with a vendor label or graphic affixed to it. And while some vendors leave it at that, others aim for the enthusiast market by designing their own video cards around the new GPUs, adding their own features and capabilities. PowerColor is one of the latter, and they have several variants of the AMD Radeon HD6950 video card ranging from plain reference designs to, well, this one: the PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD6950 Vortex II Edition. It's a mouthful of a product name, to be sure, and Benchmark Reviews puts it to the test in this review.

PowerColor offers seven variations on the Radeon HD6950 theme, ranging from a reference design card with the standard 2GB of memory to a "value" card with only 1GB of memory to the fancier "PCS+" and "PCS++" versions. Aside from the reference card, all versions have two fans, although the heat sink and printed circuit board under the fans varies.

What can a vendor add to a reference design? The enhancement most commonly seen is a better cooler, although these days the reference coolers on higher-end cards like the 6950 are pretty good. Next would be higher-quality power supply designs to improve stability and overclocking. Last on the list would be major feature changes like extra video outputs or wireless transmission. With the Vortex II Edition, PowerColor's taken the first two options: an enhanced cooler combined with a completely new PCB design and beefed-up power supply. Along with the hardware enhancements, the card is delivered with a mild overclock, with the GPU running at 850MHz (as opposed to 800MHz for the reference 6950) and the memory at 1300Mhz instead of the standard 1250MHz.

powercolor_radeon_6950_box.jpg

With prices starting at under $250, the Radeon 6950 is a strong player in the mid-range video card market. Its competitors on the other side of the aisle are NVIDIA's GTX560Ti and GT570, and Benchmark Reviews will be testing this card against those and others to see how it competes.



 

Comments 

 
# unlockingRealNeil 2011-05-23 08:32
You mentioned in the CONS section that you Couldn't unlock the extra shaders on this card.
Are there still new Radeon HD6950 cards out there that will unlock? I recall reading somewhere that a newer upcoming design would prevent that.
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# RE: PowerColor PCS+ HD6950 Vortex IIDavid Ramsey 2011-05-23 09:07
I'm sure there are, Neil, but I couldn't tell you wish specific ones are known to unlock. Even if a specific model from a specific vendor has unlocked in the past, there's no guarantee current stock will do this.
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# RE: PowerColor PCS+ HD6950 Vortex IIRory 2011-05-24 04:54
Great review thanks, and a small suggestion if I may...
We see a lot of reviews of these aftermarket OC editions on BMR.com (like the powercolor Vortex range and MSi with their Hawk and Lightning variants etc) But they are always pitted against the stock standard cards - or at best older and inferior cards in a crossfire/sli config.
This is useful of course, but the enthusiast in me would love to see a battle royale pitting the best OC variants from Powercolor, MSi, Gigabyte and co. 'Head to Head' to see who makes the best variant of the HD6950 &/or the GTX560ti
Just a thought :)
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# RE: RE: PowerColor PCS+ HD6950 Vortex IIOlin Coles 2011-05-24 08:29
Those stock-clocked products serve as a baseline, since there are numerous overclock models that add 1-10% more speed. It would be very difficult to compare all of the models, which is why we include our own overclock results to show how much of an impact overclocking has on FPS performance.
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# Voltage setting for this OC.Rock_n_Rolla 2011-05-25 02:15
Just want to ask, since this Powercolor 6950 Vortex II has a very nice cooling system capable of cooling the card set on high settings like you did, can we know how many millivolts you added based from its stock voltage? And, How long you tested this clock setting based on the applications you used in order for you to get the percentage???
Also, as you perform your tests, have you experience any hangs or crash?

A friend of mine is serious about buying this PC6850 2gig Vortex 2 card
although he's not into researching much about it on the internet for its real potential, perhaps this might be a good time to ask you so
i could tell him about the settings you used so he could used it on his
when he bought the card. And, if possible if you have tested the card
set to a much higher settings than the one you posted (930mhz and 1370mhz on memory) could you post it here including the voltage settings
and the performance it gained in percentage based from the stock. Thanks and God bless!
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# RE: Voltage setting for this OC.David Ramsey 2011-05-25 09:09
Actually, I didn't have to bump the voltage at all, although (as noted in the review) I did use AMD Overdrive to increase the maximum permitted current draw on the card.

I did not have any hangs or crashes with the overclocked settings I used as long as I kept the fans running full blast. If I left the fans on "Auto", the card would not complete most of the benchmarks when overclocked.

The overclock I achieved was exceptionally high for a 6950. I would not expect most examples to be able to overclock this well. Luck of the draw and all that.

The performance improvement using the overclocked settings is not only noted in each benchmark test, but summarized in a table at the end of the benchmarking section.
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# Screwlaxo 2011-12-13 00:00
hi, do you happen to know what kind/type of screw (the 4 screws that connects the heat sink fan/cooler to the pcb) that this card has? my other one is loose, and may have loose its thread for some reason. the card itself is fine, dont want to RMA just because of one screw acting up, any inputs from anyone will be highly appreciated. thanks in advance.
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# RE: ScrewDavid Ramsey 2011-12-13 07:57
No, sorry. I'd suggest removing one screw and taking it to a hardware or hobby store to see if they have something similar.
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# RE: RE: Screwlaxo 2011-12-13 16:29
Hi David, thanks for the prompt response, will do just that but I bet I'll have a hard time looking for those types. anyways I tried removing one of the screws and guess what, the 2nd one chipped on me, the screw head broke in to two. I know how gentle you need to be on this tiny screws but the build quality is just annoying. you might want to put that in your review, to be careful with the screws, Thanks again.
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# RE: RE: RE: ScrewDavid Ramsey 2011-12-13 16:45
That's annoying as hell...but I was able to remove and replace the cooler on my card without any problems...
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Screwlaxo 2011-12-13 17:05
As much as I would like to think that these screws are a bad batch, its just insane. anyways I tried to squeeze the chipped screw head with my thumb and my pointer finger and guess what it broke again, now I have a quarter of the screw head, for some reason, I don't know why this happened, the only problem that I had with this card is I had my temp idle on 60C and load at 98C on BF3 ultra settings. so I tried to investigate and got to the loose screw, and no replies from power color if I can have a set of screws, my temps are normal right now. I just need the screws.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: ScrewDavid Ramsey 2011-12-13 17:13
I guarantee you those are not custom screws made for that specific card. Again, try a hobby shop or hardware store. Worse case you could get an entire new third party cooler...
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Screwlaxo 2011-12-13 17:28
will do just that, thanks again!
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