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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

PCS+ HD6950 Temperatures

Adding an enhanced cooling solution is the first change any vendor will make to a reference video card. By their nature, reference coolers are designed to keep the GPU at a temperature that NVIDIA and AMD deem safe at reasonable ambient temperatures. With noise and cost as major considerations for the stock cooler, these "safe" temperatures often leave little headroom for overclocking.

FurMark is the application to use if you want to drive video card temperatures as high as possible. Still, this is complicated by the extra controls AMD's built into its latest generation GPUs and drivers, which will automatically throttle themselves down if power draw or temperature exceed certain limits. In this respect they're similar to Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, which will also aggressively throttle themselves to prevent damage.

AMD Overdrive, an overclocking feature built into AMD's Catalyst Control Center, has a "Power Control Settings" slider you can adjust to allow up to 20% extra power draw by the GPU, and I adjusted this control to the maximum 20% for temperature, power, and overclocking. I let FurMark run until the reported temperature was stable for 5 minutes, and recorded the load temperatures with the fans on "Auto" as well as 100% speeds.

Video Card Ambient Idle Load Load (100% fans)
PowerColor Radeon PCS+ HD6950 20°C 34°C 67°C 54°C

When I removed the cooler from the card for photography (after this test), I was concerned by two things: the mounting system didn't seem to apply much pressure to clamp the heat sink to the GPU, and the excessive amount of thermal paste. But obviously neither of these factors mattered much, because this cooler keeps the card really, really cool. These temperatures are 1°C higher for load and 3° cooler under load with 100% fans than the similar cooler on the PowerColor PCS++ HD6950 card Benchmark Reviews tested previously.

The automatic fan control kept the fans at about 28-30% speed under load, at which speed they were almost inaudible. Manually ramping the fans up to full speed decreases temperatures dramatically, but at a significant sonic cost. I don't see any reason to take the fans off auto control when running at stock speeds, since the card simply doesn't get that hot, even under heavy loads.

The overclocked temperatures I recorded with FurMark were identical to the stock temperatures, as were the frame rates reported by the utility. This is because AMD's drivers detect when certain benchmarking applications like FurMark are being used, and throttle the card accordingly. I did see load temperatures up to 74°C (auto fans) during some gaming benchmarks, so FurMark's definitely being throttled here. With older versions of AMD's drivers, simply renaming FurMark was enough to defeat this protection, but that doesn't work with the current drivers from either ATI or NVIDIA, which will limit FurMark's continued use as a stress testing tool. AMD and NVIDIA both claim that utilities like FurMark aren't realistic in that no real-world use will ever apply the continuous loads these test utilities do, and that the detection of these utilities prevents possible damage to their video cards.



 

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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