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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

AMD Radeon HD6950 Final Thoughts

AMD's card naming scheme has confused the marketplace: the Barts-GPU 68xx cards actually provided slightly less performance than the older 58xx series cards, although at a similar or better price-performance ration. The Cayman GPUs used in the 69xx series, though, are AMD's best performing GPUs, populating various iterations of the Radeon HD6950 and HD6970 cards, as well as the monster dual-GPU HD6990.

The said, the performance increment of the new GPUs is still a little disappointing. The two-year-old Radeon HD5870 provides pretty much the same performance as the HD6950, which wins only in a few benchmarks where its 2GB frame buffer can be put to use. However, where it's still available, the HD5870 costs anywhere from $50 to $150 more than the HD6950, so the win here is on price-performance rather than sheer graphics muscle.

powercolor_radeon_6950_34.jpg

The HD6950's obvious competitors are NVIDIA's GTX560Ti and GTX570. The HD6950 equals or exceeds the performance of the GTX560Ti in all of the benchmarks, but beats the GTX570 in only 5 out of 10. Newegg's prices on the GTX560Ti vary from $250 to $280, and their prices on the GTX570 range from $350 to $380. Radeon HD6950 2GB prices start at $260.00, and while I wasn't able to find the "bare" PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD6950 Vortex II Edition card, the "Call of Duty" version (which includes the game with the card) is available for $315.00. Even this price competes very well with the NVIDIA cards, though.

AMD and NVIDIA's main differences these days come down to how they handle multi-GPU setups, and NVIDIA's PhysX feature, which is used in an increasing number of games. AMD's CrossFireX setup offers the user more options than NVIDIA's SLI: while you must have identical NVIDIA cards to use SLI, you can mix and match cards from the same "family" (for example, a HD6590 and an HD6790). Also, if you were running a recent AMD system, SLI was not an option since NVIDIA had not licensed the technology for AMD chipsets (this problem also occurs with P67-based motherboards; if you plan to run SLI, make sure and check your motherboard's compatibility first). However, NVIDIA has licensed SLI for AMD's upcoming 900 series chipsets, thus AMD users now have a new option.

I like graphics cards in this price/performance range because they offer enough performance for most applications, and you can easily add another card in CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI if you need more performance. Right now the Radeon HD6950 offers a price/performance ratio that NVIDIA doesn't have a good match for.

My one real complaint is that PowerColor has too many versions of this card. Admittedly, this is a common problem among vendors, who like to slice the market into $10-$15 segments. With 7 different video cards SKUs based on the Radeon HD6950 chipset, picking the right one isn't always an obvious choice. However, based on my experience with this card, I can safely say it would be hard to go wrong with it.



 

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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