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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 Detailed Features

With the cooler removed, the bright red PCB is exposed. This is definitely not a reference design! In this image you can also see the light brown plastic port covers PowerColor provides for the rear ports as well as the CrossFireX connectors at the top of the card. Two 6-pin PCI-E connectors provide the extra power this card needs.

powercolor_radeon_6950_front_no_cooler.jpg

The Cayman-class GPU is used in both the Radeon 6950 and Radeon 6970 video cards. Like many OEMs, PowerColor applies far too much thermal interface material, which slopped over the edges of the GPU die when the heat sink was attached. Although the extra TIM doesn't hurt anything, it can result in less than optimum thermal performance. While the temperatures I report later in this review were measured before I removed the cooler for these pictures, maximum temperatures under load dropped 2-3 degrees after I reinstalled the cooler with a careful application of much less TIM. Benchmark Reviews has an excellent guide on the proper use and application of thermal interface material here.

powercolor_radeon_6950_GPU.jpg

The Radeon PCS+ 6950 Vortex II Edition comes equipped with 2GB of Hynix H5GQ2H24MFR-T2C GDDR5 video memory. This is the same memory AMD uses on their reference design board and is rated for 1250MHz. However, as delivered, the card runs this memory at 1300MHz.

powercolor_radeon_6950_memory.jpg

The power supply section of the card is where it differs most dramatically from AMD's reference design. There are six power phases for the GPU and one for the memory, and as you can see there's space for an unused phase. Adding two-phase power for the memory probably wouldn't help anything, though, but the extra phases for the GPU should help overclocking.

powercolor_radeon_6950_power_supply.jpg

All that power is managed by this CHIL 8228G, which provides the 8-phase power (7 used) for the card as well as standard voltage adjustment and monitoring via the I2C communications protocol. This standard protocol is what enables utilities like MSI Afterburner to tweak and report on the voltage you set on your card.

powercolor_radeon_6950_chil.jpg

PowerColor calls this card the "Vortex II Edition", and the term refers to the adjustable fans used on the cooler. The fans protrude more than you'd expect. In fact, this is really a 3-slot card, as you can see from the image below: the fans intrude on the space for the second slot over from the video card. If your motherboard's first two PCI-E x16 slots are separated only by one other slot, you're not going to be able to run a CrossFireX setup with this card.

powercolor_radeon_6950_fans_normal.jpg

The fans can be shifted out in their mounts by grasping the triangular protrusions and pulling out; you can even tilt the fans slightly so the airflow is aimed more at either end of the card. PowerColor claims the extra space between the fans and the cooling fins, combined with the more directional airflow, will improve cooling; but I wasn't able to measure any improvement with the fans in either position. A 3-slot cooler might be worth it if the extra space required by the pop-out fan feature resulted in better cooling, but it doesn't. As far as I can tell, the adjustability of these fans is mentioned only on the rear of the box, not in the installation guide or manual.

powercolor_radeon_6950_fans_extended.jpg

Let's review the detailed technical specifications of this card in the next section.



 

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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