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Written by Bruce Normann   
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
PowerColor AX6950 PCS++ Video Card
Closer Look: PowerColor PCS HD 6950
PowerColor PCS HD 6950 Detailed Features
Features and Specifications
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis
DX10: Just Cause 2
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX11: Aliens vs. Predator
DX11: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DX11: DiRT-2 Demo
DX11: H.A.W.X. 2
DX11: Lost Planet 2
DX11: METRO 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
PowerColor PCS HD 6950 Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
AMD Radeon HD 6950 Final Thoughts
PowerColor PCS HD 6950 Conclusion

PowerColor R6950 PCS++ Video Card

Manufacturer: PowerColor (TUL Corporation)
Product Name: PowerColor PCS++ HD6950 2GB GDDR5
Model Number: AX6950 2GBD5-P22DHG
Price As Tested: $289.99 at NewEgg

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

AMD's new Radeon HD 6900 series occupies the top position in their single-GPU product hierarchy. The two models, the HD 6950 and HD 6970 are very much like the HD 5850 and HD 5870 that they replace. The xx50 cards generally run at a lower clock rate and have a few sections of the GPU disabled, presumably because the vendor is trying to reclaim chips that have a small, isolated manufacturing defect. But what happens when your manufacturing process is so good that you're not producing enough "defective" chips to meet the market demand? When is a 6950 not a 6950? Well, quite often, as it turns out. In the case of the PowerColor PCS++ HD 6950 video card, it just depends on which way you flip the switch.


Overclocking has been a constant factor for PCs ever since Intel let the cat out of the bag with their E2180, and other members of the Conroe family. What was sort of an underground activity became mainstream overnight, with 50% overclocks almost guaranteed and 100% overclocks achievable by a great many enthusiasts, even with air cooling. Then AMD came along with their Phenom II CPUs and we got to try our luck at unlocking disabled cores. Now PowerColor has combined both methods into one video card, and they've made it as simple as flipping a switch. Push it one way and you have a standard Radeon HD 6950, with 1408 shaders running at 800 MHz. Push it the other way and you have 1536 shaders running at 880 MHz, which is the exact configuration of the HD 6970. The only difference is that PowerColor kept the PCS++ memory at 1250 MHz instead of spending the extra money for the 1500 MHz memory, like a real HD 6970 has. That's easy fix with a little overclocking, because PowerColor has done the hard work of loading a second BIOS that unlocks the extra 128 shader processors.

This is a new feature for PowerColor and their PCS++ series. This segment of the product line has always been known for wringing the last drop of performance from whatever GPU and platform they used as a basis. But never before has a video card manufacturer been able to add shader cores at will, like this. It's a happy reflection on the maturity of AMD's 40nm design rules that they seem to have an endless supply of perfectly functional HD 6970 chips. Plus, stability has finally arrived in the manufacturing process, as performed by the world's largest semiconductor foundry operation, TSMC in Taiwan.

You may have seen some benchmarks for Radeon HD 6950 video cards already, and an equal number for the HD 6970, but let's take a complete look at the novel PowerColor PCS++ HD 6950 2GB GDDR5, which is a bit of both. Then we'll run it through Benchmark Review's full test suite, where we're going to look at how this card performs with both factory BIOS options.



# Im surprised..Zac 2011-02-23 01:40
I'm surprised that you were able to unlock the extra shaders. I would of thought that they had been locked because it does not have the reference gpu heatsink. "1st batch"

I got the XFX 6950, backed up original bios and modded it to unlock the extra shaders but leave voltages/speeds the same.

Overall I am very impressed, I thought that it more competes between the 570 & 580 than the 460 & 480, based off what Ive read. Haven't done enough tests yet. I really couldn't afford this card, but I broke down and got it because I love all the unlocking goodies. Over all very happy with this card.
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# How do they do it...BruceBruce 2011-02-23 12:59
It's unclear how PowerColor can guarantee that the GPUs on these specific cards can be unlocked. They may be testing the chips themselves or getting special batches from AMD. I'm sure they know the status of the chip before it gets assembled to the board.....
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# RE: PowerColor AX6950 PCS++ Video CardZac 2011-02-23 01:47
(My cards stats :1536 shaders, & 840 core, 1325 memory w/ overdrive.)

*Just wanted to clarify.. You stated that Power-color put slower ram in it but shipped the boards with both a 6970 bios and 6950 bios?
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# Standard RAM for 6950BruceBruce 2011-02-23 06:34
The GDDR5 RAM chips that are installed on this card are the standard chips for the HD 6950. They are rated for a maximum speed of 1250 MHz. I didn't overclock them during this review, because I wanted to show what the stock configuration would dowithout overclocking and overvolting. So, I wouldn't say that PowerColor put SLOWER RAM in, they put the STANDARD RAM on the the board for an HD 6950.
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# 6950 Unigine scores..zac 2011-03-20 22:16
When I run Unigine Heaven benchmark on Normal I get 38.1 fps, lows 25. Seems like I should be getting 40-45 on Normal. Could this be the cpu or ram limiting the performance? Intel better?
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# RE: 6950 Unigine scores..Olin Coles 2011-03-20 23:21
Which version of the benchmark? What are your AA and AF settings? What is your monitor resolution? What is your CPU? How much RAM do you have installed?
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# update..zac 2011-03-21 19:58
Heaven 2.5,

1920x1200, 8GB D/C 1332mhz ddr3 999.24.34, PII x6 1055T disabled C&C/etc.

Unigine at x8 AA, x16 AF, Normal Tesselation: FPS:26.0 Scores:656 Min FPS:8.1 Max FPS:45.5 And.. w/ x4 AA: FPS:30.7 Scores:774 Min FPS: 7.3 Max FPS:59.9

direct3d11Mode:1920x1200 4-8xAA fullscreen
Shaders: high Textures:high Filter: trilinear Anisotropy:16x Occlusion: enabled Refraction:enabled Volumetric:enabled Tessellation:normal

cpuz validation:

gpuz validation:
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# RE: update..Olin Coles 2011-03-21 20:02
Thank you for posting specs!

It appears that we are using different test settings. My test used DX11, Shader on High, Tessellation on Normal, 16x Anisotropy, and 4x AA at 1920x1200 fullscreen.

Hopefully this helps.
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# RE: PowerColor AX6950 PCS++ Video Cardzac 2011-03-21 20:29
Those darn Default Option settings! what a relief. I got x8AA 48.6 FPS.
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# RE: RE: PowerColor AX6950 PCS++ Video CardOlin Coles 2011-03-21 20:31
Glad we got that sorted out. Thanks for visiting our site!
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# Thanks for the reviewJohn 2011-05-06 21:12

Thanks for this awesome review! Based on the information you gave, I decided to pull the trigger on this as an upgrade (current rig is an i7-920 @ 3.8 GHz, GTX 460 1GB, 12 GB VRAM, Vertex 2 120GB boot).

Newegg has this on sale for $255 with a MIR, which--given the BIOS switch--seems like the best bang for the buck right now.
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# Woops -- Deactivated?John 2011-05-06 21:32
This card is showing as deactivated on Newegg? What?

Apparently I ordered the wrong one, the regular AX6950 2GB with a switch to simply OC the card to 880mhz, not unlock the shaders?

Has BMR contacted PowerColor over this? Why is such a new card deactivated so quickly?
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# Chips ran outBruce Bruce 2011-05-07 18:25
My guess is that they can no longer get the high-spec HD 6950 chips, that will unlock. Or else the price for them has risen to the point where it no longer makes sense to offer the product.
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