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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

Just Cause 2 Performance Tests

"Just Cause 2 sets a new benchmark in free-roaming games with one of the most fun and entertaining sandboxes ever created," said Lee Singleton, General Manager of Square Enix London Studios. "It's the largest free-roaming action game yet with over 400 square miles of Panaun paradise to explore, and its 'go anywhere, do anything' attitude is unparalleled in the genre." In his interview with IGN, Peter Johansson, the lead designer on Just Cause 2 said, "The Avalanche Engine 2.0 is no longer held back by having to be compatible with last generation hardware. There are improvements all over - higher resolution textures, more detailed characters and vehicles, a new animation system and so on. Moving seamlessly between these different environments, without any delay for loading, is quite a unique feeling."


Just Cause 2 is one of those rare instances where the real game play looks even better than the benchmark scenes. It's amazing to me how well the graphics engine copes with the demands of an open world style of play. One minute you are driving through the jungles, the next you're diving off a cliff, hooking yourself to a passing airplane, and parasailing onto the roof of a hi-rise building. The ability of the Avalanche Engine 2.0 to respond seamlessly to these kinds of dramatic switches is quite impressive. It's not DX11 and there's no tessellation, but the scenery goes by so fast there's no chance to study it in much detail anyway.

Although we didn't use the feature in our testing, in order to equalize the graphics environment between NVIDIA and ATI, the GPU water simulation is a standout visual feature that rivals DirectX 11 techniques for realism. There's a lot of water in the environment, which is based around an imaginary Southeast Asian island nation, and it always looks right. The simulation routines use the CUDA functions in the Fermi architecture to calculate all the water displacements, and those functions are obviously not available when using an ATI-based video card. The same goes for the Bokeh setting, which is an obscure Japanese term for out-of-focus rendering. Neither of these techniques uses PhysX, but they do use specific computing functions that are only supported by NVIDIA's proprietary CUDA architecture.

There are three scenes available for the in-game benchmark, and I used the last one, "Concrete Jungle" because it was the toughest and it also produced the most consistent results. That combination made it an easy choice for the test environment. All Advanced Display Settings were set to their highest level, and Motion Blur was turned on, as well.


The results for the Just Cause 2 benchmark show a bit of a mixed bag for the typical Red v. Green competition. They look similar to the ones we saw for the New Calico test on 3DMark vantage, just compressed a bit. Obviously, they use completely different rendering engines, but both tests have massive amounts of environment to render. The Gigabyte GTX 480 SOC takes the top spot, and the GTX 560 Ti hangs a little closer than the rest of the cards. The Radeon HD 6950 in its base configuration is almost 5 FPS behind the base GeForce GTX 560Ti; the 35-40 FPS range is not an area where you can give up that type of advantage and not have it show up in real game play. On the whole, I'd call this a pretty well behaved benchmark, and the game's a blast, too. It's a shame the HD 6900 series doesn't get along with this game, perhaps its a driver issue.

Let's take a look at one more popular gaming benchmark, which was released recently with PhysX support, yet it relies on DirectX 9 features. It's a wonderful blend of modern graphics technology and classic crime scenes, called Mafia II.

Graphics Card


Core Clock

Shader Clock

Memory Clock



MSI GeForce GTX 460 (N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC)





1.0 GB GDDR5


MSI Radeon HD 6870 (R6870-2PM2D1GD5)





1.0 GB GDDR5


MSI GeForce GTX 560 Ti (N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC)





1.0 GB GDDR5


PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 (PCS+ AX5870 1GBD5-PPDHG2)





1.0 GB GDDR5


PowerColor PCS++ Radeon HD6950 (AX6950 2GBD5-P22DHG)





2.0 GB GDDR5


Gigabyte GeForce GTX 480 (GV-N480SO-15I Super Over Clock)





1536 MB GDDR5




# 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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