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Written by David Ramsey   
Monday, 23 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

AX6950 2GBD5-PPV Conclusion

IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested, which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.

The performance of this card was excellent, especially with the high overclock I was able to achieve. The combination of excellent stock and overclocked performance combined with a quiet yet very effective cooling solution is a real winner. The one disappointment was that I wasn't able to unlock the additional GPU shaders to turn the card into a virtual 6970.

Red and black seem to be the "performance colors" in favor today, and PowerColor's hardly the only company to use them- look at ASUS' "Republic of Gamers" motherboards, for example. The very flashy fan shroud with its protruding, gleaming heat pipes is a design that would be appreciated by every 13-year-old boy who sketched rocket cars in study hall. But even if installed in a windowed case, the video card's garish fan shroud will be pointing down, leaving the heat pipes as the main visual element.

Construction quality on a video card is hard to assess (at least for me). I look for things like excess solder splashes, poor masking, and uniformity of component place, especially on custom PCBs like this one. Everything looks good, even under high magnification, and little touches like the plastic port plugs that keep dust off unused ports and connectors add to the impression of quality. One could argue that the cooler looks a little flashy and cheap, but a check under the plastic shroud reveals a solid and well-designed cooling solution. I do worry about the temperatures on the memory chips directly above the GPU since they seem to lie in a "dead zone" as far as airflow's concerned. PowerColor uses thermal tape to connect these chips to the heat sink on the PCS++ version of this card, and I'm surprised they didn't bother to do so much does 2" of thermal tape cost?

The Radeon HD6950 brings a lot of functionality and performance to the table. The ability to support four monitors, UVD video playback acceleration, and HD3D, among other things, add to this card's appeal (even if AMD's 3D implementation isn't quite as seamless as NVIDIAs). The lack of a PhysX implementation would seem to be mainly a political issue rather than a functional issue, since NVIDIA claims that PhysX is an "open standard" that anyone can implement, and in fact offered to work with ATI (now AMD) on a Radeon implementation back in 2009. Over the past couple of years, PhysX has grown from a "meh" feature used to generate more elaborate explosive debris to a major feature in many games, and is now probably the biggest argument for going with NVIDIA over AMD.

The one functional problem this card has is related to its cooler: although it provides excellent cooling performance, its size makes this a 3-slot card, even with the fans retracted. That's a real disadvantage, especially if you're considering a CrossFireX setup now or in the future. Extending the fans into the "Vortex" configuration doesn't offer improved cooling performance.

Value is a little harder to asses since I wasn't able to find this exact card for sale, but the version packaged with the Call of Duty game is $315.00 at Newegg. This price, while presumably higher than the price of the card without the game, still compares very well with the roughly-equivalent NVIDIA GTX570. This card represents a very good value.

The PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD6950 Vortex II Edition is an excellent card that would make any single-monitor gamer happy. Just watch out for that slot spacing.

Pros:Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award

+ Excellent cooling performance with low noise
+ Good overclockability
+ Ability to run up to four monitors
+ Excellent game performance
+ Low idle power


- Triple-slot cooler
- "Vortex cooling" doesn't offer any cooling advantage
- No PhysX
- Couldn't unlock extra shaders


  • Performance: 9.5
  • Appearance: 8.5
  • Construction: 9.25
  • Functionality: 8.0
  • Value: 9.0

Final Score: 8.85 out of 10.

Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.

Questions? Comments? Benchmark Reviews really wants your feedback. We invite you to leave your remarks in our Discussion Forum.

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# 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 (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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