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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

Video Card Testing Methodology

There are still a disturbing number of people out there using Windows XP, but here at Benchmark Reviews we switched our tests to Windows 7 a while back. It's as fast as XP in most tests and offers substantially improved security and features, but its best feature is its robust 64 bit architecture (there is a 32-bit version of Windows 7, of course, but you'd be well advised to use the 64-bit version). It's taken Microsoft a few years to get 64 bit support working well, but it's finally here. If you're running Windows XP on a computer with 4GB of memory, you probably have already noticed that you don't have all 4GB available. Plug in a PowerColor Radeon HD6950 Vortex II Edition video card and you'll see another 2GB of working memory vanish, since the 2GB of memory on the video card has to slot into the 4GB address space of your old 32 bit operating system.

Needless to say, you couldn't run a CrossFireX setup with this card on Windows XP at all, since your entire address space would be taken up by the video card memory.

According to the most recent Steam gaming survey, the two most popular resolutions are 1920x1080 and 1680x1050. My personal monitor's native resolution is 1920x1200, which was a very popular resolution until manufacturers decided for some reason that a computer monitor should have the same resolution as 1080p HD televisions. Consequently I run my benchmarks at 1920x1200, which will produce very slightly lower frame rates than 1920x1080.

I choose a combination of synthetic and game benchmarks for this test. The test platform was an ASUS P8Z68-V Pro motherboard and an Intel Core i7-2600K processor at stock clock speeds; the iGPU in the Sandy Bridge processor was completely disabled. As always, remember that these test results are specific to the system and software used in this review, and that different hardware, drivers, and benchmark versions will affect the results.

Intel Z68 Test System

  • Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V Pro (BIOS 8801)
  • System Memory: 2x2GB G.SKILL DDR3-1333 9-9-9-24
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 2600K
  • Hard Drive: Western Digital Raptor 300 WD30 00HLFS-01G6U1
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium x64 with SP1

Benchmark Software

  • AMD Catalyst 11.5
  • NVIDIA ForceWare 270.61
  • DX10: 3DMark Vantage
  • DX10: Crysis Warhead
  • DX11: Aliens vs. Predator
  • DX11: 3DMark11
  • DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.5
  • DX11: Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Video Card Test Products

Graphics Card Radeon HD5770 Radeon HD6850 Radeon HD6950 Radeon HD6950 OC Radeon HD5870 NVIDIA GTX560Ti NVIDIA GTX570
GPU Cores 800 960 1408 1408 1600 384 480
Core Clock (MHz) 850 775 850 930 875 822 732
Shader Clock (MHz) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1645 1464
Memory Clock (MHz) 1200 1000 1300 1370 1250 1050 1900
Memory Amount 1024MB GDDR5 1024MB GDDR5 2048MB GDDR5 2048MB GDDR5 1024MB GDDR5 1024MB GDDR5 1280MB GDDR5
Memory Interface 128-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 320-bit



# 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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