HIS Radeon HD 6950 2 GB Review 24

HIS Radeon HD 6950 2 GB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The HIS Radeon HD 6950 retails at $299.
  • 2 GB video memory
  • Native HDMI & DisplayPort output
  • Improvements to Geometry and Tesselation units
  • Dual-BIOS
  • Software voltage control
  • Support for DirectX 11
  • Performance increase disappointing
  • High power draw in Blu-ray playback
  • Power draw limiter could complicate advanced overclocking
  • CCC Overdrive limits too low
  • DirectX 11 relevance limited at this time
  • No support for CUDA / PhysX
AMD's new Radeon HD 6900 series is a disappointment to users who expected HD 5970 or GTX 580 performance levels from the new series. The new VLIW4 shader design can not make a huge performance impact as some have guessed, but it opens up a lot of room for die size and transistor optimization which effectively makes the GPU cheaper to produce, the cards cheaper to buy - more performance for your hard earned Dollar. Radeon HD 6950 seems to have found itself a nice patch of no man's land between the tightly-packed $220~$260 price-band; and the $330~$360 band. We know this is a performance-thru-enthusiast segment product with the capability to run any DirectX 11 game at full HD resolution; yet it doesn't really impress us in any area. The reasons largely have to do with how consumers and we ourselves are seeing the HD 6950. We tend to try hard to pit the HD 6950 as a competitor to GTX 570, which is where the analyses tend to go wrong.
Towards the end of the tests we indeed find the HD 6950 to be occupying a "class of its own" that AMD was talking about in its Product Positioning slide, and that's largely because of the vacuum created by GTX 470 and HD 6800 series pushing prices low in the sub-$300 segment, and fierce competition at the $350 price point, leaving a huge $80~$100 gap to play around with. In the process, the HD 6950 has managed to score a performance per Dollar ratio 16% higher than the HD 5870 - not by being faster, but by being cheaper.
The areas where the HD 6950 will become a sound investment over other ATI GPUs in its range (such as HD 5870), is the fact that you're getting 2 GB of GDDR5 memory, and the fact that AMD claims a near 100% increase in tessellation performance, good for future geometry-heavy games. It's been a tight rope walk for AMD to keep HD 6950 distinct from HD 6970 without the former losing too much on performance. The first victim of this is overclocking potential. Catalyst Control Center has ridiculously low clock speed limits. While the GPU core didn't benefit much from using third-party software to overclock (a mere 20 MHz jump), memory OC went off the charts! At 1540 MHz (6160 MHz GDDR5 effective), you're sitting on close to 200 GB/s of bandwidth, which makes a mockery out of NVIDIA using 1.5 GB of memory on lower-clocked 384-bit GDDR5 memory interface. AMD definitely should have given HD 6900 series faster memory speeds, since the memory controller is more than fine with them.
In all, HD 6950 is a tough choice not because there's anything particularly bad about it, but the price bands surrounding it. Then again, you must note that the lower options (GTX 470, HD 6870) are about $50 lower, while the higher options (HD 6970, GTX 570) are $50 higher. That makes HD 6950 not as bad a choice as it seems at first look. Go for it if you have around $300 ±$10 to spare.

Also make sure to check out our HD 6950 CrossFire Review
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Jul 4th, 2022 11:29 EDT change timezone

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