HIS AMD Radeon HD 6950 2GB Review

👤by Sahil Mannick Comments 📅14-12-10

An email reached my inbox yesterday evening from HIS confirming the revised pricing of the Cayman based graphics card. The HD6970 at 289 and the HD6950 at 223 both including VAT seemed to be in line with what I was expecting considering the performance I was seeing from the latter. But there's a degree of skepticism that arises when manufacturers start sending out the pricing details so late. Did it mean that performance wasn't on par with what was expected so prices had to be revised to remain? Or was it genuinely just a matter of AMD revealing prices at the last minute? Whatever the reason was, it was refreshing to see such low prices for AMD's new series of cards. What about the performance?

This is where the hype gets put to rest. Specification wise, the HD6950 appears to be very close to the HD5870 on paper but we have to remember that AMD have brought several architectural tweaks to increase the efficiency of the HD69XX series. Our results reflects this very well. Overall, the HD6950 was 5% ahead of the Cypress based HD5870 looking at both stock speeds and overclocked results. In that sense, the new card appears to be positioned perfectly as the replacement for the HD5870 in AMD's line up of card and should definitely be worth considering. But a year on from the release of the HD5870, is this really all we can expect? Personally, I expected a new series of card to bring significant performance gains and yet we're left wanting more. It is necessary to point out that tessellation performance has greatly improved in Unigine and games such as H.A.W.X 2 and this is always welcoming. Another strong point of the HD6950 is its 2GB memory framebuffer that allows it to pull away from the HD5870 at high resolutions and applied AA settings. The new architectural design features are certainly highlighted in those situations. In the end, the HD6950 is a more refined version of the HD5870 performing slightly better at reduced power consumption. At 223, it is 18% dearer than the cheapest HD5870 on the web but considering the latter to have reached end of life, consumers looking to buy a new graphics card should definitely consider the HD6950. Otherwise, those looking to upgrade from the HD58XX cards should stay put for now.

So how does it compare with the rest of AMD's 6 series of cards? On the whole, the HD6950 leads the HD6870 by 11-12% at both stock and overclocked speeds. Considering the price of the HD6870 to be around 190-200 for a reference card, the HD6950 provides similar bang for the buck. What you also get with the HD6950 is 2GB of memory that proves beneficial at higher resolutions and AA settings as mentioned earlier, especially in DIRT 2 and Alien VS Predator. Anyone using a 24inch monitor should definitely opt for the HD6950 over the HD6870.

And finally, how does AMD match up to Nvidia? AMD themselves are classing the HD6950 into a class of its own price wise and this is reflected throughout the retail channel. Nvidia's mid range GTX460 is priced around 160 whilst their now EOL GTX470 is below 200 and competing with the HD5870. Higher up, Nvidia have the GF110 based GTX570 and the GF100 based GTX480 at prices ranging from 250-300. Taking a median price of 275, we expect Nvidia's offering to perform around 20% better. From our results, the GTX480 performs 18-20% better at stock and overclocked speeds respectively. If we ignore the H.A.W.X 2 performance, which is highly biased towards Nvidia, the GTX480 is ahead of the HD6950 by around 15%. There are clear situations where Nvidia simply dominate such as in Far Cry 2, Street Fighter IV, DIRT 2, Mafia 2 and H.A.W.X 2. In the rest of the games, the AMD card performs comparatively well considering its lower price point. In Unigine, Nvidia still generate better tessellation performance whereas AMD manage to grab a victory under the DirectX 10 settings. Overall, the price difference appears to reflect the performance difference between the HD6950 and GTX480 quite well.

HIS themselves have to be applauded for releasing their cards in such quantities at launch. The reference design ran cool and silent, drawing very little power. The bundle was the standard array of adapters and cables but the card is what most people will be interested in. Unfortunately, I was unimpressed by this particular card's overclocking headroom, a mere 8% on the core but there are reports of much higher clocks being attained (I cannot vouch for stability in those other cases).

*Update with unlocked performance*

Previously, our attempt at overclocking the HD6950 proved to be somewhat lacklustre compared to previous generation AMD graphics card. Nonetheless, it still achieved an 8% performance boost over stock speeds. Unlocking the card to HD6970 specifications contributed to another 4% increase in performance, putting the card in line with other HD6970 performance. The main significance of unlocking the card is the fact that buyers will effectively have a HD6970 for up to 50 less, making the HD6950 tremendous value for money.

It is unknown as to whether future revisions of the HD6950 will still be able to unlock but those looking for a graphics card now will benefit from this unique feature the most.

+Decent performance
+Improved tessellation and AA performance
+Efficient and low power consumption
+Very cool and quiet operation
+Eyefinity support
+Well packaged
+Aesthetically pleasing
+Good price
+Can be unlocked to HD6970

-Not a big upgrade from the HD5870
-Weak bundle
-Poor overclocking headroom without voltage tweaking
-Performance does not reflect a true next generation card

In light of our recent findings, the HIS HD6950 deserves the Vortez Silver Award.

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