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AMD Radeon HD 6950 1GB Review

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SKYMTL

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With the graphics card market suddenly becoming more hotly contested than ever, both AMD and NVIDIA are constantly trading blows at several different price points. For the time being, NVIDIA owns the single GPU performance crown but a large swath of the market – from $175 all the way up to $400 – performance leadership is very much up for grabs.

When AMD released their Cayman-based HD 6900-series cards, it seemed like they were caught a bit flat footed by the earlier introduction of the GTX 580 and GTX 570. This led to a situation where their newest flagship products ended up competing with Fermi cards which were effectively discontinued. Nonetheless, through an excellent pricing structure AMD has been able to retain a highly competitive upper end product stack.

AMD hasn’t had any issue competing up to this point but NVIDIA has now unveiled the GTX 560 Ti; a card that attacks a mass market price point of $249. Prior to today, there was a yawning chasm in AMD’s lineup between the $230 HD 6870 and $289 HD 6950 2GB. That’s about to change with the $259 HD 6950 1GB.

We expect this new 1GB card to have nearly identical performance to the $30 more expensive 2GB version so it should end up competing well with NVIDIA’s new GF114. In addition, the HD 6950 1GB cards may have been sent to reviewers but don’t expect it to be available at retailers for at least several weeks. Since the less expensive version will surely cannibalize sales of the 2GB SKU, many AMD board partners will be giving the higher end card a bit more time on the market before introducing its little brother. Nonetheless, we're excited about how this new product will shake up both AMD’s and NVIDIA’s lineups.

 
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SKYMTL

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Filling in AMD’s Lineup with a New 1GB Card

Filling in AMD’s Lineup with a New 1GB Card



To many, the exact reasoning behind the launch of yet another Cayman-based card may seem unclear but NVIDIA’s current and upcoming product lineup has prompted several reactionary steps on AMD’s part. The HD 6870 1GB has fallen from its previous price of $249 to $230 in order to better line up with the $249 launch MRSP of the GTX 560 Ti. Additional rebates have brought the HD 6870 to the $210 mark in recent weeks but according to retailers we have spoken to, these discounts will end shortly after the GTX 560 Ti launch.

For the most part the upper end of AMD’s product stack has remained at a constant pricing structure with the HD 6970 retailing for around $369 while the HD 6950 2GB still hovers around the $289 mark. The upcoming dual GPU card dubbed Antilles is still playing hide and go seek but we expect it to be launched sometime this quarter with a retail price of $599; taking over the HD 5970’s spot as the flagship Radeon product.


From a specifications standpoint, nothing has changed between the 2GB and 1GB HD 6950 cards other than the amount of allotted memory. Instead of making a completely new product with lower clock speeds, AMD has decided to port over the Cayman Pro core en masse but this will likely cause some issues as well. With high clock speeds of 5Ghz operating on a 256-bit bus, even a 1GB HD 6950 should have plenty of bandwidth to burn though so we will only see a significant differentiation in overall performance. AMD’s “board power” indicator has remained the same simply because the components on these cards are still capable of delivering up to 200W. However, actual power consumption should be a bit less due to the 1GB version using less power-hungry GDDR5 modules.

$259 is certainly an aggressive price but we have to wonder whether AMD is castrating their lineup just to offer a competitive solution against the GTX 560 Ti. Will this move to compete with NVIDIA’s GF114 kill sales of the HD 6950 2GB? Only time will tell but it’s important to remember that this is still a great move for consumers.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the HD 6950 1GB

A Closer Look at the HD 6950 1GB



The samples which AMD sent to us are engineering samples so they look no different from the standard HD 6950 2GB products. It uses a full length heatsink shroud topped with a single red fan but expect board partners’ products to display a sticker or two with some fancy graphics.


Power is brought to the card via a pair of PCI-E 6-pin connectors while the dual Crossfire connectors from the 2GB version are retained. In addition, AMD has retained the BIOS switch on this engineering sample at least so there is some hope that the HD 6950 1GB will be able to unlock if AMD ever releases a 1GB HD 6970.

Like all other HD 6000-series cards, the HD 6950 1GB sports a huge selection of connector options. Along with the two DVI-D outputs there is a single HDMI 1.4a port as well as two mini DisplayPort connectors for native 3x1 Eyefinity support from a single card.


The back end of the card is where things start getting interesting. Since the 1GB version doesn’t use the PCB’s back for additional memory ICs, no additional backplate heatsink is needed. This along with less memory contributes towards cutting down the card’s price.

AMD has also shipped this engineering sample with a red PCB but we expect mass production units to sport the usual black PCB.


The HD 6950’s length of 10.5” means it simply dwarfs the GTX 560 but since AMD placed its power connectors on the side, the installed length of both cards will be approximately the same.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller (Off for Power Consumption tests)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

ATI HD 6950 1GB (Ref)

NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti 1GB (Ref)
NVIDIA GTX 570 (Ref)
NVIDIA GTX 470 (Ref)
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (Ref)

ATI HD 6970 2GB (Ref)
ATI HD 6950 2GB (Ref)
ATI HD 6870 1GB (Ref)



Drivers:

NVIDIA 266.58 WHQL
NVIDIA 260.56 (GTX 560 Ti)
ATI 11.1a Hotfix

Note: Even though AMD claims the “AMD Optimized Tessellation” feature in the 11.1a drivers has not yet been implemented, we have changed the setting to “Off” in order to ensure additional, untested optimizations are not enabled.

Applications Used:

3DMark 11
Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
F1 2010
Just Cause 2
Lost Planet
Metro 2033
Unigine: Heaven


*Notes:

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR BENCHMARKING PROCESS PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset



Extreme Preset

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)

Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)


When benchmarking Aliens Versus Predator, we played through the whole game in order to find a section which represents a “worst case” scenario. We finally decided to include “The Refinery” level which includes a large open space and several visual features that really tax a GPU. For this run-through, we start from within the first tunnel, make our way over the bridge on the right (blowing up several propane tanks in the process), head back over the bridge and finally climb the tower until the first run-in with an Alien. In total, the time spent is about four minutes per run. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050





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2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)

BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)


To benchmark BF: BC2 we used a five minute stretch of gameplay starting from the second checkpoint (after the helicopter takes off) of the second single player mission up until your battle with the tank commences. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
DiRT 2 (DX11)

DiRT 2 (DX11)


Being one of the newest games on the market, DiRT 2 cuts an imposing figure in terms of image quality and effects fidelity. We find that to benchmark this game the in-game tool is by far the best option. However, due to small variances from one race to another, three benchmark runs are done instead of the normal two. It should also be mentioned that the demo version of the game was NOT used since after careful testing, the performance of the demo is not representative of the final product. DX11 was forced through the game’s config file. In addition, you will see that these scores do not line up with our older benchmarks at all. This is due to the fact that a patch was recently rolled out for the game which included performance optimizations in addition to new graphics options.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
F1 2010 (DX11)

F1 2010 (DX11)



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1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Just Cause 2 (DX10)

Just Cause 2 (DX10)


Just Cause 2 has quickly become known as one of the best-looking games on the market and while it doesn’t include DX11 support, it uses the full stable of DX10 features to deliver a truly awe-inspiring visual experience. For this benchmark we used the car chase scene directly following the Casino Assault level. This scene includes perfectly scripted events, some of the most GPU-strenuous effects and lasts a little less than four minutes. We chose to not use the in-game benchmarking tool due to its inaccuracy when it comes to depicting actual gameplay performance.


1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 
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