AMD Radeon HD 6950 review

15 Dec 2010

A capable performer and a tempting rival to Nvidia’s more expensive high-end cards

Price when reviewed: 
220(£220 inc VAT)
5

In the previous generation of AMD graphics cards, the Radeon HD 5870 was top dog for performance, but it was the HD 5850 that offered much better value. AMD seems to be aiming for a similar strategy with its new cards: the top-end HD 6970, costs £250 exc VAT, to the HD 6950’s more palatable £187.

Cutbacks have been made to bring this cheaper card to market. The Radeon HD 6950’s 800MHz core clock is 80MHz slower than its stablemate, and two of its stream processor packages have been disabled. There are 22 included here, each with 64 processors, and 1,408 stream processors in total. The HD 6970, by way of contrast, includes 1,536 stream processors in 24 processor packages. The HD 6950’s GDDR5 RAM is clocked slower than the HD 6970, and runs at 1,250MHz rather than 1,350MHz.

AMD hasn’t changed everything, though. The amount of memory is the same at 2GB, as is the 256-bit memory bus. The die is built on a 40nm manufacturing process, and both the firm’s new chips feature 2.64 billion transistors.

It’s an impressive specification, and performance results are good. In Crysis, the HD 6950’s score of 43fps in the Very High quality test is 5fps behind the HD 6970 and 4fps faster than the HD 6870, indicating that there’s enough power here to handle the gaming world’s most powerful titles at their most intensive settings.

AMD Radeon HD 6950

The HD 6950 proved its worth in our more demanding tests, too, scoring 34fps when we activated 8x anti-aliasing. Only when we increased the resolution to 2,560 x 1,600 did it stumble, running through our Very High quality test without any anti-aliasing at a borderline 26fps.

Compared with Nvidia’s latest graphics card, however, the HD 6950 looks less impressive. The GTX 570 motored through the Very High quality benchmark at 48fps and 40fps with 4x anti-aliasing activated, 5fps and 3fps faster than the HD 6950.

This trend was exacerbated in our new Just Cause 2 tests. The Radeon HD 6950 averaged 35fps across its three 1,920 x 1,080 Very High quality tests with 8x anti-aliasing enabled, but the GTX 570 romped through the same tests with an average of 53fps.

The HD 6950 returned mixed results in our environmental tests, too. Although its vapour chamber cooling works well, restricting the GPU to a peak temperature of 84˚, the power draw was on the high side. The HD 6950 installed on our test PC drew a total of 302W, 19W more than with the GTX 570 in place. It’s noisier than Nvidia’s card, too.

Value is the Radeon HD 6950’s trump card, and at £187 exc VAT it undercuts the GTX 570 by a considerable margin and matches AMD’s previous flagship – the 6870 – for price while outperforming it. We still think the Nvidia card represents the best compromise between cost and power, but for those on tighter budgets the HD 6950 makes a very tempting alternative.

Details

Price ex VAT £187
Price inc VAT £220
Performance 5
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 5
Overall rating 5

Core Specifications

Graphics card interface PCI Express
Cooling type Active
Graphics chipset AMD Radeon HD 6950
Core GPU frequency 800MHz
RAM capacity 2,000MB
Memory type GDDR5

Standards and compatibility

DirectX version support 11.0
Shader model support 5.0

Connectors

DVI-I outputs 2
DVI-D outputs 0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
7-pin TV outputs 0
Graphics card power connectors 2 x 6-pin

Benchmarks

3D performance (crysis) low settings 171fps
3D performance (crysis), medium settings 111fps
3D performance (crysis) high settings 68fps