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Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2GB Unlocked to HD 6970

We flash the HD 6950 with the HD 6970's BIOS and prepare ourselves for some free performance. How to do it? - Read on to find out!
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Jan 5 2011 10:42 PM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and the Process




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VIEW GALLERY - 23 IMAGES


Just recently we were given some exciting news. We found out that it was possible to flash the HD 6950 with a HD 6970 BIOS and in turn make your $299 HD 6950 a $369 HD 6970, and really we don't have to tell you how cool that would be.

So we grabbed our closest HD 6950 to us which was a Sapphire and proceeded to flash it with a Sapphire HD 6970 BIOS. Thanks to our friends at TechPowerUp, we used WINFLASH, a Windows based program that gives you the ability to flash and save the BIOS of supported video cards.

The whole process is relatively easy, but of course, it's done at your own risk. The first thing we need to do with our system off is to switch that handy little tab on top of our HD 6950 to the number "1" position. What this allows us to do is flash the BIOS.

Once that's done, we fire up WINFLASH which you can download at TPU here and make a backup of our current BIOS. With that done, we then proceed to flash our card with the Sapphire HD 6970 BIOS which you can grab here at the same website.

We then received an error that said "Could not erase the ROM"; fortunately we have a backup option where we can use the "CMD" Command Prompt in Windows 7 and do a "DOS" like flash.

First we had to do navigate to where WINFLASH is. I recommend you throw it in your C: just so it's easy to navigate to. Once that's done, we typed atiwinflash -unlockrom 0. From there we typed in atiwinflash -f -p 0 Sapphire.HD6970.2048.101124.bin. We would recommend that you change the BIOS name, though, to something like HD6970 so you don't have to type as much. Once we had flashed the BIOS, we were prompted to reboot and did so.

Once back in Windows, we fired up GPU-Z to see how we went and as you can see comparing the reference HD 6950 BIOS on the left to same card flashed with the HD 6970 BIOS on the right, our Shaders have increased from 1408 to 1536, while at the same time our clock speeds have moved from the reference HD 6950 ones to the reference HD 6970 ones.

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Click image to view


So with that done, it's time to get into the performance side of things and see how the card went.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11


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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

With our Sapphire HD 6950 flashed with a Sapphire HD 6970 BIOS, it's time to see how the performance of the card goes. To keep it simple, though, today we've kept the included setups to a minimum with our Sapphire HD 6950 at its out of the box setup and then flashed with the HD 6970 BIOS. The other card we've included is just the standard Sapphire HD 6970 at its out of the box setup.

What we're hoping to see is no artifacts or freezes and performance that should be in line with the HD 6970.

With today's results we won't be including graph descriptions until Page 14 (Temperature Tests) and onwards.


3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
Buy It Here




3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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3DMark Vantage




Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here




3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

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Unigine Heaven Benchmark




Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//



New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5


Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/




Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/




Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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Benchmarks - Mafia II


Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
Buy It Here




Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2


Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/




Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator


Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/




Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV


Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/




While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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Benchmarks - Far Cry 2


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum


Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/





Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

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Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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Temperature Test


Temperature Tests



The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Flashed with the HD 6970 BIOS, the same card warms up to be in line with the Sapphire HD 6970.

Sound Test


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Noise levels between our flashed card and the reference Sapphire HD 6970 are very close with just over a single dB separating them.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw is clearly up from the out of the box HD 6950 and falls in line with the HD 6970s from both Diamond and Sapphire.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)


Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and AMD are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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This TPR graph pretty much sums up everything. Apart from a little bit of fluctuation, the Sapphire HD 6950 with the HD 6970 BIOS performs exactly like a normal HD 6970.

Total Value Rating (TVR)


Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on Newegg.com. In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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This is where we really see the advantage of what we've done today. Thanks to the added performance, which brings it to the same level as the HD 6970, combined with the HD 6950 price tag, we have one of the better valued setups.

Of course, this could go to another level once we overclock the card. The only reason we haven't looked at overclocking yet, though, is because we're waiting for a version of overclocking software that will allow us to adjust the voltage of the core on the HD 6900 series.

Final Thoughts




A few important points need to be made. The first is that this is of course done at your own risk. While you shouldn't kill your card due to the ability of moving back to the reference BIOS thanks to that included switch, we make no guarantees.

Also, don't think that this is restricted to sample cards only, as users with retail bought cards from Sapphire, HIS and ASUS have all been able to perform this BIOS flash without any issues.

When it came to issues, we fortunately didn't have any, but if you do we recommend that you flash the BIOS back to the original one which you saved before updating. At the end of the day there could well be a reason the chip used on your HD 6950 is not on a HD 6970.

Really, when it all comes down to it, though, this is great news for HD 6950 owners who are looking for some more performance and something a bit more manageable without the need to run overclocking software. Once you've updated the BIOS your HD 6950 will run exactly like a HD 6970. Of course, that means that it won't only offer more performance, but it will run warmer and draw more power. Nonetheless, it's being done at the price of the HD 6950, so really, who are we to complain.

A few things to remember, though; we're not sure how long you're going to be able to do this for. The other thing is the brands we know that are able to do it are still quite small, so if you do have luck on a brand other than one of the mentioned ones, please drop us a line in our comments section below.

In the end the HD 6970 doesn't really offer that much more performance over the HD 6950, unlike the old X800 PRO that could be flashed to an XT many years ago. But for something that should carry with it limited risk, it's a nice upgrade, especially if you start looking at Crossfire setups.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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