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GIGABYTE Radeon HD 6950 2GB Video Card Overclocked

Houston; we have Voltage! We see how high we can bump up the HD 6950 from GIGABYTE with some extra juice.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Jan 20 2011 10:18 AM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Package


Introduction

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I'm feeling a little bad at the moment. I've had the GIGABYTE HD 6950 2GB for a while now, but because we had already looked at the model in single and Crossfire form, I figured I would use this card to do an overclocking article.

Instead of just doing a standard OC article with no voltage adjustment and then doing another one later, I figured I'd just wait 'till we had Voltage adjustment on the HD 6900 series. Unfortunately that took a little longer than normal.

Still, the good news is we've got it now and we can really put the GIGABYTE HD 6950 2GB through its paces. Of course, we haven't looked at the GIGABYTE version of the HD 6950 either, so we'll check out the package first and then have a closer look at the card itself before looking at the specifications, and more importantly the overclock we managed to achieve.


The Package

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The overall design of the box doesn't hold any real surprises, but it's nice to go back to the more traditional box shape. Inside there's not much going on with the manual, driver CD, Crossfire cable and two dual Molex to 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors.

Card, Specifications and Overclocking


The Card

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The card is based on the reference design which isn't any surprise, and I know that the only difference between companies around launch is only the sticker on the cooler, but I love this sticker! It's hard to tell, but it's a reflective sticker and just looks really cool. It's a nice design and when a lot of the cards carry the same reference design and package, sometimes it's the look of the card that's going to help seal the deal when it comes to deciding which one to buy.

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Jumping around the rest of the card, we continue to see all those reference features; two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors on the back, two Crossfire connectors and our little BIOS switch. Connectivity also doesn't hold any surprises with a Dual-Link DVI, Single-Link DVI, HDMI 1.4 and two Mini DisplayPort connectors.


Specifications and Overclocking

Continuing on with the reference design, the clocks are of course reference as well which puts the core in at 800MHz and the memory clock at 5000MHz QDR. Using Afterburner, though, it was time to bump the voltage up to 1.3v and start moving those clocks north.

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What we ended up with is a core clock of 970MHz; this is an increase of over 150MHz. As for the 2GB of GDDR5 memory, that gets clocked up to 5460MHz QDR which is almost a 500MHz QDR increase, which is very impressive. It'll be interesting to see how its performance goes when compared to reference clocked cards.

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.

We're going to be having a look at the GIGABYTE HD 6950 2GB at 970MHz / 5460MHz QDR against a number of cards, but some of the main ones we'll be comparing it against are the HD 6950 at reference clocks and also the HD 6970 at reference clocks.

Apart from those two cards, we've also got the HD 6800s by themselves and in Crossfire along with the GTX 570, GTX 580 and GTX 480 in single form.

Let's get started!


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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Big gains straight away that put the card faster than the reference clocked HD 6970.

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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Big performance jumps again and we can see that when overclocked the GIGABYTE HD 6950 is able to outperform the reference clocked HD 6970.

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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We continue to see those strong performance gains over the reference clocked card that put the GIGABYTE HD 6950 ahead of the HD 6970.

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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Getting into the real world games and there's nothing new compared to what we've seen in our synthetic tests. There's a nice boost in performance on the HD 6950 which puts it again ahead of the HD 6970 at all resolutions.

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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H.A.W.X. 2 continues the trend with a good boost in performance that puts the card again ahead of the HD 6970.

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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Another good boost, but more importantly we see that the performance at 2560 x 1600 goes from below what we would consider playable, under 60 FPS, to over that number. The 7 FPS swing for us turns the game from borderline playable to definitively playable.

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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Under the intensive Lost Planet 2 we continue to see those nice gains in performance. Unfortunately, across the board we're still below that 60 FPS average we want.

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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Strong performance again which puts the GIGABYTE HD 6950 overclocked straight in line with the HD 6970. More importantly, though, like Mafia II we see the 1920 x 1200 results move from below 60 FPS to over.

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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That extra MHz on offer puts the GIGABYTE HD 6950 again ahead of the HD 6970 at all resolutions.

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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Across the board we see a nice boost in performance and compared to the HD 6970 we see at some points the GIGABYTE comes ahead, while others it's just behind. Very good numbers across the board, though.

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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Before we get into the AA testing, we again see that strong performance boost which puts the card again ahead of the reference HD 6970.

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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Across the board we've got nice gains, but again under Mafia II we see that extra MHz moves our performance from an average of below 60 FPS to an average over it. It's times like this why we overclock.

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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The HD 6900 series is a warmer running series than the previous generation HD 5000 series, and you can see when we push more voltage through the card it does get a little toasty indeed.

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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The fact that the fan isn't spinning any faster or louder is one of the main reasons we see the card heat up a fair bit. You could increase the fan % yourself if you wanted to and trade off a little bit of noise to drop that temperature. It's something worth considering when you're already in overclocking software and the option is right there.

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 jumps up which doesn't come as a surprise, and most good quality 600 Watt+ power supplies won't have an issue dealing with the card overclocked. The big jump in idle power, though, might make you think that you should leave the card at stock when just cruising around the desktop.

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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Overall, performance is very strong which puts the card not only ahead of the reference HD 6970, but even the overclocked HD 6970s which is very impressive.

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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That aggressive price tag and big boost in performance means there's extremely strong value behind the HD 6950 when it's overclocked.

Final Thoughts




Out of the box the GIGABYTE HD 6950 2GB isn't bringing anything new to the table compared to just about every other HD 6950 currently on the market. That's not a bad thing, though, as it comes with that aggressive price tag and at reference speeds, while we didn't test it, we know how it's going to perform and we know that's very well.

What we got the chance to do today, though, was look at what happens when we start to get down and dirty with the HD 6950. To say we're impressed with the overclocking potential of the model would be a little bit of an understatement. We're seeing some great performance from the GIGABYTE HD 6950 when we overclock which doesn't just put it ahead of the reference clocked HD 6970s, but the pre-overclocked HD 6970s from both Diamond and HIS, too.

We already liked the HD 6950 2GB as out of the box it offers some great performance for under $300. Take the time, though, to do a bit of overclocking and you've got a real beast on your hands for the price.

While you can of course throw the HD 6970 BIOS on the card, it seems that there's some issues coming to light with the memory a few weeks on. Personally, I would recommend that you go down the path of overclocking like this instead of changing the BIOS. It also seems at the moment there's no option to adjust the voltage on the modified BIOS HD 6950s, and considering we can get not only performance better than reference HD 6970s, but also overclocked ones, this is a great path to take.

Strong performance, strong price, great OC potential and a shiny sticker make this another great HD 6950. Another strong brand brings with it a reference card that does exactly what you expect; perform well at a good price. It'll be interesting to see how GIGABYTE attack this model and other models in the series with some of their much loved series like SOC and Windforce.

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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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