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MSI Radeon HD 6950 2GB Twin Frozr III PE OC'ed Video Card Review

We check out the Power Edition HD 6950 which brings triple voltage adjustment to the table. How high can we go?
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Tue, May 10 2011 7:10 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package


Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 31 IMAGES


The Power Edition series is one that we don't hear a lot about from MSI, but it's a really good series for those hoping to get a bit more than the norm when it comes to overclocking. It's kind of a less hardcore version of the Lightning Series, but designed for higher end cards than we would normally see in the HAWK series.

The Power Edition cards tend to sit at that in-between spot where you want something more than a mid-range card, but don't want to go crazy and buy the highest end model. So with all that said, today we're looking at the HD 6950 2GB from MSI.

As mentioned, it's a part of the Power Edition series and this particular one carries with it the Twin Frozr III cooler and an out of the box overclock. We're going to be ignoring the latter a bit today and instead see what we can do with our own overclock when we fire up MSI Afterburner. Before we get into that, though, let's look at the package that MSI are offering us today before taking a closer look at the card, its default specifications and what we managed to get from it.

Once that's done, we'll get into the fun stuff and see just what kind of performance we're able to get out of this HD 6950 2GB Twin Frozr III Power Edition from MSI.


Package

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The packaging for the HD 6950 Power Edition looks pretty good; you can see that the Twin Frozr III and Power Edition are highlighted well and you can see it's of course the OC Edition. Inside there's nothing too out of the ordinary going on; some paperwork, driver CD, Molex to 6-Pin convertors, DVI to VGA, Crossfire bridge and a mini DP to DisplayPort adapter.

Card & Specification


Card Pictures

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Looking at the card, there nothing too different to some of the other recent MSI cards we've seen that use the Twin Frozr III cooler. It's a good looking cooler and has cooled extremely well in the past when we've looked at it. Hopefully today it helps us achieve a nice overclock on the card.

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Taking a quick look around the card, we've got two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors at the top of the card and closer to the front we've got two CrossFire connectors.

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Looking at the I/O side of things, we've got a strong setup with two mini DP ports, HDMI along with a Dual and Single-Link DVI connector. It's nice to see that MSI have opted for the stronger I/O line up. More importantly, though, it's great to see that MSI have chosen to include a mini DP to DP connector. It's something that people who use DP monitors are going to want and need and it's just great to see MSI have included it.


Specifications

Out of the box MSI have pushed the core up to 850MHz from the default 800MHz which is a nice out of the box overclock. MSI have also chosen to overclock the 2GB of GDDR from 5000MHz QDR to 5200MHz QDR which is a nice little overclock.

Of course, being a Power Edition card, we want to overclock and try and achieve higher than these clock speeds. Firing up MSI Afterburner and cranking the sliders up, you can see the clocks we ended up with below.

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The core ended up at 965MHz which is a nice overclock from the default 800MHz we see on reference cards and we pushed the memory up another 400MHz QDR to 5600MHz QDR which is again a nice overclock from the default 5000MHz QDR we see on reference 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.

Today we'll be comparing the MSI HD 6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition Overclocked against the MSI HD 6950 Twin Frozr II, Sapphire HD 6970, MSI GTX 560 Ti and MSI GTX 570.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of extra performance we're able to achieve from the MSI Power Edition with the big overclock we managed to achieve today.

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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Straight away we can see the performance boost. Compared to the HD 6970, you can see our Power Edition manages to get a nice jump on it thanks to that strong overclock we managed to achieve. Hopefully this translates well into our real world games and we see some strong performance increases.

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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Vantage also manages to see a nice boost in performance and you can see it's again easily ahead of the 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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Looking at Heaven which of course places a lot of pressure on the cards thanks to the Tessellation needs, we can see the HD 6950 Power Edition is performing exceptionally well here. At the higher resolution it manages to even out perform the GTX 570 slightly.

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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Across the board we see some strong performance from the Power Edition again and at the highest resolution it manages to come out ahead of the pack.

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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HAWK 2 sees a nice bump at the lower resolutions that puts it ahead of the HD 6970. At 2560 x 1600, though, the increase isn't as strong and it does fall behind in this case. Fortunately we've got a good jump on that 60 FPS average we aim for and that's one of the most important things when it comes to gaming performance.

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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Across the board we've got performance that slightly outpaces the HD 6970 again and unlike the NVIDIA offerings the Power Edition at these speeds manage to offer us an average above 60 FPS at the highest resolution.

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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While at all resolutions we do see a nice little bump in FPS, unfortunately we're still below a playable average. This game indeed favors NVIDIA and you can see it manages to score above 60 FPS in a few situations.

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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Aliens vs. Predator is very intensive, but we can see again some excellent performance from the Power Edition. We can see an average above 60 FPS at 1920 x 1200 and below and the only time the card loses its lead is at 2560 x 1600 where nothing is able to offer us the average we need.

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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Just big numbers across all resolutions as you would expect; no real surprise here at all.

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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Under Far Cry 2 we can see some very strong performance and playing this game at any resolution won't be a problem for this card.

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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Just like Far Cry 2, we've got some good numbers across the board and playing Batman AA with those very high in game settings isn't going to be a problem on this card.

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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AA and AF performance is very strong; the only time we really see the card fall over a little is under Aliens vs. Predator which we know is extremely intensive. Under Mafia II and Far Cry 2, which are both great looking games, we've got some really good numbers with the AA detail up.

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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In the heat department the card sits pretty much smack bang in the middle of the pack. At 74c it's not a number that worries us and you have to of course remember that we've upped the voltage on the core, memory and AUX.

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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Under load the card does begin to get a little louder and that's again due to us cranking the voltage up on all three areas. The card's going to run warmer than it would out of the box at stock and in turn to keep it cool we see the fan ramps up a little more.

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 doesn't hold any surprises. It draws more than other HD 6950s because of the extra voltage we're running through the card, but most people who buy a card like this will already own, or be buying a power supply that can accommodate it with ease.

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 is a strong performing HD 6950 and you can see it has no trouble dealing with cards like the GTX 570 and HD 6970 when overclocked this high.

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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Priced at $299.99 at the time of writing and offering the performance it does, the Twin Frozr III Power Edition of the HD 6950 from MSI represents some great value. It's actually the best valued 2GB HD 6900 series card in our graph here.

Final Thoughts




What I like about the Power Series is that it's the series between the HAWK and Lightning ones. It's not aimed at those killer mid-range cards we've seen from AMD and NVIDIA lately, nor is it only for the top single GPU cards like the GTX 580 and HD 6970.

Like we mentioned in the introduction, it sits at that point where people want to spend a bit more money than the mid-range cards that are part of the HAWK series, but don't want to blow the bank with the high end Lightning cards that concentrate on those top models.

What the Power Edition brings to the table is the fun of adjusting the voltage in three areas; Core, Memory and AUX without breaking the bank. The ability to just adjust those little extra things like Memory and AUX along with quite often getting slightly more voltage headroom on the core means that you're able to overclock more than the competition where only the core can be adjusted.

Combine that extra overclocking ability with the fact you're using MSIs top GPU cooler, the Twin Frozr III, and you've got a really great HD 6950 here. It's a perfect choice for people who are looking for a dual slot card that's going to overclock strong and just offer strong performance overall.

The HD 6950 2GB Twin Frozr III Power Edition is another great card from MSI and this is just a fantastic series which like the HAWK and Lightning really targets a clear market. This is one dual slot HD 6950 that people will no doubt be keeping an eye on.

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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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