Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2GB TOXIC Video Card Review

Sapphire expands the TOXIC line with the introduction of the 2GB HD 6950. Let's check it out.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Tue, Aug 2 2011 11:23 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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Just the other day I talked about how the video card market has been quiet lately and all of a sudden it seems we have a surge of video cards from companies. The latest card to arrive is from Sapphire and comes in as part of the much loved TOXIC series which has served us well in the past.

Of course, being part of the TOXIC series means that out of the box it's overclocked and it will be interesting to see what kind of clocks the card comes in at. Before we look at that, though, and the performance that our HD 6950 2GB TOXIC offers, we have to look at what is going on with the package and the card itself.

Once we've done that, we'll of course look at the specifications of the card and find out what kind of performance is on offer here. The first thing we need to look at, though, is of course that package, so let's see what's going on inside and out.

Package

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Normally we wouldn't bother commenting on the box of a video card since most of it can be seen in the picture. Just before we started writing, though, we got an email from Sapphire which let us know that the card isn't a Dual Fan one as mentioned on the box. You'll also see that once we look at the card itself. We just wanted to make sure that you know that the box is wrong and not the card. We're sure that Sapphire will fix the box promptly.

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Moving inside, we've actually got a pretty strong package. We've got the normal bits and pieces that we're used to seeing like Sapphire Select Club, Quick Install Guide, Driver CD, CrossFire cable and DVI to VGA connectors. Along with those, we've got a dual Molex to 8-Pin and Molex to 6-Pin power connector, Mini-DP to DisplayPort connector, HDMI cable and Dirt 3 coupon which is something we've seen most partners begin to implement in their packages.

Card & Specifications

Card Pictures

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Looking at the card, the overall design isn't anything out of the ordinary and we've seen similar designs out of Sapphire in the past. We've of course got that main fan on the right and the shroud that covers the entire card. What people will like about the design is that like the reference version, we see that the air is pushed out the back of the system instead of it being kept inside.

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Moving around the card, we can see our power connectors at the back of the card which is a little up on the normal reference dual 6-Pin setup. Instead you can see that Sapphire has opted for a single 8-Pin and single 6-Pin. We see most companies move to this kind of configuration when they start to offer us higher end versions of these cards.

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Closer to the front of the card you can see our two CrossFire connectors, but more importantly, next to that you can see our Dual BIOS switch that is a lot easier to access when compared to the location of it on the Dirt 3 Edition HD 6950.

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Looking at the I/O side of things, the first thing that stands out for me is actually the massive amount of copper that's sitting behind the I/O bracket. You can also see that Sapphire has opened it up a little more to let more air escape. Apart from these changes, the setup of connectivity isn't anything unusual with a Dual-Link and Single-Link DVI port present, HDMI and two mini-DP connectors.

Specifications

Being part of the TOXIC family means the card of course comes out of the box overclocked and looking below, you can see that Sapphire has done a pretty good job with these clocks.

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You can see our core has been lifted from 800MHz to 880MHz, while our 2GB of GDDR5 memory goes from 5000MHz QDR too 5200MHz QDR.

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.

In our lineup today we'll have the MSI Twin Frozr OC HD 6950 along with the ASUS HD 6970 Direct CU II representing the AMD side of things. As for the NVIDIA side, we've got the GTX 560 Ti which continues to be an exceptionally strong mid-range offering along with the GTX 570.

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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We can see straight away in our first test that the overclock gives us a nice boost in performance and it climb towards that of the 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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3DMark Vantage also shows some strong performance and you can see a nice boost over the MSI offering.

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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Moving along to Heaven to look at Tessellation performance, we can continue to see that strong performance for the TOXIC variant of the HD 6950 from Sapphire.

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 some games, we can see some strong performance from our Sapphire offering under Resident Evil 5.

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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Looking at HAWX 2 performance, we can see strong performance again and you can see we're able to break over the 60 FPS average at all resolutions.

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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Mafia II like HAWX2 sees a nice boost in performance and you can see in this case the extra boost helps bring that 2560 x 1600 average to over 60 FPS.

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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Looking at Lost Planet 2, we can see that our AMD offerings continue to struggle to get that 60 FPS average we aim for at all resolutions.

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 sees a nice little boost and you can see at 1920 x 1200 we're just 1 FPS away from that 60 FPS we aim for. 1680 x 1050 of course isn't a problem.

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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Under Street Fighter IV we see some very strong performance which comes as no surprise.

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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Performance under Far Cry 2 is a little wobbly, but you can see across the board we continue to see very strong FPS out of our HD 6950 TOXIC here.

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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Batman AA also sees very good performance across the board and you're really not going to have a problem under this game with the HD 6950 TOXIC.

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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Turning on AA and AF, we can see some strong performance again from our HD 6950 TOXIC. The extra MHz on offer also helps us move our Mafia II FPS to 60 FPS which is exactly what we like to see when overclocking.

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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At 78c the HD 6950 TOXIC does run a little warm, but it's not too bad. As long as we stay below that mid 80c range we're pretty happy. Of course, cooler is always better, but 78c under load is still ok.

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 come in at just over 60 dB. It's not too loud; you can see it's kind of in the middle of the pack.

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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At just over 330 watt the power draw falls in line with our other cards.

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 doesn't hold too much of a surprise with it sitting a bit better than our stock and slightly overclocked cards.

Final Thoughts

It's been ages since we've seen a TOXIC card from Sapphire and it's good to see another one finally grace us with its presence. For the most part there's really no surprises with the model; it's everything you'd expect it to be and to be honest, that's a good thing.

For the most part there are really no surprises, which means there was at least some form of surprise and that comes in the form of the Dual BIOS switch. We've seen most companies move away from the use of the Dual BIOS switch, but you can see here today that Sapphire have continued to implement it.

We figured with that in mind, we'd try and flash the card with the HD 6970 and to our surprise it worked with no dramas. Since that worked, we fired up 3DMark 11 and did a benchmark run at both P and X.

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Since that was also working so well, we figured we'd take the time to fire up TriXX and see what the overclocking ability of the card is like. We ended up bringing the core up to 935MHz and the memory stayed at 5500MHz QDR.

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In the end you can see a nice boost in performance as we move up with a flash and then up again with an overclock. The most important thing to remember, though, is no one can guarantee that every HD 6950 TOXIC can be flashed, and as always, it's done at your own risk.

The good thing about the HD 6950 TOXIC from Sapphire is that it manages to tick all the boxes. Performance is strong, it's got a good overclock out of the box and thanks to the Dual BIOS switch, there's that ability to flash it (albeit no one can guarantee the success).Feature wise, it's a strong card; you've got that strong connection setup on offer and a good quality cooler that handles the flash and overclock with no issues.

Finally, you've got the bundle. It's one of the stronger ones with some extra cables and like most other AMD cards at the moment, we have that Dirt 3 coupon included in the box. The only thing we don't know is the price as it's not available yet, but if the past is anything to go buy the card should come in strong.

All in all, the HD 6950 TOXIC from Sapphire is just a good iteration of the much loved HD 6950 series. There's not really much more that has to be said that hasn't been said already.

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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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