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AMD 6850 Crossfire vs 6950

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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December 27, 2010 3:29:11 AM

Hello,

I asked awhile ago for advice about a new graphics card, basically my options were getting one 6850 now and adding a second in crossfire down the road or one 6950. Based on the advice I was given when I asked (and the benchmarks on this site) I thought the better option was to pick up one 6850 now and add a second in cross fire down the road when I got a bigger PSU / upgraded the rest of my computer.

I went to a local PC parts shop today (www.canadacomputers.com). I was asking for a couple of 6850's that were on sale (they keep all the graphics cards behind the counter) and got talking with a couple of the sales guys, and they recommended going with one 6950. According to them, this was a much better option because "real games will never get the frame rates that they get in benchmarks" and "the benchmark tests that most websites run are optimized for multiple GPUs and you don't get that level of scaling in real life". Even on sale, two 6850s still cost more than one 6950, so they were turning down some money by telling me this and weren't just trying to get me to buy the most expensive option. I held off on my purchase today and just wanted to ask the community on here because I have found everyone to be so helpful in the past. Is there any truth to this - would I be better off with one 6950 vs cross fired 6850s? My current PSU is 500 Watts, so I can't step up to the 6970 without buying a new PSU at the same time and I don't have the cash for both atm, so that's the options I'm looking at: getting one 6850 now and then adding a second in crossfire when I upgrade my PSU in the spring/summer (whenever a good one by SeaSonic / Corsair / Antec goes on sale :)  ) or would I be better off just grabbing a 6950 and leaving it at that?

I don't game a ton - I play WoW and would want something that would handle that on all the higest settings, but I would want something that should hopefully last for awhile (aka - I would hate to have to upgrade again when either Diablo 3 or the next WoW expansion is released - yeah, I like Blizzard games :)  )

I'd appreciate hearing any thoughts from the community on this - I thought I had my mind made up on the 6850s in crossfire but like I said, since they were trying to talk me into the less expensive option, it really made me hesitate and second guess my decision.

Thanks in advance to anyone who adds their two cents :) 
a c 130 U Graphics card
December 27, 2010 4:03:38 AM

WoW doesn't support Crossfire as well as some would hope...I think a single HD6950 would be better there. Just throwing that one out there.

a b U Graphics card
December 27, 2010 4:18:07 AM

Oh Shadow I see you've put the 6850 to use XD.

I agree, WoW doesn't really play well with any dual gpu configuration. Something to think about is what resolution, if your playing at 1680x1080. Like me, the 5850 or the 6870 would do just fine. (The 5850 being OC'd to 1000/1xxx is above the 5870's performance). Another thing to keep in mind, I don't think Blizzard games require that much graphics... Soo.... The only game from blizzard I can think of that is somewhat graphically intense is the new WoW expansion, even then the 5850/6870 performs well on it.
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December 27, 2010 4:24:50 AM

I have been pricing the same cards and the problem with the 6850 is that it costs almost as much as the 6870. The Tom's Hardware reviews verify that the crossfire combo of 6850s almost tops the GTS 580 which is amazing. However, for the price, the 6870 or the 6950 appear to offer better value. Considering that you are waiting for awhile and some games appear to not handle the crossfire config well, you may want to consider the 6950
a c 217 U Graphics card
December 27, 2010 5:00:31 AM

I agree and disagree with your salesperson. I find I get the same benchmark results as they get on the sites, but that may be because I use an i7 OC'ed to within reason of most benchmarks.

However, what many sites fail to let you know, is they do run into issues with some games. Sometimes they just omit the results of the failed games and others it's just listed as a footnote. Sometimes games do crossfire/sli and work well on average, but they have some bad low frame moments as a result from time to time. Other times you glitches, while others they just don't work.

WoW is one that is inconsistant. It crossfires well with the 5850/70's, but it seems it loses performance on the 6850/70's. Crossfire also does not work in windowed mode, which is how most people play WoW.

I believe you should only Crossfire/SLI when there isn't a single card solution with enough power. If the 6950 is enough power, it's definately the perfered choice.
a c 217 U Graphics card
December 27, 2010 5:14:00 PM

hubbs_67 said:
Anyone know if this is legitimate?

http://www.techpowerup.com/articles/overclocking/vidcar...

Can you really "unlock" a 6950 and get 6970 performance from it?


This type of unlocking has been present in AMD chips for years. I wouldn't doubt it one bit. Infact, I plan to give it a go, after a little testing first.
a c 217 U Graphics card
December 27, 2010 6:29:41 PM

Update:

I just followed the directions, and my 6950 is now a 6970. I even was able to use the ASUS' overclocked bios. Impressive to say the least.
a b U Graphics card
December 27, 2010 7:08:23 PM

^ Yup, great thing is AMD put dual-bios in so you wouldn't brick your GPU if anything went wrong. Yes that article is right.
a b U Graphics card
December 28, 2010 12:03:18 AM

If WoW is your main concern, go with the fastest single card that you are comfortable with.

I run 5850's in crossfire with an i7-950 OC'd to 3.9GHz playing on a 28" monitor at 1920x1200. In full screen, they will perform at 60 fps (capped w VSync on), sometimes dropping to 40-50 fps in very heavily populated areas of the game--this is something that no amount of graphics muscle is going to prevent.

When I go to windowed mode (much more convenient for tabbing between WoW and other programs), crossfire stops functioning as mentioned by other users so only 1 5850 is working. At 1920x1200, I will get 30-40 fps with all settings max'ed when zoomed out in very open areas (max camera distance facing sideways while flying around the game world for example). In full screen mode at the exact same point it sticks right at 60fps, so the crossfire scaling is isn't bad (this is not a scientific benchmark but more of a general situation to convey the point). You just need to look at whether or not you want to use windowed mode.

A 6950, even at stock settings, will give you completely acceptable frame rates really at any resolution. That may not be the case with a 6850.
December 28, 2010 1:49:00 AM

Thanks for the info - plan on picking up a 6950 tomorrow. I have a 500 Watt power supply for now so I'll leave it at stock, then I'll bookmark all this stuff, upgrade my PSU later and then tweak it to a 6970 :) 
a b U Graphics card
December 28, 2010 6:49:54 AM

Good luck!
a c 376 U Graphics card
December 28, 2010 7:29:59 AM

What is the brand/model of your power supply? If it is good it may handle the card unlocked and if not it may have problems with an HD6950 altogether.
a b U Graphics card
December 28, 2010 7:37:27 AM

^ That's true, a good Seasonic or Corsair should handle it fine. But if it's like an OEM 500w, don't try it you'll be disappointed in the end if the GPU and CPU go on load at the same time.
December 28, 2010 12:44:40 PM

I have an Antec 500 Watt PSU, 80 Plus certified. It's a couple of years old now, trying to squeeze a bit more life out of it before I upgrade to a nice 750 or 850 watt modular from Seasonic or Corsair.
a b U Graphics card
December 28, 2010 7:38:37 PM

hmmm... Well since it's 80+ I supppose it's worth a shot? But I dunno.
January 3, 2011 4:10:50 AM

For your consideration, the 6850 (by MSI) by itself is also a very capable card (I got it within a week when it was released). Like you, I also play WoW most of my free time, and I triple box with no problems whatsoever. My rig is i5-760 with 8GB of memory plus two monitors (24" 1920x1080 and 22" 1650x1050).

The triple Wows:
1. Main on the 24", runs at "Ultra" graphics setting, 1920 x 1080, 40+ fps
2. Secondaries run on the 22" at "Low" graphics setting, 1024 x 768, 30 fps

Cheers
!