Hello, I am building a new budget gaming computer soon, and was originally planning on getting a HD 7850, although I discovered that I would not be able to get a copy of Windows, and that I would have to purchase it, this cut into by budget, and I had to downgrade my parts I had chosen out.
I could not lower the price of many other parts, as they were already quite cheap, and found that I only have a budget of 200$ for a video card, after searching for a while, I came across the HD 6950 on sale, and thought it was a good price, but I am not sure if these cards are still able to unlock the shaders with. If the shaders are unlockable, then it would be in similar performance to the HD 7850, and I wouldn't be taking much of a performance hit.
After a little while they stopped just locking the shaders and started actually laser cutting them off of the chip. They are no longer doing it that way.
Either way, most of the early models came with the reference coolers, which are not that great. The cooler on this model is much better and will be much nicer for overclocking the card. Ones like mine that you could unlock the shaders on heat up nicely, because the reference cooler sucks and sounds like a jet.
Either way, the card is still a power house, and at that price is the best buy there is right now.