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The Radeon HD 6950 Sweet Spot: Five 1 GB Cards Rounded-Up

Radeon HD 6950 1 GB: But It Has Less Memory!

Although we haven't seen too many examples of it recently, adding tons of memory to a lower-end GPU was once a common practice, if only as a relatively affordable way to beef up a card's spec sheet. It turned out that gamers who didn't understand what really made one board faster than another would buy an overpriced GeForce 2 MX, for example, because it had more memory than a standard GeForce 2 GTS, and then end up with a slower product that was cheaper to manufacture.

Of course, we all know that the Radeon HD 6950 is far from a low-end part. Instead, the most likely reason that AMD's Radeon HD 6950 originally came with a massive 2 GB of GDDR5 RAM was based in its origin as a Radeon HD 6970. The company specified a top-end memory configuration for its best card, and the easiest way to make its number-two part was to simply flash a separate firmware to disable shader cores and drop the clocks. Using the next-lower speed grade for RAM, the Radeon HD 6950 was born.

A lot has happened since that launch, however. To begin, the Radeon HD 6970 targeted triple-GPU configurations, where super-high resolutions and details could occasionally make use of that extra RAM. AMD's less expensive 6950 was marketed toward gamers looking to save a little money. Lower thermal ceilings allowed manufacturers to adopt more compact circuit boards for even greater cost savings and installation flexibility.

Three-way configurations and 2 GB Radeon HD 6950s are still available, but if you're running a single card, it's safe to say that, in most cases, you're going to run out of GPU muscle before you hit the limits of a 1 GB board. As a result, the Radeon HD 6950 1 GB appears to be this market’s sweet spot.

Five companies agreed with our assessment enough that they were willing to send their cards for evaluation.

Single-Slot Graphics Comparison Specifications
Gigabyte 1GB GV-R695OC-1GDHIS ICEQ X 1GB H695QN1G2MMSI R6950 PE OC 912-V246-047Sapphire HD 6950 1GB GDDR5 PCIEXFX 800M 1GB HD-695X-ZDFC
GPU Clock870 MHz800 MHz850 MHz800 MHz800 MHz
DRAM RateGDDR5-5000GDDR5-5000GDDR5-5200GDDR5-5000GDDR5-5000
DVI1 x Dual-Link 1 x Single-Link1 x Dual-Link 1 x Single-Link1 x Dual-Link 1 x Single-Link1 x Dual-Link 1 x Single-Link1 x Dual-Link 1 x Single-Link
HDMIFullFullFullFullFull
DisplayPortFullTwo MiniTwo MiniFullTwo Mini
VGABy AdapterBy AdapterBy AdapterBy AdapterBy Adapter
Output AdaptersNoneDVI-I to VGADVI-I to VGA Full DisplayPortDVI-I to VGANone
Length11.0"9.7"10.8"10.3"9.6"
Height4.7"4.8"4.6"4.7"4.6"
Total Thickness1.5"1.6"1.6"1.5"1.5"
Cooler Thickness1.3"1.4"1.4"1.3"1.3"
Weight25 Ounces23 Ounces28 Ounces24 Ounces21 Ounces
PCB VersionCustom 1.0CustomV246 2.0CustomCustom
VRMEight PhasesFour PhasesSix PhasesFour PhasesFour Phases
WarrantyThree YearsTwo YearsThree YearsTwo YearsLifetime w/reg
Added ValueDiRT3 CertificateDual BIOSDiRT3 Certificate
  • mayankleoboy1
    are the benches of metro2033 correct?? They seem very high to me.
    my gtx 580 @ 1080p with these exact settings gets around 35 average fps.
    the low fps are probably around 15.

    Edit: oh ok. i play at ultra settings with advanced physx on. the test uses medium settings with no physx.
    Reply
  • compton
    I've really started gravitating to the card with the lowest noise at idle -- but if I don't need to pour hot wax in my earholes on load, that's certainly a bonus. Perhaps the forthcoming 28nm GPUs can give the same kind of quietness at full load -- even overclocked substantially -- that my i5 2500K does. The main issue with aftermarket GPU coolers is their questionable compatability and the fact that the market for them isn't nearly as broad as CPU coolers are. I bought a Noctua for my CPU, that I can take with me from 775, 1156, 1155 (maybe X58 boards too)... in addition to every AM2 and AM3/3+. So I view that purchase as more of a long term investment. If GPU coolers were the same way, I'd have no problem just buying the GPU I want and slapping a cooler on it.

    If only things were so simple. That's why I think (hope, really) that a large number of next-gen low and mid range cards will be mostly silent, and very efficient.
    Reply
  • Why wasn't the Asus HD 69501GB w/ DirectCU II cooler tested? I'd think that's a pretty strong competitor as well.
    Reply
  • jdwii
    mayankleoboy1are the benches of metro2033 correct??my gtx 580 @ 1080p with these exact settings gets around 35 average fps.the low fps are probably around 15.
    Yeah it cost twice as much to. I could CF both of these cards and it would kill your card in performance/price
    Reply
  • amirp
    The metro2033 benches are on medium that's why...
    and why ARE they on medium settings? wouldn't it show the benefit of 2gb on higher settings, hell even on my 6850 I play it on higher settings than that...
    Reply
  • Crashman
    conjugateWhy wasn't the Asus HD 69501GB w/ DirectCU II cooler tested? I'd think that's a pretty strong competitor as well.Try asking Asus? If you don't see a card it's because the company decided not to use it.amirpThe metro2033 benches are on medium that's why...and why ARE they on medium settings? wouldn't it show the benefit of 2gb on higher settings, hell even on my 6850 I play it on higher settings than that...Thumbs down for not reading the text below those charts:
    The benchmark for this game also reports minimum frame rates, and most players will only be able to see apparent smoothness at 2560x1600 using medium details with AA disabled (producing around 19 FPS minimum).
    The test was set up to produce playable framerates in the sample map. The tests showed a minimum framerate of around 19.8 FPS using MEDIUM details and no AA at 2560x1600. Obviously, the sample map pushes these graphics cards harder than the maps you're currently playing.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    greghomeActually no, my 6950 1GB handles Metro as good as the 2GB version on very high settings with Adavanced DOF on,only difference between mine and the Sapphire card used in this article is mine has just one fan..........wtf....You'll still see it fall off at 2560x1600 more than the 2GB version :) Not that anyone actually buys a single 1GB 6950 to run 2560x1600 or higher in Metro 2033 at very-high settings, CrossFire does exist for a reason.
    Reply
  • bystander
    mayankleoboy1are the benches of metro2033 correct??my gtx 580 @ 1080p with these exact settings gets around 35 average fps.the low fps are probably around 15.
    I have found that Metro 2033 requires a strong CPU as well as GPU. Your CPU might be the bottleneck. I've also found that Metro 2033 is one of the few games I've played that hyperthreading matters.
    Reply
  • flong
    I have the XFX 6950 2GB card and when I bought mine, the cost difference (in the real world) between the 1 GB and 2GB cards was lik $20. I just didn't see the value of going to a 1 GB card for $20.

    Unless prices have changed a lot, I don't see the 1GB 6950 as the sweet spot.There are probably a dozen of other professional reviews that show that the 2GB version DOES greatly improve performance at the highest settings. At the highest settings, the 6950 2GB card virtually ties the more expensive 570.

    It would have been interesting to see which of the cards overclocks the best. I moved my settings up in ATI's Catalsyst Control but the card did not overclock when I moved the settings up for some reason. I tried researching it but XFX's info kind of sucks. Anyway, my card is so fast that I decided it wasn't important anyway and I don't game.
    Reply
  • _Pez_
    I liked how the review was made, it solve part of my decisions to get a 2Gb or 1Gb card. But I think, that would be maybe more accurate if on the charts were shown the max amount of graphics memory used per game at each settings and resolution... Just to see what results pops out...
    Reply