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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
DisplayPortFullTwo MiniTwo MiniFullTwo Mini
VGABy AdapterBy AdapterBy AdapterBy AdapterBy Adapter
Output AdaptersNoneDVI-I to VGADVI-I to VGA Full DisplayPortDVI-I to VGANone
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
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.