Just how far can you overclock the Radeon HD 6950?
The Radeon HD 6950 often gets overlooked, because it falls into an in-between netherworld of pricing. Typical cards cost anywhere from $240-$300, but most seem to hover around the $270 mark. This MSI overclocked card, built using the company's Twin Frozr III dual-fan cooler, sits at around $280. So high-end buyers overlook this price category and budget buyers feel like it's a little too much.
In doing so, they're overlooking a speedy card. MSI took the Radeon HD 6950 GPU from the relatively staid 800MHz and pushed it to 850MHz. It also added 50MHz to the GDDR5 clock, running the frame buffer at 1,300MHz (versus the 1,250MHz reference). The card's new cooling system offers a switch-based fan profile, which lets you set it to quiet or cooler mode. We ran the card in its quiet mode. The cooler is built using a pair of high-blade-count fans, which seem to be the "in" thing in GPU cooling systems these days. MSI also supplies its Afterburner software, which lets you overclock the card to even higher speesureds if you're inclined.
Frozr III's dual fans keep it cool and exceptionally quiet for its class.
We've always maintained that increasing only the GPU core clock nets you minimal gains. Boosting both memory and core clocks gives more of a performance lift. The Twin Frozr III dual-fan cooler likly pushes AMD's PowerTune technology limit just a little higher, as well, allowing the GPU to run just a little harder before throttling back.
Using our updated suite of benchmarks, we compared the performance of MSI's Twin Frozr III against the XFX Radeon HD 6950, running at clock speeds, and MSI's own GTX 560 Ti Twin Frozr II card, in our standard test system. Overall, MSI's souped-up HD 6950 presents very well, indeed, winning the majority of game tests. Noise and power levels were acceptable, too. In fact, the card is quieter at full load than the XFX HD 6950, which uses the reference single-fan cooling system.
Our main concern, though, is still price. The XFX card and MSI's own GTX 560 Ti tend to cost a little less—as much as $20-$30 less, depending on where you shop. And the kicker is that for $30-$40 more, you can score a very-much non-budget Radeon HD 6970 card. That leaves us torn on the R6950 Twin Frozr III. Still, we have to give the card some points for being quieter than a 6970 and within striking distance of that GPU in performance.
Solid performance; improved noise level; free Dirt 3 game included
Priced a little on the high side for its class
MSI Radeon HD 6950 Twin Frozr III
XFX Radeon HD 6950
Unigine Heaven 2.1 (fps)
BattleForge DX11 (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps)
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps)
Aliens vs. Predator (fps)
Dirt 3 (fps)
Power @ idle (W)
Power @ full throttle (W)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA.