Sapphire HD 6950 Flex Edition Reviewccokeman -
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The HD 6950 FleX from Sapphire offers up a good solution for an entry into the world of Eyefinity. Although there are other FleX models (HD 6870, HD 5770, HD 5670), the HD 6950 version is by far the most powerful, single Eyefinity capable card that does not require an active adapter or DisplayPort-based monitors. Sure the monitors cost some money, but a trio of 22" DVI-equipped monitors will only set you back around $430 if you shop carefully vs. around $750 for a trio of DisplayPort-equipped monitors. That's a huge savings right out of the gate if interested in a 3 x 22" monitor Eyefinity setup. With a three monitor setup at $430 and the $299 suggested price for this card, you are still looking at a $700+ investment. That being said, the performance at 5760x1080 with our test settings proved a little too much for the HD 6950 on its own in many of the benchmarks. But that's the worst case scenario and can be rectified by reducing the resolution or tweaking the settings to maximize the performance of the game to each person's individual tastes. I like the eye candy, but others lean to max performance for the fast game experience.
The Sapphire HD 6950 FleX is equipped with one of Sapphire's Vapor Chamber cooling solutions that does a great job of reducing the GPU core temperature to manageable levels. During the baseline and overclocked testing, the HD 6950 FleX kept the temperature at 60 degrees Celsius. During the baseline testing, the fan is automatically controlled to keep the noise signature in check and maximize cooling when needed. During the overclocked testing, the fan is manually controlled and set to 100% so that the maximum overclock on this card can be reached. However, setting the fan speed manually with a noise penalty. Although no where near as loud as the AMD reference cooler, this card does spike the noise up higher than what I have seen in the past, making the fan slightly louder than the case fans in my chassis.
The cooling capabilities help this card reach over 900MHz on the core and over 1500MHz on the GDDR5 memory. The increases came in at 13% on the CPU and just over 20% on the memory. Overclocking to this level showed definite increases in performance across the entire test suite, making the time expense to figure out the best clocks for the HD 6950 FleX well worth the effort. Sapphire has another unique card to fit a specific purpose and, in that respect, it has hit the mark. You get Eyefinity capability without the added expense, making this a viable upgrade path. If the single card is not enough, performance can be scaled higher with the addition of another Sapphire HD 6950 2GB card. If you are daring enough to try and mod the second BIOS, you can try and flash the card to an HD 6970 (not saying that it works, just stating the possibilities). Priced slightly higher than a reference card, the FleX has added benefits that justify the added cost — Vapor X cooling, Eyefinity on cheap, and the great looks associated with the Vapor X design.
- Good looks
- Cooling performance
- Vapor X cooling
- Eyefinity on the cheap
- DirectX 11 support
- Slightly louder than past Vapor X cooling solutions