Sapphire HD 6950 Flex Edition Reviewccokeman -
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The first thing that hits you when you see the Sapphire HD 6950 FleX is that this is not simply a reference card with a fancy connectivity package — this card looks like a full on Vapor X Edition card. The shroud and heat pipes sell it as a Vapor X offering. The FleX Edition uses a central-mounted fan that blows air through Sapphire's Vapor Chamber-based cooling solution. The looks are flashy enough to satisfy the bling crowd with chromed accents along the shroud. The back side of the PCB is covered in surface mount components. On the bottom left, by the VRM circuitry, is what looks to be a Chil CHL8266 voltage controller. The blue PCB stands out from the black used on the reference version of the HD 6950.
The connectivity options look to be similar to the HD 6900 series standard of a Dual Link DVI, SIngle Link DVI, HDMI, and a pair of DisplayPort 1.2 connectors. To facilitate a third DVI connection, Sapphire includes an HDMI to DVI dongle so that three DVI monitors can be used for an Eyefinity SLS display. This way, entry into a three-monitor gaming system can be offered up without totally breaking the bank. By hooking up the two DisplayPort 1.2 ports, the card will support up to five monitors. Of course, active adapters or DisplayPort monitors will be needed. The HDMI port supports the HDMI 1.4a standard, as well as support for 7.1 High Bitrate Audio. The exhaust venting is still an issue with this HD 6900 series card on the back plate. The rear of the HD 6950 FleX is open to exhaust the heat from the GPU out into the chassis. As much as I love the Vapor Chamber cooling, the added heat dumped into the chassis can affect thermal performance of other installed components. The thermal dump was no where near what is discharged by the HD 6990 and GTX 590, but the result is the same. A chassis with great ventilation is the solution to this problem.
Like the reference version, the HD 6950 FleX supports CrossfireX with up to a total of four cards. The dual CrossfireX bridge connections are used to carry the data between the cards. The Dual BIOS switch is located just behind the rear bridge connection and allows for a quick recovery if the BIOS should be corrupted or incorrectly flashed. Dual 6-pin power connections are required for this card, providing a total of 225 watts of incoming power for a 200 watt TDP card. The recommended power supply for use with the HD 6950 FleX is 500 watts in capacity.
Never one to leave well enough alone, I had to tear this card apart to see what was under the shroud. The Vapor Chamber cooling solution should deliver temperatures better than the reference design. The design uses a large aluminum base plate with two heat pipes feeding out to the edges of the fin array. The center of the heat sink assembly holds the 92mm fan from ADDA. As best as I can figure, this is a 92mm fan with an Ultra High speed rating using 12v.
The HD 6900 series cards come equipped with a Cayman GPU built using the 40nm process with 2.64 billion transistors and is 389mm in size. This one is built using AMD's VLIW4 architecture equipped with 22 SIMD, 1408 streaming processors. 88 texture units and 32 ROPs. Clock speeds are the HD 6950 defaults of 800MHz on the core and 1250MHz on the Hynix H5GQ2H24MFR-T2C modules. These modules are rated to run at 1250MHz, but have consistently run well at about 1500MHz on the AMD Cayman-based GPUs.
Now that the hood has been lifted and we have seen what's underneath, let's take a look at what this means for performance. The expectation is that it will be right where the reference 6950 performs.