Sapphire HD6950 2GB DiRT3 Toxic Edition Reviewairman -
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So, what have I learned with Sapphire's HD6950 2GB DiRT3 Toxic Edition? Well, the first thing that I discovered after getting it installed is the efficiency of the cooler. I was able to achieve the lowest overclocked load temperature out of all the video cards present. Not only is that quite an accomplishment, but it was even able to do so with the tiny, undersized (in my opinion) vent at the rear. It's actually quite noticeable, when at full speed, that the fan pushes out air all around the card due to the amount of pressure that builds up. So even though this cooler works incredibly well, Sapphire could have achieved even more flow in this card if there was a way to open up the back venting a little bit more. The next thing that I noticed was the clock speeds I was able to achieve using the Sapphire TriXX software. With a core clock of 1.01GHz and a memory clock at 1.50GHz — over 25% and 20% speed increases, respectively — I saw noticeable increases in performance as shown by the graphs, and at excellent temperatures, I might add! I was able to get the core to 1.03GHz and memory to 1.55GHz, but that required 1.3v and the performance increase didn't warrant the additional voltage and in some cases, hurt performance.
Another incredible thing about this card is that it was unlockable — meaning that I was able to flash it to an HD6970 BIOS, unlocking the total 1536 shader cores over the stock 1408. With the extra 10% of shader cores at my disposal, I reran the overclocked benchmarks and discovered a steady jump in performance by anywhere between 6%-8% running at the same 1010/1500MHz. Granted, not all cards can do this from the factory, as they are physically cut. I can't say whether all these cards are unlockable, but it doesn't hurt to try. However, even if you buy the card and it's not unlockable, what else is there not to like? With such an excellent cooler and the ability to control voltage with Sapphire TriXX, making up for it by overclocking is far from a difficult task. The performance and overclockability definitely makes up for it.
There is no doubt that two HD6950s in CrossFire would absolutely ROCK and would still be cheaper (okay, maybe not particularly this card) than some GTX580s — certainly exceeding the performance of one in many areas. Too bad that I don't have another one handy here to try for some dual-GPU goodness, perhaps both unlocked to the HD6970 BIOS. Aside from everything I've just mentioned, you still get a voucher for one of my favorite rally racing game franchises, DiRT3 — a value of about $20. I haven't gotten around to playing DiRT3 yet, but I was a huge fan of the original and put several hundred hours into it.
Anyways, without getting too long-winded, I'll wrap this up. Sapphire HD6950 2GB DiRT3 Toxic Edition: great cooler, great overclocks, great performance. There's nothing less to it! An absolutely potent card for the price that can be had for a nice chunk cheaper than the HD6970 at almost the same, matched, or even better performance.
- This particular card was unlockable
- Excellent cooling
- Can meet performance of HD6970s
- Includes a free copy of DiRT3
- Can run up to four separate monitors
- Includes HDMI cable and mini DisplayPort adapter