AMD Radeon HD 6950 1GB Performance Review

We are pitting the new Radeon HD 6950 1GB video card against the Radeon HD 6950 2GB version and a GeForce GTX 560 Ti in apples-to-apples testing to see how they compare. We test at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 to push memory limitations and find which card provides the best gaming value.

Introduction

On January 25th, 2011 NVIDIA’s launch of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti was the big news of the day. The GeForce GTX 560 Ti stole the spot light and was a major product launch for NVIDIA filling in the sweet spot of pricing around $249. However, there was actually another "launch" that was a bit under the radar on that same day from the AMD side of things. In fact, this launch of a new Radeon HD 6950 1GB video card goes to directly compete with the new GeForce GTX 560 Ti. We have taken it through its paces and see how it performs.

The new Radeon HD 6950 1GB video card is actually a "partner driven" video card, and not a new GPU from AMD. The Radeon HD 6950 1GB video card uses the same GPU as the Radeon HD 6950 2GB which has been out for a few months now, the only difference is half the RAM capacity. This reduction in RAM capacity means the video card will be priced cheaper, but still have the same punch as the Radeon HD 6950 2GB video card. The reduction in memory capacity means it will not be able to scale as high in resolution and AA settings, especially with CrossFireX, since it will be limited by its RAM. We want to see though if it will indeed be limited at all at 2560x1600.

The goal of the 1GB HD 6950 is stated directly from AMD as such:

The launch of the 1GB card will position our AMD Radeon HD 6900 series at two price points, while continuing to offer our customers an unparalleled gaming experience with high image quality.

To show you the price difference here is a Radeon HD 6950 1GB for $224.99 after rebate, cutting well below the target sweet spot for the GeForce GTX 560 Ti. Comparatively, here is the 2GB HD 6950 version for $256.99 after rebate, a difference of $32. Checking this page at Newegg, we now find many GTX 550 Ti cards at the $249 price point with a couple falling to $245.

Radeon HD 6950 1GB

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The Radeon HD 6950 1GB is exactly the same size as the Radeon HD 6950 2GB video card. The obvious aesthetic factor that separates the two video cards is that the new Radeon HD 6950 1GB reference video card lacks the back metal plate as found on the Radeon HD 6950 2GB video card. This makes the 1GB version of the video card lighter in weight, at least as far as reference designs go. Since this is a partner driven video card we will see custom cooling and custom printed circuit board designs.

The HD 6950 1GB features the same display outputs as found on the 2GB model. Dual-BIOS is also still supported with the handy switch atop the video card, as well as CrossFireX support. Two 6-pin power connectors are required similar to the 2GB version. In essence, other than the obvious back plate, you would not be able to tell which version was which from looking solely at the video card. When you install the video card, the telltale sign will be the difference in RAM capacity.

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The specifications are all exactly the same when compared to the 2GB model. The only difference is RAM capacity.

Test Setup

This evaluation is simply going to compare the 2GB and 1GB Radeon HD 6950 to each other and also to a standard default clocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB video card for comparison. We are going to run all apples-to-apples testing at the same settings. We are first going to compare at a low resolution of 1920x1200 with 4X AA to see how GPU performance compares. Then we are going to run at a high 2560x1600 resolution with a high level of AA to see if we run into memory capacity limitations.

Test System: The test system is the same exact setup from our previous evaluations. MSI Eclipse X58, Intel Core i7 920 overclocked to 3.6GHz, 6GB of DDR3 and a Dell 3007WFP. We are using a standard clocked reference GeForce GTX 560 Ti (822MHz GPU/1644MHz Shader/4GHz memory.) We are using ForceWare 266.66 WHQL. We are using a standard clocked Radeon HD 6950 2GB and Radeon HD 6950 1GB video card. We are using Catalyst 11.2 WHQL. These are the latest drivers at time of testing.


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