Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III Power Edition Review

Today we will be looking at a 1GB Radeon HD 6950 from MSI sporting its latest cooling innovation, the Twin Frozr III. Will 1GB of VRAM constrain the Twin Frozr III, or will Triple Over-Voltage support give it enough boost to soar past a 2GB HD 6950 and GeForce GTX 570?

Introduction

Microstar International (MSI) is a Taiwan-based computer hardware manufacturer founded in 1986. Primarily a designer and manufacturer of PC motherboards, MSI has expanded its business into barebones PCs, servers and workstations, communications devices, consumer electronics, Notebooks, Netbooks, graphics cards, and other various electronic products. Its company motto, "Quality Products Create Faithful Customer," believes its underlying corporate strategy of designing and manufacturing quality devices for various markets and letting its high-quality reputation earn it the trust and respect of electronics consumers worldwide.

Today we are looking at the brand new MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III Power Edition video card. The Twin Frozr II cooling system has had great success in the past, and we have high hopes that the Twin Frozr III will as well. With the debut of MSI's Twin Frozr III Cooling system and Triple Over-Voltage support working hand in hand with Tier 1 components, this card is definitely built around achieving the greatest possible overclock.

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AMD Radeon HD 6950

AMD launched the Radeon HD 6950 on December 14, 2010, alongside the Radeon HD 6970. The Radeon HD 6900 series of GPUs sports AMD's VLIW4 architecture, which is different from the 6800 series' VLIW5 architecture. It features a greater degree of parallelism in its processing engine. VLIW4 was implemented in order to increase both efficiency and performance in its streaming processors.

The Radeon HD 6950 is comprised of 2.64 billion transistors, providing 1408 streaming processors, 88 texture units, 32 color rasterizers, and 128 Z/Stencil ROPs. It boast a solid 2.25 TFLOPS of computer power on the GPU, texture fill rate of 70.4 Gigatexels per second, and a pixel fill rate of 25.6 Gigatexels per second. The HD 6950 has 2048MB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1250MHz (or 5.0GHz DDR) on a 256-bit bus. Its memory bus boasts a maximum theoretical throughput of 160 Gbps.

The Radeon HD 6950 is designed with a maximum power rating of 200 Watts. It is supposed to draw an average of 140 Watts during gaming and 20 Watts when idling. It has two 6-pin power connectors. There are five output ports, including two DVI ports, two mini-DisplayPort connectors, and one HDMI connector.


MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III Power Edition

MSI loaded this card up with some of its best components, in a direct aim to allow for the maximum overclock with this video card. This is the first HD 6950 that supports Triple over-voltage by MSI's Afterburner. With the option to adjusted voltages of the GPU, Memory, and VDDCI, you can unleash the maximum performance of the MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III Power Edition (MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III PE from here on).

The MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III PE comes factory overclocked to 850MHz on the core, a 50MHz increase to from a stock Radeon HD 6950, and a 50MHz increase on the memory up to 1300MHz (or 5.2GHz DDR). Unlike other Radeon HD 6950 video cards we have evaluated, this video card has half the ram, 1GB versus 2GB we are typically use to seeing on HD 6950's. The reduction of memory means a reduction in cost, and we will find out if it also means a reduction in performance.

The MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III PE is available on Newegg for $234.99 after mail in rebate and free shipping, and also includes a free AMD comic book for a limited time.

MSI has produced one of the most unique and effective custom cooling devices with the Twin Frozr series. The Twin Frozr III sports two 8cm Propeller Blade Fans that generate 20% more airflow than traditional fans with their specific innovations. These include Arched Edges, that enlarge the angle of the airflow direction, a Gloss Coating that reduces air resistance, Small Arcs and Grooves that generate more airflow while increasing the airflow range, and rounded edges for more quiet operation.

Directly contacting the GPU is a Nickel-plated copper base whose large size helps dissipate GPU heat faster. There are five "SuperPipes" or heat pipes that come from the Nickel-plated copper base and spread heat evenly to the aluminum heat sink fins, that have a large surface area. The Twin Frozr III also has a Form-in-One heat sink that covers the memory and power module for added heat dissipation. The Twin Frozr III Cooling System has a power switch function with Performance Mode and Silent mode. Performance Mode provides the best cooling for demanding processes, while Silent Mode balances noise and GPU Temperature. You can read more about the Twin Frozr III Cooling System here.

MSI also outfitted the R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III PE with Military Class II Components. These are meant to help keep your graphics card as stable as possible whether you are doing desktop work, gaming, or overclocking. These include Hi-c capacitors which are extremely small helping reduce heat and current leakage resulting in higher efficiency. The Super Ferrite Chokes (SFC) have a 10% higher power efficiency and 30% higher current capacity for extreme overclocks. The Solid CAPs have a lifetime over 12 years under extreme conditions like 80 degrees Celsius and up. The Solid Caps also reduce temperatures due to increased efficiency and up to 50% lower resistance. The aluminum core also ensures no risk of explosions. You can read more about Military Class II Components here.

The MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III PE has some of the "cherry picked" GPUs, and has a pretty high success rate flashing to an HD 6970 BIOS with 1536 Shaders. This is not guaranteed and does not come with a factory BIOS set to 1536 Shaders.

This video card has a 3 year limited parts and labor warranty.

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The box itself has a Velcro flap that opens to reveal more information about the card, and talks about the Twin Frozr III cooling system, high end board components, and other interesting features that we mentioned above. It also has a cutout with a clear piece of plastic over it so you can see the card directly.

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There was no antistatic bag wrapped around the card, but it was very well secured in the packaging. The accessory bundle came with two 6-pin PCI-E to dual-Molex connectors, a CrossFireX bridge, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter. The soft bundle came with a multi language user guide, a small multi language book talking about MSI's R6900 series cards, and utility CD. The CD includes MSI VGA Drivers 8.821, and an older version of Afterburner. It also comes with AIWI, a unique software that connects your PC to your iPhone/iPod touch as a wireless keyboard or touchpad. It also has MSI Utility, which automatically checks for BIOS updates. There is a online user manual and a 60 day free trial for Norton Internet Security 2011.

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One of the first things we noticed when we picked this card up was how cold it felt. Maybe it was the picture on the box of the card frozen in ice. The cover over the heat sink is made of hardened aluminum which is not too heavy but is very tough and durable. There are five heat pipes that come out off the GPU and help evenly spread heat to the heat sink. The top of the card has the two 6-pin PCI-E power slots, and the BIOS switch.

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We took out the four screws on the back holding the heat sink to the GPU so that we could see what all was going on underneath the monster cooling device. The small aluminum plate you see still on the main board with the heat sink off has heat pads that lay across the memory and high power circuits to help spread heat and cool even more. The card measures in 10.75 inches in Length, 1.5 inches in Width, and 4 and 5/8ths inches in Height.


The Competition

Newegg currently has the MSI R6950 1GB Twin Frozr III PE available for $234.99 after mail in rebate and free shipping. MSI also offers a 2GB version of this Twin Frozr III Power Edition card for $279.99 after MIR. A good 1GB Radeon HD 6950 can be had for as low as $199.99 after MIR and a good 2GB Radeon HD 6950 can be had for as low as $254.99 after MIR, while most HD 6950's range between $240 and $280. NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 570 is also in this price range and can be had for as low as $294.99 after MIR, while most of the GTX 570 market ranges between $330 and $370.