Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 Dirt 3 Edition Video Card Review

Company: Sapphire
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: August 15th, 2011

Card Package

The Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2GB DiRT 3 card is shipped in a large and weighty box. Most of the weight is the card itself, which measures 260x110x35mm. The card is shipped sealed in a padded ESD safe bag, in a form-fitted crush resistant insert. The accessories are underneath, which includes two 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCI-E power connector adapters, a VDI to VGA adapter, a 6 foot HDMI 1.4a cable, driver DVD and a Sapphire Select club registration card.

The DiRT 3 key is provided by a code you redeem on, an AMD gaming evolved website. Once you register by providing code from the paper and enter in your personal details (name, email, address, gaming style, etc. you will be given your game key which can be entered into STEAM and XBOX Live Marketplace.

The card PCB is 232mm long, slightly smaller than a reference design PCB 6900 series which measures 270mm. The overall length is the closer, 265mm vs. 272mm of a reference cooler equipped board. Part of this PCB shortening comes from the Sapphire 6950 design featuring only a single CrossFireX connector rather than the normal two. Sapphire’s redesign also relocated the VRM's closer to the display output exhaust vent, presumably to help with flowing air over them on its way out. Sapphire have retained AMD's dual BIOS feature, with switch located next to the CrossFireX connector.

The whole heatsink is affixed by four lightly-sprung screws.

The Sapphire 6950 is lighter than the reference design, as despite the large copper heatsink base and five large diameter heatpipes, the aluminum fin array stretching the length of the card under the two axial fans weighs less than the copper vapor chamber in the reference design cooler. Additionally, the memory chips are exposed, disappointingly equipped with no heatsinks at all, but the VRM's get a dedicated alumium heatsink. The two fans are powered from a splitter than plugs into the cards fan header at the rear. The power inputs, two 6-pin PCI-E connectors, are located at the rear and orientated sideways as with the reference design.

The Sapphire HD 6950, like the rest of the AMD Radeon HD 6000 series, supports Eyefinity (3 display) and is equipped with two DVI outputs (one Dual Link, one Single Link), a HDMI 1.4a (full size) output and DisplayPort 1.2 (full size) output. AMD HD3D is supported over all outputs, with suitable displays but is limited to single card and single display operation - no CrossFireX or Eyefinity support yet. A third party middleware driver is required for playing non-native stereo3D games or movies in 3D, available from TripleD or IZ3D. The DisplayPort and HDMI outputs are also capable of carrying the HD Audio output integrated into the GPU, which supports BluRay protected audio path via DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD formats as well as multi-channel LPCM/bit-streaming passthrough.

The plastic shroud is stylishly formed and seems sturdy, well equipped to protect the fans and heatsink fins from bumps and knocks as well as direct airflow from the dual axial fans down through the aluminum fins and along the length of the board. The plastic is a glossy black with silver highlights for text, and some textured areas to accent the design swooshes on the top face. The outer edge features a simple sapphire text logo.

Included in the Driver DVD are Catalyst drivers and a link to Sapphire Select Club, where you can register your card and become a member of the SSC to receive promos and access to exclusive downloads. Sapphire TRIXX allows core and memory clock adjustment, with voltage control and fan speed profiles, too. The application also provides a Windows gadget to give a 'single pane of glass view' of information about the card.