Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 Dirt 3 Edition Video Card Review

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

Test System, Overclocking, Temps

Performance Testing

We selected our Sapphire P67 Pure Black equipped test system for this investigation, using Intel’s second generation Core i7 2600K processor. Below you can see the specifications:

Test Platform

Component Specification
Mainboard Sapphire P67 Pure Black Hydra
Processor Core i7 2600K @ 4.5GHz
Graphics Card Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 DiRT3
  AMD Radeon HD 6950 ES
  AMD Radeon HD 6950 ES w/Accellero Twin Turbo Pro
Memory 2x4GB Crucial DDR3-1333
Audio Realtek ALC892
PSU Corsair HX850
Case CoolerMaster HAF X
Storage Corsair F120 + Western Digital Black WD1002FAEX 1TB
Heatsink/Fan Noctua NH-C14
Display Dell P2210H
Operating System Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate SP1
Driver Catalyst 11.7 WHQL w/ CAP 11.7 #2

With our 2600K clocked up to 4.5GHz and with 8GB of DDR3-1333 we're ready to test the performance of the Sapphire HD 6950 DiRT3 edition. AMD offer several image quality enhancement options via the Vision Engine Control Center, or Catalyst Pro Control Center as it is branded in our non-AMD platform system. These options allow users to enhance or override the in-game settings. The easiest and most obvious is the AA mode, being switchable from MSAA (standard) to Edge Detect. The AMD Radeon HD 6900 series also introduced a new AA mode known as EQAA, which is an enhanced quality mode. Finally, you can also add Morphological Anti-Aliasing to any title by checking the box. You can read more about these modes in our Image Quality investigation article.

The Cards

Radeon HD 6950's

Our test cards include a reference cooler design 6950, and a 6950 we've equipped with an Artic Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo Pro. This cooler is not specifically design for the 6900 series, but fits without major modifications for compatibility. It is a triple slot height cooler featuring dual 92mm fans, with four large diameter heatpipes and 35 aluminum fins. The cooler is rated to 120W, less than you'd expect for such a large heatsink, which is around the average gaming power of a 6870 - the highest power AMD GPU listed as compatible (although requiring an additional VRM/memory heatsink set).

Radeon HD 6950's

Overclocking and Unlocking

Naturally, the first thing we tried with the Sapphire HD 6950 is to try and unlock any extra Radeon Cores and turn it into a HD 6970. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful - this card doesn't appear to be unlockable, as with many of the non-reference PCB design cards. Using Sapphire TRIXX we were able to overclock the card to 920MHz core and 1325MHz memory clocks, an increase of ~15% for the engine and 6% for the memory. This was achieved at the maximum Sapphire TRIXX voltage of 1.180v, a modest increase over the stock GPU vCore.

Sapphire HD 6950 DiRT 3

We recorded GPU core temperature via HWMonitor to record peak and minimum temperatures during testing. The results are below:

The Artic Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo is much cooler than the reference and Sapphire twin fan design. Both the Sapphire and AC designs are inaudible over the case fans in our test system, unlike the reference design cooler. The Sapphire cooler does a good job of improving idle and load heat dissipation, even with another card sandwiched in right next to it.

Radeon HD 6950's