AMD recently launched their Cayman boards, aka the HD 6900 series, and while I was impressed with the highest end model, the HD 6950 was something I was particularly looking forward to. This was mainly because AMD themselves are targeting this card to be below the GTX 570 but above the GTX 460 (and presumably GTX 480). The HD 6950, according to AMD, is in a “class of its own”. Let’s see where it really stacks up the DirectX 11 GPU ladder.
Obviously the Twin Frozr II name in the title should have already indicated that this is not a reference AMD design, that MSI have applied their own touch to the HD 6950. So what we have here is a completely different heatsink from the reference AMD design, which according to MSI keeps the card 6% cooler and 19.6dB quieter. Due to the heatsink itself, MSI claims the overclocking ability of the card greatly increases, especially due to GPU overvoltage through their Afterburner overclocking utility. That said, the R6950 did come with a miniscule factory overclock of 10MHz on the Core clock speeds.
So without further ado, let’s get down to the number crunching. Turns out the old girl will sing one final song before the year ends. The system specs for our soon-to-be-retired machine comprise of an Intel Core i7 965EE @ 3.2GHz on an ASUS Rampage II Extreme motherboard, packing 3x 1GB Corsairs XMS3-1333 ram, a Kingston 64GB V-Series SSD running Windows 7 Ultimate; all of which is powered by a Corsair HX1000W PSU. For comparisons I have used the AMD HD 6970
and the Zotac GTX 570
DirectX 11 Benchmarks
In DirectX 11, the performance of the R6950 is extremely comparable to the Nvidia GTX 570, whereas it trails behind its elder sibling by roughly 11%.
DirectX 10 & 9 Benchmarks
DirectX 10 benchmarks are a different story however, where the HD 6970 still leaves the HD 6950 by a 7% margin, the GTX 570 steamrolls ahead with a 30% lead. DirectX 9 performance with StarCraft II is negligible.
As far as MSI’s claims of keeping the R6950 cool and quiet with the Twin Frozr II heatsinks are concerned, they came through. At idle the R6950 keeps to 32°C while at full load the card didn’t go beyond 59°C. That’s quite a feat in thermal cooling a card of this caliber. Fan speeds didn’t seem to shift much either and the card was almost dead silent throughout testing. There was an odd buzzing sound, but nothing irritating, nor loud.
Using MSI Afterburner, I did manage to get the R6950 Twin Frozr II to 930MHz Core clock (16% increase over reference speeds) and 1401MHz Memory clock (12% increase over reference speeds); effective at 5604MHz.
From the bottom of the pack to the leader, the overclocked R6950 Twin Frozr II really bared its fangs when overclocked. That’s significantly improved performance considering the fan speed remained pretty much the same and the highest temperature reached was 61°C.
As with the previous MSI card I just reviewed, the small price hike on the R6980 Twin Frozr II over regular HD 6950 cards is justified simply because the new heatsinks keeps the card running in perfect conditions even as its being pushed beyond limits.