XFX warms up the Radeon HD 6950 1GB
It seems like every time we review a new Nvidia graphics card, nitrous-infused variants with substantially higher clock speeds are available from the start. We end up testing those cards because they're representative of what users can buy, but the practice doesn't sit well with AMD fanboys who haven't come to terms with the fact that most Radeons run at stock speeds. Even the ones that are "factory overclocked" typically stay close to home. Case in point: XFX's Radeon HD 6950 1GB.
This Radeon's GPU and memory clocks have been raised by 3.75% and 4%, respectively, so we're not looking at much of an upgrade over stock speeds. That could mean the card has plenty of headroom to exploit—something we'll explore in our overclocking tests a little later in this review.
Such a modest increase in clock speeds doesn't earn the Radeon a wicked-cool suffix like Xtreme, OC, or Winning! Indeed, the only mark identifying the card's minor clock bump is the HD-695X-ZDDC model number. Otherwise, this 6950 looks identical to a stock-clocked XFX model that costs $30 less.
Rather than using AMD's reference cooler for the 6950, XFX swaps in a custom dual-slot design wrapped in a stealthy black skin. The exterior's matte surface has a menacing edge, and the drilled-out holes at the rear of the card give it a nice gun-barrel look. That venting should also provide a path for airflow when the card is packed tightly next to another in a CrossFire tag team.
Speaking of packing things tightly, we should note that XFX's decision to flex its pipes outside the cooling shroud adds 0.4" to the height of the card. The Radeon measures 4.8" from the base of its PCIe slot to the top of the tallest pipe, which may create clearance problems in low-profile Mini-ITX and home-theater PC enclosures. The extra height is unlikely to be an issue in typical tower enclosures, and the card's 9.5" length should be easy to accommodate.
Next to the metal skin and copper pipes, the Radeon's smoked plastic fan blades look a little low-rent. There is twice the number of fans as on the GeForce, though. The 80-mm units have 11 blades each, so they should be able to move a lot of air while spinning at relatively low (and quiet) speeds.
Some of the airflow generated the Radeon's fans will be directed outside one's system via a small vent in the card's back plate. The almost-floating XFX logo is nice touch.
That very nice array of display outputs grants the ability to power five monitors with a single card. You can set up an Eyefinity array for gaming or enjoy a mass of desktop real-estate spread across multi-screen setup befitting of the Batcave. Even if you're not a multi-monitor madman, the ability to drive five digital displays with a single graphics card is pretty impressive.
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