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Our testing methods
Since the purpose of this article is to compare three very similar cards, we've limited our benchmark suite to four games and left out competing products from Nvidia. If you'd like to see how the Radeon HD 6950 compares to a wider range of competitors, we suggest studying our XFX 6950 vs. Zotac GTX 560 Ti comparison from last April and our initial review of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti from January, which includes numbers for a stock-clocked Radeon HD 6950 1GB.

We conducted testing using the Catalyst 11.10 Preview 2 driver from AMD. We left optional AMD optimizations for tessellation and texture filtering disabled. As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and we've reported the median result. Our test system was configured as follows:

Processor Intel Core i5-750
Motherboard Asus P7P55D
North bridge Intel P55 Express
South bridge
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Kingston HyperX KHX2133C9AD3X2K2/4GX
DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24 1T
Chipset drivers INF update 9.2.0.1025
Rapid Storage Technology 10.1.0.1008
Audio Integrated Via VT1828S
with 6.0.1.8700 drivers
Graphics XFX HD-695X-ZDDC
with Catalyst 11.10 Preview 2 drivers
Gigabyte GV-R695OC-1GD
with Catalyst 11.10 Preview 2 drivers
MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III 1G/OC
with Catalyst 11.10 Preview 2 drivers
Hard drive Samsung SpinPoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB SATA
Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB
Power supply

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 760W

OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Edition
Service Pack 1

Thanks to Asus, Intel, Corsair, Kingston, OCZ, Samsung, and Western Digital for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. XFX, Gigabyte, and MSI for supplying the graphics cards for testing, as well.

Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following test applications:

Some further notes on our methods:

  • Three of the four games we tested lacked scripted, repeatable benchmarks, so we used the Fraps utility to record frame rates while playing a 90-second sequence from each game. Although capturing frame rates while playing isn't precisely repeatable, we tried to make each run as similar as possible to all of the others. We tested each Fraps sequence five times per video card, in order to counteract any variability.

  • We measured total system power consumption at the wall socket using a P3 Kill A Watt digital power meter. The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet, so its power draw was not part of our measurement. The cards were plugged into a motherboard on an open test bench.

    The idle measurements were taken at the Windows desktop with the Aero theme enabled. The cards were tested under load running Bulletstorm at a 1920x1200 resolution with 4X antialiasing.

  • We measured noise levels on our test system, sitting on an open test bench, using a TES-52 digital sound level meter. The meter was held approximately 12" from the test system at a height even with the top of the video card. In order to lower our noise floor, we conducted our noise testing with the system powered by a Corsair HX750 power supply, not the PC Power & Cooling Silencer 760W.

    You can think of these noise level measurements much like our system power consumption tests, because the entire systems' noise levels were measured. Of course, noise levels will vary greatly in the real world along with the acoustic properties of the PC enclosure used, whether the enclosure provides adequate cooling to avoid a card's highest fan speeds, placement of the enclosure in the room, and a whole range of other variables. These results should give a reasonably good picture of comparative fan noise, though.

  • We used GPU-Z to log GPU temperatures during our load testing.

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.