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6950: Shaders Unlocked vs Full Unlocked Tested

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Many owners of the 6950 are flashing their cards in hopes of acheiving 6970 performance for $70 cheaper, but is it worth the risk? I compare three different bios settings to see which configuration is best.
I don't have time for real world benchmarks, five different games etc. This small test is to get an "idea" of which bios is better for the 6950. The three different settings are Stock Bios, Unlocked 6950 Shader Bios(shaders unlock but retain 6950 clocks) and the 6970 Bios(Full 6970 clocks and shaders).

Here are my results:

6950 Voltage: 1.1V
6950 w/ flashed 6970 Bios Voltage: 1.175
Driver Version: 10.12a
Benchmarks looped twice to maximize results


System:
i7 930 @ 3.8GHz
RAM: 1400MHz
GPU: MSI 6950 using the Stock Bios, Sapphire Shader Bios and Sapphire 6970 Bios
(OC GPU clocks are the same as a stock 6970)

-3Dmark11 Performance Setting

6950 Stock: 4652
6950 OC: 5078

6950 Shader Unlock: 4765
6950 Shader Unlock OC +20% PC: 5202

6950 w/ Full 6970 Unlock +20% PC: 5414

(+%20 PC = Power Control in CCC, this is very important to stabilize the 6950 and prevent damage)

- The difference between a Stock 6950 and a Shader Unlocked 6950 is a wash. I gained exactly 1fps during canned benchmarks. The same goes for the 6950 OC vs the 6950 Shader Unlocked OC.
The noticeable gain was achieved when going from a 6950 Stock to a 6950 Shader Unlocked OC obviously. There's has to be a 500pt.+ increase to see a benefit in real world gaming.

-Canned Benchmarks

There's no reason to run benchmarks between 6950 Stock and 6950 Shader Unlocked so I choose the three extremes.
6950 Stock vs 6950 Shader Unlocked OC vs 6950 Unlocked w/ 6970 bios.

System:
i7 930 @ 3.8GHz
RAM: 1400MHz
Resolution: 1920x1080
GPU: MSI 6950 using the Stock Bios, Sapphire Shader Bios and Sapphire 6970 Bios
(OC GPU clocks are the same as a stock 6970)

F1 2010 - DX11
8xMSAA, All Details Maxed
6950 Stock: 57 Avg. / 52 Min.
6950 Shader Unlock OC +20% PC: 63 Avg. / 58 Min.
6950 w/ 6970 Bios +20% PC: 63 Avg. / 58 Min.
6950 Stock OC +20% PC: 62 Avg. / 57 Min.

Alien Vs Predator Benchmark v1.03 - DX11
Default Settings
6950 Stock: 58.8
6950 Shader Unlock OC +20% PC: 65.3
6950 w/ 6970 Bios +20% PC: 65.7
6950 Stock OC +20% PC: 63.1

Mafia 2 - DX9
Max Settings - Physx Off
6950 Stock: 54.5 Avg. / 200 Max / 18.5 Min.
6950 Shader Unlock OC +20% PC: 57.7 Avg. / 200 Max / 20 Min.
6950 w/ 6970 Bios +20% PC: 57.3 Avg / 250 Max / 18.5 Min.
6950 Stock OC +20% PC: 56.7 Avg / 200 Max/ 20 Min.

(+%20 PC = Power Control in CCC, this is very important to stabilize the 6950 and prevent damage)

Conclusion:

Looking at the benchmarks, it's clear that the 6950 Unlocked Shader OC yields the same results as the 6970 Bios. The 6950 Unlocked Shader OC resulted in a 11% increase over stock in F1 2010 and Alien vs Predator. Since there has been reports of 6950 failures due to VRAM corruption, the 6950 Unlocked Shader Bios maybe a better solution. In no way using the Shader Bios is a guarantee that the card won't sustain damage, but I think it's less likely since the VRAM is still operating with spec i.e timings and voltage. When using the 6970 Bios I did experience GSOD when looping the Heaven benchmark more than once, also F1 2010 would freeze after long gameplay. I haven't experienced any issues when using the 6950 Unlocked Shader Bios.

So, is it worth the risk? In my opinion, No. Others may see a 1-3fps increase differently.
Like we've seen with the GTX 580 vs GTX 480 and now with the 6950/70, at the same clocks the extra shaders offer minimal performance boost. Once the core and memory clocks are increased, the user will achieve similar 6970 performance with a stock 6950. The Techpowerup test was done with COD4, a DX9 game at an unknown resolution. My test was done using DX11 games that are more demanding and resemble other new titles on the market. I'm not saying one test is better than the other, it really depends on how the test was done and results vary. It's obvious now why AMD limited the 6950 to 840MHz OC in CCC, once the 6950 is OC'd to 6970 clocks you have a 6970. There's more than one way to get to 6970 performance with your 6950 and the best way is to simply overclock it. Don't read into 3DMark11 results, in actual gameplay it's all a wash.

Sapphire Trixx goes beyond the 840MHz limit but no voltage control.
Asus Smart Doctor has voltage control.

AMD has provided all the tools need to make unlocking possible, dual bios and power control in CCC makes it hard to believe AMD did this by accident. I don't think flashing the cards is really the only purpose of dual bios, we may find out additional information sometime in the future.

As for me, I went back to the Stock Bios and OC'd to 6970 clocks.

Disclaimer: Unlocking, modding or overclocking video cards are at your own risk. See the warranty terms of your manufacture.
Edited by WorldExclusive - 1/7/11 at 7:14pm
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post #2 of 40
Some good info, but aren't you missing 6950 flashed to 6970+OC?

You have:
6950 Stock
6950+OC
6950+UL Shader
6950+UL Shader+OC

6950 + 6970 Flash

but many of us on OCN flashed our 6950 to 6970 bios. This pretty much gave us identical 6970 performance. We then OC the stock 6970 clocks even further, giving another little boost.

So we paid for a 6950, but have 6970 overclocked performance.
Edited by yati - 1/7/11 at 10:52am
    
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post #3 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by yati;11925688 
Some good info, but aren't you missing 6950 flashed to 6970+OC?

You have:
6950 Stock
6950+OC
6950+UL Shader
6950+UL Shader+OC

6950 + 6970 Flash

but many here including myself have 6950 with 6970 bio flashed and OC.

Didn't want to risk damaging my card without voltage control. I received GSOD with the 6970 Bios under long benchmarking with Heaven 2+ loops, OCing any further probably would have ended in disaster.
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post #4 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by WorldExclusive;11925536 
Many owners of the 6950 are flashing their cards in hopes of acheiving 6970 performance for $70 cheaper, but is it worth the risk? I compare three different bios settings to see which configuration is best.
I don't have time for real world benchmarks, five different games etc. This small test is to get an "idea" of which bios is better for the 6950. The three different settings are Stock Bios, Unlocked 6950 Shader Bios and the 6970 Bios.

Here are my results:

6950 Voltage: 1.1V
6950 w/ flashed 6970 Bios Voltage: 1.175


System:
i7 930 @ 3.8GHz
RAM: 1400MHz
GPU: MSI 6950 using the Stock Bios, Sapphire Shader Bios and Sapphire 6970 Bios
(OC GPU clocks are the same as a stock 6970)

-3Dmark11 Performance Setting

6950 Stock: 4652
6950 OC: 5078

6950 Shader Unlock: 4765
6950 Shader Unlock OC +20% PC: 5202

6950 w/ Full 6970 Unlock +20% PC: 5414

(+%20 PC = Power Control in CCC, this is very important to stabilize the 6950 and prevent damage)

- The difference between a Stock 6950 and a Shader Unlocked 6950 is a wash. I gained exactly 1fps during canned benchmarks. The same goes for the 6950 OC vs the 6950 Shader Unlocked OC.
The noticeable gain was achieved when going from a 6950 Stock to a 6950 Shader Unlocked OC obviously. There's has to be a 500pt.+ increase to see a benefit in real world gaming.

-Canned Benchmarks

There's no reason to run benchmarks between 6950 Stock and 6950 Shader Unlocked so I choose the three extremes.
6950 Stock vs 6950 Shader Unlocked OC vs 6950 Unlocked w/ 6970 bios.

System:
i7 930 @ 3.8GHz
RAM: 1400MHz
Resolution: 1920x1080
GPU: MSI 6950 using the Stock Bios, Sapphire Shader Bios and Sapphire 6970 Bios
(OC GPU clocks are the same as a stock 6970)

F1 2010 - DX11
8xMSAA, All Details Maxed
6950 Stock: 57 Avg. / 52 Min.
6950 Shader Unlock OC +20% PC: 63 Avg. / 58 Min.
6950 w/ 6970 Bios +20% PC: 63 Avg. / 58 Min.
6950 Stock OC +20% PC: 62 Avg. / 57 Min.

Alien Vs Predator Benchmark v1.03 - DX11
Default Settings
6950 Stock: 58.8
6950 Shader Unlock OC +20% PC: 65.3
6950 w/ 6970 Bios +20% PC: 65.7
6950 Stock OC +20% PC: 63.1

(+%20 PC = Power Control in CCC, this is very important to stabilize the 6950 and prevent damage)

Conclusion:

Looking at the benchmarks, it's clear that the 6950 Unlocked Shader OC yields the same results as the 6970 Bios. The 6950 Unlocked Shader OC resulted in a 11% increase over stock in F1 2010 and Alien vs Predator. Since there has been reports of 6950 failures due to VRAM corruption, the 6950 Unlocked Shader Bios maybe a better solution. In no way using the Shader Bios is a guarantee that the card won't sustain damage, but I think it's less likely since the VRAM is still operating with spec i.e timings and voltage. When using the 6970 Bios I did experience GSOD when looping the Heaven benchmark more than once, also F1 2010 would freeze after long gameplay. I haven't experienced any issues when using the 6950 Unlocked Shader Bios.

So, is it worth the risk? In my opinion, No. Others may see a 1-3fps increase differently.
Like we've seen with the GTX 580 vs GTX 480 and now with the 6950/70, at the same clocks the extra shaders offer minimal performance boost. Once the core and memory clocks are increased, the user will achieve similar 6970 performance with a stock 6950. The Techpowerup test was done with COD4, a DX9 game at an unknown resolution. My test was done using DX11 games that are more demanding and resemble other new titles on the market. I'm not saying one test is better than the other, it really depends on how the test was done and results vary. It's obvious now why AMD limited the 6950 to 840MHz OC in CCC, once the 6950 is OC'd to 6970 clocks you have a 6970. There's more than one way to get to 6970 performance with your 6950 and the best way is to simply overclock it. Don't read into 3DMark11 results, in actual gameplay it's all a wash.

Sapphire Trixx goes beyond the 840MHz limit but no voltage control.
Asus Smart Doctor has voltage control.

AMD has provided all the tools need to make unlocking possible, dual bios and power control in CCC makes it hard to believe AMD did this by accident. I don't think flashing the cards is really the only purpose of dual bios, we may find out additional information sometime in the future.

As for me, I went back to the Stock Bios and OC'd to 6970 clocks.

Disclaimer: Unlocking, modding or overclocking video cards are at your own risk. See the warranty terms of your manufacture.

Nice write up!
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post #5 of 40
If I am running just the modded 6950 bios with the unlocked shaders (not the 6970 bios) do I need to change any power settings to be safe with the new shaders unlocked?
post #6 of 40
Thread Starter 
Unlocking the shaders will consume slightly more power, since there's no voltage tweak, raise the PC to get a stable OC.
It's unknown how PC and voltage teak will mesh together.
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post #7 of 40
Does MSI Afterburner work for voltage control?
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post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowman1989;11926365 
Does MSI Afterburner work for voltage control?

No, not yet it should in a future version.


and OP

so you tested
6950 with unlocked shaders
6950 unlocked to a full 6970?

I'm a little confused.
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post #9 of 40
By full unlock I think he means the shaders unlocked and 6970 clocks.
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post #10 of 40
What will be the point of voltage control if we're still stuck with a hard TDP wall (Powertune)?

That's the question no one seems able to answer. If anything your overclock will be worse with overvolting because you will run into your TDP limit faster
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