In our HD 6950 2GB review last December we found the card to be a solid performer at a fair price, but were quick to warn potential buyers of the impending release of a then unannounced Nvidia mid-range part. This was the right call, as our GTX 560 Ti 1GB review showed that the new card rendered the then-£200 Radeon HD 6870 1GB and then-£240 Radeon HD 6950 2GB pretty much redundant. Even worse for AMD fans, the GTX 560 Ti 1GB also proved to be a monstrous overclocker; we’ve yet to find a card that won’t hit a GPU core of 900MHz.
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While we were enthusing over the GTX 560 Ti 1GB, AMD looked to crash Nvidia’s party with the release of the Radeon HD 6950 1GB, a card with the same GPU and specifications as the HD 6950 2GB, but with half the memory. As the HD 6950 2GB trades blows with the GTX 560 Ti 1GB in our tests, the price drop due to the lower amount of memory should crank up the competition. That is, unless the drop in memory leads to a performance drop.
The launch of the HD 6950 1GB hasn’t exactly been a smooth one. While AMD stated it had released the card on the same day as the GTX 560 Ti 1GB, European review samples (not to mention stock in retailers) were non-existent – the very definition of a paper launch, at least on this side of the Pond. There was no pre-release briefing or hype about the new AMD card either, so we weren’t in any position to talk about the card in the GTX 560 Ti 1GB review beyond the rumour that it might exist. In fact, it’s only now - two weeks since its announcement - that you can actually find HD 6950 1GB cards in meaningful quantities with European retailers.
The HD 6950 1GB and HD 6950 2GB are identical in all but memory density
There’s a further twist in the story too. The HD 6950 1GB solves the problem (from AMD’s point of view) that cheaper HD 6950 2GB cards could be converted into fully functional HD 6970 2GB cards via a vBIOS flash. This hack can’t be performed on HD 6950 1GB cards, as the lesser amount of memory prevents you from flashing a HD 6970 2GB vBIOS – you can’t even create a HD 6970 1GB.
When we asked AMD whether the 2GB version of the HD 6950 would remain on sale, we were told, 'The 2GB cards will continue to exist and offer better capabilities for things like Eyefinity gaming or upcoming titles which may use more than 1GB of memory... There are no plans for the ability for the 2GB vBIOS option to be changed.'