While AMD has arguably been a good friend of budget gamers or those simply looking for great value for money and unlockable benefits, this is becoming ridiculous – a chance to save Rs. 5,000 to 7,000 with no known risk (so far)!
We all know the HD 6950 and HD 6970 are based on the same Cayman core, with the only difference between the two GPUs being the 128 “disabled” shader cores on the HD 6950, and its lower clock speeds (800 MHz core and 1250 MHz memory clock on the HD 6950 versus 880 MHz and 1375 MHz on the HD 6970). What seems evident now is that AMD did not disable the cores irreversibly, instead, a simple BIOS flash of the AMD Radeon HD 6950 GPU with the HD 6970’s BIOS will effectively turn the much cheaper card into AMD’s current top-end offering, with the exact same performance at the same clock speeds.
Not enough HD 6950 cards have been unlocked so far to conclusively prove the locked shader cores are 100% non-defective across the majority of boards, but it does look like that is the case so far. This is truly breathtaking, with brand-wise unlock statistics revealing that a BIOS flash in this case is not a risky proposition, in fact, might just be a super-value for money deal that AMD has unconvincingly handed on a silver platter without a care in the world. While we really don’t understand what could have possessed AMD to do this (apart from avoiding the cost of expensive hardware disabling), the HD 6950 is now a game-changing and unbelievable price versus performance card, and the HD 6970 suddenly looks quite unappealing. We are not sure if that was the intended effect.
[RELATED_ARTICLE]We must re-iterate (and thus keep our conscience clean) unlocking disabled cores is a risky proposition, and while AMD has provided a hardware dual-BIOS switch on the GPUs themselves (making changes quite reversible), your warranty will probably be voided by the unlocking process. Any damages to your system that might follow will also of course not be AMD’s responsibility.
The reason for the locked cores not being defective (so far) must largely stem from the very mature nature of TSMC's 40nm process for the GPU cores.
See unlocked performance as well as a guide as to how to unlock the disabled HD 6950 cores at TechPowerUp.com, complete with BIOS files.