AMD, OR RATHER ATI have in the past had a few claims to fame thanks to its easily “soft moddable” graphics cards and it seems like the company has just scored itself another popular card with those brave enough to flash their graphics card BIOS. The Radeon HD 6950 as it turns out is quite easily turned into a Radeon HD 6970 and it can save you some cash at the same time.
Our friend W1zzard over at TechPowerUp is the man who figured it all out and so far it seems like the success rate is 100 percent. Considering that the Radeon HD 6900 series has a pair of BIOS chips, it’s also a fairly safe procedure to perform, as even if something would go wrong during the flash process, you can get the card back to life by simply switching the little BIOS switch on the card. To make life easier for those that aren’t so experienced with flashing their BIOS, W1zzard has even prepared a downloadable pack with all the files needed to perform the mod.
What the flash upgrade does is unlock the extra Shaders, as the extra Shaders are simply locked out in the BIOS by AMD, rather than fused off which would’ve made it pretty much impossible to get around. It’s not clear if this is a limited run of cards that have shipped this way or not, as these days the extra Shaders are usually fused off at the point of manufacturing to prevent “soft mods” like this. So far TechPowerUp has collected reports of at least 20 successful upgrades with not a single card suffering from rendering errors, a problem that can occur with a GPU that has broken Shaders that were locked out for just that reason.
One thing worth taking into account is that most 6950 cards ship with slower GDDR5 memory than their 6970 counterparts and as such you might not get exactly the same performance as you would out of a 6970. You would also be overclocking the memory by about 125MHz to reach the full potential of a 6970, something that isn’t guaranteed. It appears that 8-pin power connector isn’t really needed to reach the default 6970 speeds, but that said, an unlocked 6950 isn’t likely to overclock as high as a real 6970, although that’s unlikely to be a huge concern for those attempting this mod.
The cost saving is about $60-70 depending on which cards you’re comparing and where you shop and to some, this might very well be worth it. Just be aware that performing this “soft mod” is going to void your warranty, at least if the manufacturer finds out. Also make sure you have a decent power supply, as the card will go from using about 169W at default settings to 202W with the Shaders unlocked all the way to 252W with the card overclocked to the same speeds as a 6970. That means you’re actually using 24W more than what a real 6970 would do, again, not likely to be a huge concern for anyone that just wants a bit of extra performance out of their card.
We can see there being something of a rush for the current crop of 6950 cards due to this “soft mod” option, as this is one of the reasons why the Radeon 9500 was so popular back in its heyday. Then again, the price difference were much bigger back then if our memory serves and you had to have a 128MB card, all of which is much less of an issue with the 6950 as it comes with the same memory bus as the 6970. We wouldn’t bet on AMD allowing for this in the long run though, as it’s not a process that will help the company make money and as such it’s likely that we’ll see cards with the extra Shaders fused off in the near future.S|A
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