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Sorry all you folks who bought 6970s, but a simple BIOS flash will turn the less expensive 6950 into a 6970!
AMD has two methods of locking the shader count on all of their recent GPUs. The first one relies on fuses inside the GPU, or on the substrate - a mechanism similar to Intel's multiplier locking. It is not reversible as far as we know. The second mechanism is the one we are interested in, AMD can configure the VGA BIOS in a way that it disables extra shaders, in addition to the ones disabled via the on-die fuses. This method is mostly used to create engineering samples or reviewer cards that match the target specifications. Usually production cards come with the shader count configured in the fuses, so that it can not be changed.

Apparently currently shipping Radeon HD 6950 cards from all manufacturers - which actually are all the same card with different sticker - have their shaders locked via the BIOS method, so we can exploit it easily.
http://www.techpowerup.com/articles/overclocking/vidcard/159

Don't expect this capability to last long before an AMD "fix" comes out.

To illustrate the possibilities for consumers I just did a check on NCIX and they are selling a Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 2GB GDDR5 and an almost identical Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2GB GDDR5 at almost $45 extra for the 6970.
 

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I purchased a 6950 prior to this news. I've flashed the bios to make it a 6970 (additional shaders, memory & GPU speed increases).

If you're worried about exceeding the specs in regards to GPU and memory speed specs you could simpy unlock the additional shaders but leave the memory and GPU speeds running at 6950 defaults. You'll still get a 3-5% performance increase.

What I do not recommend folks do is flash their 6950 to a 6970 and then increase the power control setting in the Catalyst control panel. If you do you will significantly exceed the power draw your 6950 was designed for.
 
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