I thought it was going to be a little tough to go from a card that was scoring in excess of P10,000 under 3DMark 11 to one that scores a bit over P2,500, but when you start to get into the game testing you can really see some great FPS.
Sure, you're not getting 400 FPS under Street Fighter IV, but under games like RE5, Batman AA and H.A.W.X. 2 we see the GTX 550 Ti just offers some great performance that translates into very playable numbers. In some of the more intensive games like Far Cry 2 and Mafia II we see some strong performance at 1680 x 1050 with very playable numbers and 1920 x 1200 numbers that are almost playable with in-game settings to high.
If you choose to drop back the detail slightly at 1920 x 1200, the GTX 550 Ti won't have trouble playing a lot of games at that higher resolution. Games like Lost Planet 2 and Aliens vs. Predator see the GTX 550 Ti struggle at the maxed out in game settings, but diving into the options and you should be able to bring those numbers up to a playable level at 1680 x 1050.
Compared to the HD 5770 which is what the GTX 550 Ti goes against at the moment, it's also clear which is faster. Initially we looked at 3DMark 11 and saw both cards perform very close to each other, and we were a little worried that performance was going to be similar across the board. Once we got into the games, though, we really saw the GTX 550 Ti pull ahead.
Getting more specific, the MSI version as you would expect performs extremely well. The decision to increase both the core and memory is a great idea and the new Cyclone II cooler looks a little meaner than the previous version and performs exceptionally well as you would also expect.
In the end the GTX 550 Ti has a clear market and the reference card should set you back around the $149 mark. Because we're seeing most companies offer a fancy version of the card at launch, you should see these overclocked ones with upgraded coolers for around the $159 mark.
It will be interesting to see if AMD become a bit more aggressive with the HD 6850 pricing which sees a lot of brands with overclocks and upgraded cooling around the $189 mark, or if they combat the GTX 550 Ti head on with what will no doubt be the HD 6700 series.
For now, though, you'll probably find it easy to decide where to spend your money if your budget is in the $150 area. While a bit low end for me personally, you can see this is going to be a popular model for NVIDIA and its partners due to the aggressive price point and the fact that you're talking about a card that can not only handle 1680 x 1050 very well with in-game detail on the very high end, but also 1920 x 1200 with in-game detail from medium to very high.
Strong performance for one of the most popular monitor sizes and an aggressive price tag make this a model that'll attract a lot of people. Companies like MSI, though; releasing these upgraded versions from launch is going to be the icing on the cake. The decent out of the box overclocks from day one are going to impress people and with NVIDIA saying 1GHz is an easy task, this is going to be a really fun model to play with when you fire up Afterburner for some overclocking fun.