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Budget VGA Battle - Gigabyte GeForce FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550

Today we compare the Gigabyte GeForce FX 5500 with 64-bit memory bus against the Radeon 9550 with twice as much memory bus action to work with. It's the budget graphics card comparison and we are holding the battle for your viewing pleasure.
@TweakTown
Published Mon, Jul 12 2004 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - Introduction

IntroductionToday when we think of graphics cards we tend to think solely of PCI Express, 6800GT and X800XT Platinum Edition. Sometimes we forget about the lower-end of the spectrum, the more affordable cards that can produce the numbers, just not on the overclocker's lists, but are still a great buy none the less.While PCI Express x16 is the next big thing, AGP still populates 99% of all motherboards on the market today, and is still the mainstream graphics interface and probably will be for some time to come. While PCI Express x16 will replace AGP in the near future, AGP has a great role as providing high-end and low-end graphics interfaces.Today we have two of the newest budget cards from ATI and nVidia - the GeForce FX 5500 from nVidia and the Radeon 9550 from ATI. Today we plan to pit these two chipsets against each other and determine what is more worth your value dollar.While this is a good test of the GPU's, it's also a great feat to mention that Gigabyte support both chipsets, despite them directly competing against each other.

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - The Cards - Head to Head

The CardsNormally in our articles when we directly compare two or more products, we would show each card on its own page. For a change, you will see the two graphics cards side by side in our images. For your reference, the FX 5500 will be explained first and will appear in the left side of the images, the Radeon 9550 will be explained last and on the right side of the images.- Package and Contents
The two Gigabyte graphics cards are shipped in totally different boxes. The Gigabyte FX 5500 is shipped in a pink and white box with the Gigabyte nVidia fairy on the box. This is to be the box packaging for all Gigabyte's nVidia based cards (colours might change but the board design is the same throughout the line). Inside, the 5500 comes with a user manual, driver CD, game CD, PowerDVD 5.0 CD, DVI to VGA converter and a S-Video to RCA converter.The Radeon 9550 comes in the same design box as all of the previous Gigabyte Radeon 9xxx cards. While the Maya name has been removed, it is the same pyramid box that has set Gigabyte's trend for its ATI cards. In the box you get very little with this package, as it's more budget-oriented then the FX 5500. You simply get your user manual, driver CD and PowerDVD 5.0 CD. While the card does have Video out, no cables are provided.- Cards Compared
Now we see the cards together. The FX 5500 and the Radeon 9550 both use a blue PCB which is about all the similarities they share. The GeForce FX 5500 uses an active gold plated heatsink and fan to cool the GPU. Memory is 128MB in size and covers the front of the card only. The TV output circuitry is integrated into the FX 5500 core, so there are no external codec's for the display. The card in size is relatively small, making it a good size for tightly cramped PC's such as Shuttle XPC systems. There are no external power connections either, the 5500 core, unlike the higher-end FX chips, doesn't draw anywhere near as much power and as such, doesn't require any auxiliary power.The Radeon 9550 is a totally different bag of fish. First off, the 128MB of memory is located on the both sides. While they both share the same memory sizes, the GPU is passively cooled, ATI specifications don't call for active cooling of the Radeon 9550 core, which will bring joy to silent PC developers. The size of the card is exactly the same as the FX 5500 so PCB costs are identical between the two cards. As with the FX 5500, there is no external power requirements for the 9550, as its power draw is far less than that of the FX 5500.

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - The Cards - Head to Head Continued

- Cards Compared Continued
Now we see the heart of the action. The FX 5500 core is the same packaging technology that nVidia has used for years, Ceramic Ball Grid Array (CPGA). The FX 5500 core is based on TSMC 0.13um process, so it does run nice and cool. However, nVidia's FX series of chipsets are extremely pumped, so they generate more heat then the competing chips on the market. The heatsink that is included is a Gigabyte Golden Orb style cooler, which makes very little noise - however, in a silent system it would be noticeably audible.ATI uses its well known Flip Chip Ball Grid Array package or FC-BGA for short. This was introduced with the Radeon 9700 series and has continued in 99.9% of ATI's latest chips (with exception to the 9200 which is C-BGA). This design is based on the 0.13um process too, however being Flip Chip in design it allows the heat to be transferred direct to the heatsink. With the very small amount of heat generated, at stock speeds the 9550 doesn't require a fan which is ideal for those interested in building a silent PC.
The memory on the two cards couldn't be any different if they tried. On the FX 5500, Samsung TSOP-2 modules populate the entire front of the card with none on the back. This does make adding a third party all-in -ne GPU and RAM cooler much easier as all the RAM modules can be cooled actively.The Radeon 9550 follows the ATI reference design in placing four modules on the front and four on the back. The memory of choice for ATI is Hynix TSOP-2 modules, which have proven to overclock quite well in the past.- OverclockingOverclocking was somewhat interesting on both cards. The FX 5500's stock speed of 270/400 was maxed out at 282/468. Even with a different cooler on the GPU, it still wouldn't budge.ATI 9550 was a totally different story. With the passive cooler and stock speed of 250/400, we were able to push to 270/500. When we swapped out the passive cooler for an active alternative to see what could be done, 310/520 was the maximum obtained - not bad for a budget card.Let's see how they perform against each other!

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark2001SE

Test System SetupProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 3.2EE (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)Memory: 2x 256MB OCZ DDR-533 (Supplied by OCZ)Hard Disk: Western Digital 120GB 7200RPM PATA (Supplied by Plus Corporation)Motherboard: ABIT IC7 MAX3 (Supplied by ABIT)Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers: nVidia Forceware 56.64 and ATI Catalyst 4.63DMark2001 SE3DMark2001 SE is a part of the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 8.1 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce4), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.
Here we can see that the FX 5500 and the Radeon 9550 tie it up in the DX 8.1 tests. No one has more advantage than the other.

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - Benchmarks - 3DMark03

3DMark033DMark03 is the latest instalment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 9 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce FX and ATI Radeon 9800), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
As the resolution hits 1600x1200, the Radeon 9550 gives the FX 5500 a hell of a hiding thanks to its faster 128-bit memory bus over the 64-bit on the nVidia side.

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - Benchmarks - Aquamark3

Aquamark3Aquamark3 is the latest instalment of the Aquamark benchmark suite. This new benchmark is much more powerful and demands much more from both the system and the graphics card. If there is any weakness in the system or 3D components, Aquamark3 will find them.
DirectX 9 is more favourable to the FX 9550 as the 5500 again takes the back seat.

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - Benchmarks - Halo PC

Halo PC - Combat EvolvedHalo PC is new to us at TweakTown. Though we have used it in a couple of benchmarks in the past, it has now found a permanent place in our Benchmark Suite. This is simply due to its support for the latest DirectX 9 API's to put some more stress on the system to determine the best of the best.
While at 1600x1200 both are unplayable, at 1024x768 (which is still a good resolution for game playing) the Radeon 9550 has it all over the FX 5500.

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - Benchmarks - Jedi Knight II

Jedi Knight IIJedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is an OpenGL game that many have been waiting for. It has much improved graphics over its predecessor. It fully supports advanced shaders, as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use.
Since the DX 8.1 API is used for Jedi Knight II, both cards score almost evenly, with the Radeon 9550 having only a marginal lead.

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 2003

Unreal Tournament 2003Unreal Tournament 2003 continues the success that Unreal Tournament generated as an online game and benchmark. UT2003 pulls all of its weight on to the 3D and Memory subsystems, pushing graphics reality to the maximum is its game, and you need some serious power to gain playable scores with this game.
Again with DX8 being the influence here both cards are very close. The Radeon 9550 does still take the lead.

FX 5500 vs. Radeon 9550 - Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsWell it has definitely been a battle of the titans. While in the value sector, it still shows who is capable of making a graphics card on a budget to kill its rivals.Gigabyte GeForce FX 5500 Final ThoughtsIn all honesty, the GeForce FX 5500 is a graphics card to be avoided - a 5600 performance is better than this card, and is around the same price from some online vendors. Its reduced memory bus to 64-bit does make a huge impact on performance, and with some of the chips in the FX series having a poor overall performance in certain cases, lowering clocks and buses is only asking for disaster.While this is a problem, Gigabyte has put together a good card without flaws and with a modest pack it is one to consider for a HTPC, but that's about it.Gigabyte ATI Radeon 9550 Final ThoughtsThe Radeon 9550 is a perfect replacement for the aging 9200 series. Its overclocking was brilliant, it has a wide enough memory bus to outperform the nVidia equal and at stock speeds requires only passive cooling making for a great silent PC addition.The Gigabyte adoption is that of sheer silence and with a price tag that of the FX 5500, it's hard to go past this card for value desktop or silent computer systems.
The Gigabyte R9550128-D receives our "MUST HAVE" Best Value Award.

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