Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card

AMD have recently announced new cards for their low to mid-range line up. Today we look at the budget HD 4550.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sat, Oct 4 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 88%Manufacturer: Sapphire Tech

Introduction


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card



While we don't doubt for a second that everyone would love to find themselves surrounded by the most high-end computer products, the reality is that sometimes it's simply too expensive or there's the plain old fact that you don't need it.

The low to mid-range market has been heating up over the past few months; NVIDIA released the 9500 GT which I personally felt was a massive disappointment due to the price to performance ration when compared to the 9600 GSO.

ATI / AMD hasn't been asleep, though. The HD 4670 came out and has really managed to impress. The HD 4650 is also supposed to be out, but for some reason it hasn't really shown up on the market. Adding to the HD 4000 series, however, is a new low-end entry level model; the HD 4550.

The exact HD 4550 we have? a Sapphire offering. But before we have a look at just how the new model performs, we'll take the time to see what package Sapphire have put together and have a closer look at the card. Let's check it out!

The Package




As you would expect, Sapphire has opted for a much smaller box to help keep the cost of freight down on the new budget aimed HD 4550. Across the top of the box we have the Sapphire logo; below that, their motto, mention of the series and the fact the card comes with 512MB of GDDR3 memory.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


In the middle of the box we have a picture and below that we have the model mentioned again; in this case the HD 4550. Moving down a little more we have some features of the card and right across the bottom we have a number of logos that relate to the card.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Turning the box over, we again have the Sapphire logo at the top and the logos across the bottom. We also see a few of the awards that Sapphire has won and the model is also mentioned. The middle of the box gives us a bit of a blurb on the card, some of the main features on offer and a rundown of what's included in the box.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Being on the lower end side of things, we didn't expect a whole lot with the package. Opening it up, though, we where pleasantly surprised. As far as standard items go we find a quick install guide, driver CD and sticker.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


The cable department also has the typical component out dongle, S-Video to RCA connector and DVI to VGA connector, but Sapphire has also taken the time to include a DVI to HDMI connector as well as a low profile bracket for those needing it.

The Card




Moving onto the card; as you would expect there isn't a whole lot going on. As the low profile bracket may have indicated, the card is of course low profile. The core is cooled by a blue fan that resembles an old Orb cooler from Thermaltake.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


As far as extra little connectors go, there isn't really anything going on. There's no extra power needed for the card, nor are Crossfire connectors present. The only plugs we have are one for the fan and the other for the VGA port.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


The I/O department doesn't hold any surprises; we've got a Dual Link DVI connector, VGA connector and a single TV-Out port between the two. In the event you want to use the low profile bracket, you do lose the VGA, but with the included DVI to VGA connector you can still make use of the connectivity.


Specifications

Looking at the specs department, it's nothing to get excited about. We found ourselves with 80 stream processors, 8 texture units and 4 ROPs. The core clock comes in at 600MHz while the 512MB of GDDR3 comes in at 1600MHz DDR utilizing a 64-bit memory bus. While the model will be available in both 256MB and 512MB form, the particular one we have here today supports the latter.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 177.79 and Catalyst 8.9


With the new HD 4550 in hand we thought we would check it out against some of the cards that surround it. We will see exactly how the card performs against NVIDIAs budget 9500 GT and against the more expensive HD 4670 from Sapphire.


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.

3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Straight away we can see that the HD 4550 isn't much of a performer compared to the 9500 GT. We can also see it sits a fair way back when compared to the HD 4670, but that is to be expected.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage


3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here




3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Vantage shows the HD 4550 performing at just over half the speed of the HD 4550. We'll have to see how this translates in real world games.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Under PT Boats we can see the HD 4550 continues to perform at around half the speed of the 9500 GT.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Checking out OpenGL performance under CINEBENCH, we see that again the HD 4550 is the slowest card here, though, not running at half the speed we've seen in other tests.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com





World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


In the minimum department we continue to see the HD 4550 perform at around half the speed of the 9500 GT.

Benchmarks - Crysis


Crysis

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here





From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Again the HD 4550 is the slowest card here, but like CINEBENCH it doesn't perform at half the pace of the 9500 GT.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Checking out UT3, we see the card continues to be slow and sit at around half the speed of the 9500 GT.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


3DMark06

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Turning on AA and AF we see the cards performance continue to drop with it performing at about 60% of the speed the 9500 GT offers.


World In Conflict

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


With all cards struggling here, it's not a surprise that we again see the HD 4550 running at the back of the pack. It's safe to say we've got a pretty consistent pattern going on.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here





3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.

3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Windows XP doesn't hold any surprises here with the HD 4550 coming in at the back of the pack.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Under XP we see the 9500 GT fall back; in this case we're able to see the HD 4550 grab a win against it. With that said, though, it's nothing to get excited about.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.

Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


We continue to see the HD 4550 fall back, but fortunately under this situation it's not half the speed of the 9500 GT.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Finally we leave our gaming benchmarks with UT3 and as we have come to expect, the HD 4550 sits at around half the speed of the 9500 GT.

Temperature & Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


As far as temps go, the HD 4550, thanks to its smaller cooler, manages to run warmer than the HD 4670. It does manage to sit slightly behind the 9500 GT, but it's worth noting that the particular card is passively cooled.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).


Zotac 9800 GTX+ Zone


The smaller fan does manage to be a bit quieter than most, coming in at around the 60dB mark.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.


Sapphire Radeon HD 4550 Graphics Card


Power draw between the three cards is all extremely similar under both load and sitting at idle.

Final Thoughts




While the card is yet to appear on our local shores, local pricing in the states puts the card at around the $60 mark. How's that compare against the 9500 GT which for the most part performs at twice the speed? Not great, since an extra 50% is going to literally yield you double the performance. And considering our thoughts on the 9500 GT, it doesn't look good for the HD 4550.

This is where it becomes hazy, though; is there anyone out there who's really going to buy a HD 4550 for gaming? Well, we hope not, because the chances are you're going to be severely disappointed, which means that the card isn't exactly aimed for that particular market.

The performance isn't the only give away, though; the inclusion of the low profile bracket caters for a cliental that doesn't game and the inclusion of the HDMI adapter means it's an option for HT enthusiasts who want something that offers hardware decoding.

The thing is, most products are great. But when you look at them from the right perspective, it's easy to say that the HD 4550 is an absolutely hopeless card from a gaming standpoint. For only 50% more you could get a card that offers 100% more gaming performance. The 9500 GT, however, won't offer you 100% more home theater watching performance; it actually won't offer any more, making it an extra $30 US wasted.

If you're looking for a new graphics card to put in your new HTPC, the HD 4550 from Sapphire is great. If you're looking for a new low profile graphics card to put in your new HTPC, then the card is the best we've seen from the current generation of cards from NVIDIA and AMD.

Performance isn't purely rated on just how many frames per second a graphics card can push out in a game, it's based on how well it performs in the areas it's targeted toward. It's targeted at HTPC users and the mean package, low profile nature and cheap price make it an absolute excellent performer.

If you're looking for a graphics card that is cheap and is going to suit your HTPC, this is one that's going to be hard to pass up on. If you want to do a bit of gaming, can increase the budget and have a full height card we would recommend spending the extra money on the HD 4670 which makes not only a great HTPC card, but also a nice little mid-range gaming one.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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