Introduction, The Card and Specifications
Before I even start, I have to say that I'm having flash backs to late last year where ATI had the market completely dominated and NVIDIA released boring models like the GT 240 which while capable cards, were none the less boring.
Now you turn the clock around and NVIDIA are just covering review sites around the world with video card reviews. There's no denying that the GTX 460 is stretching out its 15 minutes of fame and let's be honest, it's well deserved.
The last few months have brought with them bugger all ATI samples which in turn has brought no real ATI coverage. Here at TweakTown the last ATI card we looked at was a very boring HD 5670 in June. The last time we really got excited about some ATI cards was back in May.
The problem is that I don't think it's really going to change today as we look at the HD 5550 which is a model ATI have decided to slap some GDDR5 on to. Already recognized as a low end card, we really wonder if the inclusion of this memory is going to make a difference.
Is the HD 5550 with its GDDR5 a model that can stand out on its own and get attention in its own right, or is it simply a way to make sure that there's a little bit of red amongst the sea of green that's currently happening? - There's only one way to find out.
Since we're dealing with a reference card, there's nothing in the way of packaging. Instead we've just got the card all on its lonesome. Really, there's not a whole lot to look at; the cooler itself is a dual slot one and to be honest, it looks quite nice and of decent quality.
As for the rest of the card, we've got no power connector which doesn't come as a surprise since it's a lower end model. We do still have our two CrossFire connectors, though.
Connectivity comes in the shape of a Dual-Link DVI connector, HDMI and DisplayPort which will give you the ability to run Eyefinity.
The specification front as you would expect is a little boring, because again we're dealing with a lower end model. We've got a 550MHz core while the memory comes in at 4GHz QDR on a 128-bit memory bus.
Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Western Digital, Noctua and Thermaltake.
Today we'll be comparing the HD 5550 512MB GDDR5 against some of its bigger brothers; the HD 5670 and HD 5750 to see exactly how the model sits.
Let's get started!
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.
At the highest preset you can see we're dealing with about half the performance of the HD 5670.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1 and 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//
New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.
Note: If a card doesn't support DirectX 11 the benchmark will be left out, if it does it will be included along with the DirectX10 results.
Under Heaven the performance is where you would expect. Not quite half like the Vantage Extreme test, though.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10 and Release 11.5
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).
CINEBENCH performance doesn't hold any surprises and sits where you would expect it.
Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5
Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/
Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
Without an minimum we're looking for an average of around 60 FPS. You can see we fall short of that at both resolutions. You would really need to drop the detail down to gain those extra 20 FPS.
Benchmarks - BattleForge
Version and / or Patch Used: Auto Patched at Load
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.battleforge.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.battleforge.com/
The Gods have disappeared and the old sun has died, letting a vile twilight engulf the world of Nyn. In exchange for all treasures the mortals possessed, the evil giants agreed to forge a new sun and hurl it into the sky.
But the deal was betrayed, the treasure stolen and now the mortals flee the wrath of the giants. Under the light of a new sun the mortals stumble into a world changed and twisted by an age of twilight. The long journey home has become a conquest of survival.
Note: Supporting DirectX 11 we have seperated the graphs for NVIDIA and ATI cards. While the numbers between the two brands can be compared you have to make note that ATI based HD 5000 series cards are running DirectX 11.
BattleForge is pretty intensive on most cards and here is no different. Like all the other cards here, you can see we're well below that 60 FPS minimum.
Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X is an arcade-style flight simulator video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iPhone OS.
The fundamental gameplay mechanics are similar to those of other console-based flight series. Players take on enemies with over 50 aircraft available. Each mission is at real world locations in environments created with commercial satellite data. A cockpit, first person, and third person view are selectable. The third person view gives the player an external view of both their plane and the target.
Set above the skies of a near-future world, increasingly dependent on private military companies with elite mercenaries who have a relaxed view on the law. As these non-governmental organizations gain power, global conflict erupts with one powerful PMC attacking the United States.
The only card getting the average we need here is the HD 5750 and that is at the lower resolution. The HD 5550 really had no hope.
Benchmarks - Darkest of Days
Darkest of Days
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Product Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Darkest of Days takes the player through time into historic battles in an effort to save key individuals from certain death. The battles range from Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to fighting in Pompeii as ash and fire rain down from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Other locations include the battles of Antietam and Tannenberg, and a German World War II P.O.W. camp. There are different missions in every time period and the game takes about 4 hours to complete.
The game features over twenty weapons, both from the original time period as well as those brought back from the future. In addition, there are artillery weapons from different time periods to assist in battle.
Note: With the PhysX set to Medium or High Darkest of Days take advantage of the NVIDIA PhysX abilities. For that reason we will test ATI cards at the Low preset, NVIDIA based cards though will be tested at Low and High.
We again see we're well below that 60 FPS average we need.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
Far Cry 2 runs fairly well on a lot of cards these days, but you're really going to need to drop the detail down to boost that minimum closer to the 30 FPS mark.
Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum
Batman Arkham Asylum
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.
Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.
Note: With support for PhysX NVIDIA based cards will be tested with the technology on and off, ATI cards will be tested with the technology off due to it not being supported on their cards.
Batman AA runs very well on a lot of systems and here is no different. We've got a 30 FPS minimum at 1680 x 1050 and we're only a few FPS away at 1920 x 1200. There seems to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
Benchmarks - Dark Void
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.airtightgames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.darkvoidgame.com/
The game's story takes place during World War II and centers around a cargo pilot named William Augustus Grey (voiced by Nolan North) who is teleported to another world while flying through the Bermuda Triangle. In this world, known as the 'Void', Will encounters an alien race as well as other humans, which are known as the Watchers and the Survivors respectively.
Will reluctantly joins the Survivors who are engaged in a feud with the alien race to satisfy his desire to return to Earth. While aiding the Survivors, Will discovers that the Void is a middle ground that connects both the Watchers homeworld and Earth. It also becomes apparent that the Watchers are supplying the Axis powers with various supplies for reasons unknown. With the help of Nikola Tesla, Will utilizes retrofited Watcher technology to combat the Watchers and eventually find a way to escape the Void.
Dark Void is a little older and really shows us where the card works well. At both resolutions we can see we're above that 30 FPS minimum.
Benchmarks - Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor
Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.51
Timedemo or Level Used: Sample File
Developer Homepage: http://www.elcomsoft.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.elcomsoft.com/ewsa.html
ElcomSoft has pioneered many software innovations that have made it easier to recover passwords protecting various types of resources. For the first time in the industry, the company's patent-pending GPU acceleration makes its way into Wi-Fi password recovery, reducing the time required to recover Wi-Fi passwords up to a hundred times.
Supporting up to four NVIDIA boards such as GeForce 8, 9, and 200, as well as ATI video cards such as RADEON HD 4000 Series and up, Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor allows building servers with supercomputer performance at a fraction of the price.
WSA performance is low, just as you would expect.
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.
Low end model combined with active cooling means temperature numbers are very impressive.
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).
Fan noise isn't too bad at all; it sits where most cards do.
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.
Power draw as you would expect is low.
Total Performance Rating (TPR)
Total Performance Rating
The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and ATI are on an even playing field. This includes benchmarks where PhysX can be forced off like Dark Void and Batman: Arkham Asylum, but not Darkest of Days.
The TPR number is a combination of:
3DMark Vantage, Heaven Benchmark V2, CINEBENCH R11.5, Resident Evil 5, BattleForge, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off), Dark Void (PhysX Off) and our three High Quality tests which include Far Cry 2, Resident Evil 5 and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.
Overall the performance of the HD 5550 isn't all that far behind the HD 5570 with its GDDR3.
Total Value Rating (TVR)
Total Value Rating
The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on Newegg.com. In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.
In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.
In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.
TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.
The slightly lower performance and slightly lower price tag when compared to the HD 5570 from GIGABYTE means that its value is at about the same point.
It's really a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to looking at the HD 5550 GDDR5. All of a sudden NVIDIA has thrown models at us with low price tags and massive performance. The same can't be said with the HD 5550 GDDR5. In saying that, the model is in another price bracket. Considering it's under $100, you have to put that into perspective here.
Compared to what we've looked at in recent months from both ATI and NVIDIA, the performance of the GDDR5 HD 5550 is poor. We haven't looked at a card worth under $100 from either company in a while, though.
Looking at the price tag, performance of the model is actually pretty good and you can see where the card is aimed at. You look at some older games like Batman AA and Dark Void and you can see the card has no problems putting out playable FPS at resolutions as high as 1920 x 1200.
So if you look at Source based games like Team Fortress, Counter Strike and other titles in the Steam vault, you realize you've got a card that's not going to have any troubles playing budget games on a budget card. Every once in a while you'll also see a bit of a surprise come in; a bit like Batman AA.
Saying this doesn't mean that newer games aren't playable, they're just not playable at higher resolutions with higher details. It doesn't mean that on the model you won't be able to get a playable frame rate. With a bit of time tweaking the settings and lowering the resolution you shouldn't have issues with games like Far Cry 2 and Resident Evil 5.
We ultimately wonder if we really needed GDDR5 on the model, though, and that's the big question. To be honest, I think the only reason we're seeing this is because ATI want to make sure people don't forget about them. There seems to be no logical reason to start making the model with GDDR5. With that said, it doesn't mean we don't appreciate another model, but you have to really think about it; NVIDIA did the same thing with the GT 240. That card was 40nm, carried with it GDDR5 but was something that never really brought much interest.
Sure it all sounds exciting, but it's not really. Ignoring the fact that the whole GDDR5 thing for the HD 5550 seems to be more marketing than offering something new to the table, the HD 5550 with GDDR5 still continues to be a good model thanks to its aggressive price tag.
While there's better buys to be had, the bottom line is if you're looking at a card for under $100, this is probably one of the best. Don't expect huge overclocks, don't expect to game at 2560 x 1600, just expect for the card to perform better than you probably think considering its under $100 price tag. Really, that is ultimately a win for the consumer.
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
United States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com
United Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk
Australia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au
Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca
Deutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de