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Palit GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB Sonic Video Card in SLI Review

We SLI the Palit GTX 550 Ti to give us a total combined core speed of 2GHz. How's the new mid-range model go in SLI?

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Mar 18 2011 3:36 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:02 PM CST
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Palit

Introduction and Package


Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 32 IMAGES


It was interesting to see during the press docs that NVIDIA was promoting the GTX 550 Ti in SLI a little, as I thought as we dive down to this area it wouldn't be pushed quite as much. The thing is, though, if you really think about it, for less than the price of a single GTX 570, you can buy yourself two GTX 550 Ti cards.

Considering that multi card support is fairly rampant these days in chipsets, it's not hard to imagine people going the option of two cards over one if they do indeed represent better value. When you combine the performance that NVIDIA is offering with these cards with the high scaling ability we're seeing from NVIDIA these days in two card setups, you have to think you could have a real weapon of a setup on your hands here.

Sure, you can go down the buy one today and buy another one later path, but with the aggressive pricing of these mid-range models you don't really need to wait until some form of price drop to get the best value out of SLI setups.

Before we get into the fun stuff and check out the performance that's on offer from this SLI setup, let's first check the package that Palit has got going on with the Palit GTX 550 Ti Sonic. Of course, once that's done we'll have a closer look at the card itself before we have a look at the specifications of the card and what kind of clocks the Sonic model is carrying this time around.

So with that all said and done, let's take a closer look at what exactly is on offer here today.


Package

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The box design doesn't really change much between most Palit models and you can clearly see the Sonic Overclocking Edition label on the front package. Inside there's not much going on at all with a driver CD, manual and dual Molex connector to 6-Pin PCI-E connector.

I feel like we're saying this more and more these days about the package, but we're really seeing companies choosing to show a little less love towards it and instead put more effort into the card and offer more aggressive pricing. It's probably quite safe to say that most people would feel this is a better option.

Card and Specifications


The Card

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Looking at the card, there's not a lot going on with the cooler looking a bit like an engine with pistons coming out the side. We've got that trademarked orange fan and apart from that there's not a whole lot else going on.

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Around the rest of the card we've got a single 6-Pin PCI-E power connector, single SLI connector and connectivity comes in the form of a HDMI, Dual-Link DVI and VGA port.


Specifications

On the clock front, Palit is offering us a juicy 1GHz clock. That increased core clock means that the Shader clock has also been increased and that comes in at 2000MHz. Like the other GTX 550 Ti cards we've looked at, Palit hasn't chosen to ignore the 1GB of GDDR5 and bumps that up as well.

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Above you can see the memory comes in at 1100MHz or 4400MHz QDR. Of course, today we're going to be looking at SLI performance for the model and you can see across the bottom that our SLI tab shows 2 GPUs are enabled.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11


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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

Because of the higher end nature of the GTX 550 Ti SLI setup, we're looking at the card a little different to how we looked at the previous GTX 550 Ti cards. Instead of just testing at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200, we've chosen to also test at 2560 x 1600 like we normally would with our higher end cards.

Testing at the higher resolution also means that we're testing AA and AF performance and in the end we'll be able to look at the Total Performance Rating and see just how this setup goes against a whole lot of other cards.

Speaking of other cards, we've got a whole host of cards here. We're of course testing the SLI setup against a single GTX 550 Ti and for that we've got the Gainward which carries the same clock speeds. From there we start moving up in models and are including the GTX 560 Ti, GTX 570 and GTX 580. For AMD we've also got great representation with the HD 6850, HD 6870, HD 6950 and HD 6970.

Let's get started!


3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
Buy It Here




3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Under our first test 3DMark 11 we can see performance on the SLI setup is near identical to a single GTX 570 which is actually a slightly more expensive option to picking up two of these.

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.

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Vantage paints a very similar picture with again the GTX 570 and Palit GTX 550 Ti performing almost identical to each other. It's not even a matter of one model doing better at the higher resolution than the other; both are really performing very close to each other.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark




Version and / or Patch Used: 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.

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Looking at Heaven performance, we can see that performance is very strong again on the GTX 550 Ti, but in this situation it's not as close to the GTX 570 setup as it was in our 3DMark tests.

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.

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Getting into some games, we can see that moving to SLI brings with it almost double the performance which is exactly what you want to see. Compared to the other cards we've got here, performance is between the GTX 560 Ti and GTX 570 with the SLI setup leaning probably a little more towards the GTX 570 than the GTX 560 Ti.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

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. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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H.A.W.X. 2 makes some great use of SLI and here you see that the GTX 550 Ti just puts some nuts performance out that makes it faster than any other single card seutp here.

Benchmarks - Mafia II


Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
Buy It Here




Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Mafia II continues to enjoy the benefits of SLI; not quite as strong as our previous two games, but some very nice gains are indeed seen. At the highest resolution we've got an average of 58 FPS which is so close to that 60 FPS playable number we want to see. Those last few extra FPS wouldn't be hard to get with a small detail drop, meaning that this game would indeed be playable at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2


Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/




Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Lost Planet 2 is really intensive and you can see the GTX 550 Ti by itself just doesn't get playable numbers while the GTX 560 Ti gets just over 60 FPS at 1680 x 1050. The Palit GTX 550 Ti SLI setup manages to get 60 FPS better at both 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200.

Like every other setup here, though, not a single one is able to break over the 60 FPS mark at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator


Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/




Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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These results mirror exactly what we saw in Lost Planet 2. The GTX 560 Ti manages to break 60 FPS at 1680 x 1050, but falls under at 1920 x 1200. The Palit GTX 550 Ti SLI setup manages to break the 60 FPS mark at that resolution and 1920 x 1200, while no setup is able to break 60 FPS at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV


Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/




While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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Some strong gains are seen under SF IV, but we've of course already got fantastic performance from the single GTX 550 Ti under this game.

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.

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Under Far Cry 2 we continue to see those strong gains that we've seen all along. Compared to the other cards we've got performance that's near identical to the GTX 570 again. More importantly, though, for the Palit GTX 550 Ti SLI setup we've got playable numbers at all resolutions.

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.

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No surprise under Batman AA. We've got strong performance and playable numbers at every resolution. Compared to the other models we continue to see this SLI setup performs near identical to the GTX 570.

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.

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Aliens vs. Predator performance is just too low with AA and AF on. Mafia II performance is just absolute border line. Drop the AF or AA down slightly and you would get playable numbers with some good eye candy.

As for SF IV and Far Cry 2, you've got some great performance and both games have no problems playing with these settings on the Palit GTX 550 Ti SLI setup.

Benchmarks - PhysX Tests


PhysX Tests

Here we're able to find out when PhysX is turned on in games that support it what kind of frame rates we're able to get. We always set PhysX to the highest possible in game settings while also keeping detail at its highest.

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Turning PhysX on, we can see that Mafia II does indeed struggle; fortunately the same can't be said for Batman AA which manages to get over a 30 FPS minimum at every resolution. Overall we again see performance comparable to the GTX 570 with the GTX 550 Ti SLI setup managing to win out here.

Temperature Test


Temperature Tests



The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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The GTX 550 Ti from Palit is a bit of a warmer running card, but it's nothing we're worried about.

Sound Test


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).

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Of course, that extra heat is present because of how slow the fans are spinning, creating an almost silent solution.

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 SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal 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.

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Being mid-range cards we didn't expect power draw to be too crazy and it's really not as you can see above with any good 500 Watt+ PSU having no issue using a setup like this.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)


Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and AMD are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

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.

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Overall we can see that this SLI setup performs very similar to the GTX 570 and older GTX 480. Compared to AMD options it's faster than the HD 6970, including some pre overclocked models.

Final Thoughts




This is actually a really killer setup and I think that over the past few years we've seen a shift where SLI was only something you would make use of when using the highest end cards to it now being a technology that strives in these mid-range models.

The real back and forth motion between AMD and NVIDIA in the pricing over the last few years means that the mid-range models have seen aggressive pricing and just some awesome performance in single card form. When you combine that single card bang for buck experience and double it, you end up with a really powerful setup that doesn't cost the world.

Sure, in the end it's not as good a value as the same card when it comes down to the pure FPS, but you're talking about a setup that plays 1680 x 1050 easily and performs here and there at 1920 x 1200 to a setup that plays 1920 x 1200 easily and performs here and there at 2560 x 1600.

If you're gaming at 1920 x 1080, this ends up being a really great setup for you and because the pricing of the higher end models aren't as aggressive, the dual card setup ends up being a better buy than the single higher end one, and that's what we're seeing here today.

SLI, at least in two card form, really causes no headache. Now if you've got a compatible motherboard you can get performance equal to and sometimes better than a single GTX 570 for less. The great thing about the Palit offering as well is while it does run a little warmer, it's only because the fan speed's so slow that the setup is near silent.

When you think about it, having the same performance as a HD 6970 or GTX 570 with almost no noise is just a dream for some people. Obviously the noise factor is going to change from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the silent path that Palit has chosen I think pays dividends to the right crowd.

In the end we've got another great GTX 550 Ti with a 1GHz core clock. What we've also seen here today, though, is just what the model is capable of when paired with another. This is indeed a really attractive option for people who want power and silence while having a bit of fun with SLI at the same time.

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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.

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