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ASUS GeForce GTX 550 Ti DirectCU TOP Overclocked Video Card Review

We check out the first TOP card in a long time from ASUS with the DirectCU version of the GTX 550 Ti.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Apr 15 2011 3:33 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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The mid-range market is really heating up and one of the best things about these mid-range cards is that companies get the chance to attack the models instantly unlike higher end models such as the new Dual GPU offerings from both NVIDIA and AMD.

The latest mid-range card to greet us comes from ASUS and is part of the new NVIDIA GTX 550 Ti series. The model we're looking at today is part of both the DirectCU and TOP series and carries with it both a healthy overclock and upgraded cooling system.

Before we look at the cooling solution that ASUS is offering us today along with the out of the box clocks, we'll first check out the package. Once we've done that we'll look at the card and then get into the performance side of things to see just what the ASUS GTX 550 Ti DirectCU Top is capable of.


Package

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Like most of these mid-range cards we've seen lately, we've got a fairly small bundle; in this case a quick start manual, CD and dual Molex to 6-Pin PCI-E power connector.

Card and Specifications

The Card

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While the GTX 550 Ti we're looking at today is part of the DirectCU series, it's not like the HD 6950 we looked at which carries a triple slot cooler. This one instead only takes two which we're a lot more accustomed to.

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Looking around the card, you're not going to see anything out of the ordinary. We've got a single 6-Pin PCI-E power connector at the back of the card while closer to front we've got a single SLI connector. Connectivity includes a Dual-Link DVI, VGA and HDMI connector.


Specifications

Being part of the TOP series of course means the GTX 550 Ti comes overclocked out of the box. A reference GTX 550 Ti carries with it a 900MHz core clock, 1800MHz Shader clock and the 1GB of GDDR5 comes in at 4104MHz QDR.

While ASUS hasn't moved the memory clock, they have moved the core up to a healthy 975MHz. This isn't the fastest out of the box clocks we've seen to date, though, so we took the chance to overclock the card to see just what we could get out of it.

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We ended up with the core at a very healthy 1050MHz. This pushed the Shader clock to 2100MHz and we pushed the memory up too 4312MHz QDR.

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.

We'll be comparing the ASUS GTX 550 Ti DirectCU TOP against a few cards today including the MSI Cyclone II version which carries a 950MHz / 4300MHz QDR setup, GTX 460, GTX 560 Ti and on the AMD front we've got the HD 5770 and HD 6790.

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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Straight away we're able to see the extra boost in performance we get from the ASUS card thanks to the nice overclock we've achieved.

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.

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3DMark Vantage continues to show a nice performance boost as well.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

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're again able to see a nice boost in both resolutions. Here we also see how strong NVIDIA continue to be when there's a heavy emphasis on tessellation.

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 see a nice little boost in performance at both resolutions, but more importantly we've got playable numbers at both.

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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HAWX 2 really does favor the NVIDIA offerings and we can again see a little boost in performance here. It's nothing major, though, and we continue to have very playable FPS which is exactly what we want.

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 sees a nice performance boost that is appreciated at the lower resolutions, where the MSI card just scrapes in that 60 FPS average we like to achieve. Overclocked, the ASUS manages to get a good 5 FPS on it which is exactly what you want to see when overclocking.

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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We do see a nice little boost under Lost Planet 2, but it comes as no surprise we've got some pretty low numbers under this extremely intensive game.

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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Aliens vs. Predator also sees a nice little performance boost, but apart from the higher end GTX 560 Ti every other setup struggles to hit that 60 FPS average we aim for.

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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SF IV sees a nice little boost, but overall we've already got some massive performance under this game even on these lower end mid-range cards.

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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Far Cry 2 sees an extra couple of FPS, but we've got some great FPS already.

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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We leave with Batman AA and like all our other tests we do see a nice little boost in performance. Like most of our tests as well, we've got some very playable numbers under Batman AA even at 1920 x 1200.

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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Overall the ASUS GTX 550 Ti Direct CU TOP manages to run fairly cool which is great considering we've overclocked it and pushed more volts through the core.

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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Noise levels are where the card really shines, though, being whisper quiet. Like the other DirectCU card it sits right at the bottom of the chart here and this is one graph where being lower is better.

Power Consumption Tests

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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At a bit over 300 Watts most people shouldn't have a problem running the GTX 550 Ti, even at these speeds.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

At $159 US the ASUS GTX 550 Ti DirectCU TOP is a pretty good buy, made only better by the fact that if you purchase it at Newegg you can score a copy of Mafia II for a limited time.

Overclocking on the card is very strong, but what's more surprising is the cooler efficiency when the core is running at a whopping 1050MHz. 69c is good, but not a real stand out; the fact it does that in near silence is what makes the cooler so great. You'd think that with the core clock being pushed so high that the fan would be working harder, but it's clear that it doesn't need to which tells us just how good the cooler is.

There's not really much more that needs to be said about this GTX 550 Ti. If you're looking at spending around the mid $100 US mark and you like what the GTX 550 Ti brings to the table, this is a good offering. It's quieter than not just any other GTX 550 Ti we've tested, but any other card we've tested period. It has some good OC potential and if you don't want to overclock, the 975MHz out of the box core clock is strong.

Overall this is a good GTX 550 Ti that people who want silence are going to love. The fact you can push the core clock over 1GHz and still have near silence as well is just a massive bonus.

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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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