Sapphire HD 4550 Video Card

Posted by on Sunday, July 5, 2009 - 3:05am

sapphire 4550As much as many of us would like to think so we overclockers/enthusiasts only make up a very small portion of the people that use a PC. I visit many forums including my own and so often we talk like we are the only computer users that matter. But if I had to guess what percentage of people are buying high frequency processors, crazy dollar amount video cards or coolers the size of elephants are very small about less than 10%. The other 90% are satisfied with a faster CPU than the one they had before or a video card powerful enough to play their favorite video games at a decent frame rate. 

Sapphire HD 4550

Introduction

As much as many of us would like to think so we overclockers/enthusiasts only make up a very small portion of the people that use a PC. I visit many forums including my own and so often we talk like we are the only computer users that matter. But if I had to guess what percentage of people are buying high frequency processors, crazy dollar amount video cards or coolers the size of elephants are very small about less than 10%. The other 90% are satisfied with a faster CPU than the one they had before or a video card powerful enough to play their favorite video games at a decent frame rate.

And if you are one of these people that don't need the biggest baddest video adapter on the market just something that will get you by and play your videos at a clean crisp rate then the Sapphire HD 4550 may be up your alley. The HD 4550 is no bottom of the line GPU but a card that boasts 512MB of DDR3 memory at 900MHz and a 600MHz core. At $60 you will not have to settle with just what will get you by as the card supports Crossfire and HDMI with 7.1 audio support. But with all this being said how will the HD 4550 stack up on the ladder of other cards offered by Sapphire and ATI.

What Sapphire has to say

With all the latest features, the ATI Radeon™HD 4550 graphics cards deliver an incredible visual experience with best in class performance. Enjoy unprecedented levels of graphics realism and play the latest games with support for Microsoft DirectX®10.1. Add this graphics card to your PC and watch Blu-ray movies and HD content play with incredible visual fidelity1, and view digital photos with over 1 billion colors2. Do it all with break-through efficiency that doesn’t compromise performance.


Packaging and Contents

The HD 4550 comes in a rather small box compared to say the HD 4870 and 4670 units we reviewed way back when. But still you get all the extra goodies that would come with the other cards like the adapters, cable extensions and drivers.

Specifications

  • I/O Output: VGA+DL-DVI-I+HDTV
  • Core Clock: 600 MHz & 80 Stream Processors
  • Memory Clock: 900MHz, 1800 Mbps.
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
  • 512MB /64bit DDR3 memory interface
  • Single Slot Active Cooler
  • HDMI compliant via dongle
  • 7.1 Audio Channel Support
  • Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support
  • Shader Model 4.1 support
  • Features

      ATI Radeon™ HD 4550 – 512MB of DDR3 memory
      DirectX® 10.1
      80 stream processing units
      12x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering
      PCI Express® 2.0 support
      Dual mode ATI CrossFireX™ technology multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance
      ATI Avivo™ HD video and display technology
      Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD 2) for Blu-ray™ and HD Video
      DVD Upscaling & Built-in HDMI with 7.1 surround sound support & Integrated DisplayPort with audio
      Dynamic power management with ATI PowerPlay™ technology

    Closer look

    Now the HD 4550 doesn't sport the over-sized cooler of some of the other cards you will see on your retailer's shelf. And there is no reason for it to as it is geared mainly to the home theatre PC and office workstation. But this model from Sapphire does have a non-reference cooler which in most cases is better than reference. This cooler looks very much like an older Thermaltake Orb. The cooler is just big enough to cover the core, but this leaves the ram modules uncooled.

    Sapphire HD 4550 2

    Sapphire HD 4550 3

    Even with the slow core and ram speeds you still get all the other features that you see in other ATI video cards like Crossfire. Yes, this unit does support dual GPU linking in the form of Crossfire but I see it being more satsifying being used in a hybrid Crossfire link with onboard graphic solutions.

    Sapphire HD 4550 5Sapphire HD 4550 6

    One very impressive feature of this new card is its power output which is rated at less than 25 watts. And this is under load. With such a low draw of power it looks to be the ideal card in environments where alot of systems would need updating.

    Sapphire HD 4550 8

    The rear of the card consists of three different outputs in the name of DVI, SVGA and S-Video. The whole realm of connections are covered if you throw in the HDMI and RGB adpaters. And as you can see from the photo the bracket is full height but Sapphire does include a low-profile bracket that can be used in some SFF systems that would require it.

    Sapphire HD 4550 9Sapphire HD 4550 10


    Testing Hardware and Software

    We used GPU-Z and ATI Over Drive to show core and ram speeds.

    Testing Hardware: Gigabyte GA-EP45-DQ6
    Intel Core2Duo E8400 @ 4.15
    Crucial Ballistix 2gb PC6400
    Thermalright Ultra 120
    Sapphire Toxic HD4550
    Maxtor Diamond 10 100GB
    Thermaltake TP1000

    Testing Software:
    Futuremark 3DMark06 Pro
    Sierra Entertainment F.E.A.R. (Builtin demo - Settings on Highest)
    3D Realms Prey (HardwareOC Benchmark - Guru3D demo - Shader on highest level)
    Electronic Arts Crysis (Benchmarking Tool - Settings on high - GPU Time)
    Ubisoft Far Cry (HardwareOC Benchmark - Volcano - Shader 3.0)
    Devil May Cry 4 (Built-in benchmark - DirectX 9 - High Setting)
    World in Conflict (Builtin demo - Highest setting)

    Drivers:
    Windows XP Pro SP3
    ATI Cat 8.8 (All GPU were re-tested under Cat 8.8)

    Competition:
    Sapphire Toxic HD3870
    Sapphire HD4870
    Sapphire HD4670


    Testing

    Futuremark 3DMark 06
    Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.0.2 3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure 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. Futuremark's exclusive Online ResultBrowser tracks and compares 3DMark06 scores.

    Sapphire HD 4550 20

    Sierra Entertainment F.E.A.R. (Builtin demo - Settings on Highest)
    “Gamespot’s PC Shooter of the Year is coming to the Xbox 360™ gaming and entertainment system with new levels, new weapons, and more explosive online action - Coming Fall 2006. 
    F.E.A.R. ™ (First Encounter Assault Recon) is a paranormal action thriller presented entirely in first-person. An unprecedented adrenaline rush of close quarters combat seamlessly melded with the spine-tingling, shocking intensity of the paranormal unknown.
    Already a critical and commercial smash on the PC, F.E.A.R. will bring a new level of FPS game play to Xbox 360 with brand new single-player content designed to immerse the player deeper in the world of the F.E.A.R. team, as well as brand new multiplayer content created to fully utilize Xbox Live®.”

    Sapphire HD 4550 21

    3D Realms Prey (HardwareOC Benchmark - Guru3D demo - Shader on highest level)
    “Tommy is a down-on-his-luck garage mechanic, stuck in the middle on who-knows-where on some forgotten reservation, where Native Americans are tucked away out of sight, out of mind.
    And then the unthinkable happens! Earth becomes prey to the galaxy's largest predator, a space bound Texas-sized alien that's looking to satiate its hunger with the organic goodness that most populates Earth: Us. And the first course is a certain forgotten reservation.
    Tommy and his girlfriend have become prey, his grandfather killed, and hundreds of his tribal nations have been abducted through space-warping portals. Freeing himself, all Tommy cares about is saving Jenny. But the spirit of his grandfather beckons him to embrace his heritage, accept the ancient teachings, and prepare to battle the menace that threatens to destroy all the planet's life.  It's a choice between love and responsibility. It's a choice that cannot be made easily.”

    Sapphire HD 4550 23

    Electronic Arts Crysis (Benchmarking Tool - Settings on high - GPU Time)
    “Earth, 2019. A team of US scientists makes a frightening discovery on an island in the South China Sea. All contact with the team is lost when the North Korean Government quickly seals off the area. The United States responds by dispatching an elite team of Delta Force Operators to recon the situation. As tension rises between the two nations, a massive alien ship reveals itself in the middle of the island. The ship generates an immense force sphere that freezes a vast portion of the island and drastically alters the global weather system. Now the US and North Korea must join forces to battle the alien menace. With hope rapidly fading, you must fight epic battles through tropical jungle, frozen landscapes, and finally into the heart of the alien ship itself for the ultimate Zero G showdown.”

    Sapphire HD 4550 23

    Ubisoft Far Cry (HardwareOC Benchmark - Volcano - Shader 3.0)
    “A tropical paradise seethes with hidden evil in Far Cry, a cunningly detailed action shooter that pushes the boundaries of combat to shocking new levels.
    Freelance mariner Jack Carver is cursing the day he ever came to this island. A week ago, a brash female reporter named Valerie had offered him an incredible sum of cash to take her to this unspoiled paradise. Shortly after docking, however, Jack's boat was greeted by artillery fire from a mysterious militia group swarming about the island.
    With his boat destroyed, his money gone, and the gorgeous Valerie suddenly missing, Jack now finds himself facing an army of mercenaries amidst the wilds of the island, with nothing but a gun and his wits to survive. But the further he pushes into the lush jungle canopy, the stranger things become.
    Jack encounters an insider within the militia group who reveals the horrific details of the mercenaries' true intentions. He presents Jack with an unsettling choice: battle the deadliest mercenaries, or condemn the human race to a maniac's insidious agenda.”

    Sapphire HD 4550 24

    Devil May Cry 4 (Built-in benchmark - DirectX 9 - High Setting)
    Long ago the Dark Knight Sparda rebelled against the dark emperor and waged a one-man war to save humanity. Thousands of years later, a religious organization worships this renowned savior and has taken it upon themselves to rid the world of all evil. Residing in Fortuna, this organization is known as the "Order of the Sword," and is made up of an elite group of "Holy Knights." One day, a young knight named Nero witnesses Sparda's legendary son Dante slaughter his fellow warriors. Has the renowned devil hunter turned his back on mankind? What does thie encounter mean for these two individuals?

    Sapphire HD 4550 25

    World in Conflict (Builtin demo - Highest setting)
    War is Coming Home
    On November 9th, 1989 the Cold War was supposed to end....it didn't
    World in Conflict is the action strategy game where players defend their country, their hometown, and their families in the face of Soviet-led World War III, delivering an epic struggle of courage and retribution. You are a field commander leading the era's most powerful military machines in the heroic effort to turn back the invasion...one city and suburb at a time. This war isn't on the television. It's on our soil and in our backyards.
    Prepare yourself for the most intense strategy game ever created.

    Sapphire HD 4550 26

    Inserts taken from respective developer's web site.


    Noise

    This is argueable the quietiest 4xxx I have tested from Sapphire. The fan has the typical spin up at boot but once the system is fully up and running there isn't a ounce of sound from it. Well that is until you put a load on the GPU and the fan revs up but not to the level of any other current cards just a low hmmmm.


    Conclusion

    If you are planning to buy the Sapphire HD 4550 to be an all out gaming card I would have to advise you not too as it is not the purpose of the card. If you are planning to buy the card to replace one in an office workstation or to build up a HTPC system I would not stop you as I think this is what it is best for. And it will do it without breaking the bank. But if for some reason you did decide to get the HD 4550 fear not as you can add a second one at a later time and run them in Crossfire mode. And if you do have a AMD chipset like the 780/790 then hybrid Crossfire is possible.

    Sapphire HD 4550 award


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