NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: March 14, 2011
Product Name: GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB
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Over the last few months, NVIDIA’s revised Fermi architecture has been met with rightfully glowing praise so expectations were high for the latest member of the 500-series family. The GTX 550 Ti does boast some forward thinking technology in the form of mixed memory allotments running alongside some high clock speeds but there are numerous challenges it still has to overcome.

Let’s start with some positive points before proceeding any further. When compared to the GTS 450, the GTX 550 Ti really is a step in the right direction since it offers substantially higher performance while keeping power consumption well in hand. In addition, at $150 it acts as a good bridge product between the aforementioned GTS 450 and the slightly higher priced GTX 460 cards. This along with low power consumption and a nearly inaudible fan also makes the GTX 550 Ti an excellent choice for HTPC users who are looking for some extra gaming muscle.

Ultimately though, it is a combination of price, overall performance and market positioning that combines to dull some of the GTX 550’s initial appeal for budget-conscious gamers. One of the main issues mentioned throughout this review is the steady availability of GTX 460 cards below the $159 mark. It's understandable that something was needed to compete in what amounts to be popular market segment but the GTX 550 Ti really does have a tough time keeping up with similarly priced yet higher performing GF104-based cards. Indeed, NVIDIA’s wild success with the GTX 460 may ultimately prove to be their worst enemy as they try to roll out more cards to compete with AMD’s HD 6800-series.

While the GTX 550 Ti has a bit of an identity crisis against other cards in NVIDIA’s stable, things aren’t any easier when it’s pitted against AMD’s current lineup. Let’s put this into perspective for you. The HD 5770 was released in October of 2009 with a price of $159 and but the reference-clocked $150 GTX 550 Ti fails to substantially move the goal posts even though it is being shown off a whole 17 months later. Granted, framerates with AA enabled were superior to those of the HD 5770 but in many ways it maintains the status quo for entry level graphics cards without being much of an evolutionary step forward in terms of in-game performance.

All of the points made above shouldn’t give you an overly negative view of the GTX 550 because NVIDIA’s board partners have taken a unique approach this time around. Even though reference-based products will be everywhere, there should be plenty of overclocked versions at launch and some like EVGA’s FPB Edition won’t even come with a price premium. To us, this fact alone warrants a closer look at the GTX 550 Ti and we've done that in a four-way roundup.

For the OEM market, the reference GTX 550 Ti makes perfect sense but for the time being it will likely be the overclocked versions that individuals rightly gravitate towards. As post-release prices come into effect and the cost of the GTX 550 Ti inevitably falls, there is no doubt in our minds it will become the go-to product for entry level gamers. But until that time, there are several more appealing options currently on the market in the form of NVIDIA’s own GTX 460 series.


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