Sapphire Radeon HD4550 512MBNov 11th, 2008 | By Jared
Sapphire Radeon HD4550 512MB
: 11/11/08 – 03:33:22 AM
: Video Cards
Page 1 : Index
Sapphire is a familiar face here at Overclockers Online and throughout the PC industry. Just last month we had the opportunity to look at their Toxic HD4850, and while the top end ATI cards have received a good bit of attention, some of the entry cards bring a lot to the table as well.
Today I have the opportunity to check out one of these entry level cards, the HD4550. While not as powerful as its older siblings, the HD4550 carries a much smaller price tag at around $60 US. While it obviously won't be a record breaker, it has all of the makings of a great value for a HTPC.
Page 2 : Package and Accessories
Packaging is very similar to what we have seen before from Sapphire video cards.
The black box has a bluish hue and the obligatory female character on the front. A quick look and you can see that the card supports 7.1 surround, HDMI and CrossFireX.
Switching around to the back there are some more features listed along with a small blurb regarding Vista along with a quick list of the contents inside.
The sides of the box contain the retail information and specifications.
Included in Sapphire's package for the HD4550 is a driver CD, installation guide and case badge. Other accessories are DVI-VGA adapter, component out cable, DVI-HDMI adapter, low profile PCI bracket and S-video to composite adapter.
Page 3 : Features and Specifications
For specifications and features I grabbed them straight from Sapphire's product page. For complete details and information you can go here.
*I/O Output: VGA+DL-DVI-I+HDTV
*Core Clock: 600 MHz & 80 Stream Processors
*Memory Clock: 800MHz, 1800 Mbps.
*PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
*512MB / 64-bit 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
*PCI Express based PC is required with one X16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard
*300 Watt or greater power supply (350 Watt for ATI CrossFireX technology in dual mode) is recommended. Certified power supplies are recommended. Refer to http:/ati.amd.com/certifiedPSU for a list of Certified products
*1GB of system memory recommended
*Installation software requires CD-ROM drive
*Blu-ray playback requires Blu-ray drive and full 1080p display requires a 1080p-capable monitor
*For Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is required
*To enable dual mode ATI CrossFireX technology, a second ATI Radeon HD 4600 Series graphics card, an ATI CrossFireX Ready motherboard and one ATI CrossFireX Bridge Interconnect cable (included) is required.
One thing to note about requirements, while it mentions CrossFireX support needing a CrossFireX interconnect, the HD4550 does not require this physical connection but rather uses the PCI-E bus to connect the two cards.
Page 4 : The Card
After getting the card out of the packaging, I noticed while Sapphire shows passive cooling, mine actually has a fan.
At first look it's quite apparent this card is aimed at HTPC setups even though it comes with a full height PCI bracket attached. A blue circular heatsink dominates the top. The VGA port is attached to the card via a ribbon cable that is removed when the low profile bracket is used.
Nothing remarkable on the bottom of the card aside from the two memory modules.
Connections include DVI, video-out and VGA. As mentioned, when using the low profile bracket you lose the VGA connection.
Hiding under the heatsink is the core of the HD4550. ATI uses 55nm technology so this is a small core that also makes it quite energy efficient and cool running. While I couldn't get a clear picture of the writing (and took a good bit of squinting on my part to make it out) there is no information on it that pulls up in any searches.
Doing a search on K4W1G1646D-EJ11 brings us to the spec sheet found here. From the specs we can see that the memory is rated at 900MHz, so that doesn't really bode too well for overclocking, though we shall see.
Page 5 : Installation and Overclocking
Not much to cover with installation as it is a single slot cooling solution so interference is not an issue.
After loading up the drivers I decided it was time to get down to some overclocking to see what we have. Sure it's aimed more at the HTPC market, but it is always fun to push things. Now typically with ATI cards I like to use ATITool for overclocking and stressing. Unfortunately I could not get ATITool to work, so I turned to Rivatuner 2.11 and some trusty 3DMark06 for stress testing. I honestly didn't have too high of expectations seeing as the memory was already at spec, but I was pleasantly surprised.
I finally ended up at 680MHz core from stock 600MHz and was able to push the memory to 940MHz from a stock setting of 800MHz. Pretty good overclocks and the best part was that load temps increased only one degree to 55C. Now its time to run through some tests to see how the HD4550 performs.
Page 6 : Testing Setup
Below are the system specifications that will be used for testing.
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3.66GHz
MB: Gigabyte P35-DS3R
Memory: G.Skill PI PC6400 2x2GB
PSU: Ultra X3 1000W
HD: Western Digital 250GB SATA
DVD-Rom: LiteOn 18x DVD Burner SATA
Case: CoolerMaster HAF 932
Ambient Temperature: 24-25C
All benchmarks were run a minimum of three times with scores being the average of those three runs. For efficiency's sake I am going to quote a bit from previous testing.
Page 7 : Futuremark, Cinebench and Lightsmark
First out of the gate is the suite of 3DMark benchmarks, while a synthetic benchmark they are widely considered the standard. Synthetic benchmarks don't necessarily translate to real world performance, but give us a good comparison between cards with a standard scoring system.
The HD4550 puts up competitive numbers to the HD3650 though it has half the memory. While it is slightly behind the HD3650 at stock speeds, with the overclock it easily overtakes it.
The second benchmark I looked at was Cinebench's OpenGL Standard Test. Cinebench is a real-world suite that assesses your computers performance using Maxon's Cinema 4D software. Cinebench runs two tests but we're only interested in the second one:
The second test measures graphics card performance and is run inside the 3D editor window. The project file used can test all graphics cards that support the OpenGL standard. In this scene, only the camera was animated. This scene places medium to low demands on graphics cards and tests the maximum speed with which the scene can be properly displayed.
Results here really surprised me as the HD4550 nearly matches the Biostar 9600GT and easily beats the HD3650. For the 4550 to come close to the 9600GT says a lot as the Sapphire 4550 is no where close to the pricing of the 9600GT.
The final benchmark for this chapter is with Lightsmark 2008, a realtime global illumination and penumbra shadows enabled benchmark. Natural lighting makes artificial graphics life-like. Computers get faster, but rendering more polygons doesn't add value if lighting looks faked, so insiders know that the next big thing is proper lighting aka Realtime Global Illumination. Typical workloads in realtime rendering will shift. Lightsmark simulates it. Global Illumination renders often take hours. Is your computer fast enough for realtime?
A different results here as the HD4550 falls behind the other cards completely.
Page 8 : HL2: Lost Coast, World in Conflict and Crysis
Games are a big factor in many consumers' purchasing decisions. As I mentioned before the HD4550 isn't necessarily geared towards hardcore gamers but that doesn't mean it can't play games.
The first game up is Half Life 2: Lost Coast. I expect decent numbers from the HD4550 as the Half Life 2 engine is one of those rare games that scales well with almost any hardware. Settings were all set to their highest with 6x MSAA and 8x Anisotropic filtering.
In Lost Coast we see similar results as to what we saw in the Lightsmark 2008 benchmark. While not earth shattering numbers, the Source engine is easily handled with the HD4550.
Next we will hit a slightly more demanding game, World in Conflict. World in Conflict is a very demanding real time strategy game that takes a good bit of power to play smoothly at high settings. Using the built in benchmark, I set everything to very high and let it rip.
With World in Conflict the numbers aren't great, but the HD4550 clearly outperforms the HD3650 even at stock settings.
The final test will be with Crysis. Crysis obviously needs no introduction as a system killer when it comes to performance. All settings were set to high and the built in GPU benchmark was used.
Results here kind of impressed me as the HD4550 hardly loses any ground when playing at the higher resolution.
Overall, these are decent results for a budget entry level card. It put up a good fight against the 3650 and fought admirably against 9600GT.
Page 9 : Conclusion
Well, I honestly have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the performance and features of the HD4550. It comes with every feature and accessory you could want for a HTPC setup and even handles games fairly well. At around $60 US you easily get your money's worth and more.
I really can't find any fault as everything ran smoothly and while it's not the strongest in games, it performs well enough for light duty and should be able to handle most games out there today. With built in 7.1 audio and high definition support, the HD4550 is the ideal card for your HTPC but will also make the casual gamer quite happy.
- Perfect for HTPC
- Good performance for entry level card
Overclockers Online would like to thank Sapphire for supplying the HD4550 512MB for review.