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» Radeon X550 Graphics Card

Radeon X550 Graphics Card

Date  - 23/09/05
Review -
ATI Radeon X550

Summery - ATI quietly released the X550 a few months ago, no need for big advertising or hype for a product that is essentially an evolution of the X300. Bumped up clock speed bumped up memory speed. God news they didn't bump the price up much.

x550 boxThe Radeon X550 from ATI was not one of those cards that is hyped up for months before its release, in fact its release was sprung upon us quite quickly. The reason for this I suppose is that the X550 is simply a ramped up X300. Nothing much you might think, but that still puts the X550 in the budget class and it comes with a budget price. Look to the right column to see just how low the price of this card is. The X550 will give you performance worthy of a decent multimedia PC for a fraction of the cost. True you are not going to be able to be playing games with 4x Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic filtering switched on, but a decent graphics card none the less.

The X550 will likely have a couple or three flavours to it and different manufacturers always like to alter one or two aspects of every graphics card. The main differences will include the variation between 128Mb and 256Mb cards and the 64-bit and 128-bit memory interfaces.

Features of the Radeon X550

  • 64-bit and 128-bit memory interface supporting 64MB or 128MB DDR1 memory configurations
  • Four extreme parallel 3D rendering pixel pipelines
  • Two programmable vertex shader pipelines
  • PCI Express® x16 lane native support
  • Full Microsoft® DirectX® 9 support
  • SmartShader™ 2.0
  • Hyper Z™ III
  • Videoshader™
  • Dual integrated display controllers
  • Integrated 165 MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 / HDMI compliant and HDCP ready)
  • Integrated TV Output support up to 1024x768 resolution
  • ATI Catalyst™ Software Suite

Card comparison

Type Radeon X300 Radeon X550 Radeon X600 Pro
Memory 128Mb 256Mb 256Mb
Memory Clock speed (DDR) 400Mhz 500Mhz 600Mhz
Core Clock speed 325Mhz 400Mhz 400Mhz
Memory Bandwidth 6.4Gb/s 8.0Gb/s 9.6Gb/s
Peak Fill Rate 1300 Mpixels 1600 Mpixels 1600 Mpixels

x550Radeon X550

The Radeon X550 sits nicely between the X300 and the X600 Pro. It can pump out the same amount of pixels per second as the X600 Pro but has a slightly lower memory clock and therefore a lower memory bandwidth. Bear in mind the X550 is quite aggressively priced, so you may want to take a look at the X550 even if you were going to purchase a simple X300. An extra £10-£15 could get get you a whole lot more in terms of performance. The X550 is predominately the same as the X300 in every way except for the clock speeds of the chip and the memory, but where the speed of the X300 let the competition of the Geforce 6200 take over, the X550 is a much more competitive card in the budget sector of the market. Even though the X550 is a budget card, it still comes with an all in one cooling solution for memory and the GPU, you shouldn't have any heat issues with this card, nor should you have any space issues as the X550 is a nice compact card even with the cooler and should fit nicely into the majority of PC cases.

PCI Express

The Geforce 7800 GTX will be released in PCI express format. There are currently no plans to release the graphics card in a AGP bus format but we do know that Nvidia have the capability to create a hardware bridge to allow this card to run on AGP 8x motherboards should they decide to go down that route.

PCI Express is the new bus system for graphics cards and other devices, the PCI Express bus should eventually replace the AGP bus and the standard PCI bus. PCI express is a serial bus system which means data flows in one line behind each other. The original PCI bus was a parallel system which could send multiple streams of data at once. This sounds like a step backwards but the Serial Bus can be clocked much higher than a parallel one. On top of this the New PCI Express bus can be split into channels each with its own data stream. Graphics cards will have a standard of 16 PCI express (PCI 16x) channels for high speed data flow where as simple devices will only require 1 PCI Express channel (PCI 1x)

For more information on PCI Express read our article here

Video Outputs

The X550 is kitted out with a standard VGA output, 1 DVI output and a TV-Out, capable of dual display when used with the correct software.

Full Chipset Details

  • ATI RADEON X550 Visual Processing Unit (VPU)
  • Stock VPU clock = 450MHz
  • 4 parallel rendering pixel pipelines
  • 2 programmable vertex shader pipelines
  • 128-bit memory interface
    • Programmable vertex and pixel shaders
  • Pixel Shaders
    • up to 160 instructions with 128-bit floating point precision
    • Realistic lighting of any kind of surface
    • Varying properties of a material across a surface
    • Accurate modelling of objects with microstructure
    • Horizon mapping
  • Vertex Shaders
    • Supports up to 160 instructions and 16 textures per rendering pass
    • Procedural deformation
    • Fur rendering
    • Advanced key frame interpolation
    • Shadow volume extrusion
    • Particle systems
    • Many light sources
    • Lens effects
    • Advanced matrix palette skinning
  • Multiple render target support
  • Shadow volume rendering acceleration
  • High precision 10-bit per channel frame buffer support
  • Supports DirectX® 9.0 and the latest version of OpenGL
    • 2x/4x/6x full scene anti-aliasing modes
      • Sparse multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sample patterns, and centroid sampling
      • Lossless Colour Compression (up to 6: 1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x anisotropic filtering modes
      • Up to 128-tap texture filtering
      • (Adaptive algorithm with bi-linear (performance) and tri-linear (quality) options)
  • 3Dc™
    • High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression
    • Works with any two-channel data format
    • 3-level Hierarchical Z-Buffer with early Z test
    • Lossless Z-Buffer compression (up to 24:1)
    • Fast Z-Buffer Clear
    • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video
    • FULLSTREAM™ video de-blocking technology
    • Noise removal filtering for captured video
  • Dual integrated display controllers
  • MPEG-2 decoding with motion compensation, iDCT and color space conversion
  • All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
  • YPrPb component output
  • Adaptive de-interlacing and frame rate conversion

Graphics Memory

  • 256MB DDR2 SDRAM
  • Default Memory clock = 375MHz (750MHz DDR)


  • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel 400MHz DACs
  • Integrated 165MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 compliant and HDCP ready)

I/O Faceplate Connectors

  • 1 x DVI-I connector
  • 1 x mini-DIN connector
  • 1 x analog VGA connector

Drivers & Software

  • Driver support for Windows 98SE / Me / NT / 2000 / XP

Other Information

  • PCI Express x 16 required


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