Spending less than three figures on a graphics card is a sure sign that you're not an avid gamer. There's nothing wrong with that, of course - not everybody needs super-high framerates.

The £70 X1550 is a distinct step up from the onboard graphics controllers that come with many a sub-£500 PC, and will give you bags more in terms of visuals. ATI's technology carefully enhances the colour so that you get a splendid image. So, for the many users looking to display their digital photos in all their finery (or for those who simply want Internet Explorer or Firefox to look that bit sharper and crisper), the X1550 is a cost-effective method of improving the Windows experience.

Because it also makes use of ATI's excellent video technology, movies will look rather more impressive, and if you don't have a DVI (digital visual interface) on your PC, the X1550 will remedy this. Because it has two connectors, you can use it to run two monitors on the same system. It's also extremely quiet in use and won't require an extra connector from the power supply.

Of course, as a gaming card, the Radeon X1550 doesn't stand up to close scrutiny. The 256MB of memory is ample without being excessive, but the combination of just 400MHz (800MHz DDR effective) of memory clock speed and the 128bit memory interface means you get a pretty paltry bandwidth of 12.8GBps (gigabytes per second). Enough processing room to swing a cat, perhaps, but that cat would have to be rendered at a fairly low level of graphics quality.

Rarely in our games tests (on Quake IV, Fear and Company of Heroes) did this card get much above 15fps (frames per second) at a resolution of 1,024x768. You can play games with this card, but you'll need to drop down to a resolution of just 800x600 to get any sort of truly playable performance.

Sapphire ATI Radeon X1550: Specs

  • ATI Radeon X1550 graphics processor
  • 256MB GDDR2 RAM
  • core clock 550MHz
  • memory clock 400MHz (800MHz DDR effective)
  • manufacturing process 0.08-micron
  • 4 pixel shader processors
  • 128bit memory interface
  • PCI Express interface
  • DVI
  • video-out
  • ATI Radeon X1550 graphics processor
  • 256MB GDDR2 RAM
  • core clock 550MHz
  • memory clock 400MHz (800MHz DDR effective)
  • manufacturing process 0.08-micron
  • 4 pixel shader processors
  • 128bit memory interface
  • PCI Express interface
  • DVI
  • video-out

OUR VERDICT

The Radeon 1550 isn't a top-grade graphics card. But as a means of squeezing that extra bit of life from your photographs or videos, this is a definite improvement over the hordes of lacklustre onboard controllers. Once it drops to the £50 mark, this will be an interesting buy.

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