The nVidia GTX 550 TI and GTX 560 TI we used for testing were both nVidia’s reference designs, meaning they run at the standard factory speeds, and have none of the additional bells or whistles on them that some vendors add to the cards. You can expect identical performance from vendors’ cards that run at the standard clock frequencies.
The GTX 550 is at the lower end of nVidia’s line-up, costing around £120. It’s more powerful than the cheaper AMD 6670 and requires a single 6-pin power adaptor to run. It’s similarly short though and will easily fit into a small PC case.
To reduce the size of the card, its power requirements and its price tag, nVidia has cut quite a lot from it. The GTX 550 only has a 192-bit memory bus, providing 98.5GB/sec of memory bandwidth, around half that of the GTX 580. It also has only 192 stream processors, compared with 512 on the GTX 580.
The card’s performance eclipsed the Radeon HD6670 by a wide margin. Bad Company 2, Crysis and Stalker at both the tested resolutions performed much better, although the card still couldn’t manage 30fps in Crysis.
The GTX 550 is £40 more expensive than the 6670, breaking the crucial £100 psychological barrier. For that extra cash, you get a lot more performance, making games playable at 1920 x 1080.
However, a lot more performance can be had by spending a little more, and purchasing an MSI Radeon R6870 Hawk. That card is £150, but offers around 60 per cent more performance in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Stalker, and around 40 per cent more performance in Crysis. By spending a little extra, you get a lot more graphics card.