While the Radeon HD 5550 may not be a new card, the inclusion of GDDR5 is. This should add a small boost in performance over the GDDR3 and DDR2 models while retaining the low-power profile, perfect for inclusion in a Home Theater PC (HTPC) build.
The Radeon HD 5550 is an entry level card aimed at the HTPC market. The most notable features are it’s very low power draw (39W maximum) and hardware acceleration for video. If you throw a Bluray Disc Drive in with it, then you can also stream the uncompressed audio directly to your receiver without the need for another audio card. All in all, the specs add up to a decent option for a HTPC and possibly even worthy of a low end gaming computer with it’s DirectX 11 support. When you consider this card has a MSRP of $75, it begins to look even better.
- ATI Stream technology – hardware acceleration for video
- ATI Eyefinity technology – run up to 3 monitors off one card
- Bitstream Audio – pass uncompressed audio from Bluray Discs straight to a receiver via HDMI
Specifications (as seen by GPU-Z)
|HD 5570||GT 220|
|Core Clock||550 MHz||650 MHz||625 MHz|
|Memory Clock||1000 MHz||1000 MHz||790 MHz|
|Memory Size||512 MB||1024 MB||1024 MB|
|Memory Bus Width||128 Bit||128 Bit||128 Bit|
|Direct X Support||11||11||10.1|
|Texture Fillrate||22.9 GTexel/s||29.4 GTexel/s||14.9 GTexel/s|
|Pixel Fillrate||11.4 GPixel/s||11.8 GPixel/s||7.4 GPixel/s|
|Memory Bandwidth||73.6 GB/s||33.3 GB/s||31.2 GB/s|
|GPU Technology||40 nm||40 nm||40 nm|
|Transistors||627 M||627 M||486 M|
You can see in the images below that ATI was kind enough to send us a reference card to test. I was told that the retail models will be low-profile cards so they can be used in Small Form Factor (SFF) cases.
To test this puppy, I’m going to throw it in my relatively old Core2Duo/P45 based system. I say “relatively old” because it’s not the most recently released hardware, obviously, but is still readily available and still performs well for gaming and multimedia.
- Processor: Intel E8400 @ 4.23 GHz
- Motherboard: Asus P5Q
- RAM: 4 GB GeiL Ultra DDR2 @ 470 MHz
- Hard Drive: Western Digital 74GB Raptor
- Power Supply: Enhance ENP-5150GH 500W
- Heatsink: Zalman CNPS9900
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 x64, Phoronix Test Suite Live (Ubuntu)
- Drivers: Catalyst 10.5 and 10.6
- Cyberlink Mediashow Espresso (encoding)
- Youtube 1080p and 4k resolution (video playback)
- Hulu Desktop (video playback)
- 3DMark 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, and Vantage (gaming)
- Aquamark3 (gaming)
- Unigen (DirectX 11 gaming)
- Alien vs. Predator (DirectX 11 gaming)
- Linux: JXRendermark
- Linux: Warsow
Hardware Acceleration Performance
First, I have to mention that hardware acceleration will not work without the Avivo package, which is separate from the standard Catalyst Control Center package. It looks like they’ve already fixed this problem, but their download page used to say the Avivo package was not needed for 5000 series cards and I spent a great deal of time searching the internet to find out why I could not get the hardware acceleration to work. However, I still don’t think it is shown prominently enough on the page to show that this package is highly recommended, if not mandatory, for proper use of this card.
I actually didn’t notice that much of an improvement in processor usage while using hardware acceleration, but there was a huge difference in encoding time. To encode in Mediashow Espresso, I created a 2 minute video (640×480, AVI) using my camera then used the iPhone 3g preset (h.264 video, AAC audio).
|HW Accel. On||HW Accel. Off||Difference|
|24 seconds||43 seconds||19 sec. (44%)|
Our ATI representative brought a few issues to my attention and apparently I missed a setting or two while testing the processor usage. So, I re-ran the Cyberlink Mediashow Espresso and Youtube tests to see if I would get different results this time. For the record, I did. I’m not sure exactly what I missed in the previous tests, but in this round of tests I did see a good difference in processor usage between having the hardware acceleration turned on an off. For the YouTube testing, I used a 4K Resolution playlist to play two videos in succession at both 1080p and original 4k resolution, Life in the Garden and Surf NYC. These are the same videos, played in the same manner for the original test. When I changed the Hardware Acceleration setting in Flash, I made sure to refresh the page several times to make sure the setting took.
|Hardware Acceleration On||Hardware Acceleration Off||Difference|
|25 Seconds||44 seconds||19 seconds (44%)|
|MediaShow Espresso||Youtube 1080p||Youtube 4k resolution|
|Hardware Acceleration Off||93%||85%||39%||39%||87%||86%|
|Hardware Acceleration On||43%||52%||27%||20%||84%||83%|
Surprisingly, I was able to work a 30% overclock (715MHz) on the core, which was the maximum that the MSI Afterburner program would allow. Not as spectacular, the memory would not go past 1150 MHz. There was more room on the slider bar, but ever time I hit apply it would revert back to 1150 MHz. This happened on both the 10.5 and 10.6 drivers. Also, the exact same clocks were stable on both the 10.5 and 10.6 drivers.
Without any further delay, let’s get to the numbers:
Alien vs. Predator – DirectX 11
Unigine – DirectX 11
|Avg. FPS||Min. FPS||Max. FPS||Scores|
|10.5 stock 1600×1200||9.7||6||22.9||243|
|10.5 stock 1024×768||15.2||8.4||46.6||384|
|10.5 oc 1600×1200||12.4||7.6||29||313|
|10.5 oc 1024×768||19.5||10.7||59||491|
|10.6 stock 1600×1200||9.7||6||22.3||244|
|10.6 stock 1024×768||15.2||9||45.7||382|
|10.6 oc 1600×1200||12.3||7.6||28.5||310|
|10.6 oc 1024×768||19.4||10.7||58.5||490|
Overall, this low-end card did pretty well with gaming. It’s not setting any world records, that’s for sure, but it can easily handle older games like Counter Strike: Source and World of Warcraft. I even got to use it with the StarCraft II beta, and I had no problem running the game at 1600×1200 with all settings at Medium. As for the comparison between the 10.5 and 10.6 drivers, it’s almost a toss-up but the 10.6 drivers did have a slight edge when the card was overclocked.
For a quick and dirty overview of performance, you can check out this hwbot compare link to see what people are able to obtain with the various competing cards. As of this writing, I’m the only one with scores submitted for the HD 5550 GDDR5.
Since this card is aimed at the HTPC market and my personal favorite software to run is XBMC for Linux, I decided to run a few tests using the Phoronix Test Suite Desktop Live DVD.
|Transformed Blit Linear||98998.78||8309.44|
|Transformed Blit Bilinear||24891.39||2017.26|
|Transformed Texture Paint||26365.21||1909.9|
|Linear Gradient Blend||53296.33||5047.67|
|Radial Gradient Paint||31678.78||2363.81|
|Gradient Temp Texture||45277.17||4796.62|
|12pt Text Grayscale||18277.98||5445.58|
|12pt Text LCD||19292.26||5587.61|
In conclusion, I think this card packs a lot of punch for a sub-$100 price. If you are building a HTPC or low-end gaming system, certainly take this GPU into consideration.