in: Graphics Card | March 17, 2011 | by: Oik Yusuf Araya

Review (Galaxy) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti: The Cheapest GTX 500 a Gamer Can Get

The GTX 560 Ti might’ve stolen the spotlight in the performance-mainstream segment, but there are still people who just couldn’t justify the purchase of a GTX 560 Ti. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is most likely limited budget, which is why NVIDIA released a cheaper variant of that GPU and calls it the GTX 550. Based on the GF116 chip, the GTX 550 Ti targets budget gamers who want to play modern titles without draining their wallet. It’s also meant as a direct replacement for its predecessor, the GTS 450. This means that the GTX 550 Ti goes head-on against Radeon HD 5770 from AMD.

With a lowest on-line price of US$ 149, the GTX 550 Ti is surely more affordable than its bigger brother, the GTX 560 Ti. How does it stack up against the competition? Could it prove to be a tough opponent for the HD 5770 just like the GTS 450 was to the HD 5750?

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti

Reference Card

Before moving on to the specification table, let’s see how a reference GTX 550 TI board looks like. Here it is:

The reference GTX 550 Ti is almost indistinguishable from the GTX 560 Ti due to their similar HSF design. One of the most obvious differences is the absence of side-ventilation holes on the cooler’s body of the former. The standard GTX 550 Ti card measures 8,5 inches long, with standard output display selection consisting of two DVI connectors and one mini-HDMI port.

Specification

NVIDIA GTX 570 NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti NVIDIA GTX 550 Ti NVIDIA GTS 450
Streaming Multiprocessors 15 8 4 4
Stream Processors (CUDA Cores) 480 384 192 192
Texture Units 60 64 32 32
ROP Units 40 32 24 16
Graphics Clock 732 MHz 822 MHz 900 MHz 783 MHz
Shader Clock 1464 MHz 1644 MHz 1800 MHz 1566 MHz
Memory Clock (effective) 3800 MHz 4008 MHz 4104 MHz 3608 MHz
Memory Size 1280 MB 1024 MB 1024 MB 1024 MB
Memory Type GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory Interface 320-bit 256-bit 192-bit 128-bit
Codename GF110 GF114 GF116 GF106
Fabrication Process 40 nm 40 nm 40 nm 40 nm
Transistor Count 3 Billion 1.95 Billion 1.17 Billion 1.17 Billion
Die Size 520 mm² 228 mm² 228 mm²
Power Connectors 2x 6-pin 2x 6-pin 6-pin 6-pin
Min Recommended Power Supply 550 Watts 500 Watts 400 Watts 400 Watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 219 Watts 170 Watts 116 Watts 106 Watts
GPU Thermal Threshold 97 °C 100 °C 95 °C 100 °C
DirectX Version 11 11 11 11
Bus Support PCIe 2.0 x16 PCIe 2.0 x16 PCIe 2.0 x16 PCIe 2.0 x16

Specs wise, the GTX 550 Ti looks similar to the GTX 450. There are some notable differences though, such as the operating frequencies and amount of available ROPs.

The GTX 550 Ti’s new GF116 chip is based on the Fermi architecture. Just like the GF110 and GF114 that represent some degree of improvements over the GF100 and GF104 respectively, the GF116 is an improved version of the GF106 (GTS 450). NVIDIA has carried out optimizations down at the transistor level that gave the GF116 a better performance/ watt ratio than compared to its GF106 predecessor.
This optimization results in, among others, increased operating frequencies on the GTX 550 Ti. Aside from that, the number of ROPs is also increased to 24, from 16 on the GTS 450. Another improvement is made on the memory bandwidth, which is increased to 192-bit.

Mixed Density Memory

The GeForce GTX 550 Ti is equipped with three, 64-bit memory controllers, resulting in a total amount of 192-bit of memory bandwidth. The GTX 550Ti is also able to handle different memory capacities using the same set of controllers.

As seen in the diagram above, each memory controller can be used to handle different memory amounts. In this example, two controllers handle 256 MB of memory each, while the third one has 512 MB of RAM allocated to it. One of the key advantages of this scheme is that the graphics card could handle 1 GB of on-board memory using 192-bit memory controllers, something that is not conceivable with previous-generation graphics card since the 192-bit bandwidth would be limited to 768 MB of memory (3x 256MB,with each controller handing the same amount of RAM).
With older generation cards (that use the same set of 3x 64-bit controllers), NVIDIA’s AIB partners could have easily increase the amount of on-board memory on their GeForce products to 1,5 GB by allocating the same amount of memory to each 64bit-controller (3x 512MB), or increase the bandwidth to 256-bit to allow the corresponding graphics card to handle 1 GB of memory (4x 256 MB) if they want to upgrade the standard 768-MB configuration. However, such move would increase the production cost and severely affect the pricing of the final product. This is no longer the case with GTX 550 Ti because each controller is able to handle different memory amount, giving manufacturers more flexibility to put different sizes of on-board memories on their products.

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