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Sapphire Radeon HD 5550 Ultimate
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by Rob Williams on May 10, 2010 in AMD-Based GPU

This past February, AMD quietly launched the Radeon HD 5550 alongside the much more touted HD 5570. At about $10 less than that card, the HD 5550 is an unusual breed. To help put all of the pieces together, Sapphire sent us its “Ultimate” edition of the card, which uses reference clock speeds, but features a very effective passive cooler.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

When the original Call of Duty game launched in 2003, Infinity Ward was an unknown. Naturally… it was the company’s first title. But since then, the series and company alike have become household names. Not only has the series delivered consistently incredible gameplay, it’s pushed the graphics envelope with each successive release, and where Modern Warfare is concerned, it’s also had a rich storyline.

The first two titles might have been built on the already-outdated Quake III engine, but since then, the games have been built with improved graphical features, capable of pushing the highest-end PCs out there. Modern Warfare 2 is the first such exception, as it’s more of a console port than a true PC title. Therefore, the game doesn’t push PC hardware as much as we’d like to see, but despite that, it still looks great, and lacks little in the graphics department. You can read our review of the game here.

Manual Run-through: The level chosen is the 10th mission in the game, “The Gulag”. Our teams fly in helicopters up to an old prison with the intention of getting closer to finding the game’s villain, Vladimir Makarov. Our saved game file begins us at the point when the level name comes on the screen, right before we reach the prison, and it ends after one minute of landing, following the normal progression of the level. The entire run takes around two-and-a-half minutes.

As soon as I loaded up this game, I quickly realized that the HD 5550 is even lower-end than I initially realized. In reality, this card is likely better-suited for resolutions such as 1280×1024, not 1680×1050. But who’s to blame me for this mistake? The HD 5550 features 320 cores compared to 400 of the HD 5570, and that card, as you can see in the results, is apparently much, much more powerful. The HD 5570 also features a +100MHz clock boost, so that sure doesn’t hurt.

In truth, I could have stopped benchmarking at this point with these resolutions, but I couldn’t help get past the fact that this card SHOULD be delivering better performance. The biggest sticking point is, since both the HD 5570 and HD 5550 are so close in price, it’s important to note the real-world differences between the two. The cards might be priced $10 apart, but the performance doesn’t reflect that at all.

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
NVIDIA GTX 480 1.5GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
50
81.669
ATI HD Radeon 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
44
81.351
ATI HD 5770 1GB CrossFireX
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
40
81.311
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
37
68.563
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
41
66.527
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
37
61.937
ATI HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
30
53.569
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
33
53.314
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
36
60.337
NVIDIA GTS 250 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
30
53.253
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA
28
50.727
ATI HD 5670 512MB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 4xAA
24
43.96
NVIDIA GT 240 512MB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA
30
53.139
ATI HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA
27
45.841
ATI HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, 0xAA
14
27.199

In order to get the game to a playable level, detail settings had to be turned down quite a bit, and anti-aliasing had to be disabled, naturally. Even then, the performance wasn’t ideal, but you can still get by with sub-30 FPS in this title. You’d be craving more performance, but at that point you’d have a serious trade-off to make: dial down the resolution, or worsen the detail levels. That option is there, of course. But you can’t expect too much out of this card either way.