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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.

Race Driver: GRID

If you primarily play games on a console, your choices for quality racing games are plenty. On the PC, that’s not so much the case. While there are a good number, there aren’t enough for a given type of racing game, from sim, to arcade. So when Race Driver: GRID first saw its release, many gamers were excited, and for good reason. It’s not a sim in the truest sense of the word, but it’s certainly not arcade, either. It’s somewhere in between.

The game happens to be great fun, though, and similar to console games like Project Gotham Racing, you need a lot of skill to succeed at the game’s default difficulty level. And like most great racing games, GRID happens to look absolutely stellar, and each of the game’s locations look very similar to their real-world counterparts. All in all, no racing fan should ignore this one.

Manual Run-through: For our testing here, we choose the city where both Snoop Dogg and Sublime hit their fame, the LBC, also known as Long Beach City. We choose this level because it’s not overly difficult, and also because it’s simply nice to look at. Our run consists of an entire 2-lap race, with the cars behind us for almost the entire race.

If you don’t have your heart set on high framerates, you can get by just fine in an FPS, but for a racing game, it’s a whole new ball game (or should that be race track?). With this genre, you -need- high framerates, because precision counts. So what could we muster after lowering some settings?

Graphics Card
Best Playable
Min FPS
Avg. FPS
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
83
103.622
ATI HD 5770 1GB CrossFireX
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
81
104.32
NVIDIA GTX 295 1792MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
84
103.958
NVIDIA GTX 480 1.5GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
81
98.578
ATI HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
68
84.732
NVIDIA GTX 285 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
54
66.042
ATI HD 5830 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
53
65.584
NVIDIA GTX 275 896MB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
52
63.617
ATI HD 5770 1GB (Reference)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
45
56.980
NVIDIA GTX 260 896MB (XFX)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
45
54.809
ATI HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
39
47.05
NVIDIA GTX 250 1GB (EVGA)
2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA
35
43.663
ATI HD 5670 512MB (Reference)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 4xAA
36
47.36
ATI HD 5570 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA
33
41.143
NVIDIA GT 240 512MB (ASUS)
1920×1080 – Max Detail, 0xAA
33
51.071
ATI HD 5550 1GB (Sapphire)
1920×1080 – Medium Detail, 0xAA
25
33.275

Not to sound like a broken record, but once again, medium details were our savior. Even though the average frame rates didn’t drastically increase, the playability did. Unfortunately though, disabling AA in this particular title is something that should be avoided, because it’s truly ugly afterward. Even the in-game fonts are jagged!