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MSI GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB Cyclone OC Review - GF116 Sees Daylight

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Manufacturer: MSI
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Another Fermi debuts

It is the inevitable march of technology - we see a new GPU released at the high-end of the price spectrum and some subset of it will find its way to the low-end. The slow drizzle of cards in this series started with the 580 and 570, based on the same Fermi architecture as the GTX 400 cards (with some improvements in efficiency), continued with the GTX 560 Ti in January and with the GTX 550 Ti that we are seeing today.Introduction

It is the inevitable march of technology - we see a new GPU released at the high-end of the price spectrum and some subset of it will find its way to the low-end.  It could be merely days apart, or it could be months, as we see here with the GTX 580 release coming way back in November of 2010.  The slow drizzle of cards in this series started with the 580 and 570, based on the same Fermi architecture as the GTX 400 cards (with some improvements in efficiency), continued with the GTX 560 Ti in January and with the GTX 550 Ti that we are seeing today.

But does this new low cost option from NVIDIA stack up well against competition from AMD or from their own previous designs?  Let's first find out the basic specifications of the GPU and dive into the benchmarks.

The GeForce GTX 550 Ti GPU

The GeForce GTX 550 Ti (previously dubbed GF116) continues with the trend NVIDIA has perfected of taking large GPUs and shrinking them down to fit into different price segments, in this case the ~$150 mark.  While the GTX 580 is a beast of silicon with 512 shader cores and a 384-bit memory bus to keep it fed, the GTX 560 Ti was shrunk to 384 cores and a more manageable 256-bit memory bus.

The new GTX 550 Ti GPU will feature half as many cores at 192 with a matching 192-bit memory bus.  You might remember that the GTS 450 card (that was resting in a similar price point) also came with 192 shader processors but only a 128-bit memory interface with its 1GB of GDDR5 memory.  This time around the added width and high clock speeds will give the GTX 550 Ti a much improved memory system.

In terms of pure memory bandwidth, the GTX 550 Ti will provide 70% more than the previous generation which is always good news for gamers on a budget; the memory runs at 1025 MHz in the reference designs compared to the 900 MHz of the GTS 450. 

Speaking of those reference specifications, here they are.  At 900 MHz core clock, the GTX 550 Ti will without a doubt be faster than the GTS 450 (that ran at 783 MHz) - but if there was any other outcome we would be completely perplexed.  The real questions is how it is will fare against other similarly priced components that exist today. 

The 116 watt power consumption of the GTX 550 Ti comes in at 10 watts higher than what the reference GTS 450 cards were rated at.

NVIDIA is confident that the performance edge that the GTX 550 Ti offers will make it the new best option for gamers looking for a ~$150 graphics card.  Above you can see the performance improvements that are associated with the clock increases from the GTS 450 to the GTX 550 as well as those associated with the 192-bit memory bus interface. 
 
 
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