PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 Review
Reviewed by: Desja
Reviewed on: December 3, 2007
Like some people, I still remember my first purchase from ebay, a Voodoo 1 series 8MB video card. It was also the first video card I bought with my own money. After a few weeks, I received the package; I was so excited. As it turned out, the early cards did not run the graphics for the OS, so it needed a jumper that would let it kick in when playing a video game. I bought mine used and it never came with a jumper, so I had to switch it back and forth manually anytime I played a game, unlike the PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 I will be reviewing today.
You would think something like swapping cables over and over would irritate me. Nope, I was happier then ever being able to play all of my favorite games like Tribes, Warcraft 2, and Starcraft at awesome resolutions and amazing graphics. Looking back, this seems laughable as games and graphics cards have come a long way and are leaps and bounds ahead of their meager beginnings. With cards out there like the Geforce 8xxx series and the ATI X2xxx series, gaming has become a truly intimate experience. But what about those who can’t shell out this kind of money for upgrades? Is there anything out there for them? The PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 may be the answer. At a drastically reduced price in comparison to the high end cards, can it stand up to today's games enough to be an option for the casual gamers with shallow pockets? Let's find out.
The packaging for the ATI Radeon X1550 Video Card is pretty standard. It has the standard sexy gaming chic on the front, a short explanation of the product, and the certified logos from ATI and Windows. I would have to say that if I walked by it on a shelf at a PC store, I probably wouldn’t give it another look. There are no bells and whistles on this box. The packaging also doesn’t boast of some bonus game you probably won't play but will buy it anyway because it's free, like most card do these days. The back of the package has the specs from the front listed in different languages and the side has your system requirements.
The package contains a manual, a driver disc, and the Radeon X1550 wrapped in static resistant material. Everything you need to install the X1550.
After taking the PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 out from the static bag, we can get a clearer picture of its quality. When looking at the X1550, we see that it doesn’t need an extra power connector for it to function, which means less power consumption. We can also see that there is no Crossfire internal inter-connector, so this is a stand-alone gaming card. The fan and heatsink seem small in comparison to high end cards, but this GPU is not as powerful, therefore doesn't heat up as much.
This X1550 does support both DVI and VGA, which is nice for those with older CRTs and LCDs as they wont need to buy a DVI to VGA converter unless they want to run dual monitors.
Before shutting down your computer, make sure you uninstall all of the drivers from your previous graphics card, if applicable. After shutting down, pull your power cable and if you are the least bit scared, use a grounding strip before you install the card. The card goes into the PCI-E slot on your motherboard. Make sure your card is well seated in the slot before you plug the power back in and boot back into your OS.
So now that we have the PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 firmly in place, it's time to install the software.
After you boot back into Windows, put your drivers CD into your optical drive and it should autorun. If you don’t know what you're doing, just select Express Install and keep clicking Next until the installation is complete. Now when you right click on your desktop after the installation restarts your computer to complete installation, you can select ATI Control Center where you can choose between basic or advanced views.
With advanced view, you can tweak things like dual monitor support and various other things. The most notable would be the ability to choose graphics qualities like anti-aliasing, antistrophic filtering, monitor properties, color tweaking, and gamma ray correction. One option I found very interesting was the VPU recover. It allows the ATI display driver to reset the graphics processor without restarting the computer.
This is the table that shows the information about the VPU recovery option. It lets you choose if you would like to send an error report to ATI when a failure happens, which is nice for those that like the company, or in turn it can be turned off for those that hate those stupid windows popping up constantly asking you to send information.
Now that the PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 256/64 DDR2 is configured, let's check out its specs and test it against some competitors.
256 MB DDR2
330 MHz x 2
- High Definition 3D Performance & Image Quality to Your PC! Step-up to serious 3D performance and high-definition image quality with ATI’s new Radeon® X1550. For enhanced visuals and graphic performance the Radeon X1550 combines a new ultra-threaded core architecture with ATI’s revolutionary AvivoTM video and display technology. Radeon X1550 delivers exceptional visual performance for PC entertainment and productivity.
- Brilliant New Avivo™ Video and Display Technology With ATI’s Avivo™ technology the Radeon® X1550 connects to home entertainment devices and allows you to view your digital media and play games with vibrant colors, ultra sharp images, true-to-life image reproduction, and the smoothest video playback ever offered by ATI.
- A New Era of 3D Gaming Enjoy smooth texture rich gaming with advanced 3D features including: a 90-nanometer GPU, ultra-threaded processing architecture, and an advanced memory controller.
- Opening Doors to Visual Realism and True-to-life image Graphic Animation With industry leading 90-nanometer process technology and ultra-threaded shader core the Radeon® X1550 is optimized for Shader Model 3.0 to deliver new high dynamic range visual effects, enhanced adaptive anti-aliasing realism and lightening fast performance.
At OverclockersClub.com, we take our testing serious. We put our test products through vigorous, up-to-date benchmarking and testing programs to get a full spectrum analysis of the products we test. We do this so you, as a consumer, can make an educated decision when buying a new upgrade. I will be testing the PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 256/64 DDR2 against a PNY 8500GTS, a Gigabyte 8600GT, and an HD 2600XT Ultimate Edition.
- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6600 CPU
- Asus P5B motherboard
- 2GB Kingston PC2 5300
- PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 256/64 DDR2
- Gigabyte EN8600GT (nVidia)
- PNY 8500GT (nVidia)
- Sapphire HD2600XT Ultimate edition(ATi)
- 450w PSU
- Windows XP Pro SP2
- DirectX 9.0c
- All Video Drivers are the most up to date at time of benchmarks
- Far Cry: Hardware OC (Ubisoft Volcano)
- F.E.A.R. (Performance test)
- Bioshock (FRAPS)
- Call of Duty 2 (FRAPS)
- Quake 4: Hardware OC
- Need For Speed Most Wanted (FRAPS)
Far Cry has currently sold over 1 million copies worldwide. The game's story follows an ex-Special Forces operator, Jack Carver, who is stranded on a mysterious archipelago in Micronesia. He is searching for a female journalist he was escorting after she went missing when their boat was destroyed by mercenaries.
We will be using the Hardware OC Benchmarking Utility version 1.8 with the following settings:
- Maximum quality option, Direct3D renderer
- Level: Volcano, demo: Volcano.tmd
- Pixel shader: model 2.0b
- Antialising: 4X
- Anisotropic filtering: 8X
- HDR: disabled
- Geometry Instancing: disabled
- Normal-maps compression: disabled
It was playable at the lower resolutions, but not perfect.
F.E.A.R. First Encounter Assault Recon includes its own benchmarking utility. We will be using this test to benchmark the game. Developed by Monolith Productions and published by Vivendi, it was released on October 18, 2005, for Windows, and ported by Day 1 Studios to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. An expansion pack for F.E.A.R., entitled F.E.A.R. Extraction Point, was released by Timegate Studios on October 24, 2006, and a direct sequel has been announced by Monolith Productions.
The setting we will use are listed below:
- FSAA: 4x
- Anisotropic: 16x
- Effects: Max
- Computer: High
- Soft Shadow: Off
Your chances of playing F.E.A.R. at resolutions over 800X600 with this card are slim to none
Bioshock received overwhelmingly positive reviews, particularly in the mainstream press where its "morality-based" storyline, immersive environment and Ayn Rand-inspired dystopian setting were all singled out for praise. A sequel, while not officially announced, is rumored, following high sales and positive reviews for BioShock. I will be putting the PNY 8500 up against the PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 256/64 DDR2 for this test.
- All settings on high
- V-Sync off
BioShock is another game you wont' be playing with this card at high quality
Benchmark Call of Duty 2:
Call of Duty 2 is a WWII first-person shooter that may be a bit dated, but still maintains a tremendous online following and is still very enjoyable to play. As a side point, the new COD 4 is made by the same design team as COD 2, and when COD 3 went to a different design team, so did most of the franchise's following. Now back with the COD 2 design team, the following is back. This test will consist of a timed run on the Stalingrad multi-player map, measured by Average FPS (frames per second).
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Texture Filter: Trilinear
Being a demanding game, COD 2 took its toll on this card.
Benchmark Quake 4:
The Quake 4 single player mode continues the story of Quake II by pitting the player against a cyborg alien race known as the Strogg. The game follows the story of a Marine named Matthew Kane, who is a member of the fabled Rhino Squad. Following the success of the protagonist of Quake II in destroying the Strogg's leader, the Makron, the Rhinos are tasked with spearheading the mission to finally secure the alien's home planet, Stroggos. We will be using the Hardware OC Quake 4 Benchmark Utility version 1.5 to complete the testing for this game.
- Demo: Hardware OC
- Quality: High
- Aspect Ratio: [4:3]
- Antialiasing: 4x
- Anisotropic filtering: 4x
- Symmetric MultiProcessing (SMP) enabled
This was a sad, sad day for X1550's everywhere. The card struggle with this benchmark.
Benchmark Most Wanted:
Most Wanted, like other Need for Speed games, is essentially a driving and racing game where the player selects one car to reach a destination or race. Police chases have once again been integrated into certain racing sessions, where the police employ vehicles and tactics to either slow down or halt the player's car. As players take control of faster cars and increasingly rely on nitrous oxide speed boosts (the oxide meter now reloads automatically, for the first time since its introduction in Underground), driving sequences become fast-pace and intense, similar to the Burnout series. We will be recording average FPS.
- Track: Diamond and Union
- All basic video settings set to 3/4 on scroll bar
- All geometric features: High
- Vsync: Off
I couldn't even move my mouse properly in the menu at the higher resolutions. It has been a long time since I had that problem. This card is really straining in this test.
Benchmark: 3D Mark 06:
For the time being, default settings will be used while benchmarking 3DMark06 Professional. The PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550 did not meet minimum requirements for this test, so I will just be showing the other three cards instead.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: CPU1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
RyderMark is a benchmark developed by Candella Software. There are many options that can be changed in the benchmark. The benchmark is themed in Venice, Italy during a speed boat race. For this test I will not be using the PNY 8500, I will only be testing the other three cards.
- Shader model 3.0
- AA 4x Quality 8
- AF 16x
- 64 Bit Shader
- Memory set to video card level (256 or More)
This benchmark was tedious with the PowerColor ATI Radeon X1550. It was choking up horribly at higher resolutions.
As you can see by these tests, the X1550 isn't quite up-to-par with the higher end cards. Its framerates for the newer games are unplayable.
From what we all witnessed, we can clearly see that the PowerColor X1550 can play some of the games with playable framerates. On the other hand, most of them were unplayable; one second you are walking, the next you are dead. If a player were to lower the graphics this card could handle it but what fun would that be? These benchmarks are in place to stress test the card and they did their job but the card did not. Although, I would say the PowerColor X1550 is way ahead of the good ol’ Voodoo 1 series, though I wouldn’t suggest it for any serious gamer.
If you are the type of gamer that likes to hop on the computer to play Solitaire, watch a DVD or just surf the net, this card will perform without a hiccup. With its dual monitor support, it is great for someone that multitasks. The fact that it still supports VGA has a low price, it is a good card for budget PC builders. It will still play some games, but resolutions and eye candy will need to be set below what any true gamer would like to see. Playing the latest games is definitely a no-go, but for a child's first computer, this card would not be a bad start.
- VGA Support (For Some)
- Low Power Consumption
- Doesn't Support Dual DVI
- Framerates on Newer Games Unplayable at High Resolutions
- Extremely Underpowered for Gaming