The ATi Radeon 9550 256MB is a great low end video card ideal for people ready to take the leap from integrated graphics to a basic dedicated solution.
In the box you will get, an instruction booklet with installation guide and troubleshooting, the driver CD, this is useless and you will want to download later drivers off the internet as the drivers provided are years out of date! The video card itself, which is quite good looking as it has been finished with a red board and a silver fan with the ATi logo on it. Finally a cable for connecting your card to a TV set. Everything you need to get going.
Features & Performance
This card is for AGP and will work on older computers that have an AGP 4x or 8x slot, a more recent machine will have PCI Express so make sure you know what your PC supports before purchasing. The card doesn't require an external Molex connector from your PCs powersupply so even if you have an old Dell or HP machine it should work fine and extend the life of your aging machine. The card has both a VGA and a DVI port so it will connect to any type of monitor.
The video card itself has four rendering pipelines for creating 3D graphics supporting Pixel Shader 2 and DirectX 9.0. These standards are both out of date now so for playing if you are planning on playing the latest and greatest of PC games, this card will not be the one for you. However if you are just getting into light PC gaming you will be very pleased to know that the card offers over 10x the performance of an Integrated graphics solution (like Intel Extreme graphics) and older games (upto around 2005) will work reasonably well. I found I could even play Company Of Heroes on this video card albeit on low settings with poor performance but the important thing is that it did work and it was just about playable.
The card also features Video Immersion 2 which accelerates DVD playback and provides you with custom overlays so you can configure how a video will look when played back. Although DVD playback is accelerated if you attempt to play high definition content the card will struggle and the video will stutter. Aswell as that it includes Fullstream technology which apparently makes internet videos appear less blocky but with the introduction of high speed broadband I find that video is generally higher resolution and not blocky anymore. Another great feature is the ability to plug it in to a TV screen using a resolution of upto 1024x768 this is good but if you have an HDTV it will not work at your screens native resolution so the text image will appear distorted.
What is most impressive about this card is how much you can overclock it, it's basically an underclocked version of a more expensive video card the ATi Radeon 9600 so you can safely bring it upto those speeds using ATi Tool, I have found I can push it much further achieving almost a 100% increase in performance! Even so when I ran the card through 3D mark06 it achieved a measly 376 (my new PC score 9872), this clearly shows it is not suited for modern games but when I ran 3Dmark 03 it scored a respectable 3032 indicating games made around that time will work much better.
There are few faults I can find with the card, the only major thing is the drivers. If you go with the latest ATi drivers you will find them packed with demanding software for much newer cards and a much more demanding version of the ATi Catalyst Control Centre, if you are using this video card you most likely have an older PC which will take about 10 minutes to load this bloated application upon startup. I have found much better drivers called ATi Omega Drivers which are built for performance and even includes a custom driver specifically for the ATi 9550. The software will load much faster upon bootup and will even give your card a performance boost. The other issue is there is no temperature sensor on the card so the only way you will know it is failing is by a burning smell coming from your PC! Luckily I have had no problems with the card and haven't heard of any nasty rumours either.
Price and Conclusion
I bought this video card from ebuyer.co.uk for around £40 a few years ago, it can be had for next to nothing nowadays, a great deal as I was just getting into PC games at the time. With the latest cards costing hundreds it may be worth buying one of these to give your PC a small boost to keep it going for a while longer, it may not play the latest games that well but if you are upgrading from an integrated solution you will be extremely impressed. 4/5
ATI RADEON 9550
GPU Clock Speed 250 MHz
RAMDAC Speed 400 MHz
Card Interface AGP 8x
Compatibility PC Memory Installed Memory 256 MB
Memory Tech DDR SDRAM
Memory Data Width 128-bit
Installed Memory / Technology 256 MB (DDR SDRAM)
Analog Video Standards RGB
Max. Screen Resolution 2048 x 1536
Pipeline Engines 4 Pipeline Engines
Fill Rate 1 Bilion pixels/sec Input / Output Display Interface VGA-15 pin DVI x 1
Output Interface S-Video * TV Out