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GeCube GC-RX550GU2-D3 (Radeon X550 256MB)
By Vincent Chang
Category : Graphics
Published by Vijay Anand on Wednesday, 31st August, 2005
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars  


A State of Confusion

A failing of our imperfect memories is to see the past with rose tinted glasses. Nostalgia clouds our perception and it is easy to believe that things were simpler in the past. Take the recent flurry of product launches by both ATI and NVIDIA. Despite the fact that there are only two major GPU powerhouses in the market now, there seems to be no respite from the countless models, variants and brands introduced on an increasing frequency from both companies. Add to that, the various suffixes they have attached to their products and there are so many choices for consumers now. Was there such a surfeit of choices last time? The simple fact is, the market is growing (as compared to yester-years) and the GPU designers are responding appropriately.

While having more choices is almost always considered a good thing, the scenario we face now is more akin to confusion. In addition to short-lived product lines that could have morphed into another 'newer' variant before you finish reading this sentence, we also have both ATI and NVIDIA pilfering suffixes from each other. So from NVIDIA, we have the just announced GeForce 6800 XT to add to the 6800 LE, 6800 GT, and 6800 Ultra. Not to mention the 'naked' 6800 without suffixes. ATI is also guilty of this with the Radeon X800 GT, X800 GTO, to name but a few recent examples. Moreover, vendors too will add their own customization, like overclocked, special editions or with more frame buffer (and we can already imagine your eyes glazing over with boredom).

With ATI's next generation graphics cards on the horizon, you can expect more headaches the next time you decide to hunt for a new graphics card. It also means doing your own research becomes more important unless you like to be at the mercy of the sales staff, which isn't exactly a good idea. In order to help you make a more informed decision, we have prepared a review of a lesser-known ATI product, the Radeon X550.

The Radeon X550 was introduced with little fanfare by ATI in June as a better performing X300. It has the same core, the RV370 as the Radeon X300 but comes with a higher core clock speed of 400MHz compared to 325MHz for the X300. However, the number of pipelines remains the same at four pixel pipes and a pair of vertex engines. The boost in clock speed, together with its attractively low price makes the Radeon X550 a potent competitor to NVIDIA's GeForce 6200 cards. Now, what if we push the Radeon X550 even further? That is the question GeCube asked with its GC-RX550GU2-D3, an overclocked Radeon X550 256MB card that we are reviewing today.

Budget cards get smaller boxes.

GeCube GC-RX550GU2-D3 (Radeon X550) Technical Specifications
Graphics Engine
  • ATI RADEON X550 Visual Processing Unit (VPU)
  • Stock VPU clock = 450MHz
  • 4 parallel rendering pixel pipelines
  • 2 programmable vertex shader pipelines
  • 128-bit memory interface
  • SMARTSHADER™ 2.0
    • Programmable vertex and pixel shaders
    • Pixel Shaders
      • up to 160 instructions with 128-bit floating point precision
      • Realistic lighting of any kind of surface
      • Varying properties of a material across a surface
      • Accurate modelling of objects with microstructure
      • Horizon mapping
    • Vertex Shaders
      • Supports up to 160 instructions and 16 textures per rendering pass
      • Procedural deformation
      • Fur rendering
      • Advanced keyframe interpolation
      • Shadow volume extrusion
      • Particle systems
      • Many light sources
      • Lens effects
      • Advanced matrix palette skinning
    • Multiple render target support
    • Shadow volume rendering acceleration
    • High precision 10-bit per channel frame buffer support
    • Supports DirectX® 9.0 and the latest version of OpenGL
  • SMOOTHVISION™ 2.1
    • 2x/4x/6x full scene anti-aliasing modes
      • Sparse multi-sample algorithm with gamma correction, programmable sample patterns, and centroid sampling
      • Lossless Color Compression (up to 6: 1) at all resolutions, including widescreen HDTV resolutions
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x anisotropic filtering modes
      • Up to 128-tap texture filtering
      • (Adaptive algorithm with bi-linear (performance) and tri-linear (quality) options)
  • 3Dc™
    • High quality 4:1 Normal Map Compression
    • Works with any two-channel data format
  • HYPER Z™ III
    • 3-level Hierarchical Z-Buffer with early Z test
    • Lossless Z-Buffer compression (up to 24:1)
    • Fast Z-Buffer Clear
  • VIDEOSHADER™
    • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video
    • FULLSTREAM™ video de-blocking technology
    • Noise removal filtering for captured video
  • Dual integrated display controllers
  • MPEG-2 decoding with motion compensation, iDCT and color space conversion
  • All-format DTV/HDTV decoding
  • YPrPb component output
  • Adaptive de-interlacing and frame rate conversion
Graphics Memory
  • 256MB DDR2 SDRAM
  • Default Memory clock = 375MHz (750MHz DDR)
RAMDAC
  • Dual integrated 10-bit per channel 400MHz DACs
  • Integrated 165MHz TMDS transmitter (DVI 1.0 compliant and HDCP ready)
I/O Faceplate Connectors
  • 1 x DVI-I connector
  • 1 x mini-DIN connector
  • 1 x analog VGA connector
Drivers & Software
  • Driver support for Windows 98SE / Me / NT / 2000 / XP
Other Information
  • PCI Express x 16 required

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