Everyone is following the development of the industry in the segment of top graphics solutions, where the confrontation between AMD and NVIDIA is the most fierce. However, the cheapest video cards are in some demand. Someone needs a replacement for a failed adapter in an elderly PC, someone needs a temporary plug with the ability to play popular online games. Therefore, we scrupulously study the gaming capabilities of the entire range of available devices. We recently tested the ultra-budget GeForce GT 1030 card. Now let’s get acquainted with the new product from the red camp — AMD Radeon RX 550. We will test the ASUS video card, check its overclocking capabilities, compare it with the GeForce GT 1030 and a number of older video cards.
The Radeon RX 550 fully belongs to the new generation of graphics cards, although it has modest characteristics. This model is based on the Polaris family processor with all the advantages of this architecture. Therefore, the Radeon RX 550 is the most significant update to AMD’s ultra-budget graphics cards in the past few years.
The novelty is based on the Polaris 12 processor with eight CUs. The total potential of this chip is 512 cores, 32 texture units and 16 render units. This configuration is two times weaker than the characteristics of the Radeon RX 560, so the gap between these budget graphics cards should be quite large. But this situation is typical for NVIDIA as well. Polaris 12 is manufactured using the advanced 14nm process technology, which provides a low TDP of 50W. The operating frequencies of the core are declared from 1100 MHz (base value) to 1183 MHz (maximum Boost). Acquaintance with the Radeon RX 560 showed that there are video cards with different frequencies in the declared range, but this was due to the presence of economical versions. Since the Radeon RX 550 initially consumes little and does not require additional power, it can be assumed that in reality all varieties show frequencies at 1183 MHz or higher (for models with factory overclocking).
An important advantage of the Radeon RX 550 is a full 128-bit bus and fast GDDR5 memory with an effective frequency of 7000 MHz. This is a significant plus compared to the GeForce GT 1030 with a 64-bit bus.
According to the number, the Radeon RX 550 will replace the Radeon R7 350 video adapter. The latter was another variation based on the Cape Verde core, and was an updated version of the Radeon HD 7750. This is an old-timer, of which there are few. Although the entire Radeon R7 350 series is a little strange — there were modifications for 640 stream processors and OEM variations on the Oland chip with 384 stream processors (analogous to the Radeon R7 250). Also, some manufacturers equipped the Radeon R7 350 with slow DDR3 memory, which drastically reduced the overall computing potential. Now, DDR3 memory has disappeared from the video card market, and there will be no unpleasant surprises with the Radeon RX 550. As part of the new series, different models can only be distinguished by higher core frequencies and increased memory capacity instead of the standard 2 GB.
For comparison, let’s summarize the characteristics of the Radeon RX 550 and the nearest video cards in one table.
|Video adapter||Radeon RX 560||Radeon RX 550||Radeon R7 360||Radeon R7 350|
|Core||Polaris 11||Polaris 12||Tobago||Cape Verde|
|Architecture||GCN 1.3||GCN 1.3||GCN 1.1||GCN 1.0|
|Number of transistors, million pieces||3000||2200||2080||1500|
|Process technology, nm||14||14||28||28|
|Core area, sq. mm||123||101||160||123|
|Number of stream processors||1024||512||768||640/512|
|Number of texture blocks||64||32||48||40/32|
|Number of render units||16||16||16||8|
|Core frequency, MHz||1175–1275||1100–1183||Until 1050||925+|
|Memory bus, bit||128||128||128||128|
|Memory frequency, MHz||7000||7000||6500|
|Memory size, MB||4096/2048||4096/2048||2048||2048/1024|
|Supported version of DirectX||12||12||11||11|
|Interface||PCI-E 3.0||PCI-E 3.0||PCI-E 3.0||PCI-E 3.0|
The Radeon RX 550 can output HDR content and is equipped with DVI, HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.3/1.4 HDR Ready ports.
Our testing will involve a video adapter made by ASUS with standard frequencies, but increased to 4 GB of memory. More details below.
ASUS Radeon RX 550 4G (RX550-4G)
At the moment, ASUS is releasing two variants of the Radeon RX 550, which are identical in technical performance, but differ in memory capacity. We will review the ASUS RX550-4G with 4 GB on board.
The video adapter is made on a full-profile format board and occupies two expansion slots due to the cooling system. The black color of the textolite and casing is combined with large red inserts on the case. The fan is partially covered with a decorative strip, and this clearly interferes with the air flow
ASUS dispenses with the additional power connector. When examining the reverse side, one can note the presence of a warranty seal on one of the screws of the cooling system.
The RX550-4G has three ports for image output: DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.
The cooler is of simple design. Under the shroud is a solid aluminum heatsink with divergent fins.
This design is very reminiscent of the cooler on the old ASUS cards of the budget class. A complete analysis was not carried out. It looks like glue is being used and removing the shroud would damage the look of the unit.
The board looks quite serious for such a budget card. A four-phase GPU power system has been implemented. GeForce GT 1030 are content with power supply with one or two phases.
The Polaris 12 graphics chip is on a substrate without a protective frame. Four gigabytes of memory are filled with four Micron 6YA47 D9SXD chips.
The video card works strictly at the recommended frequencies: the core frequency is 1183 MHz, the memory clock frequency is 1750 MHz (effective 7000 MHz).
Judging by the GPU-Z data, the video card works with an 8x PCI-E 3.0 interface. This is not surprising, the Radeon RX 560 works in the same mode.
When tested on an open bench at about 25°C, peak core temperatures were 59-60°C. The declared frequency of 1183 MHz was maintained at a stable level in absolutely all applications under any load.
With a slight heating, you can count on a low noise level. However, in reality there is some hum. When working inside the case, this is a less significant problem, but against the background of quiet ASUS components, it will be audible. And the speed is not regulated in any way, the fan runs at the same speed in idle and under load.
It is also worth recalling that cooling the Radeon RX 560 is not a trivial task. At a low TDP, small chips remain very hot. Yes, and more powerful Polaris are famous for their hot temper. It looks like the Polaris 12 isn’t much better, and ASUS is addressing the cooling issue with high RPMs.
We were pleased with the overclocking situation. From an initial frequency of 1183 MHz, the graphics processor was overclocked to 1405 MHz. The memory ran stable at 8000 MHz. It was possible to set higher values, but the stability dropped sharply.
At a fixed fan speed, the heating increased to 74 °C. This is not a critical value, so overclocking can be used for everyday tasks.