AMD Radeon RX 550 – Tough Competition

The latest entry-level graphics card from AMD serves as a direct competitor to the Nvidia GeForce GT 1030. While not originally designed nor marketed towards gaming, Nvidia’s graphics card serve as a great demonstration as to how far graphics performance has come, forcing Nvidia to push the GT 1030 towards entry-level gaming, regardless of the GTX naming scheme not being appropriated within the card’s title. Marketed as an eSports gaming card, which in itself, is just translation for Entry-Level gaming, AMD positions the card as a great solution for those playing MOBAs and First-Person-Shooters such as League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Counter Strike: GO.

The Competition
In a previous article featuring the latest Primal Gaming PCs, I found myself more than impressed with GT 1030-powered Primal Light system. As Nvidia’s lowest-tier gaming-grade graphics card the AMD Radeon RX 550 finds itself in direct competition both in terms of price and performance. Positioned at an average of £60-£70, the RX 550 increases in both specifications and price, available for around £80-£110. Given the level of performance the GT 1030 is able to deliver, which is directly tied with the latest gaming consoles in Triple-A titles, the RX 550 certainly has a lot to prove with specifications that much higher hopefully justifying its price tag.

The full review of the GT 1030 is available here for a quick refresher, but just for reference the graphics card is capable of delivering 30-60fps at Medium or High settings at resolutions of 900p or 1080p – depending on the title. Outpacing the Xbox One game console in terms of raw performance while being listed on-paper as significantly less powerful, Nvidia graphics cards have shown time and time again to be efficient, architecturally ahead of the competitor and great for longevity – also witnessed in our Tekken 7 performance article. where a 6-year old 560Ti graphics card turned in performance results ahead of the latest generation consoles.

AMD Radeon RX 550 (4GB) XFX

Test Configuration
So how does the Radeon RX 550 perform in our suite of games? As eSports titles are by their very nature no means graphically demanding, I decided to skip those titles in favour of Triple-A games. This approach will serve as a true measurement of the graphics card’s performance levels, and just how far the GPU can be pushed when aiming to match or exceed console-level performance. Consisting of an Intel Core i5-6400 processor running at 3.3GHz and 8GB of DDR4 memory, the system will not in any way limit the graphics card’s performance. Games consisted of Tekken 7, Batman: Arkham Knight, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Crysis 3.

Test Configuration

Performance Results
Kicking things of with the latest Beat ‘Em Up, not only is Tekken 7 a Triple-A title, it’s also an eSports game on both PC and console. Turning in 60 frames-per-second at a resolution of 900p with Medium visual settings, the RX 550 caught me by surprise. This is directly tied with the performance results of the GT 1030, which just so happens to match the GTX 560Ti. While I clearly don’t expect anyone to still be using the aged GeForce card, what I do expect is a significant leap in performance given the amount of time that has passed since it first released, as well as the lower core count and clock speed that the “GeForce Granddaddy “is able to deliver.

Proving to be more impressive in Batman: Arkham Knight the RX 550 exceeds the GT 1030, maintaining the same normal visual settings and 30 frames-per-second performance level, while bumping up the screen resolution to 1920x1080p. This is where the higher specifications of the GPU attempt to justify its existence, even if it is just a mere increase in pixel count. Where an uncapped frame-rate sees the GT 1030 pull ahead – fluctuating from 35-45 – peeking to higher frame-rates than the RX 550, it’s safe to say that a mild overclock on the GT 1030 may allow the card to match the RX 550’s performance at 1080p.

                                                                       Radeon RX 550 Benchmark

During my time with the RX 550 it quickly became apparent that the most suitable resolution for Triple-A titles would be at 900p. While this isn’t by all means acceptable within the PC gaming community because, ego, for anything other than eSports games this is where the card performs at its best. Evident in both Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Rise of the Tomb Raider, where the former was able to conjure 30 frames-per-second at High settings with identical performance at Medium settings in the latter, it was clear that despite the higher specifications of the GPU, everything regarding AMD graphics cards featured in my prior articles stands to reason; In many cases Radeon graphics cards require almost twice the raw performance metrics of GeForce cards in order to deliver near-identical performance. Take a look at the Core Effect theory featured in the Combo-Breaker Build.

While I had little expectations from the GPU after installing Crysis 3, my aim to reach 60fps was of my only motivation. Where the GT 1030 had set the bar so high in terms of what entry-level graphics cards are capable of, the RX 550 had everything going against from the very moment its price tag was revealed. Reducing visual settings down to Medium with a 900p resolution as the only means of hitting 60fps, Crysis 3 may be taxing on the CPU, but the chances of an i7 processor increasing the performance seemed very unlikely. Given the fact that nobody would pair this graphics card with such a powerful processor to begin with, it would be a waste of time to even bother with testing.

Nvidia GeForce GT 1030

Conclusion
The RX 550 graphics card is available in both 2GB and 4GB configurations, with little justification for a 4GB even existing. Will the extra 2GB of RAM make a difference in real-world gaming? Well that’s where the contradiction begins. AMD has geared this GPU towards eSports gaming. Without a single title in the eSports scene being at all visually demanding, the additional memory would go to waste. As for Triple-A titles making use of it, well, the GT 1030 features 2GB of RAM and either matches or exceeds the RX 550, managing to do so at a lower price. For its starting price of around £80 the RX 550 is a worthy buy for those wanting a graphics card of the AMD branding. Where the GT 1030 has a lower price tag scaling up to match the RX 550, anything above £85 would be a wasted investment.

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