I spent a couple of hours playing games with the HD 4550. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts played pretty well, it got a little choppy at times when the screen was pretty busy, but not bad. COD4 was the same, when there was a lot happening, things got kind of weird. Crysis was unplayable, as I had expected. Supreme Commander played much better with AA turned off, and even when it was on, gameplay was tolerable. Again, I'd place the card in about the same class as the geForce 8600GT or 8600GTS, low end gaming cards of a year ago, costing about $140 and $170 respectively upon their release.
But keep in mind, this is not a gaming card, it costs about half of some of the lower end gaming cards. Most cards in this class won't play these games at all, so you'd have to consider the minimal gaming capabilities a plus rather than beating the card up for the low FPS.
This card is intended to give excellent performance for the average computer user, with the benefit of Blu-Ray decoding, HD Audio via HDMI, and 1080p resolution, making it an excellent choice for a HTPC. The Low Profile option means that it will fit in virtually any computer case. You probably won't find another LP card with 512 megs of GDDR3 memory. The fan was silent, which was a little surprising.
I have to give special mention to the card's bundle. The included LP bracket has to be purchased separately for most video cards, and they run about 8 bucks. Many low end cards still don't include an HDMI adapter. If needed, these two items add much value to this already inexpensive video card.
The Sapphire HD 4550 runs $60 at my favorite online retailer. For placement in a MicroATX slim case, an upgrade of integrated graphics on a non-gaming rig, or a card for an HTPC, I find this a definite value. ThinkComputers gives the Sapphire HD 4550 512MB Low Profile Video Card a 10 out of 10 score.
- Excellent HTPC card with Blu-Ray decoding and 1080p resolution
- Probably the highest performance video card set up for Low Profile installation
- Though not a gaming card, it is capable of giving an introduction to HD gaming
- $60 price tag makes it a definite value
- Catalyst drivers and Vista still don't get along well (not Sapphire's fault)
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