ATI Radeon HD 4550 Budget DX10.1 GPU

Introduction and Specifications

AMD continues their procession of new ATI Radeons today, with a couple of new entry-level offerings targeted at users who would like to upgrade from underpowered IGPs. Like the Radeon HD 4670 that came before it, the new Radeon HD 4550 and HD 4350 being rolled out today are based on the same GPU architecture first introduced with the popular Radeon HD 4800 seriesThe Radeon HD 4550 and HD 4350 both offer support for DirectX 10.1, DisplayPort, AVIVO with the UVD 2 engine, and CrossFire, although they do not have CrossFire bridge connectors like AMD's higher-end offerings.  As such, these new entry-level cards sport virtually all of the same features as their more expensive, and more powerful, counterparts--they just don't perform on the same level.

We've got one of AMD's passively cooled Radeon HD 4550 cards in-house and plan to show you all what it's made of on the pages ahead. There's a half-height actively cooled version coming out as well, however, pictured below. Go ahead and take a gander at the teaser shots and specifications, we'll get down to business and see what the Radeon HD 4550 is really made of a little later.

AMD's ATI Radeon HD 4550 Cards

AMD ATI Radeon HD 4550
Specifications and Features
242 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process

PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface

GDDR3/DDR3/DDR2 memory interface (depending on model)

Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support

  • Shader Model 4.1
  • 32-bit floating point texture filtering
  • Indexed cube map arrays
  • Independent blend modes per render target
  • Pixel coverage sample masking
  • Read/write multi-sample surfaces with shaders
  • Gather4 texture fetching
Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture
  • 320 stream processing units
    • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
    • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
    • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
  • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
  • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
  • Shader instruction and constant caches
  • Up to 128 texture fetches per clock cycle
  • Up to 128 textures per pixel
  • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
  • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
  • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
  • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
  • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
  • Early Z test and Fast Z Clear
  • Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
  • Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
  • 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
Dynamic Geometry Acceleration
  • Programmable tessellation unit
  • Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
  • Memory read/write cache for superior stream output performance
Anti-aliasing features
  • Multi-sample anti-aliasing (2, 4 or 8 samples per pixel)
  • Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for superior quality
  • Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
  • Gamma correct
  • Super AA (ATI CrossFireX configurations only)
  • All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering
Texture filtering features
  • 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
  • 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
  • sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
  • Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
  • Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
  • Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support
OpenGL 2.0 support

ATI PowerPlay Technology
  • Advanced power management technology for optimal performance and power savings
  • Performance-on-Demand
    • Constantly monitors GPU activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario
    • Clock and memory speed throttling
    • Voltage switching
    • Dynamic clock gating
  • Central thermal management – on-chip sensor monitors GPU temperature and triggers thermal actions as required
ATI Avivo HD Video and Display Platform
  • 2nd generation Unified Video Decoder (UVD 2)
    • Enabling hardware decode acceleration of H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2
    • Dual stream playback (or Picture-in-picture)
  • Hardware MPEG-1, and DivX video decode acceleration
    • Motion compensation and IDCT
  • ATI Avivo Video Post Processor
    • Enhanced DVD up-conversion to HD
    • Color space conversion, Gamma Correction 
    • Chroma subsampling format conversion
    • Horizontal and vertical scaling
    • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
    • De-blocking, noise reduction filtering, Detail enhancement
    • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
    • Automatic dynamic contrast adjustment
    • Full score in HQV (SD) and HQV (HD) video quality benchmarks
  • Two independent display controllers
    • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
    • Full 30-bit display processing
    • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
    • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
    • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
    • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
    • Hardware cursor
  • Two integrated DVI display outputs
    • Primary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)
    • Secondary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI only)
    • Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content
  • Two integrated 400MHz 30-bit RAMDACs
    • Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x1536
  • DisplayPort output support
    • Supports 24- and 30-bit displays at all resolutions up to 2560x1600
    • Integrated HD audio controller with up to 2 channel 48 kHz stereo or multi-channel (7.1) AC3 enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
  • HDMI output support
    • Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x1080
    • Integrated HD audio controller with up to 2 channel 48 kHz stereo or multi-channel (7.1) AC3 enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
  • Integrated AMD Xilleon HDTV encoder
    • Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
    • Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
    • Underscan and overscan compensation
  • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
  • VGA mode support on all display outputs

ATI CrossFireX Multi-GPU Technology

  • Scale up rendering performance and image quality with two GPUs
  • Integrated compositing engine

As the above list of specifications and features show, the new Radeon HD 4550 has essentially the exact same features as the higher-end cards in the Radeon HD 4800 series.  The Radeon HD 4550 offers DX10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 support.  These GPUs are manufactured on TSMC's 55nm process node and the cards support ATI's CrossFire multi-GPU technology.

Since we've covered essentially all of the shared features in our article featuring the Radeon HD 4800 and 4600 series cards before, we won't be going into them in depth again here.  However, we would recommend taking a look at a few recent articles to brush up on the tech, if you're so inclined.

Reading the articles above will lay the groundwork for the technology inherent to the cards we'll be showing you on the pages ahead.  Because the new Radeon HD 4550 shares the same core architecture as the cards in the Radeon HD 4800 series, with some elements pared down to reduce die size, they have basically the same feature set and capabilities, as we already mentioned earlier.

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