Power Consumption and Conclusions
The power consumption of the entire line of tested GPUs is pretty good – the GeForce 9500 GT does use quite a bit more power at idle than the AMD GPUs – 20w more when compared to the HD 4350. At load, the same can be said: a 15-17 watt advantage goes to AMD’s RV710 GPU. The S3 Chrome 440 GTX falls in the middle of the fight in both idle and load results.
Anyone coming into this review looking to see Crysis running at 1600×1200 at 60 FPS will be very disappointed. Not even the GTX 280 can push that in fact… But what we did see here today was an amazing display of performance for cards under the $70 price point – performance that just a few short months ago would have cost you as much as $200.
For our two “battles” in today’s review, the winner of the first one is probably still NVIDIA’s GeForce 9500 GT card. The Galaxy 9500 GT we tested was able to best the Radeon HD 4550 in Crysis and World in Conflict while it fell slightly behind in the Bioshock testing; a game that AMD has traditionally done very well. That being said, BOTH of these cards would be good choices for a user looking for a low cost gaming solution. The choice might come down to your preferred GPU company or what kind of connectivity options you want for your system. The integrated HDMI and DisplayPort connections on our reference board were definitely terrific additions.
The AMD Radeon HD 4350 was also a strong competitor and with its lower price tag might find its way into your heart if you are looking for multimedia performance more than gaming performance. S3’s Chrome 440 GTX was a disappointment in terms of gaming – there is really no other way to say it. And at $60 on the S3graphics.com site store, it’s actually competing with the HD 4550 and 9500 GT – a battle it can’t hope to win. From a multimedia stand point the card is more than capable – it does have the same Blu-ray decode acceleration (or similar at least) to both AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards.
Features and Extras
The new AMD Radeon HD 4550 and HD 4350 over pretty much the same feature set that was found on the HD 4800-series of cards: integrated audio controller for HDMI HD audio, UVD2 technology for acceleration of both Blu-ray and other H.264 content, GPGPU support, etc.
In fairness though, even the Galaxy 9500 GT and S3 Chrome 440 GTX offer the majority of these as well. Your decision might really come down to the board manufacturer’s implementation – for example if you want a DisplayPort connection then you are more likely to find that on the Radeon cards than elsewhere.
Pricing and Availability
As of this writing there are two Radeon HD 4550 cards listed in our pricing engine: an ASUS card selling for $69 and a Sapphire card selling for $63. The Radeon HD 4350 is selling at two locations on our pricing engine, both of which list the MSI version going for $48 and $39 respectively. Newegg is one of those retailers and lists the card at $29 after a $10 MIR! $30 is a STEAL for a card with these features and performance
The Galaxy 9500 GT is listed in our pricing engine as selling for $69 at several locations though Newegg has the identical card tested here going for $39 after mail-in rebate. This is a budget graphics slugfest if I have ever seen one!
Unfortunately for S3, the only place selling the Chrome 440 GTX is their own online store: the going rate is $59. When pitted against cards like the HD 4550 selling for just a few dollars more than the HD 4350 and Galaxy 9500 GT selling for LESS it’s easy to see why most gamers would be looking past the third candidate in this race.
The budget graphics market is a quagmire of lost cost cards, differing product configurations and mail-in rebates. While it might seem confusing at first, there are literally dozens of fantastic purchasing options for any user looking to build a low-cost gaming computer or HTPC. AMD is certainly pushing the market forward, and driving NVIDIA’s marketeers mad, by releasing the HD 4550 and HD 4350 at such incredible prices and with impressive feature sets. NVIDIA and their partners are responding in kind by dropping prices on their own cards and giving the users gifts like Galaxy’s 9500 GT card tested here. If you are on the lookout for a sub-$70 graphics card, the options shown in this review today are all terrific and the field is wide open for more of them to appear.
Be sure to use our pricing engine to find the best prices on NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards and anything else you might need: