AMD doubles down on its presence in a segment that the competition seemingly abandoned, refusing to leave money on the table. This is good news to the system builders, entry-level gamers, and HTPC enthusiasts who are loath to lean on integrated graphics, whether for their lackluster performance or often-dicey drivers.
The Radeon RX 550 employs a new Polaris 12 GPU with eight of its 10 compute units enabled, offering 512 Stream processors, 32 texture units, and 16 ROPs. Its 128-bit aggregate memory bus pushes up to 112 GB/s of bandwidth using 7 Gb/s GDDR5. Although Radeon RX 460’s back-end is fairly similar, the bigger Polaris 11 chip benefits from 75% more Stream processors and texture units. Further, their clock rates aren’t all that much different.
As a result, when you hit both Radeons with distinctly graphics-bound workloads like Doom at 1920x1080, the Radeon RX 460 offers nearly 60% more performance. That’s where it excels, even in a Core i3-powered PC. On the other hand, you can play a more platform-limited game like Dota 2, crank its detail settings all the way up, and only see the Radeon RX 460 deliver 11%-higher frame rates.
Of course, Radeon RX 550 is greatly advantaged by its 50W TDP. Less power means less heat, and less heat means lower-profile cooling solutions. If you’re building an HTPC with gaming chops for a 1080p display, the RX 550 can do its job quietly and without an auxiliary power connector.
Then there’s the issue of price. The Radeon RX 550s currently available on Newegg range from $80 to $90, all of them equipped with 2GB of GDDR5. Two-gigabyte Radeon RX 460s sell between $90 and $110. Eventually those will go away. But for now, it’s hard to pass up on an extra 384 Stream processors for $10 or so dollars. Starting at $100, the Radeon RX 560 will cost a little more, putting more of a cushion between itself and the RX 550.
For now, Radeon RX 460 2GB looks like a solid choice for reduced-quality 1080p gaming under $100, particularly if Radeon RX 570 4GB lands outside of your budget. It’s great for traditionally graphics-bound workloads that benefit from the extra front-end resources. The Radeon RX 550 2GB we’re reviewing today looks better if you’re space/power/heat-constrained. Otherwise, it’s quite a bit slower in those same titles. If you’re only playing games like Civilization, StarCraft, Dota 2, and WoW, though, the cheaper RX 550 is plenty-fast, particularly matched up to a similarly mainstream host processor.
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