As many of you are no doubt aware, AMD's recently launched Radeon RX 500 series is essentially a rebrand of the RX 400 series, using the same 4th-gen GCN architecture (14nm) albeit with a few minor tweaks.
AMD did however take the opportunity to release an even smaller (101mm2) Polaris 10 GPU, which can be found at the heart of the Radeon RX 550, an ultra-affordable sub-$100 entry-level card aimed at the eSports and HTPC markets.
With just 512 SPUs, it packs the same amount as the old Radeon R7 350 (though that chip used first-gen GCN cores), we've been wondering how capable the RX 550 is. Featuring 43% fewer SPUs than last generation's RX 460, it seems fair to question if the RX 550 can handle even the most basic eSports titles using modest quality settings at 1080p.
It's obviously no heavy hitter, but the RX 550 does have a few advantages over previous featherweight graphics cards. Its cores operate at 1183MHz or higher depending on factory overclocking, while the card's GDDR5 7Gbps memory allows it to boast a rather impressive bandwidth of 112GB/s.
The Asus RX 550 model we have on hand is quite compact and like the GTX 1050, it doesn't require an external power connector. It also packs 4GB of VRAM though I strongly recommend gamers opt for the 2GB version -- there's no way the RX 550 has anywhere near enough horsepower to utilize more than that.
Right now, at $80 the RX 550 is actually pretty poor in terms of value. It costs 20% less than the RX 560 despite having half as many SPUs, so you can expect roughly half the performance, which is hopefully ample for playable performance in eSports titles.
Why the interest in this card at all then? It's my hope that we'll soon see the RX 550 selling for as little as $60, a price at which it starts making sense, especially when you consider the potential in a $120 combo with the G4560, which is precisely what we're doing here today.
Assuming it were available for around $60, would the RX 550 be worth pairing with the G4560 for an uber-affordable eSports build?
To answer that, I've queued up seven popular eSports titles to see how this budget combo makes out. For this one, I won't be including any of the graphs that you guys often find in our reviews, though we're looking into an entry-level GPU comparison in the near future and you can bet that piece will have a slew of charts.
For now, let's see how RX 550 and G4560 get along...
Maxed out using the highest possible quality settings at 1080p, CS:GO played at over 100fps at all times, mostly hovered around 120fps.
Dota 2 was also tested with the quality settings maxed out at 1080p and here the Pentium G4560 and Radeon RX 550 combo allowed for around 60-70fps, though at times did drop into the 50s.
Rocket League was likewise tested with maxed settings at 1080p and this budget hardware combo maintained over 60fps at all times, often between 70 and 90 fps.
To test StarCraft 2 we watched a pro 2v2 match at normal speed and this simulates real-world performance quite well. We tested at 1080p using ultra quality (one step down from extreme) and that saw frame rates sitting around 80fps but occasionally dipping to 60fps when things got heated.
Team Fortress 2 was tested using the highest possible quality settings at 1080p, frame rates dropped as low as 100fps and would spike as high as 200fps. For the most part though frame rates were somewhere in the middle.
Maxed out at 1080p, World of Tanks played between 40 and 50fps, which resulted in smooth performance.
For Overwatch we used the medium quality settings at 1080p and ran a 12-player bot match. Bot matches are generally a bit more demanding on system resources than online multiplayer with human players. Gameplay was extremely smooth with around 60fps for the most part during the heavy battles.
What's Not to Like
It shouldn't be long before we see the RX 550 available for around $60, at which point it seems like a bargain for both casual and eSports gamers.
Many of the titles were tested using their maximum in-game quality settings (or not far from it) and the RX 550 powered through them without hesitation at 1080p. Of course, if frame rates ever become an issue, there's plenty of room to reduce quality settings.
With its two cores and four threads, the Pentium G4560 makes for a capable eSports platform, particularly when paired with a RX 550 and especially if you spot that card for $60 or so, which should be possible soon enough given that the card is currently overpriced and should see more competition soon with the coming arrival of Nvidia's GT 1030.