The Best AMD Radeon RX 550 – November 2018
The AMD Radeon RX 550 is the entry-level graphics card of the RX 550, aimed squarely at low-end and budget users who can’t afford cards like the RX 570 or 580. Its price and performance also place it against Nvidia’s GTX 1030, which it outperforms by a respectable 13% margin.
Besides the basics, there is an interesting sidenote we should discuss about this graphics card before diving into more detail.
There are 2GB versions and 4GB versions of this card. Those who remember the GTX 1060 3GB/6GB debacle may expect there to be a significant performance delta between the two versions of the card, but this delta pretty much doesn’t exist here. Rather than being an indication of differing hardware power, the only difference between the 2GB and 4GB versions of this card is VRAM capacity.
Where this difference comes into play isn’t in actual performance numbers- at least, not at 1080p and lower resolutions. More VRAM allows a graphics card to handle higher resolutions without an as-significant performance drop, so a few games may be playable at higher resolutions with the 4GB version of this card than with the 2GB counterpart.
Aside from that caveat, it doesn’t matter too much if you buy 2GB or 4GB. Just get whatever works for your budget or personal tastes.
Where does this graphics card excel?
“Excel” is a pretty strong word to describe a card in this range, unfortunately. We’ll elaborate on this below.
The areas this graphics card is suited for include:
- Basic PC usage. Basic tasks you’ll be performing on your PC, like browsing the web and watching Netflix, shouldn’t be bottlenecked by this card. The 4GB VRAM editions may make this card capable of handling these tasks at higher resolutions.
- HTPC usage. If you want to use this GPU as a dedicated card for a home theater PC, you shouldn’t have many issues. It will be more than adequate for playing and streaming HD content. Many of these cards are also on the smaller side, which should help.
- Retro gaming usage. Retro PC games should work well with this card- if a game came out between now and 2010, your performance may be pretty hit-or-miss. Earlier games should work pretty well with this card, though. Most emulation should work fine as well, so long as you have the CPU to back it up.
- Low-profile PC usage. If you need to build a tiny PC, there are quite a few tiny RX 550 graphics cards. Our top performance pick in this article is also our top low-profile pick, so we’d consider grabbing that one if you’re considering this usage scenario.
Is this graphics card too little for my usage scenarios?
If you want to do one of the following, this probably isn’t the graphics card for you:
- High-end gaming. If you want to play recent titles at high settings, this is not the card for you. The performance required for a high-end gaming experience simply isn’t here, so we strongly recommend against getting this card for that purpose.
- Modern gaming. While modern games may be playable with numerous compromises, we generally wouldn’t recommend a card of this power level for modern games. Hardware requirements are increasing every year, and this is far beneath the minimum specs of even semi-recent AAA titles, like Nier Automata.
- Playing eSports. If you’re an eSports player or enjoy playing big multiplayer titles, this isn’t the right card for you. Playing games like Overwatch or CS:GO require at least mid-tier performance for the ideal experience- if you can’t maintain an at least 60FPS average, you’re at a massive disadvantage against other players. We recommend updating to a GTX 1050 or RX 560 for this purpose.
- Modern emulators. Modern emulators, like Cemu, will likely be too much for this GPU to handle. While Dolphin should work (in theory), you’ll likely be forced to play games at lower resolutions, or be unable to play certain demanding titles.
The Gigabyte Radeon RX 550 2GB is our top pick overall. It’s the highest-performing of the 2GB RX 550 cards, and is also very competitive in pricing with other 550s.
Gigabyte is one of the industry’s most trusted GPU manufacturers, and this card’s incredibly solid build quality is indicative of that. With a large fan and low-profile cooling design, Gigabyte’s RX 550 should have a long life and fit inside most builds.
Thanks to the large fan and this GPU’s relatively low power, this card also offers the best cooling performance of the bunch.
First up is our cheapest pick, ASUS’ low-profile Radeon RX 550.
This is a 2GB card, which means it should be suited for most applications at 720p and 1080p resolutions. From retro gaming to media streaming, this budget RX 550 should provide the experience you’re looking for at a very low price.
ASUS’ high build quality and QA also means that this card is a very safe buy. If you ever experience any problems with it, ASUS is very likely to help you.
XFX is a lesser-known GPU manufacturer but offers a fairly solid RX 550. Namely, this is the cheapest version of the 4GB RX 550 that we were able to find, which should make it better at playing games at 1080p or media at 4K resolution.
If you want a great 4K HTPC card at a low price, this may be the right pick for you. However, this card is a bit larger than its contemporaries, so make sure your build has room for the larger cooler design.
Last up is the best RX 550 in terms of overall performance, the Sapphire PULSE RX 550. Boasting 4GB of RAM and a huge 700 MHz factory overclock, this card should provide the best performance of all the RX 550 cards.
If you can find this card at comparable prices to the other GPUs we’ve listed, we highly recommend it. If it creeps into the $120 range and higher, though, consider looking for a GTX 1050 or RX 560 instead.