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nVidia mid-range match-up, what should you buy?

The Asus GTX550 Ultimate card we tested looks great, works well and was cool and quiet under pressure. We love the design of the DirectCU II cooler and the idea of buying a card off the shelf at more than 1GHz is very attractive. Unfortunately, when all of the initial love-fest is over, you're left with the actual performance against the other cards in the nVidia range.

It's so obviously better than the GTS450 and so obviously slower than the GTX460. On that basis, it has a position in the market – but the big problem is the price for the turbo-charged versions.

With a street price of £115 inc vat, the stock clocked Asus GTX550 Ti looks to be about £5 more than the Asus GTS450 TOP that we tested. While the performance delta is small in some games, you can get more than 10% in some titles. The memory interface is wider than with the GTS450 products and we know that the core has more potential than the 910MHz is ships with as standard.

It's worth saying that the GTX560 is a beast of a card which deserves its lead in every test. While we can call it cheap in comparison to the new top of the range models from AMD and nVidia, it's hard to see a gamer who is focused on value being drawn to the >£200 price point, except in passing.

KitGuru's conclusion is that the GTX460 is still nVidia's standard bearer in the £150 region (plus or minus £45) and it should be on the short list for any mid-range system being considered by an nVidia lover.

While Asus' Ultimate edition is both visually sexy and technically interesting – our top prize must go to the very competitively priced Asus GTX550 Ti. At £115 this is a bargain and no mistake. Many people will buy a single card to start with and then, maybe, consider upgrading to SLi at a later date. For that reason, we will be looking at GTX550 in SLi formation sometime in the future.

KitGuru says: For now, the £115 1GB Asus GTX550 Ti is a worthy winner and definitely recommended at this price point.

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Rating: 9.0.

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