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HIS HD 5550 & 5570 “Silence” Graphics Cards

The HIS HD 5550/5570 are a trio of budget graphics cards that have good potential for silent cooling. Though not great for 3D performance, they are energy efficient and they are all equipped with fanless heatsinks.

July 18, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product
HIS HD 5570 Silence 512MB
HIS HD 5550 Silence 512MB HIS HD 5550 Silence 1GB
Manufacturer
Street Price
~US$80
~US$75 ~US$70

HIS is a Hong Kong based PC component maker specializing in ATI graphics cards.
They first grabbed our attention when they began selling cards with well-known
and recognizable third party coolers pre-installed. Their IceQ series cards
were perhaps the first high-end video cards that really ran cool and quietly
without user modification as they utilized the famous VGA
Silencers from Arctic Cooling
. Today, similar stock heatsink designs on
many high-end cards are based in part on the VGA Silencer. The last ATI card
we examined was also a HIS: The HD
Radeon 5870 iCooler V Turbo
.


The boxes.

The trio of cards examined here aren’t as fancy as some of the previous HIS
models we’ve tested; in fact they are humble by comparison. They are from the
HIS “Silence” line, based on lower-end ATI GPUs with low power requirements.
While modest in 3D performance, they run much cooler, and so have a far greater
potential for being cooled silently. We have a HD 5570 and a pair of HD 5550s,
one full-sized, and one half-height, all cooled with fanless heatsinks. The
lowest rung of the HD 5000 family is the HD
5450
, a 6~7W card that excels at playing video but little more. Though
hardly a gamer’s delight, the 5550 and 5570 should offer a nice boost to those
who prefer to game on a budget.


HD 5570, technical specifications according to GPU-Z.


HD 5550: fewer shaders, lower clock speed.


HIS’ half-height HD 5550. DDR3 memory instead of DDR5.

One thing we should note is our half-height HD 5550 Silence 1GB sample didn’t
match the official specifications at the HIS website. According to the site,
the card is saddled with DDR2 memory, but ours shipped with GDDR3. This discrepancy
will likely improve its performance and power draw somewhat.

Specification Comparison:
Model Name HIS HD 5570 Silence 512MB HIS HD 5550 Silence 512MB HIS HD 5550 Silence 1GB
Chipset Chipset Radeon HD 5570 PCIe
Series
Radeon HD 5550 PCIe Series Radeon HD 5550 PCIe Series
ASIC Radeon HD 5570 GPU Radeon HD 5550 GPU Radeon HD 5550 GPU
Stream Processing Units 400 320 320
Manu. Process (Micron) 40nm 40nm 40nm
Memory Size (MB) 512 512 1024
Memory Type GDDR5 GDDR5 DDR2
Engine CLK (MHz) 650MHz 550MHz 550MHz
Memory CLK (Gbps) 3800MHz 3800MHz 800MHz
Memory Interface (bit) 128 128 128
Power Supply Requirement 400 Watt or greater power
supply recommended
400 Watt or greater power
supply recommended
400 Watt or greater power
supply recommended
Max. Resolution 2560*1600 (Dual dual-link) 2560*1600 (Dual dual-link) 2560*1600 (Dual dual-link)
Bus Interface PCI Express x16 PCI Express x16 PCI Express x16
HDMI Yes No No
Display Port Yes Yes Yes
DVI Yes Yes Yes
VGA No Yes Yes

PHYSICAL DETAILS: HIS HD 5570/5500 Silence 512MB

The 512MB versions of the HD 5570 and 5500 Silence are physically identical
except for connectivity. The 5550 has HDMI, DVI, and VGA, while the 5570 swaps
VGA for a DisplayPort.

The 5550/5570 512MB ship in minimal packaging.

 


The cards have 16.7 cm (6.6″) long PCBs and a large fanless cooler
covering most of the surface.

 


The passive heatsink is a two slot solution shaped like a bat with wings
outstretched to each side. The fins are ridged to increase the total surface
area, but cutting up the wide fins into smaller ones would’ve helped further.

 


The cooler is held on with 4 screws that can be removed from the other
side. The mounting holes form a 43 mm square, typical for 5400/5500 series
cards.

HIS HD 5550 Silence 1GB (half-height)

The 1GB version of the HD 5550 Silence is a half-height card, complete with
slot brackets for low profile installation. The extra memory is an odd extravagance
on a low-end GPU like the 5550 — and on a low profile card to boot.


The HD 5550 Silence 1GB package.

 


This card is also 16.7 cm long but its heatsink is a much simpler form
with smaller fins arrayed in straight columns.

 


The heatsink wraps around the side of the card onto the top so it doesn’t
interfere with the slot underneath it.

 


From the side.

 


Standard HD 5400/5500 series mounting holes, 43 mm apart.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Our test procedure is an in-system test, designed to:

1. Determine whether the cooler is adequate for use in a low-noise system.
By adequately cooled, we mean cooled well enough that no misbehavior
related to thermal overload is exhibited. Thermal misbehavior in a graphics
card can show up in a variety of ways, including:

  • Sudden system shutdown, reboot without warning, or loss of display signal
  • Jaggies and other visual artifacts on the screen.
  • Motion slowing and/or screen freezing.

Any of these misbehaviors are annoying at best and dangerous at worst —
dangerous to the health and lifespan of the graphics card, and sometimes to
the system OS.

2. Estimate the card’s power consumption. This is a good indicator of how efficient
the card is and will have an effect on how hot the stock cooler becomes due
to power lost in the form of heat. The lower the better.

Test Platform

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Seasonic S12-600
used in our test system:

Seasonic S12-500 / 600 TEST RESULTS
DC Output (W)
65.3
89.7
148.7
198.5
249.5
300.2
400
AC Input (W)
87.0
115.0
183.1
242.1
305.0
370.2
500
Efficiency
75.1%
78.0%
81.2%
82.0%
81.8%
81.1%
80%

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our
test system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power
input based on this data. We won’t go through the math; it’s easy enough
to figure out for yourself if you really want to.

H.264/VC-1 Test Clips

H.264 and VC-1 are codecs commonly used in high definition movie videos
on the web (like Quicktime movie trailers and the like) and also in Blu-ray
discs. To play these clips, we use Cyberlink PowerDVD.


1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
1080p H.264:
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 2c
is a 1080p clip encoded in H.264
inside an Apple Quicktime container.

 


1080p | 24fps | ~8mbps
WMV-HD:
Coral Reef Adventure Trailer
is encoded in VC-1 using
the WMV3 codec commonly recognized by the “WMV-HD” moniker.

x264/MKV Video Test Clip

MKV (Matroska) is a very popular online multimedia format
for high definition content, usually using x264 (a free, open source
H.264 encoder) for video. The clip was taken from a full length movie;
the most demanding one minute portion was used. We use Media Player
Classic Home Cinema to play it as its default settings allow it to use
DXVA (DirectX Video Acceleration) automatically.


1080p | 24fps | ~14mbps

x264 1080p: Spaceship is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from
the Blu-ray version of an animated short film. It features a
hapless robot trying to repair a lamp on a spaceship.

Testing Procedures

Our first test involves recording the system power consumption using a Seasonic
Power Angel as well as CPU and GPU temperatures using SpeedFan and GPU-Z during
different states: Idle, under load with CPUBurn running to stress the processor,
and CPUBurn plus ATI Tool/FurMark running to stress both the CPU and GPU simultaneously.
This last state is an extremely stressful, worst case scenario test which generates
more heat and higher power consumption than can be produced by a modern video
game. If it can survive this torture in our low airflow system, it should be
able to function nominally in the majority of PCs.

The software is left running until the GPU temperature remains stable for at
least 10 minutes. If artifacts are detected by ATI’s artifact scanner or by
eye or any other instability is noted, the heatsink is deemed inadequate to
cool the video card in our test system.

If the heatsink has a fan, the load state tests are repeated at various fan
speeds (if applicable) while the system case fan is left at its lowest setting
of 7V. If the card utilizes a passive cooler, the system fan is varied instead
to study the effect of system airflow on the heatsink’s performance. System
noise measurements are made at each fan speed.

Our second test procedure is to run the system through a video test suite featuring
a variety of high definition clips. During playback, a CPU usage graph is created
by the Windows Task Manger for analysis to determine the average CPU usage.
High CPU usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability. If the video (and/or
audio) skips or freezes, we conclude the GPU (in conjunction with the processor)
is inadequate to decompress the clip properly. Power consumption during playback
of high definition video is also recorded.

TEST RESULTS

BASELINE, with Integrated Graphics: First, here are the results of
our baseline results of the system with just its integrated graphics, without
a discrete video card. We’ll also need the power consumption reading during
CPUBurn to estimate the actual power draw of discrete card later.

VGA Test Bed: Baseline Results
(no discrete graphics card installed)
System
State
System Power
AC
DC (Est.)
Idle
75W
Unknown
CPUBurn
151W
121W
Ambient temperature: 22°C

HIS HD 5570 Silence 512MB:

VGA Test Bed: HIS HD 5570 Silence 512MB
System
State
System Fan Speed
SPL
@1m
GPU Temp
System Power
AC
DC
Idle
7V
12 dBA
51°C
92W
70W
CPUBurn
7V
51°C
167W
135W
CPUBurn + ATI Tool
7V
104°C
198W
161W
9V
15 dBA
101°C
197W
160W
12V
18 dBA
94°C
197W
160W
CPUBurn + FurMark
12V
101°C
201W
164W
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA

The 5570 started off well, idling at 51°C with our system fan at 7V, but
once the GPU was stressed, the heatsink wasn’t as effective as we had hoped.
With ATI Tool going, the temperature surpassed 100°C, stabilizing at 104°C.
While we did not encounter any artifacts, this was far too high for our liking
— generally 90°C is at the high end of our comfort level. Cranking up
the system fan to 9V improved the temperature by 4°C, but it was still 1°C
above boiling. At 12V, the GPU core cooled down by another 7°C. This improvement
was wiped out once we switched from ATI Tool to FurMark, a more demanding stress
program.

While the passive heatsink ensures the card remains silent, in a quiet system
with little airflow, the 5570 doesn’t perform well. It really needs some extra
help if the GPU is going to be heavily tasked.

HIS HD 5550 Silence 512MB:

VGA Test Bed: HIS HD 5550 Silence 512MB
System
State
System Fan Speed
SPL
@1m
GPU Temp
System Power
AC
DC
Idle
7V
12 dBA
51°C
93W
71W
CPUBurn
7V
53°C
168W
136W
CPUBurn + ATI Tool
7V
97°C
196W
160W
CPUBurn + FurMark
7V
99°C
196W
160W
9V
15 dBA
97°C
194W
158W
12V
18 dBA
89°C
192W
156W
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dB

The 5550 using the same heatsink had an easier time in our test system with
the GPU staying just under 100°C on load, even with the system fan at only
7V. By virtue of having less demanding hardware, it managed to stay 7°C~11°C
cooler than the 5570. Despite the improvement, it was still a tad on the toasty
side — we wouldn’t recommend it for quiet, single-fan systems if 3D applications/games
are to be used.

HIS HD 5550 Silence 1GB (half-height):

VGA Test Bed: HIS HD 5550 Silence 1GB
System
State
System Fan Speed
SPL
@1m
GPU Temp
System Power
AC
DC
Idle
7V
12 dBA
45°C
87W
65W
CPUBurn
7V
47°C
162W
130W
CPUBurn + ATI Tool
7V
88°C
177W
143W
CPUBurn + FurMark
7V
105°C
182W
148W
9V
15 dBA
102°C
181W
147W
12V
18 dBA
101°C
181W
147W
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dB

The half-height version of the 5550 ran cooler than the other two cards when
stressed with ATI Tool, topping out at 88°C with the system fan at 7V. FurMark
brought the card almost to its heels though, warming up the GPU past the 100°C
mark. Under the hood, the only difference between this 5550 and the full-sized
version is slower GDDR3 memory, but the bare memory chips on all the cards do
not affect the core temperature.

The smaller, wraparound style heatsink has plenty of surface area, but the
top side of the cooler may help trap heat that would otherwise rise off the
PCB. Its fins are also more densely packed which isn’t ideal for passive cooling.

Power

The power consumption of an add-on video card can be estimated by comparing
the total system power draw with and without the card installed. Our results
were derived thus:

1. Power consumption of the graphics card at idle – When CPUBurn is
run on a system, the video card is not stressed at all, and stays in idle mode.
This is true whether the video card is integrated or an add-on PCIe 16X device.
Hence, when the power consumption of the base system under CPUBurn is subtracted
from the power consumption of the same test with the graphics card installed,
we obtain the increase in idle power of the add-on card over the
integrated graphics chip (Intel GMA950). (The actual idle power
of the add-on card cannot be derived, because the integrated graphics does draw
some power — we’d guess no more than a watt or two.)

2. Power consumption of the graphics card under load – The power draw
of the system is measured with the add-on video card, with CPUBurn and FurMark
running simultaneously. Then the power of the baseline system (with integrated
graphics) running just CPUBurn is subtracted. The difference is the load power
of the add-on card. (If you want to nitpick, the 1~2W power of the integrated
graphics at idle should be added to this number.) Any load on the CPU from FurMark
should not skew the results, since the CPU was running at full load in both
systems.

Both results are scaled by the efficiency of the power supply (tested
here
) to obtain a final estimate of the DC power consumption.

Estimated Power Consumption Comparison (DC)
Card
Idle
Load
ATI HD 5450 512MB
6W
7W
Asus EN9400GT Silent 512MB (2)
11W
23W
HIS HD 5550 1GB
9W
27W
PowerColor HD 4650 512MB (2)
15W
28W
ATI HD 5570 1GB
8W
29W
HIS HD 5550 512MB (5)
15W
39W
ATI HD 4670 512MB
3W
40W
HIS HD 5570 512MB (5)
14W
43W
ATI HD 4770 512MB (5)
28W
60W
(2) = DDR2, (5) = GDDR5, otherwise GDDR3

By our estimates, the HIS HD 5550 1GB is the most power efficient of the three
cards idling at 9W and using up to 27W on load thanks to the use of GDDR3 memory
rather than GDDR5. The HIS HD 5550 and 5570 512MB draw 5-6W more when idle,
and an extra 12~16W on load.

Video Playback

Test Results: Video Playback
Test State
Avg.
CPU
HD 5570 512MB
HD 5550 512MB
HD 5550 1GB
Rush Hour
(1080p H.264)
4%
+14W
+14W
+10W
Coral Reef
(WMV-HD)
26~28%
+29W
+31W
+26W
Spaceship
(1080p x264)
2~3%
+11W
+12W
+7W
*compared to idle

As the entire HD 5000 series features the same UVD 2.0 chip, video playback
was almost identical between the three cards, with power consumption staying
more or less relative to each card’s respective idle power draw.

3D Performance

While 3DMark is a completely synthetic benchmark, it is a good general indicator
of 3D performance, particularly when the score differences are quite high.

3D Performance: Futuremark Comparison
Graphics
3DMark05
3DMark06
ATI HD 3300 (IGP w/SidePort)
4884
2205
ATI HD 5450 512MB (5)
6231
3435
GeForce G210M (2)
6847
3460
PowerColor HD 4650 512MB (2)
7622
4088
HIS HD 5550 1GB
8383
5467
HIS HD 5550 512MB (5)
8843
6318
ATI HD 5570 1GB
8761
6326
ATI HD 4670 512MB
8962
6341
HIS HD 5570 512MB (5)
9050
6715
(2) = DDR2, (5) = GDDR5, otherwise GDDR3

Thanks to its fast GDDR5 memory, the HD 5550 Silence 512MB scored on par with
the GDDR3 equipped HD 5570 and the HD 4670, while the GDDR3/1GB version fell
a few hundred points behind. The HD 5570 Silence is slightly faster than the
GDDR3 reference version of the 5570. We wouldn’t consider any of these to be
gaming cards, but if you’re on a budget they definitely deliver some nice performance
increases over integrated graphics.

FINAL THOUGHTS

3D Performance/Cost: Please check out gaming-oriented reviews of the
HD 5550/5570 at sites like like techPowerUp,
Guru3D,
and AnandTech.
The general consensus is that the HD 5570 offers good gaming experience at resolutions
of 1280 and below, but is priced too closely to the HD 5670 which is a significantly
stronger performer. The HD 5550 lags behind the 5570 a fair bit; however, it
is priced more appropriately. Neither is a great gaming card but if money is
tight, either os an enormous upgrade over integrated graphics.

Power Consumption: By our estimates, the half-height HD 5550 Silence
1GB used 9W idle and 27W on load, while the full-sized 512MB version used 15W
idling and 39W on load. The HD 5570 Silence used 14W idle and 43W on load. Given
their respective levels of 3D performance, this is par for the course. However
it should be noted that the idle power consumption on these budget cards depends
mainly on the type of memory used. If you want idle power under 10W, HD 4000/5000
series cards with GDDR3 seem to the most frugal while GDDR5 equipped models
use about 15W minimum.

Cooling: The passive heatsinks on the three cards kept their GPUs stable
during testing in our thermally-challenging test system, but the temperature
often surpassed 100°C. While they don’t generate any noise on their own,
the systems built around them may have to operate with higher fan speeds
— which usually means higher noise levels — to keep the cards adequately
cooled. This kind of defeats the purpose of having a passively cooled video
card doesn’t it? Heat isn’t an issue in 2D or when watching video, but if that’s
all you’re going to do with the card, you will save money and energy with a
modern integrated graphics chip or an HD
5450
.

The three cards we reviewed today are not speed demons, only appropriate for
gamers who are frugal, in debt, or still subsisting on a weekly allowance from
their parents. On the bright side, the low power draw and silen passive cooling
are real benefits. However, the HIS HD 5550/5570 Silence series cards run a
bit too hot for our liking. This may be understandable in the case of the half-height
HD 5550 1GB, but there really is no excuse for the full-sized HD 5550 and 5570
512MB. A full-sized, dual slot cooler shouldn’t have any trouble keeping a 40W
card from getting hotter than boiling water — if that cannot be accomplished
passively, there is no shame in helping it out with a large, quiet fan.

Our thanks to HIS
Digital
for the HIS HD 5550/5570 Silence samples.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
HIS
HD Radeon 5870 iCooler V Turbo

Asus
EAH5750 Formula Graphics Card

ATI
Radeon HD 5450 & HD 5570 Graphics Cards

PowerColor
Radeon HD 5850: Worth the Wait

ATI
Radeon HD 4770: ATI’s First 40nm GPU

HIS
Radeon HD 4890 Turbo Edition

* * *

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