DirectX 9 Benchmarks
For our DirectX 9 benchmarks, we selected Street Fighter IV for its endless hours of fun and Final Fantasy XIV because it's a fairly new game and people have to play monthly to play it. So if the hardware can't handle it, then that can really suck. We used the official benchmarks for both to assess performance.
Street Fighter IV (DX9)
For throwing fireballs at the highest possible settings in this game, any of these cards would fit the bill. But what's most interesting is how much better the GTX 550 Ti does it over the more expensive Radeon HD 6850.
Final Fantasy XIV (DX9)
Coupled with a monthly subscription fee, a cost effective GPU upgraded is definitely nice to have. The GTX 550 Ti isn't the card for this game unfortunately. With an option that's cheaper than it (GTX 460 768MB) and one that's only a few dollars away (HD 6850), if you are going to invest in playing in this particular game, it makes sense to purchase the card that really fits.
DirectX 10 Benchmarks
The space for DirectX 10 games has been fairly small unfortunately. As a result, we'll be selecting two games: Just Cause 2 which represents the first person style shooter genre and World In Conflict to cover off RTS style games.
Just Cause 2 (DX10)
It's pretty clear that if you want to play this game well, you are not buying an nVidia card. Without PhysX to give an advantage, the HD 6850 walks away from the field. Having said that, the GTX 550 Ti overclocked to 1050MHz responds well and matches the performance of the GTX 460 768MB in our tests.
World in Conflict (DX10)
World in Conflict is a fairly brutal benchmark where sometimes, when things get crowded on the screen, frame rates just fall to the floor. Having said that, the GTX 550 Ti gives us playable frame rates whether overclocked or stock. However, for my money, I'd still pick a GTX 460 768MB or an HD 6850 (assuming I don't play any PhysX games or Final Fantasy XIV).
DirectX 11 Benchmarks
Rounding the corner, we run into DirectX 11 which seems to be where all the development dollars are heading. We check out three games: Metro 2033 which has basically become our new Crysis thanks to its brutal nature towards GPUs, Lost Planet 2 with its mix of FPS style game play and these massively unrealistic bosses that make the game a whole lot of fun, and then we come back to earth and hang out in the atmosphere in HAWX 2.
Metro 2033 (DX11)
This game is massively brutal. So much so that none of our under $200 GPUs can handle it without pushing settings down quite a bit. However, the GTX 550 Ti comes out on top both overclocked and stock. The increased core clock really helps this GPU along in this game. Hopefully the next generation of 1GHz and higher sub $200 cards will finally be able to play it.
Lost Planet 2 (DX11)
This game is fun, but weird. If you love fighting huge honking mutated bug looking monsters then you'll love this game. Unfortunately, you won't be doing it with the GTX 550 Ti as it cannot maintain playable frame rates through either of our tests. This definitely favours the number of processors onboard over clock speed and you can save quite a bit by going with it's older brother, the GTX 460 768MB if you play this game.
HAWX 2 (DX11)
For all the flight sim fans out there, the GTX 550 Ti comes back scrapping and posts our second best tests behind the less expensive GTX 460 768MB. It really is too bad that the GTX 460 768MB is so much cheaper in the real world that it makes the GTX 550 Ti fight so much harder than it should.