HIS Excalibur 9550 VIVO

Aron Schatz
July 25, 2004
HIS Excalibur 9550 VIVO
The HIS Exalibur 9550 VIVO is a nice card if you're not a gamer. It comes with an attractive bundle and is well worth the asking price. See for yourself and read the review...
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Even though you may be able to buy that new 6800 or X800 video card, not everyone can afford it or even needs that kind of power. I can't count the times that people come in a ask me for a Radeon 9800 XT or a Geforce FX 5900 XT or similar high end card. When I ask them what they're using it for, their reply is usually work stuff, spreadsheets and perhaps a game or two. These types of people don't need the ultra high end video cards, why they throw money away and buy them is beyond me. Regardless, there are many cost-effective alternatives to the latest and greatest. <a href="http://www.hisdigital.com">HIS</a> steps up and delivers the Excalibur 9550 VIVO, based on the popular Radeon 9600 chipset.


Chipset: ATI Radeon 9550
Core Speed: 250MHz
Memory: 64-256MB (128MB Tested)
Memory Speed: 400MHz
Bus: AGP 8X/4X
Connections: VGA, TV-Out/In & DVI-I
Heatsink/Fan: iFan

The specs of this video card are pretty low. The main selling point of the card is its VIVO functionality. We'll get into the benchmarks later in the review, but I'm not going to stress them at all considering the market that the card is aiming for. We'll have to look beyond the standard benchmarks and see what the real value of the card is.



The box is nice enough. I don't pay attention to the marketing gimmicks and the hyped-up text on the back of video card boxes, and you shouldn't either. Always do some research before you buy. By reading this review, you are becoming a more informed buyer, unlike many customers I've seen, who simply hand you their wallets. The internet is out there for more than just porn and mp3s, folks. Always surf the web and know what PC components should be on your shopping list before taking the trip to your local computer store.



Here is what is included in the box. HIS gives a pretty nice bundle (which makes up for the fact that the card is pretty slow). You get a total of four CDs. PowerDVD 5, VideoStudio 7se, 3D Album, and the driver CD. Also included is the video card, a VIVO cable, an extra S-Video cable, the manual, and a DVI to VGA converter. This is a pretty good bundle for a cheap card.

<B>The Card</B>:


Here we have the top view of the card. You can clearly see the iFan on the GPU. To me, it looks like a normal heatsink/fan unit combo. Maybe I don't have the abstract skills to clearly notice a difference between the iFan and a Fan Smile. The core clock is set so low that a plain old heatsink would most likely do the trick anyway, but room for overclocking should be improved with this unit simply because of the iFan.

There are much smaller capacitors on this card as opposed to my Radeon 9500 Pro. But like the 9500 Pro, the PCB is red which happens to be my favorite color.


The is the back of the card. The RAM is split evenly on both sides, 64MB on each. The sticker on the back clearly states it is a 9550 VIVO with 128MB of RAM at 128-bits wide. The box has markings for a 64-bit wide card as well...

<center>VIVO Chip</center>

VIVO functionality is handled by the every popular Rage Theater chip. It handles the nitty gritty of digital-to-analog conversion and back again. The VIVO quality was good, on par with all other ATI type VIVO cards dating back to my original Radeon 64 VIVO card. (Those were the days.) Rest assured that ATI is usually synonymous with picture quality, and this card carries on that tradition.


While the picture doesn't show it, there is a -4 on the end of the Hynix chips. If you follow the easy to use formula to determine what MHz rating the chips are, we can say that the RAM is rated to run at 250MHz (1000/4), or 500MHz DDR. Given that the memory is currently clocked at 200MHz (400MHz DDR), it is safe to assume that there is room for overclockability. We'll handle that later.


The card has connectors for VGA, VIVO, and DVI. There is a cable to enable the VIVO functionality. The signal can go to, or come from a NTSC or S-Video source.
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I'm not stressing this section (benchmarks) too much in this review. The card is simply not aimed for the type of market that warrants benchmarking. Regardless, I did test it on a couple of my favorite games. UT2K4 and Far Cry, I even threw in some 3D Mark 2K1. I tested this card against a close competitor...well, what SHOULD have been a close competitor...the 9500 Pro. If we go by the marketing hype alone, the 9550 should beat it, correct?

Test setup:
Gigabyte 8IPE1000 Pro2 (Latest Intel INFs)
512MB Corsair PC3700
Intel 2.4 GHz C
120GB Maxtor HDD
Cat 4.7
Win2k SP4 with all hotfixes

<table width="100%"><tr><td>Resolution</td><td>HIS 9550 VIVO</td><td>Radeon 9500 Pro</td></tr>

Far Cry:
<table width="100%"><tr><td>Resolution</td><td>HIS 9550 VIVO</td><td>Radeon 9500 Pro</td></tr>

3D Mark 2K1:
<table width="100%"><tr><td>Resolution</td><td>HIS 9550 VIVO</td><td>Radeon 9500 Pro</td></tr>

As shown by these few scores, benchmarking is not what this card was designed for. In other testing, 2D quality was simply amazing, pretty much every ATI card I've owned has the best 2D video quality hands down. This card is no different. On both a Digital LCD and an Analog LCD, the image quality is great. I also stated before that the VIVO function of the card is good. Remember the card is designed to be an all around video card, not a fast gamer card. For the purpose of the card, it works great.
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This card's performance was much improved after I overclocked it. With such low stock core and memory speeds, you get some nice performance gains. 414/267 (534 MHz DDR) was the top that I achieved. That is a huge increase in the core speed. In fact, the core is the major bottleneck in terms of speed. By just increasing the core, I had much higher scores. Increasing the memory had an effect as well, but was minimal compared to the core adjustment. Anyway, I reran the benchmarks and they did improve.

<table width="100%"><tr><td>Resolution</td><td>HIS 9550 VIVO</td><td>9550 OC</td></tr>

Far Cry:
<table width="100%"><tr><td>Resolution</td><td>HIS 9550 VIVO</td><td>9550 OC</td></tr>

3D Mark 2K1:
<table width="100%"><tr><td>Resolution</td><td>HIS 9550 VIVO</td><td>9550 OC</td></tr>

If you can overclock the card this much, it's well worth it. The core alone increased by 66% from stock speed, simply amazing. I mean, if you really think about it, it's because the card is clocked very low to begin with, but hey, you take what you can get.


The <a href="http://www.hisdigital.com">HIS</a> 9550 VIVO is <a href="http://ase.dealtime.com/dt-app/SE/KW-9550/FD-0/linkin_id-3002062/NS-1/GS.html">priced around $99</a>. For this price, you can get a number of other cards that may suit your needs just fine. This particular card is not for avid gamers, or even the moderate gamer. It is for the multimedia junkie or the amateur digital filmmaker. For those types of tasks, the card is perfect. The bundle with the card will support all the functions you could want, and for the price it is a fairly good deal. Like I said, if you're a gamer, look elsewhere. If not, this card is worth the C-note. Now, <a href="http://www.hisdigital.com/html/retailer.htm#america">let's see if you could at least find the card for sale somewhere, because I couldn't</a>!

I'd like to thank Peter at <a href="http://www.hisdigital.com">HIS</a> for sending the card for review.


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