Can I take you guys back one year in time ? August 15th 2007. I posted a review on the Radeon HD 2600 XT back then. That product sold for roughly 140 USD. It was a mid-range product under codename RV630 with 120 Shader cores clocked at roughly 800 MHz. Again, that's one year ago ... that was considered mid-range. Six months later we saw a a die-shrink with the Radeon series 3600 which we can categorize at the same level.
Now go back to present time, today we look at the Radeon HD 4550. It's among the cheapest desktop graphics product that ATI can deliver at your doorsteps. This Radeon HD 4550 (GPU codename RV710XT) comes with an optional 256 MB GDDR2 or optional 512MB GDDR3 and will cost you .. 45 to 55 USD respectively.
And that's a manufacturer suggested retail price. So you can drop the most expensive model to 39 to 49 USD in e-tail for sure. Now why the weird little flashback introduction ? This dirt cheap graphics card still packs 80 Shader cores to compute, post-process and render games. And yes, it comes with the same 256MB/512MB DDR3 64-bit memory. So definitely, it's slower, but massively cheaper yet carries all the new features those products had.
Make no mistake, of course this is not a gaming card at all, by far ! Yet this is a GPU harboring pretty a decent clock speed allowing HDCP protected Blu-Ray decoding and optimization over the UVD2 video decoder engine, dual monitor output and yes at 1024x768 or 1280x1024, and sure perhaps you can still play some games as well.
At 45-55 USD, I think that's worthy some of our time to check it out.