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Differences What are the advantages of each

Front view of GeForce GTX 550 Ti

Reasons to consider the
Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti

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Much higher clock speed 900 MHz vs 600 MHz 50% higher clock speed
Significantly higher effective memory clock speed 4,104 MHz vs 1,800 MHz More than 2.2x higher effective memory clock speed
Better passmark score 1,924 vs 726 Around 2.8x better passmark score
More memory 1,024 MB vs 512 MB 2x more memory
Higher memory bandwidth 98.5 GB/s vs 57.6 GB/s More than 70% higher memory bandwidth
More render output processors 24 vs 16 8 more render output processors
Higher memory clock speed 1,026 MHz vs 900 MHz Around 15% higher memory clock speed
Front view of GeForce GT 9800

Reasons to consider the
Nvidia GeForce GT 9800

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More texture mapping units 56 vs 32 24 more texture mapping units
Wider memory bus 256 bit vs 192 bit Around 35% wider memory bus

Benchmarks Real world tests of GeForce GTX 550 Ti vs GT 9800

Passmark Industry standard benchmark for overall graphics card performance

Features Key features of the GeForce GTX 550 Ti  vs GT 9800 

memory bandwidth Rate at which data can be read from or stored in onboard memory

GeForce GTX 550 Ti
98.5 GB/s
GeForce GT 9800
57.6 GB/s
Clock speeds are improved as well out of the box but are not the highest we have seen today.
GeForce GTX 550 Ti | by techPowerUp! (Mar, 2011)

pixel rate Number of pixels a graphics card can render to the screen every second

GeForce GTX 550 Ti
7.2 GPixel/s
GeForce GT 9800
9.6 GPixel/s
Mixed density memory chips help increase performance.
GeForce GTX 550 Ti | by techPowerUp! (Mar, 2011)

texture rate Speed at which a graphics card can perform texture mapping

GeForce GTX 550 Ti
28.8 GTexel/s
GeForce GT 9800
33.6 GTexel/s
Then when they decide to go big with 1920x1200 or 1920x1080, adding a second GTX 550 Ti in SLI should give them high-end performance that lets them play anything at HD resolutions.
GeForce GTX 550 Ti | by techPowerUp! (Mar, 2011)

floating point performance How fast the gpu can crunch numbers

GeForce GTX 550 Ti
691.2 GFLOPS
GeForce GT 9800
336 GFLOPS

shading units Subcomponents of the gpu, these run in parallel to enable fast pixel shading

To accomplish this task, the GTX 550 Ti is based on new 40 nm GF116 silicon, which packs 192 shader cores, and a 192-bit GDDR5 interface.
GeForce GTX 550 Ti | by techPowerUp! (Mar, 2011)

texture mapping units Built into each gpu, these resize and rotate bitmaps for texturing scenes

Reviews Word on the street

GeForce GTX 550 Ti  vs GT 9800 

8.8
9.0
When you put these overclocks in perspective to the clocks of the NVIDIA 9800 GT reference design (600/900), they become even more spectacular with 26% and 22.
GeForce GT 9800

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