NVIDIA filled out its mid-range graphics-card line-up with the GeForce GTX 550 Ti just the other week. While representing a reasonable improvement over the GTX 450, the relative excellence of GeForce GTX 460 (768MB and 1,024MB) and Radeon HD 6850 cards means the £110 Ti's isn't quite the bargain it may seem on first glance.
But, lately, NVIDIA tends to specify any new reference card with conservative frequencies. These translate to a 900MHz core and 4,100MHz memory clocking for the GTX 550 Ti - high, you might say, but we've already seen Gigabyte weigh in with an OC card outfitted with a 970MHz core and 4,100MHz memory.
Yet there's even more scope in the mid-range Ti architecture, for overclocking-specialist KFA2 has launched a model that makes Gigabyte's frequencies look positively pedestrian.
KFA2 GeForce GTX 550 Ti White Edition LTD OC is the rather long name, and making the most out of Ti is very much the game.
Chasing the frequency dragon, the White Edition LTD OC, henceforth referred to as WELO, ships with a distinctive white PCB we first saw on the GTX 560 Ti card. It's therefore no coincidence that the WELO uses the same type of cooler as the more-powerful model.
The aluminium-clad cover houses two 6-pin PCIe connectors, which is one more than the reference card. Power delivery, clearly, shouldn't be an issue.
Flick it around and the double-height cooler's four heatpipes come into view. Yes, sir, this is overkill for a GTX 550 Ti, but that's what the WELO is all about.
Hot air pushed through by the axial fan and most of it finds an exhaust through the rear, though the numerous vents on the card mean that some, inevitably, is recycled into the chassis.
Outputs-wise, it's dual-link DVI, DisplayPort and HDMI - good choices for a mid-range card.
A couple of NEC film capacitors (proadilizers) are viewable on the back. Their job is to keep the electrical noise to a minimum, resulting, in theory, with better control over the power delivery to the board.
Strip away the card-wide heatsink and the cooling used by the WELO GTX 550 Ti becomes clearer to see. A central copper heatsink pulls the heat away from the GPU, transfers it to the heatpipes, which then release the heat to the plethora of fan-cooled aluminium fins.
Zooming into the PCB itself, the WELO uses some 0.4ns RAM on this card, which is faster than default. Factor the effort gone into making this card different from the bone-stock reference model and KFA2 feels comfortable at clocking it in at 1,000MHz core and 4,600MHz memory, representing an 11 per cent and 15 per cent gain on core and memory, respectively.
Going the extra mile for enthusiasts, the company's own tweaking software, XtremeTuner HD, has been updated to include support for core voltage adjustment on this card.
You pay for the privilege of having a cool-looking card with elevated clocks. At the time of writing, the WELO GTX 550 Ti retails for £140, or £25 more than the cheapest models. The price premium brings other graphics cards very much into the equation, with the GeForce GTX 460 1GB and Radeon HD 6850 1GB occupying the same £130-£145 territory.
Being even-handed, KFA2 does retail a reference-clocked GTX 550 Ti, priced at £115, but it's missing the va va voom of this card.
Backed by a two-year warranty, the WELO isn't about offering staggering value for money. Rather, the appeal lies with purchasing a unique card. But it never hurts to run it through our benchmark gantlet, does it?