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ATI Radeon HD 5450 review

ATI finally releases a low-cost HD 5000-series card for media systems. We put it to the test

Price
£35 (At time of reviewed)

ATI began to release its latest range of graphics cards back in September with the Radeon HD 5870, but it’s taken until February for the range to reach the true budget end. The HD 5450 may be the weakest HD 5000-series card on paper, but it still looks like a tasty media GPU.

Its PCB, for instance, is almost half the length and height of ATI’s gaming GPUs, and it’s also kitted out with DVI-I, D-SUB and DisplayPort connections, seemingly at the expense of HDMI. Our reference card is also passively cooled, which makes sense as a card for those building media centres or small PCs.

Its lack of power inputs highlights the card’s meagre power draw. When in our test rig, which consists of an Intel Core i7-920 processor, MSI X58 Platinum motherboard and 8GB of RAM, the system drew 124W when sitting idle, with this figure rising to just 133W at peak gaming load.

Our tests also showed the HD 5450 to be adept at playing Blu-ray movies. Shifting the workload entirely onto the graphics card, its usage averaged 45% when playing a selection of our 1080p test clips, with a maximum figure of 69% proving that there’s plenty of headroom for the most demanding decoding tasks.

As we’ve come to expect from ATI’s low-end cards, the HD 5450 is cheap: at £35 exc VAT for this 512MB version (the 1GB model will be around £8 more), it’s half the price of any current generation ATI product and not much more expensive than the older HD 4350.

In fact, the only area where it fails to impress is in the latest games. It motored through our Low-quality Crysis test at 57fps, but a score of 17fps in our Medium-quality test, run at a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024, puts paid to any serious gaming prospects.

This performance is to be expected, though. It's built on a 40nm die, with a core clock speed of 650MHz and only 80 stream processors – 320 fewer than the mid-range Radeon HD 5670. The HD 5450 also makes do with older GDDR3 memory instead of the GDDR5 RAM that ATI has been using in its top cards for over a year.

Nevertheless, the HD 5450 isn’t meant for gaming, and it excels in other vital areas. Expect to see board partners introducing HDMI versions for those without DisplyPort monitors, but even without this its performance, size, passive cooling and range of display outputs make it ideal for smaller systems. Add the fact that the price is almost pocket money, and ATI has another winner.

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