What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 512MB DDR3 Review

Status
Not open for further replies.

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal


Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 512MB DDR3 Review





Product Number: 11166-00-40R
Warranty: 2 years
Price: Approx $60 USD



In the past, Hardware Canucks has mostly concentrated on reviewing higher-end graphics cards that can play literally any current and future game at reasonably high settings. Eyeball-popping performance is always nice to look at but we can’t forget large numbers of people just don’t have the need for a higher-end graphics card but still want to do a bit of gaming every now and then. This is actually the primary market for GPU manufacturers and while many make use of integrated graphics, companies like ATI and NVIDIA offer a whole range of low-budget discrete graphics cards which should appeal to this market as well.

It used to be that the primary computer in your regular family’s home was used for working on the odd office program, surfing the internet and to a lesser extent playing some basic games. However, as our lifestyles began to gravitate towards a more digitally-oriented perspective we asked more and more of our little grey boxes. Nowadays, even grandparents are watching YouTube videos and editing photos and the need for increasingly powerful hardware has never been more evident. Standard definition YouTube videos have evolved into performance-hogging high definition standards while Flash-based games and Blu-Ray playback also sit atop the list of things that lower-end computers have problems with.

Into this melting pot of expanding expectations and broadening horizons for the PC industry, ATI has now released their new HD 5450 series of cards. The “raison d’être” of this GPU isn’t to wow us with performance but rather offer a regular user everything they could possible need in an efficient, well-priced package. Whether it be improving Flash performance or decoding a 1080P stream from a DVD, this little card can do it all and at a more than fair price of about $60 for the 512MB DDR3 model. Contrary to some reports you may hear at launch, this price has been confirmed with numerous retailers.

Speaking of price, ATI has decided to compete directly with a pair of newly-released NVIDIA cards: the GT 210 and GT 220. According to our research, both of these 200-series cards have recently undergone a bit of a price cut in anticipation of the HD 5450. You can now find GT 210 DDR2 cards for about $45 while the significantly more powerful GT 220’s price ranges from $60 for the 512MB DDR2 models to about $75 for the 1GB GDDR3 units. As such, the HD 5450 bridges the gap between these two cards but ends up competing with both so it will be interesting to see how well it performs.

This review will be a bit different from the gaming-centric articles we have done in the past for the simple reason that the HD 5450 isn’t targeted towards gamers in any way. Rather, we will be seeing how it stacks up in the areas where it is supposed to shine: HD decoding, Flash acceleration and very basic gaming. Also of note is that the Sapphire card we will be reviewing today sports 512MB of DDR3 memory and will retail for around $60USD.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Specifications and Market Positioning

Specifications and Market Positioning



The HD 5450 retains the basic core layout from the other 5000-series cards but just shrinks the whole thing down to a much smaller scale. While we won’t bore you with a dissection of the architecture, this scaled down design incorporates 8 texture units, four dedicated ROPs and two SIMD engines which each contain 40 Stream Processors for a total of 80 SPs. In this layout, the memory is accessed through a 64-bit interface which may cause some bottlenecks but the lower-end nature of this card means the core probably won’t be able to process enough data to flood the memory interface anyways.


With these specifications, the HD 5450 isn’t a gaming card by any stretch of the imagination. It will be placed below the upcoming HD 5570 making it the lowest-end ATI “DX11” card currently on the market and it will replace both the HD 4550 and HD 4350. One thing that should be noted is that both 512Mand 1GB versions will be released based on both DDR2 and DDR3 memory layouts and at varying price points both above and below ATI’s stated $60 suggested retail price.

To be honest with you though, this new 5000-series card looks like a carbon copy of the outgoing RV710-based HD 4550 but with increased clock speeds. The only difference is that the HD 4550 was listed as consuming about 25W of power at peak while ATI states the HD 5450 needs “on average” 19W.

Below we have a chart from Sapphire which goes over their full lineup of HD 5450 cards and let me tell you; there are a lot of them. It seems that one of these cards comes with a DVI to HDMI adaptor in their accessory packages which isn’t much of an issue since most of them support native HDMI. However, there is one SKUs that supports Eyefinity which means they replace the HDMI connector with a DisplayPort output and without an adaptor, you can forget about streaming audio through your card.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Focusing on DX11

Focusing on DX11


It has been a hair under three years since the release of Windows Vista and with it the DirectX 10 API. In that amount of time, a mere 33 DX10 games were released. That isn’t exactly a resounding success considering the hundreds of titles released in that same time. Let’s hope DX11 does a bit better than that.


DX11 is focused on taking the lessons learned from the somewhat inefficient DX10 and shaping them into a much more efficient API which will demand less system resources while being easier to develop for. In addition to the usual 3D acceleration, it will also be used to speed up other applications which in the past have not been associated with the DirectX runtime. This may be a tall order but with the features we will be discussing here, developers have already started using DX11 to expand the PC gaming experience. It is an integral component in Windows 7 and according to Microsoft, will also be adopted into Windows Vista through a software update.

Let’s scratch the surface of what DX11 can bring to the table.


Unlike past DirectX versions, DX11 endeavours to move past the purely graphics-based uses of the API and push it towards being the lynchpin of an entire processing ecosystem. This all begins with the power which DirectX Compute will bring into the fold. Not only can it increase the efficiency of physics processing and in-game NPC intelligence within games by transferring those operations to the GPU but it can also be used to accelerate non-3D applications.




Through the use of Compute Shader programs in Shader Model 5.0, developers are able to use additional graphical features such as order independent transparency, ray tracing, and advanced post-processing effects. This should add a new depth of realism to tomorrow’s games and as mentioned before, also allow for programs requiring parallel processing to be accelerated on the GPU.


For the majority of you reading this review, it is the advances in graphics processing and quality that will interest you the most. As games move slowly towards photo-realistic rendering quality, new technologies must be developed in order to improve efficiency while adding new effects.


Some of the technologies that ATI is championing are DX11’s new Depth of Field, OIT (or Order Independent Transparency) and Detail Tessellation. While the pictures above do a good job of showing you how each of these works, it is tessellation which ATI seems most excited about. They have been including hardware tessellation units in their GPUs for years now and finally with the dawn of DX11 will these units be finally put to their full use. OIT on the other hand allows for true transparency to be added to an object in a way that will be more efficient resource-wise than the standard alpha blending method currently used.


Let’s talk about DX11 games. As you would expect, due to the ease of programming for this new API and the advanced tools it gives developers, many studios have been quite vocal in their support. Even though some of the titles listed above may not be high on your list of must have games, A-list titles like the upcoming Aliens vs. Predator from Rebellion and the recently-released DiRT 2 are sure to get people interested.

Another exciting addition to the list is EA DICE’s FrostBite 2 Engine which will power upcoming Battlefield games. Considering the popularity of this series, the inclusion of DX11 should open up this API to a huge market.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
OpenCL: The Next Big Thing?

OpenCL: The Next Big Thing?



As consumers, we have all heard of the inroads GPUs have been making towards offering stunning performance in compute-intensive applications. There have been attempts to harness this power by engines such as NVIDIA’s Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) and ATI’s Stream SDK (which in v2.0 supports OpenCL).


“Build it and the will come” says the old mantra but industry adoption of CUDA and Stream was anything but quick since there were two standards being pushed for the same market. CUDA in particular is having a hard time of it since it is vendor-specific without hardware support from any other vendor. The industry needed a language that was universal and available across multiple platforms. That’s were OpenCL (Open Computing Language) along with DirectX Compute come into play. It is completely open-source and managed by a non-profit organization called the Khronos Group which also has control over OpenGL and OpenAL


At its most basic level, OpenCL is able to be executed across multiple mediums such as GPUs, CPUs and other types of processors. This makes it possible to prioritize workloads to the processor that will handle them most efficiently. For example, a GPU is extremely good at crunching through data-heavy parallel workloads while an x86 CPU is much more efficient at serial and task-specific This also allows developers to write their programs for heterogeneous platforms instead of making them specific to one type of processor.


So what does this mean for gamers? First of all, AMD has teamed up with Bullet and PixeLux in order to achieve more realistic environments for players. The Bullet Physics is an open-source physics engine which has an ever-expanding library for soft body, 3D collision detection and other calculations. Meanwhile, PixeLux uses their DMM (Digital Molecular Matter) engine which uses the Finite Element Analysis Method of calculating physics within a game. In past applications, it has been used to calculate actions which have an impact on the game’s environment such as tumbling rubble or debris movement.


With Stream moving to OpenCL, ATI is truly moving towards an open platform for developers which they are hoping will lead to broader developer and market adoption than the competition’s solutions. At this point it looks like we will soon see ATI’s GPUs accelerating engines from Havok, PixeLux and Bullet through the use of OpenCL. Considering these are three of the most popular physics engines on the market, ATI is well placed to make PhysX a thing of the past.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
ATI’s Eyefinity Technology

ATI’s Eyefinity Technology


*Note: Eyefinity is not available on all models of the HD 5450*


The term Surround Gaming may not mean much to many of you who are reading this article but with the advent of ATI’s new Eyefinity technology, now is a good time to educate yourself. Basically, Eyefinity will give users the ability to use multiple monitors all running from the same graphics card. In the past, simple dual monitor setups have been used by many graphics, CAD or other industry professionals in order to increase their productivity but gaming on more than one monitor was always a bit of a clunky affair. Granted, some products like Matrox’s TripleHead2Go were able to move multi monitor setups into the public’s perception but there were always limitations (resolution and otherwise) associated with them. ATI is aiming to make the implementation of two or even more monitors as seamless as possible within games and productivity environments while offering the ability to use extreme resolutions.


While the price of two or even three new monitors may be a bit daunting at first for many of you, but good 20” and even 22” LCDs have come down in price to the point where some are retailing below the $200 mark. ATI figures that less than $600 for three monitors will allow plenty of people to make the jump into a true surround gaming setup. Indeed, with three or even six monitors, the level of immersion could be out of this world.


The reason that main in the professional field are familiar with multi monitor setups is for one simple matter: they increase productivity exponentially. Imagine watching a dozen stocks without having to minimize windows all the time or using Photoshop on one screen while watching a sports broadcast on another and using the third screen for Photoshop’s tooltips. The possibilities are virtually limitless if it is implemented properly.


When it comes to a purely gaming perspective, the thought of a massive view of the battlefield or the ability to see additional enemies in your peripheral vision is enough to make most gamers go weak in the knees. Unfortunately, the additional monitors will naturally mean decreased performance considering the massive amount of real-estate that would need rendering. This will mean tradeoffs may have to be made in terms of image quality if you want to use Eyefinity.


According to ATI, all of the new HD 5000-series graphics cards will have the ability to run up to three monitors simultaneously. This is done by having a pair of DVI connectors as well as a DisplayPort and HDMI connector located on the back of the card. It should be noted that ATI will be releasing a special Eyefinity version of the HD 5870 in the coming months which features six DisplayPort connectors for those of you who want to drive six monitors from a single card.


This technology is all made possible through the use of DisplayPort connectors but this also provides a bit of a limitation as well. Above we can see that a number of 3-screen output combinations which the current HD5000-series support and one thing is constant: you will need at least one monitor which supports DisplayPort. Unfortunately, at this time DP-supporting monitors tend to carry a price premium over standard screens which will increase the overall cost of an Eyefinity setup. Luckily the other two monitors can either use DVI or a combination of DVI and HDMI for connectivity.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
HD Audio and Video

HD Audio and Video



One of the main drawing points of the lower-end cards in the HD 5000 series lineup is the fact that they are literally unmatched when it comes to HTPC use. Granted, the GT 210, 220 and 240 cards from NVIDIA are the first cards from the green side of the pond to receive native audio processing without having to resort to a clunky S/PDIF cable but their HD audio compatibility is limited to non-PAP (Protected Audio Path) implementations. Meanwhile, the HD 5000 series features not only support for native HDMI audio support with compatibility with AC3, 8-channel LPCM and DTS among others but it also introduces PAP support for bitstream output of Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, AAC and Dolby AC-3. This allows high-end audio for 7.1 sources to be passed unhindered from your computer onto your receiver and is a huge step up from what the competition offers.

As for HD video, you get everything that you would expect from and ATI card: compatibility with HDMI 1.3 formats, HD video decoding, an option for a DisplayPort connector and full support for ATI’s UVD 2.2.


Enhanced DVD Upscaling & Dynamic Contrast


While there are plenty of us who will use HD signals through the HD5000-series of cards, whether we like it or not we will still be outputting lower definition signals to our wonderful new HDTV every now and then. In these cases, a standard 480i picture will look absolutely horrible if it is scaled up to fit on a high definition 1080P TV so ATI provides the Avivo HD upscaling option in their drivers. What this does is take the low resolution signal and clean it up so to speak so it looks better when displayed on a high definition screen.


Another interesting feature ATI has packed into their drivers is the Dynamic Contrast Adjustment. Personally, I more often than not adjust the contrast manually based on the application since the values from one game or movie to the next can vary a lot. ATI has taken the guesswork and thrown it out the window by providing a post-processing algorithm which will automatically (and smoothly) adjust the contrast ratio in real time.

While there are other benefits of using the 5000-series for audio and video pass-through for your home theater, we will stop here and get on with the rest of this review.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The box of the Sapphire HD 5450 is actually a spitting image of the one the other Sapphire HD 5000-series cards ship in. This is actually a bit of a surprise considering the miniature size of the HD 5450 and as such, this will add a bit to shipping costs for the end user. We would have liked to see a slightly smaller box but packaging standardization does help Sapphire shave some costs in the long run so we can’t necessarily argue with their reasoning.


As you can see, there really isn’t much to the packaging within the box since the HD 5450 takes up so little space. The card itself is wrapped in anti-static bubble wrap while there is a divider to make sure there isn’t any lateral shifting during transport.


For a budget card, we usually don’t expect much and that expectation bore out with Sapphire offering the bare minimums. While SimHD is basic, it does allow for upscaled IM video conversations and the inclusion of two low-profile brackets will prove to be a boon for HTPC users.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Sapphire HD 5450 512MB

A Closer Look at the Sapphire HD 5450 512MB



The Sapphire HD 5450 512MB looks literally like a clone of past low-end ATI cards but there is more to it than what first meets the eye. It is a compact card that is perfectly designed for use in SFF cases or even in some of the thinner tower enclosures that we have been seeing from various manufacturers. The only somewhat interesting thing about Sapphire’s version is that they used a custom blue PCB instead of the reference black.

You will also notice the lack of the usual Crossfire bridge. This is because the HD 5450 supports software (bridgeless) Crossfire on supporting motherboards.


Considering the low heat output of the HD 5450’s 40nm core, there really isn’t any need to outfit it with a high-end heatsink design. Sapphire opted for a simple single slot affair that uses black-painted aluminum fins and your case’s airflow to cool things off.


The back of the card holds two 128MB DDR3 memory ICs and not much else other than a slight wrap-around for the heatsink which slightly increases its size and cooling potential.


Unfortunately, as we saw in the Specifications section Sapphire has an SKU that lacks a HDMI out but has support for Eyefinity and this just happens to be that card. This really is too bad but if you want Eyefinity on a budget (without any hope of gaming on three displays) for content creation or something along those lines, it may be just the card you are looking for. All we have here are connectors for VGA, DVI and DisplayPort.



At 6 3/4” in length, the HD 5450 is extremely compact but also the minimum size a PCI-E graphics card can get. It basically has the same length and girth as the GT 210 but it slightly wider than the much higher-specified HD 5670 which makes it ideal for certain scenarios.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Please note that this test system was specifically picked out to run our budget GPUs hand in hand with a configuration that doesn't cost more than $500CAD for the CPU, motherboard and memory.

Processor: Intel Core i5 661 “Clarkdale” @ Stock (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: 2x2GB OCZ Platinum PC-15000 @ 6-7-6-17 1066Mhz DDR
Motherboard: MSI H57M ED-65
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE
Disk Drive: Pioneer Blu Ray player
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX520
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64


Graphics Cards:

Sapphire HD 5450 512MB DDR3
Palit GT 220 512MB GDDR3 (Stock)
Sparkle GT 210 512MB DDR2 (Stock)
Intel 661 IGP w/256MB memory enabled in BIOS


Drivers:

ATI 10.2 Beta
NVIDIA 196,12 WHQL
Intel GFX_15.16.6.x.2025_PV


Applications Used:

Dragon Age: Origins
Left 4 Dead 2
The Sims 2
FarmVille
Youtube 1080P (Speed)
Blu Rays of Batman Begins & Transformers
The Magic of Flight downloaded from Microsoft.com
Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra 9


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 2 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age: Origins


To benchmark Dragon Age, we used a simple walkthrough coupled with a short combat sequence. The benchmark run begins with a walk through one of the most demanding scenes we have come across in the game so far: the walk over the bridge and through Ostagar. This is followed by a combat sequence outside of the fortress itself. In total the runthrough takes about 6 minutes.

1360 x 768



1280 x 1024

 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Twitter

Top