|ATI Radeon HD5450 HTPC Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Thursday, 04 February 2010|
Page 15 of 16
Radeon HD5450 Final Thoughts
Most everyone who reads this site is familiar with the concept of diminishing returns. As you get closer to the highest level of performance (let's call that 100 %...), it costs considerably more to get the last 10% of performance than it does to go from 80% to 90%. When you look at two gaming-class video cards using the same technology, the increase in frames-per-second doesn't match the increase in price. The HD5850 and the HD5870 are a good example; does the 33% increase in price give you a 33% increase in performance? You wish.....which is why lots more people are buying the HD5850.
Just as the law of diminishing returns works on the high end of the market, there is a corresponding force at work on the lower end of the scale. As you move closer to the lowest possible cost, you start to bounce up against fixed costs that won't budge. Marketing, sales, design, testing, certification processes, transportation, packaging, and connector costs are all stubbornly rigid. Right now, the cheapest cards at Newegg, based on NVIDIA and ATI chips are the 8400GS and HD4350, priced at $30 and $36, respectively. I dare say, we're not going to see any new cards introduced that will be any cheaper than these are; it's just not fiscally possible, if we assume that the vendor is going to make a profit.
My point is, the vendor can try and cut every possible feature, performance enhancing hardware, included software, industrial design, packaging costs, etc. and end up with a product that barely functions, and it would still probably cost $25 on the retailer's shelf.
In my review of the HD5670, I wondered out loud, "How many more times ATI can slice the pie and still come up with a fully functional video card? Could there be one more cut, for an ultra-low power solution? But I think this is probably it, for a card that can honestly support gaming applications as well as general usage and HD video." As it turns out, the Radeon HD5450 is that fully functional low-power card, and I still think the Redwood class of ATI GPUs is the lowest you can go and still support modern games. The game changes when you look at HD video, however. This card eats it up for breakfast, and still has some headroom left over for whatever HW acceleration scheme comes along next.
As I sit here on the edge of my chair, waiting for dribs and drabs of information about the latest monster-sized GPU chip from NVIDIA (...hey, they named them this week. Wow), with a die size approaching the dimensions of the original Post-It note, I did wonder what the attraction was to a discrete graphics card with a GPU that's less than half the size of a US dime. The answer is that even the best Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) is still less than half as powerful as the Radeon HD5450, and they generally max out with 128MB of SidePort GDDR3 memory. Many of them struggle to render full HD 1080P video smoothly, and the CPUs that they are bundled with usually can't help the effort much.
So, grab that old microATX board out of the closet, dust it off, add the Radeon HD5450, drop it into a shiny new, slim line HTPC box and you're off to the movies in style.