|ATI Radeon HD5450 HTPC Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Thursday, 04 February 2010|
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Closer Look: Radeon HD5450
The HD5450 is a radically different design from the previous HD5xxx video cards. From several perspectives, the intended application for this diminutive card has driven a different approach. Physically, everything is smaller, to accommodate usage in low-profile HTPC cases. The sample card I received has a full height I/O bracket, but the DE15HD VGA connector is wired with ribbon cable and is removable, or it can be relocated to an adjacent slot. This way, the card can be easily reconfigured to a true half-height form factor. The card itself is only about an inch longer than the PCI-e interface that it connects to.
Power consumption is at an all-time low, primarily to avoid generating heat. Again, this is an optimum solution for HTPC, where lower power means less ventilation and, ultimately, less overall noise. The video card we're looking at here is passively cooled, with a lovely red anodized heat sink that is reminiscent of the ASUS ROG heat sinks, used on their gaming oriented motherboards. ATI's AIB partners will have considerable flexibility for their cooling solutions, allowing them to optimize their offerings along several product pathways. I expect some fan-cooled designs to be recycled, in order to reduce costs, where possible. But for now, we can gaze upon one of the most attractive passive cooling solutions I've seen on a video card.
The connections on the I/O plate at the rear of the card are arranged in a common configuration for this class of video card. From left to right: one VGA, one HDMI and one DVI connector - one for everyone. This card did not have a DisplayPort connection, which is required for a three monitor Eyefinity setup. There will be some flexibility in the I/O port arrangement for ATI partners, so pay attention to the product specs when you buy, as it can be hard to tell the HDMI and DisplayPort connections apart with a casual glance.
One thing that becomes obvious when looking at the end-on image above is that this particular passive cooling hardware consumes more than one expansion slot. That may be an issue for some, but remember, there will be a variety of options available from the AIB partners.
The back of the Radeon HD5450 is not quite as densely packed as some of the uber-cards we test here at Benchmark Reviews, but it's about half-filled with miniature surface-mount-technology components. The main feature to be seen here is the metal cross-brace for the GPU heatsink screws, which are spring loaded, and connect to threaded standoffs on the heat sink assembly on the front side of the card. Also, note that back side DRAM is used, even for the 512MB version of the card.
For most high-end video cards, the cooling system is an integral part of the performance envelope for the card. Make it run cooler, and you can make it run faster was always the byword for achieving gaming-class performance from the latest and greatest GPU. The HD5450 takes a completely different path, more appropriate for the HTPC application it will most likely be used for. By greatly reducing the number of Stream Processors and ROP units, they have built a GPU that consumes so little power, and generates so little waste heat, that cooling is not the limiting factor in performance.
That's all there really is to see on the outside, so let's peel back the covers and have a good look around on the inside.