Review: The first sub €50 DirectX 11 card
AMD announced their Radeon HD 5450 yesterday and nicely filled out its HD 5000 offer in the low-end segment. The HD 5000 series will go down in history as the first Windows 7 compatible series, meaning the first to support DirectX 11. Naturally, AMD went ahead and practiced the good old “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” routine since Nvidia currently has no DX11 hardware to challenge the company.
HD 5000 series is also known as Evergreen series and it features Cypres, Juniper, Redwood and our today’s Cedar graphics processor. Note that Cypress is the fastest in the pack whereas the rest are various iterations with less shaders and computing power with Cedar holding the last spot.
So let us recap on AMD’s HD 5000 series and its five sub-series. Naturally, they’re easily told apart; the higher the number – the better the card.
HD 5900 sits proudly on top with dual-GPU Cypress-based Radeon HD 5970 as the fastest one. Cypress packs 1600 stream processors, 32ROPs and 80 texture units and its architecture is very complex, as is evident from the fact that it has 2.15 billion transistors. AMD made the card in 40nm so all these transistors fit on the 338mm2 GPU. This is the fastest AMD GPU up to date and it offers more than 2 TeraFLOPs (single precision) of pure computing power.
Next in line is the HD 5800 series aimed at hard-core gamers, and they’ll surely be more than happy with Radeon HD 5870 and HD 5850. Radeon 5870 is the faster of the two as it comes with full Cypress GPU whereas Radeon HD 5850 comes with Cypress LE GPU with 1440 stream processors, 32 ROPs and 72 texture units. Both cards use GDDR5 on 256-bit memory interface.
Mid-range is reserved for HD 5700 series which is priced below €140. The Radeon HD 5770 and HD 5750 are featured on Juniper core, which is basically a Cypress core slashed in half. Transistor count is at 1040 million and comes with 800 stream processors, 16 ROPs and 40 texture units. The slower Juniper LE GPU found on the HD 5750 features 720 stream processors, 16 ROPs and 36 texture units. Both cards use 128-bit memory interface, but GDDR5 memory means that the card won’t suffer from lack of bandwidth (HD5770 bandwidth is 76.8GB/s whereas HD 5750 has 73.6GB/s).
For those looking for a sub-€90 graphics card that will be good for occasional gaming at lower resolutions, AMD has the HD 5600 series. These cards are based on Redwood GPU, they don’t consume much and need no additional power connectors. HD 5600 features only 400 stream processors, 8 ROP units and 20 texture units. The cards use a 128-bit interface and, just like on the HD 5700 series, GDDR5 memory.
The weakest link in the HD 5000 series chain is Cedar GPU, which ticks within our today’s graphics card. This card does not have the processing power of the previously listed Evergreen offsprings, but it does share the flagship features – DirectX 11 support, ATI Stream technology, TeraScale 2 Unified Processing Architecture, ATI Avivo HD Video and 40nm technology.
Cedar core features 80 stream processors, which is only 20% of what Redwood GPU offers or 5% of the SPs on the Cypress GPU. In order to meet the price of €40-50, AMD had to reduce quite a few features, so you’ll get only 4 ROPs and 8 texture units. The card uses 64-bit interface combined with either DDR3 or DDR2 memory, depending on the partners’ choice.
Naturally, reducing processing power and shader count does introduce benefits of its own, most notably power consumption and thermals. The HD 5450’s TDP is only 19.1W whereas idle consumption is as low as 6.4W.
HD 5450’s thermal properties were virtually begging for passively cooled iterations, and Sapphire pounced on the chance to deliver such a product. Sapphire’s passively cooled card’s GPU runs at 650MHz and the DDR3 memory at 800MHz (1600MHz effectively).
Although the HD 5450’s graphics performance isn’t quite staggering, plenty of users were waiting on AMD’s cheaper DirectX 11 offer. Low consumption, low profile, silence and HD playback are HTPC owners’ dreams, and Sapphire kindly made them a reality. Thanks to ATI’s Stream technology, the HD 5450 will share the load between the CPU and GPU during more intensive data processing tasks such as image and video editing. Naturally, this is true only in apps that support ATI Stream, although we don’t think that 80 stream processors will introduce significant help.
Radeon HD 5450’s competitors from the green camp would be Geforce GT210 and GT220 cards, whereas AMD’s own offer has competing products in HD 4550 and HD 4650. HD 5450 is priced from €42 to over €50, but bear in mind that this is the cheapest DirectX 11 card on the market. All things considered, don’t expect gaming performance miracles, but if you’re willing to lower detail settings to minimum, gaming is possible as you’ll soon see for yourself.