The Perfect HTPC Card? Probably

While AMD primarily targets cards like the 6450 at the budget upgrade market when it comes to retail, our preferred focus is on technical situations where such a card makes sense rather than economic situations. So with the 6450, 5450, GT 430, and other cards, usefulness in an HTPC environment is of great interest to us.

iGPUs have made some strides in the last six months in completely capturing the HTPC space, but usually they come up short in some form or another. This usually manifests itself as limited post-processing options due to a lack of shaders, and in the case of Sandy Bridge, the lack of a 23.976fps mode. iGPUs are still making strides and it’s possible we’ll see something capable of practical perfection as early as this summer with Llano, but for now you need a dGPU to achieve best results.

The last time we took a look at the HTPC market for a dGPU was with NVIDIA’s GT 430 in October. At that time it was the first low-end GPU with HDMI 1.4a and Blu-ray 3D capabilities, giving it an edge over AMD’s lineup at the cost of not supporting cadence detection for some more unusual patterns. The best AMD card for HTPC use at that time was the 5570, as the 5450 lacked the memory bandwidth and shader capacity necessary to make use of AMD’s full suite of post-processing features.

Due to how little time we’ve had with the 6450 we haven’t been able to run it through our full suite of HTPC tests, but so far it’s looking very good. Between the doubling of memory bandwidth and doubling of shaders, the 6450 is now able to run all of AMD’s post-processing features at full speed—that is they all work with Enforce Smooth Video Playback enabled and without dropping any frames in the process. AMD reports an HD HQV 2.0 score of 188, while we recorded 189 on the 5570 last year (keep in mind scoring is inherently subjective to some degree). We need to do further testing, but with our limited time it looks like the 6450 is as equally capable as the 5570 when it comes to post-processing, which is to say it’s at the top of the charts.


AMD Radeon HD 6450, Cheese Slices Test


AMD Radeon HD 5570, Cheese Slices Test

The post-processing capabilities along with the ability to decode and transmit 3D content are what have us so excited about the 6450 as an HTPC card. Although 3D content hasn’t made much progress in the last six months, for HTPC purposes at a bare minimum we’re looking at a 5570 replacement with a bit over half the power consumption and modern display outputs. That alone is quite enticing.


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Meet The Radeon HD 6450 The Test
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  • ET - Sunday, April 10, 2011 - link

    I think that DDR3-1866 is unlikely to be currently used in a budget system. It's still a premium speed. Anyway I was referring to the E2-3250, the budget Llano, which will have (though not announced officially) only DDR3-1600 support and a sub-450MHz clock rate. That puts it at under 60% performance of the Radeon 6450 based on clock speed (I think that memory won't further impact performance), which based on the test results should drop its performance under the HD 3000 in many cases.

    The low end A4 chips, which have ~600MHz clocks, 80% of the 6450 (but may be more likely to be affected by memory speed), are more likely to compete well with the HD 3000, but there are still cases in this review where the HD 3000 was over 80% of the 6450 in terms of FPS, so they could lose there.

    Anyway, that's not to bash Llano, just trying to get more of an understanding of it. I think it's better to keep expectations low and be pleasantly surprised later than the other way round.
    Reply
  • Gungel - Friday, April 8, 2011 - link

    Just found this incredible expensive offer on HP's store front:
    HP QM229AA Radeon HD6450 512MB DDR3 $129.00

    Are they nuts?
    Reply
  • aarste - Saturday, April 9, 2011 - link

    Would have been nice to see some 23.976 fps tests Reply
  • Sxotty - Sunday, April 10, 2011 - link

    Why is it a great HTPC card if it is loud? That is one of the worst blemishes for that purpose. The review says it is surprised it is so loud and assumes other models will be quiet. That means that unless you get a passively cooled model you could likely end up with an annoyingly loud card that is completely anathema to the HTPC environment. As such recommending the card for that purpose seems silly without additional disclaimers. Quiet is more important for HTPC than passing all the HQV tests b/c cards always make noise, and only sometimes have to do weird cadences. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    Keep in mind this is an internal reference design. It won't see the light of day in retail. Retail cards will (for better or worse) have different coolers. Reply
  • Lolimaster - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    You wont find an HD3000 intel IGP on the price range of low end dual core Llano. Hey, you wont even find an HD2000 for the same price xD.

    This 160SP Llano should cost around 60-70. More or less what current Athlon II X2 cost.
    Reply
  • ch1n4 - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - link

    Hi,
    Did you have time to make the HTPC relevant tests with the 6450? Additionally it would be very useful to see the difference in performance between the DDR-3 Version and the DDR-5 Version. It's a shame that only the DD3- Version has got a passive cooler. Therefore it would be very important to know if the Radeon 6450-DDR3 is the Perfect HTPC Card, or only the DDR-5 Version? Or none of them and the Radeon 5570 is still the King of HTPC.
    Reply

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