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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  • lukechip - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    In the April 2011 Video Card MSRP list, you've omitted the Radeon HD 6950 2GB. Given that this was the first 6950, and in my mind, the 'real' 6950, why is it not listed ? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    The MSRP list isn't mean to be a definitive list of every card at every price point; but still, that was a rather silly omission. I've since added it. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    Also missed the GTX 590, but I understand that the purpose of the chart was to show the 6450's position, not to be completely and ultimately definitive. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    No, that would be because I'm an idiot.

    The chart was taken from the GTX 550 Ti article, which predated the 590 (which is why it's not there).
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    This might be a great HTPC card for an existing box, but unless AMD has seriously screwed up I can't see this card being terribly attractive for much of anything once Llano ships. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    I would've liked to see some discussion on that topic. Llano will probably be pitiful on the CPU end, but if they can cram a strong GPU into the product, these $50 GPUs will eventually become extinct. Reply
  • starfalcon - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    I suppose with Llano and Ivy Bridge, discrete graphics for HTPC use will essentially be extinct.
    For gaming I wonder if they will be willing to release any low end graphics that can be beaten by IGPs, if not, then I wonder what the lowest end cards they will release will be.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, April 7, 2011 - link

    I agree, unless they will be used in other ways. I'm not sure what max resolution IGPs can support. Also, I'm sure if you use the HTPC as more of a PC than HT, you will probably need the additional parallel processing (or dedicated GPU).

    All-in-all these cards remind me of dedicated cards from the 90s :)
    Reply
  • starfalcon - Friday, April 8, 2011 - link

    I know IGPs can do 2560x1600.
    With Sandy Bridge I think it only can do it with display port but besides that 1920x1200 with HDMI/DVI. Shouldn't be a problem.
    What will you need the additional parallel processing for?
    Or dedicated GPU?
    Sandy Bridge supports quick sync and Llano should have lots of processing capabilities, Ivy Bridge should have more and more stuff also.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Sunday, April 10, 2011 - link

    Say you're playing a game, want to put it on pause and watch some TV, or have multiple display setups and want to watch TV while playing a game. Add a DVR capture card and you'll be need more CPU and GPU processing.

    I'm just not sure how great the performance would be. Especially assuming you wanted to attach this to a 46"+ display. It might be "capable", but we all know that word is very misleading and quality is hard define when you don't see it with your own eyes.
    Reply

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