Friday, July 23, 2010

ATI Radeon HD5450 and HD5570: A Practical Review for the Impoverished Pseudo-Gamer by Boyd Robinson

ATI Radeon HD5450 and HD5570:
A Practical Review for the Impoverished Pseudo-Gamer
by Boyd Robinson

Video cards come in different sizes, performance, and unfortunately large price differences. If you are looking at your thin wallet and trying to figure out “what video card I can get without having to either A: trying to qualify for a second mortgage or B: rob a bank.” Then this review is for you!
After purchasing a new Dell U2410 24” LCD monitor, I noticed that my Gateway’s integrated
Nvidia video card was no longer going to “cut the mustard”. For starters, I had used just a
VGA port to run the monitor. Having shelled out a pretty penny for the monitor there was very
little room left in the budget for a video card. There was also the issue of my computer. My
Gateway computer, Running an AMD X2 64 process and 4GB of memory, served me well for
the last two years as my main photo editing and cataloging machine. But what video card,
running the latest DirectX 11 software could I put into my tower and within a budget of $100
($50 if I couldn’t convince the kids to skip lunch every other day). At the time, Nvidia was just
announcing their latest DX11 cards, but nothing at the low end of the specturm (i.e. nothing
that I could afford). Having had success in the past with ATI cards, I looked over their HD5000
series offerings. My heart longed for the beautiful, sleek, and powerful HD5900 and HD5800
series cards. Suddenly there was longing for these decadent pieces of technology that only the
stubborn practicality of being a pauper could dampen. At $300+, these cards were way out of
my budget. Especially since the kids started to complain if they missed more than two meals a
The HD5600 an HD5700 series looked more appealing and slightly more affordable. In
examining ATI’s midpoint offering I realized another problem. My Gateway only had a 300W
power supply. The HD5700 might handle 300W, but most companies recommended at least
450W for a single card or more if running a Crossfire system. The HD5650 seemed an ideal
choice, but the price and power requirement were still slightly out of reach. While musing over
this dilemma, the opportunity to test the HD5450 and HD5570 presented itself. I had dismissed
these cards because they seemed to be the underdogs in the video card arena. However, both
cards did not require a large power supply or an external power source (i.e. the card drew is
power for the PCI Express bus). Being a little of a cynic, I wanted to know what most reviews
could not tell me, namely will this card work in my system? Would it play some of the games,
old and new, that are our out there? Will my Dell monitor perform better? Will these card wash
the dishes and mow the yard? Let us find out.
Card Overview
Before diving into the meat of the review, let us take a look at the two cards. The HD5450 is
a compact card built around the Cedar GPU processor, sporting 512MB of DDR3 memory, a
cooling fan (not all models have this feature), DVI, D-SUB and VGA connections. Very low
power consumption is one of the key features that makes the HD5450 an attractive card.
Perfect for a HTPC system.
The HD5570 is very similar to the HD5450, with 1GB of DDR3 and a slightly faster GPU with
more streaming processor units. This particular reference model test had a fan that covered
both the RAM and the GPU, while the HD5450 only had the fan on the GPU. The HD5570
reviewed had a feature that allowed the card to be overclocked. This ATI utility worked really
well and the card didn’t seem to have a problem.Both cards support ATI Eyefinity Technology. This technology allows the video card to extend the display out to three monitors! This was not tested during the review, but is certainly worth looking into down the road.
Installation and Initial Impressions
Both cards were easy to install and setup right away. One thing that struck me was how small
the cards seemed to my older Radeon 9500 and 9600 video cards. The HD5450 is designed
as a HTPC video card. Those who are designing a HTPC system will appreciate the diminutive
nature of the card. The HD5570 was slightly bigger than the HD5450. Keep in mind that both
cards were stock ATI video cards.
I had no problem installing the latest ATI Catalyst drivers. What a different the DVI connection
made on my beautiful Dell monitor! Suddenly the images were sharper and more detailed.
Colors were rich and detailed. I couldn't believe what I had missed by sticking with the VGA
port connection.
My Gateway’s puny 300w power supply had no problems working with either card. The
first part of the test was a success! Now to see how well the card can handle gaming!
Gaming (no heckling!).
There were four games I tested the card out on: Half-Life 2, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War
II, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Crysis. As you can see some of these games were
new and others were older titles. The HD5450 and the HD5570 had no problems running any
of these games. The frame rate in Half-Life 2 at 1900x1200 resolution with x4 AA got up to
150 FPS and this was at maximum detail. For once I could actually play the game without
cheating! My old cards would choke so badly you could take a water break between bullets
being fired at your character!

Crysis is considered a benchmark for testing out video cards. I had no problems running
Crysis at maximum settings. This game is more demanding than Half-Life 2. Both cards had
no problem keeping up with the game, much to my relief! Since Crysis was more demanding
than the Half-Life 2, I noticed my FPS dropped down to 40 FPS during peak action sequences.
Dawn of War II looked and ran great! Most RTS games do not have the same demands as the FPS games. My expectations were a bit different, but the cards handled the challenge smoothly.

You might ask about more modern games, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Dirt or other similar games. My view is that the cards will run the games, but not at maximum settings. As
more DirectX 11 titles are released, these card will be hard pressed to deliver the performance
of their bigger siblings.

Other Software
One reason for upgrading my video card was the release of Adobe’s Lightroom 3. Lightroom
1.4 was a stable of my photography software for many years. With Lightroom 3 coming
out, I wanted a video card with more memory and faster performance. Both HD5450 the
and the HD5570 did not disappoint me at all; Lightroom 3 ran just fine. For improved
performance, a faster CPU and more RAM would be the better choice. Keep in mind that
the GPU is being tapped to do more work that in the past was sent to the CPU (think HDMI).
Dishwashing and Yard Mowing
I must admit that I did not have high hopes for these two fine cards to be the panacea for
washing dishes or mowing my lovely yard. What little hope that I had left was dashed by the
cards refusing (yes, refusing!) to perform either task. I held back the tears and brought them
back inside the house. So much for that experiment!
To be honest the HD5450 and the HD5570 came as a complete surprise to me. I expected
mediocre performance and perhaps even some system instability (due to my small power
supply). Instead, both cards delivered excellent performance and my computer never once
had a power or heat problem. At last I could run my new monitor in all its digital glory while
still being able to play older and newer video games. If you are looking for an inexpensive
video card that can support DirectX11, uses HDMI (depending on the model)or DVI, then look
no further! If you goal is to be the king of the frag heap and dominate your opponent in the
latest games, I would suggest looking at the higher end ATI or Nvidia cards. The HD5450 is
an excellent choice for designers of HTPC systems who require small, cool running cards.
At the end of the day, my prefence would be the HD5570 because of its larger memory and
slightly faster processor. In reality the performance difference between them was marginal.

Based on their stability, and performance for such a small price point, we are glad to announce they have earned our Value Award. Keep up the great work guys! For more info and complete specs, please check out their website at