Review – Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 Graphics Card

01Dec11

I ordered this card to go in my latest Microserver running the Windows 8 Developer Preview, but before it arrived I found an old NVidia Quadro NVS 285 lying around, which fitted the bill perfectly for doing dual DVI. My next thought was to upgrade the NVidia Geforce 210 in my (now rarely used) workstation. Sadly it doesn’t fit in there, as the heatsink bends around to the other side of the board, which in my workstation means it’s fighting a losing battle against the RAID card below for space. I think it would fit fine into the Microserver, provided that the next door PCIe slot isn’t occupied (or filled with something small).

Sapphire Radeon HD 5450

I could have put it into my ‘sidecar’ Microserver, but that would be a waste since I pretty much never use that machine locally. Thus my daughter’s box became the winner. This had an old X800 in it, which despite being on the recommended hardware list appeared to be insufficient for the task of running Lego Universe.

Installation

The fold over heat sink wasn’t a problem without another board directly below. On booting up the machine (running Windows 7 x64) didn’t pull down a new driver, going for Standard VGA and the low resolutions that entails. I was however able to update the driver via Windows and get back to glorious 1920×1080. This seemed like a better idea than the likely old drivers on the supplied CD or the huge 100MB+ download from ATI (which must have huge amounts of annoying cruft in it).

Performance

The 2D performance took a slight step back in Windows Experience Index (5.8 -> 4.6) but the 3D performance leapt up to 6.1. Oddly this means that the oldest PC still in use in the house now has the highest WEI. Bringing Direct X 10 and 11 to the table surely helps, and the good news is that Lego Universe now starts up perfectly.

Conclusion

Performance wise this is the card I should have bought in favour of the GeForce 210, but I’d have been out of luck fitting it to the intended machine due to the fold over heat sink. If you have sufficient space, and want a low end GPU that can drive a decent size monitor then this card seems to beat the NVidia in almost every measure. It looks like other OEMs like VisionTek make similar cards with different heat sinks, which may in some cases be a better fit. I’m happy that my daughter’s machine can now run stuff that didn’t work before.

Update 1 – 9 Dec 2011 – Toms Hardware has a really good comparison chart showing the relative performance of various families of NVidia, ATI and Intel chipsets.



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