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Budget Eyefinity

ATI Radeon HD 5450: Eyefinity And HTPCs For Everyone?
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Eyefinity is the marking name for a feature that will definitely appeal to many potential buyers, and the Radeon HD 5450 is perhaps most attractive to non-gamers with a practical need for a triple-monitor setup (artists, day traders, multi-tasking technology writers, anyone?). With an abundance of older 17" LCD monitors--perhaps around as spares or up for grabs on the used market--the appeal of an inexpensive triple-display configuration undeniable. A 17" monitor with a 4:3 aspect ratio (that's the standard 1280x1024 size) is almost the exact same height as a 19" or 20" widescreen LCD. Therefore, two 17-inch monitors would complement that 20" nicely, don't you think? This author has an old spare 17" LCD on a secondary system, and I found a used 17" on Kijiji for $50. If I put these beside my 20" widescreen monitor, I'm good to go for Eyefinity, right?

Not so fast. While Eyefinity is a fantastic tool, and we're glad to see it up and down ATI's Radeon HD 5000-series, it does have a couple major drawbacks in a budget-oriented environment. The most significant restriction is mandatory DisplayPort use. In a triple-display setup, at least one monitor must use the card's DisplayPort output. If one of the displays doesn't have a DisplayPort input, the user must purchase an active DisplayPort to HDMI/DVI/VGA converter in order for it to work. The active part is key because it means a low-cost passive converter won't work. Unfortunately, most active DisplayPort-to-HDMI/DVI converters seem to be in the $100 range.

The implication here is that a user needs to invest money into a new DisplayPort monitor, which tend to be rarer and more expensive than non-DisplayPort models, or spend an extra $100 on a DisplayPort converter. Either option is a bit of a killjoy.

There is a way around this limitation however. It turns out that there are a number of low-cost active DisplayPort to VGA dongles out there, and these do the trick. The VGA dongle limits the maximum resolution somewhat, but we were able to set the 20" monitor to its native 1680x1050 resolution without a problem in extended desktop mode. In this case, we used a Startech DisplayPort to VGA adapter (model DP2VGA) that we picked up locally. We have also heard reports that Bytecc's AP-DPVGA also works for this application, and can be found online for under $25.

Indeed, we began our testing with a Radeon HD 5770, the adapter, a 20" widescreen center monitor, and two 17" satellites on the sides. We used the DisplayPort to VGA dongle on the 20" center monitor, because we found the dongle needs to be used on the monitor with the highest resolution in order for it to work. One of the 17" monitors employed a native DVI cable and the other used a DVI-to-VGA converter.

Eyefinity even allowed us to group the monitors into a single desktop, a requirement for gaming use. We were on our way! There are still a number of Eyefinity limitations, however. Group resolution is limited to a multiple for all three displays, so we couldn't set the middle display to 1680x1024 and flanking displays to 1280x1024 for the ideal 4240x1024 group resolution. Instead, Eyefinity limited us to 1280x1024 per monitor, or 3840x1024.

As a result, the center monitor stretched this 4:3 resolution to its 16:10 window, which was not as attractive as we'd hoped. There are some workarounds for games, including ways to alter the player's field of view and aspect ratio (in the CoD: MW2 screenshot below, we've used a freeware utility called Widescreen Fixer). But, for the most part, players who want to duplicate this setup will be stuck with a stretched middle screen that isn't ideal. If you're looking to build a multi-monitor budget gaming machine, you're almost certainly better off buying three identical displays.

Now for the bad news on our end. Although we were able to get our cost-conscious Eyefinity setup working with the Radeon HD 5770 sample, it wasn't working with the Radeon HD 5450. It seems as though our DisplayPort to VGA dongle takes the blame on this one, as it isn't on AMD's list of Eyefinity-validated dongles. After checking back with AMD, which was able to test the card in its own lab using an Accel B101B-001B DisplayPort to VGA active dongle, the company confirmed Eyefinity was working as expected. The moral of the story: make sure you cross-check the compatibility list before investing in the complementary hardware needed to get Eyefinity going.

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Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    cleeve , February 4, 2010 4:28 AM
    acasela crossfire config with this video card + overclock will make this article much better in a gamers point of view...


    Not really, look at the specs. In CrossFire these cards would cost $100 for a total 160 shader cores. They still wouldn't hold a candle to a single $100 5670 when gaming, which has 400 shader cores all by itself.

    CrossFiring the 5450 would be a total waste.
  • 22 Hide
    skora , February 4, 2010 6:05 AM
    How selfish you all are thinking THG only does gaming cards!!!! When ATI cuts the hardware (shaders/ROPs) to the bone, its not about gaming. Its for the HTPC and multi-monitor office crowd and thats it. It's a niche card and looks to do that admirably.
  • 10 Hide
    dimitrik , February 4, 2010 9:48 AM
    *Groan* Really guys? Is gaming the only thing a computer is used for?

    This card is built for a whole bunch of users who are actually far more common in real life than overgrown teenage gamers. How about desktop users who want a really quiet low power consumption PC? Maybe one which stays on 24/7 or is fitted into a super slim case? How about HTPC users who want a passively cooled card that has all the video and HD acceleration features without requiring an extra power supply or installing 120mm fans on a case to cool one of the monster 5000 series cards?

    I have been waiting for this card since the 5xxx series was announced and so has every home theater enthusiast I know. Few of them are gamers and care only about having a good looking PC that can fit in the living room and play their blu-rays and video libraries with the best PQ and AQ.

    As for the article itself - nice going THG. Write an article about a non-gaming card with only gaming benchmarks and tests. Who cares? NOBODY will buy this to play Crysis. How about some video acceleration/CPU use tests with multiple video formats instead? How about getting a non-gamer (unlike the self confessed writer - no offense) who actually knows what we care about?
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    popaholic , February 4, 2010 3:54 AM
    For the all the idiots out there, yes it can run Crysis, slightly.

    Whats the point of releasing a new graphics card thats worse than older cards? It runs Dx11 but there's no way it could even run a supported game.

  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , February 4, 2010 3:54 AM
    The links to the article pages are either missing or directed wrongly. For example, the "Power and Temperature Benchmarks", "Conclusion" pages are missing or directed wrongly.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , February 4, 2010 3:56 AM
    serokichimThe links to the article pages are either missing or directed wrongly. For example, the "Power and Temperature Benchmarks", "Conclusion" pages are missing or directed wrongly.


    Try refreshing the page. Should be working correctly now!
  • 0 Hide
    robertking82881 , February 4, 2010 4:06 AM
    well those that are not gameing but want direct x11 can pick this up
  • 23 Hide
    cleeve , February 4, 2010 4:28 AM
    acasela crossfire config with this video card + overclock will make this article much better in a gamers point of view...


    Not really, look at the specs. In CrossFire these cards would cost $100 for a total 160 shader cores. They still wouldn't hold a candle to a single $100 5670 when gaming, which has 400 shader cores all by itself.

    CrossFiring the 5450 would be a total waste.
  • -4 Hide
    masterjaw , February 4, 2010 4:43 AM
    Passively-cooled 5450 in crossfire = fail

    How do you expect it to handle the increase in temps? Even if you got some good airflow inside the case, that won't be sufficient.
  • -6 Hide
    footsoldier , February 4, 2010 5:56 AM
    Kinda failed product, ATI..focus on price drop plssss! But still, ATI rocks
  • 22 Hide
    skora , February 4, 2010 6:05 AM
    How selfish you all are thinking THG only does gaming cards!!!! When ATI cuts the hardware (shaders/ROPs) to the bone, its not about gaming. Its for the HTPC and multi-monitor office crowd and thats it. It's a niche card and looks to do that admirably.
  • 6 Hide
    shubham1401 , February 4, 2010 6:07 AM
    Lol...
    They needed a i7 and 1200W PSU to test this card... :) 

    Useless...Either get a good card or stick with integrated.
  • 7 Hide
    arkadi , February 4, 2010 6:56 AM
    Sound like a solid card for non gaming setups. To bad no AGP support. (My 8 years old HTPC just will not die). "crossfire"?! lol i guess some ppl missing the point of this card.
  • 4 Hide
    micky_lund , February 4, 2010 7:08 AM
    shubham1401Lol...They needed a i7 and 1200W PSU to test this card... Useless...Either get a good card or stick with integrated.


    yeah...its just so all the tests are the same, and aren't being capped by anything...tho they could do it with a 500w :D 
  • 0 Hide
    carlhenry , February 4, 2010 7:12 AM
    i was expecting this to be faster than the 4550 :( 
    now i'll wait a little more to see how the 5500 will fair.
    i hope it will be on par with the 9500gt and will be energy efficient. huhuhu
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , February 4, 2010 7:26 AM
    So it's probably worth remembering this card IS NOT aimed at playing games..If you want to play games then this card isn't for you.

    This is aimed purely at media playback and 2D applications.

    I run a number of HTPC's in my home and until this card it has been impossible to get a bitstreamed output over hdmi for bluray playback. This is currently the only card that will do that (that is low power, single slot, and half height)

    For that reason alone this should get a 5* or 10/10 rating. And I'll be buying 5 of them!

    And please try to remember that graphics cards are not all about frame rated when playing crysis.
  • -1 Hide
    killerclick , February 4, 2010 7:56 AM
    If you're on a very tight budget and want to play games, I suggest 4650. Eyefinity? Only if you need 3 monitors. dx11? You'll still be able to play dx11 games even with a dx10 card.
  • -4 Hide
    brisingamen , February 4, 2010 8:22 AM
    well crossfiring two of these bad boys isnt all a bad idea i mean they are silent,

    and slim, so they could fit in a slim htpc case. or a micro pc you could throw in your backpack or hand bag.

    plus you can run eyefinity,

    and the fact it runs on such little power you could almost plug it into your neck and run it.

    and you dont have the crossfire bridge to worry about for crossfire connection,


    im definitly a fan of acasels xfire OC idea. id like to see benches and a review of that infact.
  • -5 Hide
    yose3 , February 4, 2010 8:44 AM
    what the point of this card? remind me again why does it exist?
  • 2 Hide
    stridervm , February 4, 2010 9:01 AM
    It exists for the people who are still playing on a 1024x768 monitor but still want DX11, yes, they exist. =P
  • -1 Hide
    scrumworks , February 4, 2010 9:26 AM
    Yose3what the point of this card? remind me again why does it exist?


    How about cutting manufacturing costs doing the 55->40nm transfer and having the power consumption down.
  • 6 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , February 4, 2010 9:27 AM
    If I understood the article correctly, then it seems this card would be ideal for a quiet home theater pc.
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