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AMD Radeon HD 6450 Review: Caicos Cometh

Yes, Caicos Is Another Northern Island

Hot on the heels of its Radeon HD 6790, AMD is releasing another new graphics card today. This time, the target is the sub-$60 price range, bringing Radeon HD 6000-series features to the entry-level market. Meet the Radeon HD 6450.

Low-end graphics cards account for the bulk of sales, and that means competition; the Radeon HD 5450, Radeon HD 5550, GeForce GT 220 and GeForce GT 430 are only a few of the models that you'll have to consider if you're looking for alternatives. Before we compare them, let’s see what this new Caicos GPU has to offer:

So, this card's Caicos core is based on the same architecture that we first saw in the Barts GPU, which drives the Radeon HD 6800-series cards. The new model is far less complex, with only one-seventh of the Radeon HD 6870’s compute resources. Instead of 14 SIMD engines, the Caicos has two, each containing four texture units and 16 stream processors. With 5 ALUs per stream processor (yes, we're still talking about the older VLIW5 design, not the newer VLIW4 arrangement featured on Cayman), the resulting total is 160. These are coupled to a single render back-end with four color ROPs, attached to a lone 64-bit memory controller.

It’s as though AMD paid close attention to our Radeon HD 5450 review in February of 2010, where we said: “It is unfortunate that that the SIMD engines have been cut in half compared to the GPUs found on… …higher models that sport a more robust 16 stream processors per.” Each of Caicos’ SIMDs sport the same specifications as Barts', so we can expect a sizable performance gain over the Radeon HD 5450.

But that’s not the only improvement. The Radeon HD 6450 comes in two flavors of memory technology: DDR3 and GDDR5. Since GDDR5 memory doubles the theoretical throughput of DDR3, given the same base clock, this option should compensate for the narrow 64-bit memory interface.

Finally, like all products in the Radeon HD 6000 family, this latest model improves tessellation performance, includes Eyefinity enhancements, and, of course, features UVD 3, including the ability to accelerate Blu-ray 3D video over HDMI 1.4a.

Now that we have a good idea how powerful the Radeon HD 6450 should be, let’s take a closer look at the playing field:

Radeon HD 5450Radeon HD 6450Radeon HD 5550GeForce GT 220GeForce GT 430
Shader Cores:801603204896
Texture Units:88161616
Color ROPs:44884
Fabrication process:40 nm40 nm40 nm40 nm40 nm
Core/Shader Clock:650 MHz625 MHz DDR3750 MHz GDDR5550 MHz625/1360 MHz700/1400 MHz
Memory Clock:400 MHz DDR2800 MHz DDR3533-800 MHz DDR3 800-900 MHz GDDR5900 MHz DDR3790 MHz DDR3900 MHz DDR3
Memory Bus:64-bit64-bit128-bit128-bit128-bit
Memory Bandwidth:6.4 GB/s DDR212.8 GB/s DDR38.5-12.8 GB/s DDR3 25.6-28.8 GB/s GDDR528.8 GB/s DDR325.3 GB/s DDR328.8 GB/s DDR3
Thermal Design Power (W)19.1 W(typical)20 W DDR327 W GDDR5(typical)40 W(maximum)58 W(maximum)42.7 W(maximum)

We can see a clear evolution from the Radeon HD 5450 and Radeon HD 6450,, with only the number of stream processors doubled. This should enable a quantifiable performance difference, though. And when it's equipped with GDDR5, the new card should serve up modest gaming results.

The Radeon HD 5550 is far more interesting competition. It essentially doubles all of the Radeon HD 6450’s specifications: 320 shader processors, 16 texture units, and 8 ROPs operating on a 128-bit memory interface. Although the GDDR5-equipped version of the 6450 might match the older board's memory bandwidth, its higher core clock does not compensate for its resource deficiency. Of course, the Radeon HD 5550 doesn’t support Blu-ray 3D decode acceleration, though it is capable of playing back this format over HDMI 1.4a. It simply relies on more host processing to power through the decode pipeline.

The GeForce GT 220 DDR2 is also priced similarly to the Radeon HD 6450 GDDR5, and while it sports a powerful GPU and a 128-bit memory interface, it is crippled by slower DDR2 memory. Ironically, despite Nvidia’s lead in 3D alacrity, this card is not capable of playing back Blu-ray 3D over HDMI. The GeForce GT 430 is Nvidia’s lowest-end card capable of this feat, and it typically costs about $70 (although a couple models can be found for $10 cheaper than that online). Indeed, with twice as many shader cores as the GT 220, the GeForce GT 430 may offer the strongest competition for the 6450 on both the HTPC and gaming fronts.

  • mikenygmail
    AMD is destroying Nvidia in every possible way, and it's only a matter of time before AMD catches up to and surpassed Intel again!
    Reply
  • aznguy0028
    Toms, when are you going to fix your thumbs up/down rating thing?
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl
    mikenygmailAMD is destroying Nvidia in every possible way, and it's only a matter of time before AMD catches up to and surpassed Intel again!hmm... that's not exactly the impression I got after actually reading the review. Maybe you should try do the same. So Nvidia is getting destroyed because an ultra low-end discrete graphics card from AMD offers decent HTPC performance in comparison to the GT430? lol... And where did that thing about Intel come from?

    Anyway, I would argue that gaming performance definitely isn't at the top of peoples priority list when purchasing a card in this price range. People tend to purchase $60 cards for low power, cool, and quiet media PC operation. And at least in this category the HD6450 offers solid competition for the GT430.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    aznguy0028Toms, when are you going to fix your thumbs up/down rating thing?
    Still waiting on the French dev team to let me know when it's going to unbreak that feature that previously worked fine ;-)
    Reply
  • rolli59
    Nice to see such a big performance leap on the low range cards.
    Reply
  • ScrewySqrl
    It would have been interesting to add your i5-2500K on its own to the comparison chart. The HD3000 has been favorably compared to the 5450 in the past, so how would it compare with the new 6450?
    Reply
  • machvelocy
    just curious... will there be "hybrid crossfire" when this card is paired by a llano?
    Reply
  • Jarmo
    So this doesn't require a power connector? Because that's a big thing when suggesting a replacement card for a couple of years old supermarket PC with an unknown but underpowered power supply. Seems this would fit the bill, being low-power, cheap & quiet.
    Reply
  • mikenygmail
    dragonsqrrlhmm... that's not exactly the impression I got after actually reading the review. Maybe you should try do the same. So Nvidia is getting destroyed because an ultra low-end discrete graphics card from AMD offers decent HTPC performance in comparison to the GT430? lol... And where did that thing about Intel come from?Anyway, I would argue that gaming performance definitely isn't at the top of peoples priority list when purchasing a card in this price range. People tend to purchase $60 cards for low power, cool, and quiet media PC operation. And at least in this category the HD6450 offers solid competition for the GT430.
    Maybe you should try not making baseless assumptions. Nvidia's graphics cards are overpriced and weaker than AMD's at just about every possible price point. The GTX 550 Ti is a failure, and as you pointed out yourself, even this new AMD HTPC offering offers solid competition for the GT430.

    It was totally ridiculous for tomshardware to post the "Best Graphics Card for the Money" article the day before the AMD 6990 article, (to exclude AMD's new flag ship card) and then even more ridiculous to title the article "AMD Radeon HD 6990 4 GB Review: Antilles Makes (Too Much) Noise." This site obviously favors Nvidia and is paid well to do so, I'm just leveling the playing field a bit.

    Also, don't use "lol" and limit your "..." usage, it makes you look bad.
    Reply
  • mikenygmail
    Minor correction of my first post: AMD is destroying Nvidia in every possible way, and it's only a matter of time before AMD catches up to and surpasses Intel again!
    Reply