Today we are taking a look at a new video card form ATI called the ATI Radeon HD 3450. This graphics card is a low profile design intended for use inside low-profile systems like HTPC machines. The ATI Radeon HD 3450 is aimed squarely at the budget shopper looking for the ability to play protected HD content on their PC. Read the full ATI Radeon HD 3450 review for all the details.
In this review I am testing the ATI Radeon HD 3450 inside of an HTPC machine, which is the ideal type of system for this graphics card. The ATI Radeon HD 3450 has a 64-bit memory interface with 256MB of DDR2 RAM. The card will also be available with GDDR3 RAM as well. The ATI Radeon HD 3450 uses PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface, though it is backwards compatible with PCI Express 1.0 slots.
The card has 40 stream processors and uses 128-bit precision on all operations. ATI’s Avivo HD video and display platform is where this little graphics card shines. A dedicated unified video decoder for H.264/AVC and VC-1 video formats is included. This allows for full playback of HD DVD and Blu-ray content with full off loading from the processor. The ATI Radeon HD 3450 us also CrossFireX capable and can work with ATI Hybrid graphics as well allowing increased performance when pair with a compatible chipset and mainboard with integrated graphics.
The ATI Radeon HD 3450 has 181 million transistors and is built on a 55nm process. The card has the previously mentioned 40 stream processors, four texture units and four render backends. The clock speed for the card is 600MHz on the core and 1GHz on the memory. DirectX 10.1 and ATI PowerPlay are supported as well. One of the best features of the ATI Radeon HD 3450 is the price, the card will retail for $49.
The specifications of the HTPC machine I am testing the ATI Radeon HD 3450 in are as follows:
- CPU- AMD Athlon X2 BE2400 2.3GHz
- RAM- Corsair Dominator 2GB PC2-8500
- Graphics- ATI Radeon HD 3450
- Hard Drive- Seagate 160GB
- Optical Drive- LG Super Blue HD DVD/Blu-ray combo
- OS- Windows Vista Ultimate
- Mainboard- Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H
This card is not meant for computer users who plan to play lots of 3D games. The video card lacks the muscle needed for high-end titles currently on the market. As such I opted to not test the ATI Radeon HD 3450 with video games. This card is aimed at use in basic work stations and home theater computers. As such the majority of the testing on this card was done with HD DVD and Blu-ray movie titles. I did run 3DMark06 on the system and the results are below.
I ran 3DMark06 at default settings in the application and in the Catalyst control panel. The system scored as follows on 3DMark06:
- Total 3DMarks- 1704
- SM2.0- 573
- HDR/SM3.0- 1681
I didn’t list he full gamut of readings for the ATI Radeon HD 3450 since as you can tell the card really isn’t aimed at gamers.
Now we will get into testing the ATI Radeon HD 3450 and the HTPC machine for what it was meant for, watching movies. The card includes a DVI to HDMI adapter and onboard 5.1 surround sound so one cable is all you need to get video and sound. I don’t use a home theater receiver that can get the sound from the HDMI cable so I connected the test machine via optical out to my Denon S301 home theater system. I used a 42-inch Viewsonic 1080p HDTV for viewing.
The first thing that struck me was how quiet the system is. This is helped greatly by the fact that the ATI Radeon HD 3450 offloads all of the video processing for HD video content from the CPU to the video card. Further improving the noise levels is the passive cooling solution ATI uses on the HD 3450.
If I didn’t know I was watching movies on the ATI Radeon HD 3450 from the HTPC system I wouldn’t have known the difference on image quality. I typically use a Toshiba HD-A2 for HD DVD movies and my PS3 for Blu-ray playback. The small package of the HTPC system using the ATI Radeon HD 3450 is much better than having two large devices sitting in my entertainment system.
The passive cooling solution used on the HD 3450 along with the ability to use a lower performance, lower heat producing CPU means that heat output is low. This allows the HTPC system to run without issue inside cramped entertainment systems.
The dual format player plays both HD DVD and Blu-ray films at 1080p superbly with no stuttering or skipping of the video or audio tracks. Throw a Wi-Fi card into the HTPC system and you can take full advantage of the interactive features offered by both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. Image quality for both HD formats was every bit as good as the stand alone components I typically use.
Pricing out the machine I used for testing here, it would cost you about $1000 to duplicate the same system I am using. You can currently buy a standalone LG BH200 dual format HD DVD and Blu-ray player for $849.95. That makes the HTPC using the ATI Radeon HD 3450 about $150 more expensive. You could shave costs from the HTPC system by using cheaper RAM and shopping for sales to get the prices closer. However, even with the $150 price difference you can do a world of additional tasks on the HTPC system using the ATI Radeon HD 3450 that the BH200 couldn’t dream of. You can surf the Internet, check your email, and basically do about anything on the HTPC system you can do with any other computer, save high-end 3D game play.
- Great price
- Excellent Blu-ray and HD DVD playback performance
- Passive cooling solution
- Unable to play many current 3D games
If you have been dreaming of a HTPC with a dual format HD DVD and Blu-ray drive, the ATI Radeon HD 3450 is the perfect video card for the job. It offers full offloading of video decoding and uses little power and produces little heat. This is one of the best buys you will find on a video card ideal for HTPC use.
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