Axle Radeon HD 5450 Review

RHKCommander959 - 2010-06-06 23:40:43 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: July 2, 2010
Price: $50

Introduction:

Low end graphics cards are generally used for a very specific purpose, usually it is for consumers who cannot afford better but want something that beats onboard graphical performance, or people looking for low power consumption or small form factors. Right now the weakest, or least expensive, in ATI's product stack is the HD 5450 with only 80 stream processors. The low end cards of the prior 4000 generation also offered cards with 80 stream processors. The next step up is the ATI Radeon HD 5550 with 320 stream processors, and twice as many TMUs (16) and ROPs (32 Z/Stencil and 8 Color) than the 5450 and is still low-profile, as is the 5570. Personally, for low-profile needs I would aim for either the 5550 or 5570, especially the 5550s because of their performance and minimal cost difference from the 5450. Both should run in the price range of high $30 to $60+, but if size is no matter then the prior generations of ATI cards (Radeon HD 4000/3000) are getting cheaper so for the cost-conscious that could be another great alternative.

For office needs the Radeon 5450 is plenty capable, it can render at 2560x1600 with digital output and can handle media fine as well. The only weak spot is gaming or intensive rendering applications where this card does not shine and will fall far behind any dedicated gaming GPU. This card can run some games at low settings and resolution decently, but eye candy will be minimal. This line is great for extremely low power consumption systems, offices, and for HTPCs that won't be used for gaming much, if at all. Axle has provided an HD 5450 for review, it is paired with 512MB of DDR3, which should be the sweet spot for memory amount and speed for this GPU.

Closer Look:

The Axle Radeon HD 5450 comes packed in a small and lightweight cardboard box with a smooth finish all around. The box has orange stickers applied to it to indicate which graphics card is included - the same box is used for other Axle 5000 series cards. The background is black and on the front is a girl wearing an interesting suit with shin, shoulder, arm, and chest guards along with a helmet and safety glasses. It is interesting that she is wearing protection while her chest and abs are exposed. On the website they have her standing next to a scooter/small motorcycle with a gun that shoots red circles. Moving on, the box has a sticker indicating that the graphics card has been equipped with solid state capacitors, with 50,000hrs (a little under 6 years) MTTF the graphics card shouldn't die early on from capacitor failure. The card also has 512MB of DDR3, which should be plenty of speed and quantity to satiate the Cedar GPU core. The print on the back of the box is slightly blurry and uses an atypical font so it will be hard to read in the image, but I will post the key bits here. All of the graphics cards in the list are mid- to high-end cards ranging from Radeon HD 5970 to 5750, all of which are far more powerful and have very different specs than the 5450. Tessellation, Multi-Threading, Compute Shaders, DirectX 11, and ATI Eyefinity are the features mentioned at the top half of the back. At the bottom right a gun is being clutched by a torso, the gun looks like a sci-fi train to me.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the box we are greeted with a peak of the 5450 through the antistatic bag and the instructions/driver CD holder. Other than these two items the box is entirely empty - no dongles, adapter cables, or converters included or required.

 

 

The fold out has three pages inside, with a latch to keep it shut. The company logo and website address are readily visible. Opening the tabs up we see the girl again with her train gun. The company logo and website are listed again, as are their contact information. Opening the last flap reveals the driver disc and instructions for getting the card up and running. The instructions are very basic but should help a beginner somewhat. A sticker helps to keep the disc from sliding around. Other than that, all that is included is the graphics card; for a card of this tier a fancy manual/driver holder is nice to find.

 

 

Time to take a look at the video card up close!

Closer Look:

The Axle Radeon HD 5450 is a low profile graphics card with a normal expansion slot bracket attached (it can be removed easily but Axle didn't include a low profile bracket so modifying it or ordering one can make it low profile). The PCB is red and since the memory bus is 64-bit the manufacturing cost is reduced. The amount of memory that is installed is 512MB of DDR3, more than enough for a graphics card with only 80 Stream processors. The card is full PCI Express x16 in length, but it should likely run just fine in an x8 and x4. The card is PCI-E v2.1, which should be backwards compatible to v1.0 but I have had problems using some of the 5000 series cards in PCI-E v1.0a slots and cannot confirm if it will work on other v1.0a motherboards, but they worked just fine in PCI-E v1.0 motherboards that I had around. Physical Crossfire bridges aren't needed because the PCI Express channels can handle the bandwidth between low end cards, so to put it directly, CrossFireX only requires at least two cards and setting it up in Catalyst.

The card is passively cooled with a decently sized aluminum heatsink. The Axle company logo is at the last fin. The PCB is red and cut to low profile sizing, two DDR3 BGA chips on each side are mounted. No backplate is installed since the contact area is so small and minimal pressure is needed so PCB warp should be minimal to nonexistent. Springs are used with the specialized nuts, but when the nut is tight it is bottomed out so the spring serves little use really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The Axle 5450 has VGA, HDMI, and DVI output, which should meet most user needs out of the box. Most people who buy this card won't use dual monitors and the VGA port is good up to 2048x1536 anyway, while the DVI can handle 2560x1600. The heatsink height causes this card to take up two slots. The card does not require auxiliary power in the form of Molex or 6-pin PCI Express connections, using less than 20W means the PCI Express slot can supply ample power to fit the needs of this card.

 

 

The thermal paste that came installed on the card was surprisingly not hard, almost all other companies have sent graphics cards with hard paste. Too much was used so it slopped over to the circuits, this paste looks to be ceramic based so it likely isn't capacitive but I don't have my meter handy to check, so this is unconfirmed. After cleaning all of the paste off, the core is clearly visible. The memory was made by the now defunct Qimonda on 1DSH1G-04A1F1C-16G F6514288 DDR3 chips. Each one has 128MB capacity.

 

 

Time to set up the drivers!

Specifications:

Bus Type
PCI-E 2.1
GPU Clock MHz
650MHz
Stream Processors
80
Memory Interface Bus (bit)
64
Memory Type
DDR3
Memory Size
512 MB
Memory Clock (MHz)
1000 MHz
Microsoft® DirectX® Support
11
Shader Model Support
5.0
Open GL Optimization and Support
3.2
Cooling Heatsink
Yes
Cooling Fansink
No - Passive
Profile
Low
Max Resolution
Dual-Link DVI port supports maximum 2560x1600 resolution

 

Features:

All information courtesy of Axle

Testing:

Testing the Axle Radeon HD 5450 is done the same way as any other graphics card, once through stock speeds with Far Cry 2, Metro 2033, Crysis Warhead, Call of Duty Modern Warefare 2, Darkest of Days, Bioshock 2, Just Cause 2, Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Resident Evil 5, 3DMark 06 Professional, and 3DMark Vantage. MSI Kombuster and Afterburner are used to measure the temperature at load and idle. All of these are then ran again after overclocking to a stable speed. Since this card falls into the low end tier, we use low settings so that performance may be more tolerable than forcing full quality settings on low end cards that were intended for mid and high end cards.

 

 

Comparison Boards:

 

Overclocking:

Depending on the quality of the components and a bit of luck, some devices can be pushed further than others. For real overclocking I do not use Catalyst from ATI or Ntune from nVidia as both have low limitations usually. The 5450 was clock locked in most of the common software to Catalyst levels but AMD GPU Clock Tool had no ceiling. Reliability started dropping off after the 780MHz core and 1000MHz memory so that is where I left it for a known stable setting. Fan speed can be adjusted but since there is no fan nothing happens. The heatsink kept the graphics card, at load, at around 53°C. The overclock speeds are approximately 20% on the core and 25% on the memory, tremendous yields especially on passive air cooling.

 

 

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Each card has been tested for its maximum stable clock speeds using MSI's Kombuster utility. So far my testing has shown that higher clock speeds may be stable in games where GPU usage does not reach 100%, but will crash within a few minutes using this utility. The reported clock speeds are those that proved stable over a 15 minute test at 1920x1200 8x AA.

 

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Metro 2033
  3. Crysis Warhead
  4. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  5. Darkest of Days
  6. Bioshock 2
  7. Just Cause 2
  8. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0
  9. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  10. Resident Evil 5
  11. 3DMark 06 Professional
  12. 3DMark Vantage
  1. Temperature

Testing:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Scoring the same or slightly better than the XFX 5450 variant, none of the scores would prove to be an enjoyable gaming experience except from the 5550 and 5570. The DDR3 could have given the Axle card the extra frame over the XFX card, which has DDR2 but a larger capacity and showing that the speed was more important than amount.

Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA Physx and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied - in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots, and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses - chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows, just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

None of these graphics cards could handle Metro 2033 with these settings. Why anyone would use the worst card with the lowest settings on DirectX 11 is beyond me, but this proves the gaming performance is dismal. On a side note, at lower settings and resolution the game becomes much more playable but that isn't part of the test settings.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Crysis Warhead was decent at the lower resolutions, especially overclocked. These are the average PS results and do not show how low they could go. Much better than Metro 2033 at least. The first two overclocked results are doable, but at stock and at 1920x1200 the frames got so low that playing would not be enjoyable at all. With everything set to low the graphics quality is not there.

Testing:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first-person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking. You start off the single player missions playing as Private Allen and jump right into a serious firefight. This is the point where testing will begin. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 has shown some of the better FPS of the other games, the lower resolution with overclocked settings should be decent with gaming.

Testing:

What would testing be if you did not show both sides of the fence? In this test, PhysX was set to low, while leaving the remaining settings intact. You have seen time and again where the ATI cards suffer when PhysX is enabled. Mirror's Edge and Cryostasis are two prime examples. Darkest of Days is no different. What happens in this test shows that, although the game can be played by cards from the red team, the video effects and quality are diminished.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

Low resolutions and casual gaming are the area that this card is able to sustain playable frame rates.

Testing:

BioShock 2 is the sequel to a game that won more than 50 game of the year awards and sold more than 2.5 million units worldwide. Though a first-person shooter at its core, BioShock 2 blends that with RPG elements and drops you into an environment like no other - the underwater dystopian city of Rapture. Set approximately ten years after the events of the original, BioShock 2 allows the player to be one of the most iconic video game characters of recent years, a Big Daddy. Powered by the Unreal Engine 2.5 and featuring Havok Physics, BioShock 2 also adds multiplayer to the mix, filling in the one hole prevalent in the first game. There are seven different multiplayer game modes that take place in 1959, before the events of the original BioShock.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

 

With Bioshock 2 the XFX card pulls ahead slightly until the higher resolutions. Frames are getting choppy again.

Testing:

Just Cause 2 is a third-person shooter that takes place on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. In this sequel to 2006's Just Cause, you return as Agent Rico Rodriguez to overthrow an evil dictator and confront your former boss. When you don't feel like following the main storyline, you're free to roam the island, pulling off crazy stunts and causing massive destruction in your wake, all beautifully rendered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0. In the end, that's what the game basically boils down to; crazy stunts and blowing things up. In fact, blowing things up and wreaking havoc is actually necessary to unlock new missions and items.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Results with Just Cause 2 show that the game is hardly playable with these settings.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.1 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes; Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10 and OpenGL. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Perhaps Unigine uses the increased memory more effectively than games in the other tests, as the results here are rather different. Overclocking yielded minimal results for the Axle card.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, The Joker and Batman. The Joker Has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to ply your trade.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Batman is into the playable realm, especially when overclocked. It seems some games can be played on the 5450 with work and low settings.

Testing:

Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the best selling video games of all time. You play the game as Chris Redfield a survivor of the events at Raccoon City who now works for the BSAA. Sent to Africa to find the genesis of the latest Bio Organic agents you meet up with another BSAA operative and work together to solve the problem. The game offers incredible 3D effects and a co-op gaming style.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The frames start getting low again to enter choppy performance.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest has begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The Axle card pushes itself from the XFX variant of the 5450 with a strong lead in all of the test runs. Still not enough to catch the higher cards, it still scores nearly double the amount of the GT 210.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, the 3DMark Vantage benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The Axle comes ahead again over the XFX in 3DMark Vantage, watching the benchmark with an average 1-3 FPS was painful though.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using MSI Kombuster, which is paired with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using the stability test set to a resolution of 1920 x 1200 using 8xAA. I will use a fifteen minute time frame to run the test ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the first test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario. The idle test will be a twenty minute cool down with the fan speeds left on automatic.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower = Better

 

In all of the testing, the Axle had the second lowest temperature across the board. The best temperature was from the 5570. Add a fan on your own and the temperatures would likely drop some more.

Conclusion

The Axle Radeon HD 5450 is targeted for a very specific audience - inexpensive performance, low profile systems, low power, and home theater audiences. Gaming is not this card's specialty, but then again it is not supposed to be. For better results I would suggest the 5550 line or if low profile form factors are not needed, then the 5570 or higher would be far better choices on purely the gaming aspect of the market, especially when both the 5450 and 5550 are within the same price range. The DDR3 memory also provides more bandwidth to feed the Cedar core, as 5450s can come with either 512MB or 1GB capacities of either DDR2 or DDR3. 512MB of memory seemed like plenty for the graphics card and the results showed this trend to be true in most of the tests. This card should be plenty for rendering high quality Blu-Ray or DVD movies, office work, cramped or mainstream systems. Full on hardcore gaming it cannot do but casual gaming it can indeed handle.

The Pros and Cons of this card have been mentioned already. The card itself worked flawlessly and the packaging was clean and had decent grammar and spelling. Nothing extra was included but nothing could really be expected for a card of this price point. Plus, it overclocked like a dream and still had great temperatures; the card can also be voltage modified on the uP6101 and uP7706 controllers for even more performance but that is outside the scope of this review. The only con is that a low profile bracket wasn't included, though it is a simple fix with light modification or ordering one online. The card lived up to everything it was meant to be, performed as it should, and worked without any problems. This card would be a solid upgrade path if you are currently hobbled with an IGP on your system.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: