Sapphire Radeon HD 3450 LP

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
September 18, 2008
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72391
Sapphire Radeon HD 3450 LP
Entertainment PCs are really taking over the living room. The need for low profile cards is rising and the Sapphire Radeon HD 3450 steps in to fill that need.

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Page 1
Intro:

When readers come to ASE Labs and see a graphics card review, they expect to find a high speed entry with a bunch of bells and whistles. There is another section of the market that ASE Labs reaches and that is the mainstream builders and entertainment PC builders. These types of buyers have very different requirements than the so-called enthusiast. Speed and performance take a back seat to form factor, noise, and features. Most small cases only support low profile cards and the Sapphire Radeon HD 3450 steps in to provide the video on your entertainment system.

Box:

box.jpg


Interestingly enough, the box of the 3450 is smaller compared to the bigger, badder cards. The box size is analogous to the speed and actual size of the card. It is smaller and slower, but still gets the job done.

Specs:

  • 256MB DDR2
  • 64-bit memory interface
  • Core/Memory Clock - 600 / 500
  • Low Profiile PCB with VGA cable
  • Passive thermal solution
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus support
  • DirectX 10.1 / Shader Model 4.1 support
  • ATI CrossFireX multi-GPU support
  • Unified Video Decoder (UVD) for Blu-ray and HD DVD at full HD 1080p
  • HDMI with 5.1 surround sound audio
  • HDMI with 5.1 surround sound audio


Parts:

parts.jpg


Aside from the drivers (Windows only), you get a full-size bracket along with some connectors including an HDMI cable which is a nice addition.

The 3450:

card1.jpg


Let's be clear about one thing. This card is not targeted to the benchmarking or performance crowd. You won't see any benchmarks in this review since the market doesn't care about them. That being said, the card is passively cooled and is rather small compared to the normal performance type of graphics cards. Passively cooled cards are great for entertainment PCs, just make sure you have the proper cooling for the entire case. The card gets pretty hot.

card2.jpg


The low profile brackets are pre-installed and there is a daughter bracket for S-Video out which is very handy. It is nice they give a connection for it rather than just dropping the connection. Standard is HDMI and DVI as well which is great for a budget card. The HDMI connection support 5.1 audio and works fine.

card3.jpg


No extra power required for this product. The card gets all the power it needs from the motherboard which is good since power is usually a premium in small cases.

card4.jpg


The card's PCB is blue which is nice, but no one will see it anyway. Most entertainment PC cases are not flashy with windows and such. They are made to fit in a living room.
Page 2
Installation and Testing:

I planned on using the card in a MythTV frontend paired with a VIA ITX board. That situation proved futile as the fglrx nor the open source ati driver supports XVMC which is a requirement for this VIA ITX board since the CPU isn't strong enough to handle MPEG2 decoding for streaming (crazy, I know). My plans were shot for this card, but there is hope for other uses. With Windows, it supports all the nice video codec offloading functions that UVD (ATI's form of offloading video processing) provides. You can use this card well with Windows Media Center edition, but this goes against my choice of software so I don't recommend using it. I'm pretty sure that ATI will release a fglrx with XVMC (or the new VA API) sooner or later.

Now other than not supporting something I need, the card works well for what it should be doing. It has reasonable 3D support (you won't be playing Crysis on it, but you can play other recent 3D games with acceptable speed), full HDMI with audio support, and supports the low profile form factor. This along with the price means that the card fits the intended purpose well. For Linux users, you'll need to pair this up with a good CPU to make full use of MythTV. There are ITX motherboards that have Core CPUs these days so there is no worry on that front.

Conclusion:

I know you expect video cards to be rather expensive, but you can pick up this one for a scant $40. That's right... forty dollars. It is the price that is the saving grace of this product. Sapphire really knows how to capture all corners of the market and the price point along with the form factor of the 3450 really can't be beat. I can't recommend it for Linux/MythTV users due to no XVMC support, but Windows users can get an inexpensive card that will run rings around any on-board video.

I'd like to thank Don from Sapphire for making this review possible.
members/attachments/upload/2008/09/18/2793m.jpg box.jpg members/attachments/upload/2008/09/18/2794m.jpg parts.jpg members/attachments/upload/2008/09/18/2795m.jpg card1.jpg members/attachments/upload/2008/09/18/2796m.jpg card2.jpg members/attachments/upload/2008/09/18/2797m.jpg card3.jpg members/attachments/upload/2008/09/18/2798m.jpg card4.jpg

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