HTPC enthusiasts have very specific needs when it comes to the hardware that ends up in a system. Like all previous generations of Radeon cards, there are a few selected cards which are geared specifically to be quiet and have ultra low power requirements. XFX is selling a card that’s specifically designed for HTPC users – the XFX Radeon HD6450 (HD-645X-ZNH3).

Efficient passive cooling

Efficient passive cooling

Features and Design
The Radeon HD6450 is clocked at 625 MHz. The card we received came with 1 GB of DDR3 memory using a 64-bit interface. There are 160 stream processors onboard the GPU. In terms of specifications, the hardware isn’t very high-spec. The memory being used on the card is by Elixir.

In terms of design, the Radeon HD6450 is low profile as compared to the older cards from the AMD stable. The smaller HD6450 allows you to slot the card into a smaller mini-ITX class cabinet. The stock AMD Radeon HD6450 card comes with a small fan, but XFX has gone with a completely fanless design. The fans on a graphics card help with cooling but in the case of the HD6450, which is a very entry-level class GPU, the heatsink solution can be passive.

Connectors for HDMI, D-Sub and DVI

Connectors for HDMI, D-Sub and DVI

In terms of connectivity, you get a DVI, HDMI and a standard D-Sub port for older displays. There’s even a low-profile back panel bundled with the card. If you choose to use it, you’ll need to disconnect the D-Sub connector from the card. HDMI 1.4a is supported as well, so 3D capability is taken care of.

The heatsink on the card is pretty compact. In order to improve cooling, XFX has put in an extended passive cooling solution. The heatsink on the card extends to the back as well. We tried unplugging the heatsink and found the actual GPU is to be really tiny. The heatsink doesn’t really touch the two RAM modules but it clings on tight to the GPU using four screws.

It’s wrong to expect excellent gaming from an entry-level card such as this. 3D Mark Vantage gave a score of 1488 points and a GPU score of 1134. To give you a comparison of the difference, the last HD 6670 from XFX that we tested gave a score of 5635 and a GPU score of 4496.

Average benchmarks across all games

Average benchmarks across all games

The inferior performance is also visible in some of the game benchmarks that we ran. We ran all of the benchmarks at a resolution of 1680×1050. While almost every single benchmark scored under 10 fps, the Left 4 Dead 2 timedemo benchmark scored a more respectable score of 47.09 fps. Clearly, the Half Life 2 engine lends itself better to slower cards.

While the gaming performance for newer games isn’t going to be sufficient at a resolution of 1680×1050 and 1920×1200, gamers using smaller displays or old CRTs running at 1280×1024, the performance maybe sufficient. On larger displays too, the performance of the card is just about OK to play a few older games. If you’re thinking of playing say a popular multiplayer game such as Counter Strike: Source, this card will suite you well.

However, the HD6450 is designed to be a HTPC solution so it’s important that it performs flawlessly at playing back high-definition content. We also ran HD1080p video clips on the card. The DXVA support means that the system is able to effectively offload processing to the GPU, which the HD6450 handles extremely well. We found the CPU utilisation to be extremely low. The toll on the CPU rarely crossed 1-2 per cent. Overall, we’re very pleased by its HD playback performance.

In terms of operating temperatures too, it was very impressive. The card was lukewarm at worst under extreme load.

Made for HTPC

Made for a HTPC

At a price of Rs. 5,000 and a rough market price of Rs. 2,500 (yes, that's true it's that low), it’s a very inexpensive card to buy. You won’t be able to play the latest games on it but you will be able to run HD content effortlessly. While HD playback may not be considered to be a big deal these days, low-power HTPCs running on dual-core processors require some overhead to run hefty HTPC media centre software. This is a solution such as the XFX HD6450 would be most handy. Let’s not forget the fact that is an extremely low-power card with a completely silent cooling solution.

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