Final ThoughtsThus far AMD has hardly shocked us with their sub-$100 Radeon HD 5000 graphics offerings. The Radeon HD 5670 that we reviewed a few weeks back was able to put away the GeForce GT 240 in most tests, but the performance margins were close. The bigger issue surrounds the fact that the GeForce GT 240 is a horrible product in itself, not to mention it's seriously outclassed by the older and slightly more expensive GeForce 9800 GT and Radeon HD 4770.
What makes these cards different to the Radeon HD 5450 is that you shouldn't expect to play games with a card in this price point. It wasn't possible before and that hasn't changed today.
Looking at the current market we have the GeForce GT 220 retailing for $60 (512MB) and $70 (1GB), while the Radeon HD 4650 is priced at $50 (512MB) and $60 (1GB). Both graphics cards are considerably faster than the Radeon HD 5450 in gaming scenarios, but once again we would recommend spending an extra $30 for true gaming-level performance and not the extra $10 for either of these -- (Ed. Note: there's also a missing Radeon HD 5500 coming up pretty soon).
The Radeon HD 4350, which the Radeon HD 5450 seems to replace is priced at just $35 (512MB) or $45 (1GB), while AMD expects to charge a bit more for the Radeon HD 5450 at launch ($50-60).
So with games out of the equation, we feel more comfortable recommending a motherboard that features an integrated graphics platform (IGP) as this will save you a bit of money, and there are plenty of options to choose from. There is a limited market for HTPC builders who may like what the Radeon HD 5450 has to offer, especially in terms of form factor and power consumption, however we can't say other products that were already available can't perform the same job.
While a couple of years ago a cheap discrete GPU could have made a lot of sense over underpowered integrated solutions, today that gap is as narrow as ever when gaming is not a concern.
Because the Radeon HD 5450 inherits most features present on its higher-priced siblings, Eyefinity is expected to be present in select models using the Radeon HD 5450 GPU. In other words, an Eyefinity enabled Radeon HD 5450 will likely be the cheapest way for you to get triple monitor support.