ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3450 is a quite common graphics card, often found in cheap laptops and its gaming performance higher than integrated graphics cards. While it is not a gaming graphics card, it delivers an acceptable performance in not very demanding games and, when resolution and detail level are kept low, even in the lastest titles. We are going to examine its performance in the demos of the games Call of Duty 4, Crysis, F.E.A.R. 2, Sacred 2, Red Alert 3, Unreal Tournament 3, World in Conflict, Race Driver: GRID, Far Cry y Half Life 2. If not otherwise noted, all fps measurements were taken using FRAPS.
All tests have been performed in the demo versions, not in the full games. What impact can you expect on the measured performance? Usually the full game is better optimized, specially after one of more patches have been released, so performance can be better in the full game; but it is also usual that the full game has scenes of a higher visual complexity than the demo, resulting in a lower performance in such scenes.
All tests have been performed on a Dell Studio 15 sporting an Intel Core 2 Duo T5800 (2.0 GHz), 3 GB de RAM DDR2-800 and Windows Vista Home Premium SP1. Stock drivers were used. So both a faster processor and newer drivers can deliver better results. Results are expressed in fps (frames per second).
Call of Duty 4 (COD4)
- Best performance: 800×600, everything Low or Off: 33-84 fps (average 50.4).
- Native resolution: 1280×800, everything Low or Off: 8-48 fps (average 27.1)
- Good compromise 1: 1024×768, Normal textures, all other settings Low or Off: 12-61 fps (average 31.1 fps)
- Good compromise 2 (picture): 800×600, Low textures, all other settings Low or Off excepting Shadows On, Dynamic lights Low: 15-62 fps (average 30.0 fps)
At 800×600 and all settings at the minimum it is completely smooth, but visually the game is ugly and, removing shadows and most effects, it feels quite unrealistic. With shadows on and dynamic lights the game is more realistic and it is still quite playable. In conclusion, it is very playable if resolution and detail settings are kept low.
- Best performance: 800×600, everything Low: 13-40 fps (average 25.3).
The demo is playable at 800×600 and even at 1024×768, but gameplay is not very smooth and can be annoying. In addition, some effects, such as fog and smoke, cause a noticeable reduction in fps, and this can be a problem in the full game: caution. The game is visually nice, but Crysis at minimum settings is not Crysis…
World of Warcraft
- 1280×800, Fair settings but High resolution textures: 22-30 fps (average 25.1).
- Also playable at 800×600, Good settings (fps not measured).
I took the 10-days free trial. It’s very playable at 1280×800 and Fair settings, and you can even use High resolucion textures. Beware of expansions (mainly Wrath of the Lich King), because they need more graphics power.
F.E.A.R. 2 : Project Origin
- 800×600, everything at minimum, shadows On: 10-61 fps (average 30.7).
I was surprised that one of the lastest games, F.E.A.R. 2, is playable in my modest laptop. Visual quality is quite good, but performance is lower when there are spectres and phantoms nearby, scoring 10-32 fps (average 29.7), so caution with the full game. Removing shadows will result in better performance, but in a game like this one I think it is very nice to keep them on.
I uploaded a short video (30 s) to Youtube.
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
- Best performance: 1024×768, Low: 15-53 fps (average 33.5).
- Native resolution: 1280×800, Low (picture): 13-38 fps (average 30.0).
It is good to find a game that works nicely at the native resolution of the monitor. fps scores are not very impressive, but this kind of game does not need as many fps as first person shooters. Perfectly playable.
Red Alert 3
- Native resolution: 1280×800, Low: around 30 fps.
Perfectly playable at 1280×800 and Low settings, but going to Medium quality results in slow moving units and laggy scroll, and that is a pity, because Medium graphics look really nice.
Race Driver: GRID
- Best performance: 800×600, Low (picture): 30-40 fps (average 45.0).
- Native resolution: 1280×800, Low: 13-31 fps (average 24.5).
- Better quality: 800×600, Medium, MSAA Off: 14-22 fps (average 18.8).
Perfectly playable at 1280×800 and Low details, but it becomes too laggy for me at Medium details, even at 800×600.
World in Conflict
Tests performed using the built-in demo benchmark tool, not with FRAPS:
- Good performance: 1024×768, Low: 12-114 fps (average 40 fps).
- Native resolution: 1280×800, Very Low: 10-110 fps (average 42.0 fps).
- Good compromise (picture): 1280×800, Low: 10-96 fps (average 34.0 fps).
The demo benchmark tool gives low fps when the big bomb is released, but playing the demo gameplay is smooth and visual quality is good. It is possible that, if big explosions are usual in the full game, playability can suffer, so caution.
Unreal Tournament 3
- Best performance: 800×600, everything quality 1 (picture): 31-57 fps (average 42).
- Better resolution: 1024×768, everything quality 1 : 22-34 fps (average 27).
- Better quality: 800×600, everything quality 2: 24-49 fps (average 35.7).
All tests performed in the map ShangriLa, that seems to be more demanding. In a multiplayer deathmatch you really want 30 fps at least, but you can get them. While graphic detail is low, gameplay is very smooth and visual quality is not bad (compare the textures below with the ones in the COD4 picture).
- Best performance: 800×600, everything Low: 110-200 fps (average 148).
- High quality: 1280×800, everything High (texture filter quality Medium): 19-31 fps (average 26.7).
- Good compromise: 1280×800, everything Medium (picture): 27-50 fps (average 40.0).
Far Cry is from 2004, but at that time it was one of the more demanding games in the market: at 1280×800 and medium details I still wish it was a bit more smooth. Anyway, it is very playable and visual quality is good.
Half Life 2
While contemporary of Far Cry, it is perfectly playable at 1280×800 and maximum quality: it is so smooth I did not bother recording the fps. Counter Strike: Source uses the same graphics engine (Source) and is from 2004 too, so it is likely that you can play this game at high details too.
Other current games
Sadly many new popular games do not have an available demo, but you can guess if they are going to be playable:
- Far Cry 2: playable on similar cards such as the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200 at 1024×600 and Low details, so it has to be playable on the 3450.
- Fallout 3: playable on an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470 with a mix of medium and low details, so it is probably playable at low details on the 3450.
- Left 4 Dead: seems to run very well on a desktop 3450, that is marginally more powerfull than the Mobility version, so it is likely playable at an acceptable quality.
- GTA IV: it is a poorly optimized game that needs a powerful computer. Probably NOT playable.
Is the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3450 a gaming graphics card? NO! But lets you play many current games at low detail and resolution. As that the tests have been performed in the demo version and not the full game, I would be cautious before buying a game when the demo was barely playable. If you enjoy playing current games at good quality, it is better for you to look for a “600 series” graphics card at least: Mobility Radeon HD 2600 or 3650, or Nvidia 8600 or 9600. You can be interested on the laptop graphics card comparison or on other articles in the benchmarks section.
If you play games on this card, leave a comment and tell us your experiences!