AMD Ryzen APUs
When Zen met Vega
AMD had a very successful 2017 beginning with the release its Ryzen series of CPUs, firmly bringing the company back to a welcome competitive position not seen for the last decade. Not stopping there, AMD continued to execute its plans with Threadripper, Epyc, Ryzen Pro and finally Ryzen Mobile all being well received. As we moved well into 2018 there was always the glaring omission of the company’s shining light: its APU range. For many years AMDs processor division saw most of its success come from the sales of its range of so called APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) which merge the functionality of a CPU and GPU onto a single die. It’s the one area where AMD have consistently outclassed Intel. This last piece of the first generation Ryzen puzzle is what we are seeing here in the form of the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G which merge the Ryzen CPU and Vega GPU architectures. Can they shake up the market like the Ryzen CPUs did?
THE ZEN BITS - REFINED
The Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G are codenamed ‘Raven Ridge’. They are built with a refined 14nm process. The chips are essentially a System on Chip design (SoC) with the major system components all integrated onto the one chip. Both APUs are quad core designs, with the 2400G having Simultaneous Multi-Threading (SMT) enabled for 8 threads in total. Like the big brother Ryzen processors, the 2400G and 2200G both have unlocked clock multipliers, making it extremely easy to overclock them. Both APUs officially support DDR4-2933, which is a nice bump over Ryzen.
It may seem like AMD is simply adding a free IGP, but there are some cutbacks compared to Summit Ridge Ryzen CPUs. One of the immediately apparent drawbacks is the inclusion of just 8x PCIe lanes instead of the usual 16x used to connect to a graphics card. AMD will say that hardly anyone will use a high end GPU with a low end APU, and it’s hard to argue with that logic. Still, a full 16x capability would have been nice. There are other PCIe lanes reserved for a M.2 drive and connection to the chipset. AMD have also cut back on the L3 cache, with both APUs equipped with 4MB compared to 8MB for the likes of the lower end Ryzen 3 1200. AMD includes its Wraith Stealth cooler with the 2400G and 2200G. It does its job well, but it’s not designed to handle serious overclocking. It is perfectly capable of keeping the 65w 2200G and 2400G cool with acceptable noise levels.
VEGA SHINING BRIGHTLY
Sometimes it seems like graphics cards are hardly even used for gaming anymore. The explosion of crypto currency mining means it’s more difficult than ever to build a genuine gaming PC on a budget. What’s a budget minded gamer to do?
Our readers will probably be familiar with the capable, but hot and power hungry Vega graphics cards from AMD. Thankfully, neither of these characteristics carries over to the APU. A fully fledged Vega 64 card has 4096 shader processors, while the 2400G is equipped with 704 and the little 2200G has 512. The Vega 64 can and does use well over 300w of power by itself compared to just over 100w for the entire 2400G test system, which is not bad at all. It’s worth mentioning that some estimates place the number of
games like Overwatch run well at 1080p, making AMD APUs a compelling choice for users on a budget
shipped PCs without discrete graphics cards at over 30%. Many of these people don’t game at all, but many do use modern 4K+ screens or use a home theatre PC. This last group of users will love the new APUs. Things like HEVC and VP9 10 bit decoding, HDMI 2.0 support (motherboard dependent) and future driver support for Playready 3.0 DRM are vital for HTPC users.
AMD has made it very clear that AM4 will be around for several years, and this presents an attractive upgrade path for some time to come. You could take your existing motherboard and memory and put a future generation CPU and GPU in with just a BIOS update. This ability to reuse an AM4 motherboard is to be commended but this throws up another issue. Many unsuspecting buyers will get caught out when attempting to boot one of the new processors in a motherboard without a BIOS update. It’s important to check this to avoid unnecessary headaches. INTEGRATED GRAPHICS THAT CAN DO 1080P. SAY WHAT? So, how do these new processors perform? Testing the Vega integrated graphics show just how impressive the new APUs are compared to the HD 630 graphics found in mainstream Intel parts. In Rise of the Tomb Raider and Hitman we are seeing up to 3x the performance. AMD wins this battle easily! Of course, if you want 60 FPS+ in modern titles, you’ll still want a discrete graphics card though not everyone is a hardcore gamer playing the latest titles at 4k. Games like CS:GO, Overwatch or DOTA 2 will run perfectly well at 1080p, making the AMD APUs a compelling choice for users on a budget who don’t want to spend big bucks.
The CPU portion of the APU is also competitive, if not outstanding. Despite being a significant improvement over previous AMD APUs, the fact remains that Intel is still the superior choice when it comes to CPU performance, though not by the huge margins we’ve seen in the past. The Zen architecture was a big leap forward, with multithreading in particular being a major strength of the Zen architecture. Again it is competitive here, though the smaller L3 cache will hurt it in some tests compared to first generation Ryzen.
Throughout our tests we used AMDs bundled Wraith Stealth cooler. It is perfectly capable of keeping the 65W APUs cool during normal running. We saw temperatures spike to just under 70c when running intensive benchmarks which is very acceptable. We weren’t able to spend too much time overclocking, but thankfully it’s easy thanks to unlocked multipliers. We were able to reach a quick and dirty 3.9 GHz with the stock cooler, so with a quality cooler, that nice 4GHz mark should be within reach. Note that heat and power consumption will jump considerably, so adequate cooling is a must.
The Ryzen APUs are very well priced and perform well. The Vega graphics really do raise the bar of what to expect from integrated graphics. There’s also the promise of future compatibility with now mature AM4 platform. Thermal performance is surprisingly good, the opposite of what we’ve seen with the discrete Vega graphics cards. At this time, there are no better options if you are looking to build an affordable system that can also handle some light gaming. Playable 1080p is sweet indeed. The competition never sits still though and we’ll soon see what Intel brings to the table when they release cheaper Coffee Lake models and supporting chipsets. However, Intel is not known for its integrated graphics prowess and it’s highly likely they won’t be able to match AMD in this area any time soon. If you are looking to build an entry level system with competitive CPU and GPU performance, these Ryzen APUs are your best bet. AMD should sell a load of them. Just make sure your accompanying motherboard of choice is equipped with an APU supporting BIOS!