AMD Ryzen APUs

When Zen met Vega

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents - PRICE $ 139 & $ 235 www.amd.com CHRIS SZEWCZYK

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!

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