AMD Ryzen with Radeon Vega graphics will redefine desktop PCs

AMD's unveiling of the Ryzen 3 2200G and Ryzen 5 2400G that feature built-in Radeon Vega graphics will shake up the entry-level and mid-range desktop PC market.

​AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

The first crop of AMD Ryzen "Raven Ridge" desktop APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) with Radeon Vega graphics are out, and they are good. Very good.

See also: AMD EPYC powers new Dell EMC PowerEdge servers

First, let's get the tech specs out of the way.

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

  • CPU cores: 4 cores, 8 threads
  • CPU base clock: 3.6GHz
  • CPU max boost clock: Up to 3.9GHz
  • Architecture: 14nm FinFET
  • GPU cores: 11 Radeon Vega CUs
  • GPU clock: Up to 1250MHz
  • L1: 64K I-cache, 32K D-cache per core
  • L2: 512K per core
  • L3: 4MB shared
  • TDP: 65W
  • DRAM support: Up to DDR4-2933 (dual-channel)
  • Transistor and die size: 209.77mm2 / ~4.94 billion
  • Price: $169

AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

  • CPU cores: 4 cores, 4 threads
  • CPU base clock: 3.5GHz
  • CPU max boost clock: Up to 3.7GHz
  • Architecture: 14nm FinFET
  • GPU cores: 8 Radeon Vega CUs
  • GPU clock: Up to 1100MHz
  • L1: 64K I-cache, 32K D-cache per core
  • L2: 512K per core
  • L3: 4MB shared
  • TDP: 65W
  • DRAM support: Up to DDR4-2933 (dual-channel)
  • Transistor and die size: 209.77mm2 / ~4.94 billion
  • Price: $99

So how does the Ryzen 5 2400G stack up in terms of spec against the similarly priced Ryzen 5 1400?

Well, on the upside, for the same dollar you get a faster base and max boost clock speed part. However the Ryzen 5 2400G has half the L3 cache of the Ryzen 5 1400, and half the GPU PCIe lanes (x8 versus x16).

​Overview of Zen processor cores

Overview of Zen processor cores

However, according to AMD, the reduction in L3 cache -- a move that allowed for a more compact die size - is offset by the faster clock, and the reduction in PCIe lanes is a non-issue given the sort of workloads that mid-range PCs are expected to undertake.

At the core (pardon the pun) of AMD's Ryzen silicon is AMD's SenseMI technology, a set of sensing, adapting, and learning technologies built into Ryzen chips.

SenseMI uses a "smart grid" of interconnected sensors that are accurate to 1mA, 1mV, 1mW and 1°C polled a thousand times a second, with the data being fed into the processor's Infinity Fabric control loop, and is comprises of:

  • Pure Power: More than 100 embedded sensors with accuracy to the millivolt, milliwatt, and single degree level of temperature enable optimal voltage, clock frequency, and operating mode with minimal energy consumption;
  • Precision Boost 2: Smart logic that monitors integrated sensors and optimizes clock speeds, in increments as small as 25MHz, at up to a thousand times a second (and compared to the first incarnation of Precision Boost, this version improves the way that the chip boosts cores under a broader set of workloads);
  • Neural Net Prediction: An artificial intelligence neural network that learns to predict what future pathway an application will take based on past runs;
  • Smart Prefetch: Sophisticated learning algorithms that track software behavior to anticipate the needs of an application and prepare the data in advance.
​Precision Boost vs. Precision Boost 2

Precision Boost vs. Precision Boost 2

The potential impact of these chips shouldn't be underestimate. With some 30 percent of desktop PCs not having with a discrete graphics card, the market for cheap, high-performing chips with integrated graphics is huge.

OK, that's enough of the tech stuff. How do these new processors perform in the real world?

In a word: amazingly.

Before I go any further, I want to remind you that these are processors that cost between $99 and $149. They are budget to mainstream parts, not high-performance components.

But with that said, the Ryzen 3 2200G and Ryzen 5 2400G redefine what buyers at that budget or mainstream end of the spectrum can get for their money, outperforming Intel silicon in a similar price point (the i3-8100 and i3-7100 for the Ryzen 3 2200G, and the i5-8400 and i5-7400 for the Ryzen 5 2400G.

3DMark Time Spy performance

3DMark Time Spy performance

​3DMark Spy Time

3DMark Spy Time

Pitted up against Intel's UHD 630 graphics, as found on silicon such as the i5-8400, the Ryzen 5 2400G demolishes the competition, despite the Intel chip having a price tag that's $99 more.

720p gaming performance - 1
720p gaming performance - 2

720p gaming performance

When it comes to 1080p gaming, the Ryzen 5 2400G when combined with an RX 580 GPU (package price around $388) manages to hold its own well against an Intel i5-8400 that's paired with the same GPU (package price around $418). A gamer is unlikely to be able to tell the difference between these systems.

1080p gaming performance - 1
1080p gaming performance - 2

1080p gaming performance

When it comes to 720p gaming, the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G can hold their own without a discrete GPU very well against the Intel i5-8400 and i3-8011 chips that are paired with Nvidia GT1030 graphics cards.

Vega vs. dGPU
Vega vs. dGPU

Vega vs. dGPU

AMD supplied a lot of benchmarks for the Ryzen 3 2200G and Ryzen 5 2400G, and this seems to fall in line well with the benchmarking that I carried out on the review hardware I was sent. Using the latest supplied motherboard firmware I also found the Ryzen chips to be stable, even when I experimented with overclocking using AMD's Ryzen Master 1.2 overclocking tool (other than this, I'm going to leave discussion of overclocking for a future article).

​AMD Ryzen Master 1.2

AMD Ryzen Master 1.2

So, you're in the market for a budget or mainstream chip, should that chip be a "Raven Ridge" Ryzen with Radeon Vega graphics processor? I really can't see why it shouldn't. As a standalone part it offers excellent performance and bang for the buck on both the processing and graphics front, and it pairs well with discrete graphics if there's a bigger demand. This not only makes the chips a great choice for those on smaller budgets, but it also means that owners can later slot in a discrete GPU if their demand on the PC changes.

The price points at which AMD is selling these new chips makes them particularly disruptive. Sure, you can buy cheaper silicon, but you sure can't buy better for the price. The performance that the $99 Ryzen 3 2200G is pretty hard to believe. There were several occasions during testing where I simply couldn't believe the power that the low-cost chip was pumping out.

But for an extra $50, the Ryzen 5 2400G is even more compelling. If the $50 is make or break, then go for the cheaper chip, but if you can find the extra cash, I would certainly put it towards the extra threads, more Radeon Vega cores, and the bump in clock speed.

Quite simply, if you're looking to put together a PC on a budget, Ryzen with Radeon Vega graphics CPUs should be on your parts list.

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