We all know that the current state of the GPU market is a complete mess due to the rise in crypto-miners. This is why AMD have thrown budget gamers a bone with the introduction of the Ryzen 3 2200G and the Ryzen 5 2400G APUs. These new APUs combine a Ryzen CPU with a Vega GPU and while they are not relevant to high and mid-range gaming rigs, they are great news for those looking at building a budget gaming PC.
As this is a budget CPU I decided to use more affordable hardware for this build. This means no high-end motherboard, no mammoth amounts of RAM and most importantly, no dedicated GPU. The whole point of this build is to bypass the need for spending those extra dollars on a dedicated graphics card. So after ordering some components online and patiently waiting for them to arrive, I finally had the parts that I needed to build a Ryzen 3 2200G powered PC.
This is a full list of the hardware that I decided to use for this budget build.
AMD Ryzen 3 2200G processor
ASRock AB350 PRO4 motherboard
2x Ballistix Sport LT 4GB DDR4 2666 RAM
SanDisk 250GB Ultra Solid State Drive
Thermaltake Smart RGB 500W power supply
Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 5 case
Corsair Cooling Hydro H45
Cooler Master MasterFan Pro 120 RGB case fan
While you could argue that you can build a cheaper gaming rig with cheaper components and the stock CPU cooler, the components that I chose were not that much more expensive than slightly cheaper options. Plus, cheaper components just look boring or in some cases just plain ugly, and would mean terrible thermals when overclocking the CPU and GPU. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of the Corsair H45 as its pump is quite a bit louder than the Cooler Master Masterliquid ML240L that I have been testing. But I had it on hand and the thermals are not too bad despite it being an entry level 120mm all-in-one cooler. When it comes to the noise level though, I might just be nit picking and a bit over sensitive and many air coolers run at the similar dB and offer worse thermals. That being said, I did replace the fan on the H45 with the MasterFan Pro 120.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
Most motherboards on the market at the moment will not run the new APUs out of the box without a BIOS update. Now, there is no way to update the BIOS without a working CPU. This seems to be quite the conundrum as your new Ryzen 3 2200G is a working CPU, however your motherboard will more than likely not recognize it. So here are some steps that you can take to get past this annoying issue. You can purchase your motherboard from a store that will do the BIOS update for you, easy enough to do, though a bit harder when ordering from an online retailer. Two, you can borrow a compatible CPU from a friend or family member and do the update yourself. Or three, you can contact the good people at AMD who will send you a boot kit so that you can do the BIOS update without taking another PC apart. This boot kit includes a Dual Core AMD A6-9500 APU and a CPU heatsink. Now, the APU will have to be sent back, but you do get to keep the heat sink, though much like the APU it is the not worth keeping as it is literally the cheapest of the cheap from AMD. In my case I just used a Ryzen 5 1600 CPU that I had on hand and in a matter of minutes I updated my BIOS to the latest version that supported the new Ryzen APUs.
Before you undertake any overclocking, I advise that you make sure that you understand the risks involved in overclocking your CPU and GPU. Also, I do not recommend using the standard Wraith Stealth cooler.
This is where the Corsair H45 comes into play, and while I could have used the stock AMD Wraith Stealth cooler, the temps would have been mad high when pushing both the CPU and GPU clocks. And let’s face it, this APU is screaming to be overclocked. So that is exactly what I did, I downloaded the AMD Ryzen Master Application, which is the easiest way to overclock both the CPU and GPU. Overclocking the CPU was the simple part, I set it to 3.9GHz, which seems to be a sweet spot and a great improvement over the stock 3.5GHz that the 2200G usually boasts. Then came time to overclock the Vega GPU as running it stock would mean lower frame rates in games. While many have recommended DDR4 3000 or 3200 RAM modules I decided to go for DDR4 2666 modules due to getting a great deal on a set of two Ballistix Sport LT 4GB sticks. This meant that I couldn’t quite push the GPU overclock as high as I wanted without getting the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. In my first bold attempt I decided to be cocky and aimed high with a GPU overclock of 1500MHz, and though it looked like it had taken, it soon led to a Blue Screen of Death. So slightly defeated I went back into the Master Application and set the bar lower with 1200MHz. This seemed to run fairly stably and I could begin testing my budget build. As soon as the overclock ran smoothly, I decided to slowly push it up by 25 till I got it to run smoothly at 1400MHz. I also increased the APU GFX voltage to 1.3 and the SOC voltage to 1.2, this allowed for the most stable result.
To test the CPU and the GPU I fired-up Cinebench and ran both the CPU and OpenGL GPU test to see what the overclocked 2200G could pull out of its hat. First of all it’s important to remember that this a budget APU and we can’t expect it to deliver high frame rates or mind blowing CPU performance. However, it actually performed quite well for a $99 CPU/GPU combo, not just that, but when it was overclocked I managed to squeeze out a few extra frames per second. With the CPU overclocked to 3.9GHz it managed to score 602 in the CPU test, which is way higher than the other budget favorite, the Pentium G4560. I also ran a benchmark in CPUZ against the popular Ryzen 5 1600. Due to its higher clock speed it managed to score higher in the Single Thread test, but fared worse in the Multi Thread test due to its lower core and thread count.
Now for the GPU score, I did a few test runs as I played around with the overclocking and while 1400MHz was the highest I could push it due to my RAM, I still managed to get a maximum of 62.00 fps in Cinebench. However, this is just a benchmark and doesn’t always relate to real world experiences. I started off by installing Origin and Steam to test how this budget build would handle two of my favorite modern games, Battlefield 1 and Fallout 4. I also ran Fortnite Battle Royale, as it’s extremely popular at the moment and is super attractive to those gamers on a budget due to its free price tag. Overall the Ryzen 3 2200G handled these games as expected. Fortnite was the first title that I tested, with the settings set to 1080p and medium settings the overclocked Vega 8 graphics managed to get an average frame rate of 38 fps. Now, while this is not 60 fps as many hardcore gamers would say is the bare minimum, this is still pretty good for a $99 APU. Battlefield 1 was a slightly different story, I originally had issues with Battlefield 1 crashing, but once I managed to sort out the annoying gremlin I decided to set the bar low and run the game on the lowest of settings at 1080p. My frame rates were all over the place, but at least I got frame rates over 40 fps, with a high of 57fps. I tried setting the graphics a bit higher, but this led to a dramatic drop in frame rates. Despite being a 2015 release, Fallout 4 is still a great game to play in 2018. Here I managed to run the game on medium settings and at 1080p, with average frame rates of 34 fps. Though, for better frame rates you can set the resolution down to 720p, however, this is 2018 and 720p just looks sad.
For $99, this CPU/GPU combo is a real winner if you are on a tight budget. Not only that, but the Vega 8 GPU far out performs the integrated graphics provided by the entry level Pentium G4560 or even the Core i3-8100 CPUs. Sure, you won’t be shredding games on ultra settings at 120 fps, but at its super attractive price I don’t expect it to. Plus, you can always add a dedicated graphics card such as the NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti or the Radeon RX 560 for increased graphics performance while not shattering the bank.