ProsThe latest AMD APUs offer a good blend of CPU and GPU performance, along with impressive efficiency; Intel has nothing that can compete
ConsAMD's Zen 2-based CPUs and older Zen-based APUs offer far more performance per dollar; onboard graphics is still not adequate for gaming
Not so long ago, we had a chance to test AMD's first Athlon APUs based on the Zen architecture, and while we thought they had a place in the market, we weren't blown away. AMD had done just enough to beat Intel in terms of value in the budget market, but this wasn't saying much. Luckily, AMD also had its Ryzen "APUs" to deliver a serious bargain, in the form of the Ryzen 3 2200G and Ryzen 5 2400G, and these are the CPUs we've been recommending for over a year in our DIY PC Buyer's Guides. Now AMD is back with the follow-up to these processors, the Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G, and we're excited to bring you a full review of these promising contenders in the value market.
But, first, some background on what APUs are. In AMD's world, an APU is a CPU with built-in graphics. To the rest of the world, this is just a CPU, and most Intel CPUs in fact do have built-in graphics. With that said, AMD is understandably proud of its APUs, because they have graphics chips derived from AMD's powerful Vega architecture used in high-end desktop GPUs. That's what made the 2200G and 2400G truly groundbreaking. The big question here is what improvements the 3200G and 3400G bring to the table. First, they're based on the Zen+ architecture, which uses a more efficient 12nm manufacturing node (down from 14nm) for lower power use, while also offering slightly tweaked architecture, (on the order of 3% higher performance per clock). But perhaps the biggest difference is one that took the least 'innovation: higher-clocked versions of the same Vega 8 and 11 graphics chips that appeared on the 2200G and 2400G, respectively. With clock speeds that are about 12% higher, this improvement could be viewed as the most significant in this new product release. Perhaps not revolutionary, but any improvement is admirable given that Intel has been going backwards in this market for a long, long time - in fact, it's essentially abandoned the market all together!
Given their slightly-bumped specs, the 3200G and 3400G build upon the reputation of the 2200G and 2400G, which were already the best "do-it-all" processors on the market. But are they worth getting excited about? That's what we aim to find out!
The system we used for our benchmarking had the following specs, and is pictured at right:
- Motherboard: Gigabyte B450 I Gaming
- RAM: G.Skill 2x8GB Sniper X DDR4-3400
- SSD: Samsung 860 Evo 500GB
- Case: SilverStone SG13
- Operating System: Windows 10
Note that we purchased a mini-ITX motherboard at retail specifically for purposes of this review, because we strongly believe that the best use case for the "G" series APUs is in small form factor systems. Thus all of our testing was done on this system. For comparison purposes, we have a number of other CPUs in our benchmarks. On the Intel side, we have the classic Core i7-6700K quad-core, which delivered the "Skylake" architecture to the market in 2015, which still forms the basis of all Intel CPUs available today. It also may be the closest thing to a model for today's Ryzen 5 3400G. We also have the latest incarnation of the "Lake" series, the Core i9-9900K eight-core processor, more for purposes of comparing onboard graphics, as at $500, it's really in a different league than the APUs. On the AMD side, we have a pair of Athlon dual-core processors in a number of our benchmarks to represent the ultra-budget market, and we also have AMD's Ryzen 2700X eight-core CPU, which uses the same architecture as the 3000-series quad-core APUs, and should theoretically be up to 2x as fast. Finally, we have the new Ryzen 5 3600 and Ryzen 5 3600X, which will show you what AMD's latest and greatest architecture offers. Yes, their names sound similar to the APUs, but they are in fact completely different, starting with a lack of onboard graphics. In other words, they aren't playing in the same market.
Now, to give you a close look at the coolers you get in the box with these two Ryzen processors, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of AMD's AM4 platform, we put together a comprehensive introducutory video, which you can view right here:
All right, with that covered, let's get into our testing!