AMD's new Ryzen 3000 APUs give budget gamers an affordable taste of Radeon Vega

If you’re on a Top Ramen-diet, the last thing you’re probably jazzed for is AMD’s new $750 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X or its $450 Radeon 5700 XT graphics card. But AMD buried some good news for budget gamers among its massive CPU, GPU, and motherboard PCIe 4.0 announcement blitz this week: A pair of affordable new Ryzen 3000-series APUs.

AMD’s APUs blend the company’s Ryzen processing cores with Radeon Vega graphics on a single ready-to-game chip. 

The Ryzen 3 3200G will feature a quad-core chip running with a 4GHz boost and 3.6GHz base speeds. For graphics, it will feature Radeon Vega 8 GPU cores running at 1,250MHz. The new APU will come with a Wraith Stealth cooler.

AMD’s newest APU’s are the same price but slightly faster.

Compared to the previous Ryzen 3 2200G, the newer Ryzen 3200G will run about 300MHz faster on the CPU side and about 150MHz faster on the GPU side. Budget gamers will be especially pleased by the price though: AMD will still charge $99 for the APU.

The $149 Ryzen 5 3400G justifies its higher price by outfitting its quad-core CPU simultaneous multi-threading. It’ll run at 4.2GHz on boost (about 300MHz faster than the previous Ryzen 5 2400G) and have a base clock of 3.7GHz. The graphics are faster too, upgrading to Radeon RX Vega 11 graphics that run at slightly higher clocks than its predecessor (1,400MHz instead of 1,250MHz).

The Ryzen 5 3400G will now ship with a beefier Wraith Spire cooler rated for 95 watts. AMD also said it has replaced using a composite “paste” like thermal interface material with a “high-quality metal” one too. Officials told us it’s basically the equal of a indium gallium solder on the new chip. That should come in handy if you plan on overclocking the chip.

The Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G fill out AMD’s lineup of new CPUs but just don’t think you get the latest process inside.

New name, older core design

One thing to keep in mind as you review that menu of AMD CPUs above: Even though the Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G carry “3000-series” model names, they’re not actually AMD’s new leading edge 7nm Zen 2 cores. That cutting-edge technology is reserved for the new Ryzen 3000-series CPUs alone.

Instead, both Ryzen 3000 APUs are actually based on AMD’s prior-gen 12nm cores, aka Zen+, despite their model numbers. 

Before you mount your outrage horse, this isn’t actually new for AMD. AMD’s previous Ryzen 2000 APUs were also introduced with AMD’s original 14nm Zen cores just before the company’s newer 12nm-based Zen+ cores were introduced, so it’s not a new naming convention. The core technology in AMD’s Ryzen APUs always lag a generation behind the much pricier Ryzen CPUs. 

And yes, please do pound your fist on the table and demand an expensive new 7nm process in a $99 chip, and then realize you actually said it out loud.

Intel steps up the competition

What might be more of a problem for AMD is how well the Ryzen 3000 APUs handle their Intel equivalents. The original Ryzen APUs went against far weaker 7th-gen Intel CPUs because Intel’s newer 8th-gen chips would only work on motherboards costing $120 or more.

With this launch, Intel’s 9th-gen chips can slot into motherboards at a more reasonable $55. So now, AMD’s quad-core APUs will battle far more potent chips instead of ho-hum dual-core CPUs.

While a Ryzen 3 3200G is probably going to face a back and forth battle with a Core i3-9100 in computing tasks, the quad-core (with SMT) Ryzen 5 3400G will have to duke it out against six-core Core i5-9400.

We see what you did there AMD…

We suspect that’s why AMD didn’t show off benchmark charts in tasks that would load up the CPU cores. Instead, we saw benchmarks using PCMark 10 Extended, Adobe Premiere GPU Accelerated, and SPECviewperf.

SPECviewperf is a graphics-intensive professional benchmark. And, well, the name “Adobe Premiere GPU Accelerated” pretty much tells you what that test means too. PCMark 10 Extended can lean either way but with AMD failing to show Cinebench, Blender, or other multi-core rendering tests we can surmise it probably means the new APUs are neck-and-neck with Intel’s chips there—or possibly slower.

AMD released benchmarks that most cynical nerds will say were picked to stress its strength in graphics and deemphasize its x86-performance. Good marketing AMD, but yeah, we see what you did there.

But it seems like the true strength of AMD’s Ryzen APUs—their integrated Radeon Vega graphics—remains a win. AMD released gaming figures that show fair performance for the Ryzen 5 3400G when gaming at 1080p resolution.

Intel’s Core i5-9400 with its integrated UHD630 graphics hasn’t ever hung with AMD’s graphics cores, and it looks like the Ryzen 3000 APUs hit even harder. This might very well change when Intel’s new Gen11 graphics hit the street in its upcoming Ice Lake CPUs, but when those graphics cores even make it into a budget desktop part from Intel is anyone’s guess.

Not breaking news: Radeon Vega 11 stomps Intel’s UHD630 still.

In the end, the Ryzen APU updates are welcome as there are plenty of worthy improvements in AMD’s Zen+ cores, but these chips don’t look to bring the buzz factor that the big 16-core and 12-core Ryzen 9 chips bring.

They’ll likely to still be very solid budget gaming chips, especially for people who can’t invest in a discrete graphics card.

AMD’s original Ryzen APU’s set budget gamers a tizzy with their graphics performance. Can these new chips do the same?

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