As my friends know, I have a peculiar fondness for testing the limits of low-grade hardware. For that reason, when AMD’s Ryzen processors with Radeon Vega Graphics—better known as “the Ryzen APUs”—finally hit the market I was pretty eager to pick one up and play with it. Budget constraints left me unable to do so until just recently. One of my friends ended up with a spare Ryzen 3 2200G that she passed on to me to play with.
While I certainly appreciated the gesture, it seemed a bit of a waste at the time. I didn’t have a motherboard to put it in, nor any RAM to use with it even if I did. DDR4 was (and is) still prohibitively expensive. Plus, I didn’t want to buy cheapo low-speed RAM for use with an APU. Even though I had the rest of the parts, I wasn’t about to slap down some $300 so that I could build out a machine purely to satisfy my curiosity.
That changed when Patriot sent me some of its Viper White LED memory alongside its Viper V570 gaming mouse a while back. A pair of 8-GB sticks transferring data at up to 3600 MT/s was a fine match for that Ryzen APU, at least on paper. The pieces were coming together: I had suitable storage on the shelf, an overkill power supply, and an excess of cases to choose from stacked up in the closet.
All I needed was the motherboard. A cursory glance at Newegg listings told me that I could find a suitable foundation for under $100 in Gigabyte’s GA-AB350M-Gaming 3. That was the last gasp for my restraint.
Here’s a table with the full specifications of the machine:
|Component type||Component name||New/used?|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 3 2200G APU with
integrated Radeon Vega 8 graphics
2x8GB DDR4-3600 16-18-18-36
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-AB350M-Gaming 3||New|
|System storage||Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB||Used|
|Power supply||Corsair CX750M semi-modular||Used|
|Chassis||Cooler Master N200||Used|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Pro x64||N/A|
Make no mistake: aside from the motherboard, this machine was cobbled together from spare parts. As a result, this machine doesn’t have a fancy name like Colton’s “Gipsy Danger,” nor is there a lot to say about my rationale behind the selection of the parts. I purchased the Cooler Master N200 a few years ago as an open-box impulse buy at Micro Center, and it’s housed many builds since. The power supply came out of my Wintendo that I recently parted out and sold off. That’s why it’s gross overkill for this build.
Even still, I don’t like paying for junk. That’s why I picked out the AB350M-Gaming 3. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Gigabyte boards, and Newegg assured me that this board would come flashed and ready for a Ryzen 2000-series chip—and it did. Not only that, but this board—despite its $75 price tag after rebate—has enough features that I wouldn’t feel put out if I wanted to use it for a faster Ryzen CPU later. That’s a real possibility, given the impressive performance of AMD’s Pinnacle Ridge chips.
Simple and clean
When I first built the machine I just left wires going everywhere. It’s not a demanding system, so it doesn’t need much airflow, and I really never intended to leave it in the case for all that long. Even still, it admittedly looked terrible. In preparation for this article, the aforementioned friend who gave me the processor actually came over to re-do my wiring job so that it didn’t look so trashy. So thanks for that, kiddo.
With that said, there really aren’t many wires to manage. There are no SATA drives and no video card. The Corsair CX750M power supply is modular, too. In the end, the front-panel wires, the fan cables, and the two motherboard power cables are the only wires that required routing. My biggest complaint with the AB350M-Gaming 3 is probably that it only has three fan connectors. Consequently, I had to remove the 120-mm fan that Cooler Master includes with the N200 chassis, leaving behind only the two Corsair fans. That’s not exactly a problem, though, because as I said, this machine needs very little airflow.
As I continue to build machines with M.2 SSDs, I love them more and more. Never mind the killer performance of Toshiba’s RD400 NVMe SSD—what I really love about M.2 drives is the way they install directly onto the motherboard and don’t require any extra cabling. I have similar sentiments about building systems that only rely on integrated graphics, although the performance trade-off in that case is usually much more severe. That’s less the case here, though. I’ll talk about that at length here in a bit.
The linchpin in this build is surely the fantastic DDR4-3600 memory sent over by Patriot. Second-generation Ryzen chips handle fast memory better than the first-generation, but I wasn’t really surprised when the machine wouldn’t boot with the RAM configured for 3600 MT/s. Testing the RAM in my buddy’s Kaby Lake rig confirmed that it wasn’t the RAM’s fault—even the second-gen Ryzen IMC has trouble running 3600 MT/s RAM at its native speed. Installing it back into the Gigabyte-Ryzen machine, I enabled Patriot’s XMP profile, and then simply toggled the memory multiplier to 32x instead of 36x. Lo and behold, it started right up. 3200 MT/s is still quite quick, so I’m not fussed.
The A-series badge is from this case’s first-ever build.
So with minimal tweaking, I got the system set up and put Windows 10 on it. Having done this on several other machines in the few days before (using the same install medium), I was really impressed with the speed at which the Windows install proceeded. Windows Updates flew by in a flash, no doubt aided by my recent free bump to 100 Mbps download speed. Naturally, I installed Steam and 3DMark and began filling up the RD400 SSD with games in my quest to discover what exactly one can do on a Ryzen 3 2200G.
Doesn’t suck. -GM
As it happens, you can do quite a lot with this system. It probably doesn’t even bear mentioning for a modern quad-core machine with 16 GB of RAM and an NVMe SSD, but Windows absolutely flies on this box. Using a pair of 1920×1080 monitors, I found it quite pleasant for both work and play. This is the first Ryzen box that I’ve used for more than few minutes, and I don’t think I could pick it out in a blind test against my Core i7-4790K gaming machine.
Performance on the desktop is mostly down to your CPU and storage, though. I wasn’t really expecting a lot from this system in terms of gaming performance—even after reading Jeff’s review of the Ryzen 3 2200G. If you haven’t read his writeup, it presents a much more complete picture of the Ryzen APUs’ performance than this article. This isn’t a review, so I’ll keep it brief and subjective: it’s actually pretty darn fast.
Obviously integrated graphics are no match for a real discrete graphics card. That said, I don’t feel shy about opining that the 2200G’s Vega 8 graphics are competent enough—at least when paired with Patriot’s fast 3200 MT/s memory—to suffice for any casual gaming workload. In the last week or so since I put the machine together, I’ve played quite a few games on it. Here’s a list of titles I’ve tested on the APU and some subjective impressions for each one:
|Game title||Settings||Results and notes|
|20XX||N/A||Flawless 120 FPS with vsync|
|Bayonetta||(click)||Consistent performance over 54 FPS|
|Dark Souls III||(click)||Stable, if low, frame rate—slightly under 30 FPS|
|Demon’s Souls (RPCS3)||defaults||Solid 30 FPS, better than a real PS3 (build 6718)|
|Fortnite Battle Royale||(click)||Consistent 45 FPS; 70+ at 1600×900|
|League of Legends||(click)||Silky 140 FPS, dips to ≈90s in teamfights|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider||(click)||Playable 30 FPS, albeit with frequent hitches|
|Warframe||(click)||Amazingly smooth with FreeSync at 50≈85 FPS|
The standouts in the above list are Demon’s Souls (running in the RPCS3 emulator), and Warframe. The little Raven Ridge chip’s performance in RPCS3 is nothing short of stellar, as the PlayStation 3 emulator is notoriously hard on CPUs. In fact, my Zotac Zbox Magnus EN1070‘s Core i5-6400T isn’t quite fast enough to handle Demon’s Souls in the emulator. Using the default settings, the Ryzen 3 2200G plays this Playstation 3 classic like it was made to do so.
Digital Extremes’ Warframe
Meanwhile, the machine’s performance in Warframe is spectacular. The game looks great with most in-game graphics settings still enabled, and flipping across maps blasting enemies is as fun as ever. Playing Warframe with FreeSync enabled on my Asus ROG XG27VQ has surely been the best gaming experience I’ve had on this machine. However, that’s in part because it’s the only game I can actually get to work with FreeSync.
Whether due to using FreeSync over HDMI, a problem with the motherboard, or perhaps some fault in AMD’s drivers, using FreeSync causes most full-screen accelerated applications to become grotesquely corrupted. The issue resolves itself immediately as soon as you return to the desktop, but it affects video players and web browsers, not just games.
Even though I won’t be using this machine hooked up to my XG27VQ very often, it’s still a little disappointing that FreeSync isn’t working properly. The usual display I have hooked up to this machine, a Lenovo L2264A, also supports FreeSync at refresh rates up to 75 Hz. Fortunately, I won’t be playing games on this machine too much since I already have a dedicated gaming PC. In fact… what am I going to be doing on this machine?
Raven without a cause
I built this machine entirely to satisfy my own curiosity about the capabilities of AMD’s Raven Ridge APUs. In that endeavor, I’ve succeeded completely. Now, I’m left with an embarrassingly-competent computer and no real need for it. It won’t go entirely to waste, though. I have a new generation of gamer chomping at the bit for her own PC, after all. While my daughter’s ULV Haswell laptop serves remarkably well as a Minecraft machine, she’s a year off from being a teenager. It’s time to step up to more serious things.
Dark Souls Remastered
Yes, indeed. Dark Souls Remastered just came out today. Maybe I should see how well it runs on this machine…