I’m building a Ryzen 3 2200G PC. It may be a PC that every enthusiast will look down at, but hey, there’s a reason this blog is called Lowendia. I love the low end and seeing what can be done there. I’m planning to test this PC and see what it’s worth and how to make the most of it.
Here’s what the build includes:
- CPU: Ryzen 3 2200G
- Motherboard: ASRock AB350M-HDV
- RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 4GB DDR4-2666
- HDD: 4TB Seagate BarraCuda (which I won from TechSpot / Hardware Unboxed)
- Old generic case and PSU
For now, here’s a short introduction about how I ended up buying this configuration.
The current PCs
I have two desktop PCs at home (and a couple of laptops). The one that’s being used the most is the HTPC. It’s the main family gaming device, accompanied by an Xbox 360 and a Wii U. Its standard gaming fare is LEGO games and platformers. I upgraded it last year, so it’s reasonably up to date even if low end. (And the RAM I grabbed in 2016. Cost me $70 for the 16GB.) Here’s the spec:
- Pentium G4560
- Stock cooler
- Gigabyte B250M-DS3H
- MSI Radeon RX 460 2GT LP (running at 50% power)
- 2x8GB DDR4-2400
- 128GB M.2 SSD
- 4TB HDD
- Enermax Laguna case
The second PC is my old desktop. It was once used for gaming, software development and other stuff, but fell by the wayside as more of my spare time got focused on my family and my PC use moved to the family laptop, which has a better specs. Here’s the spec:
- Phenom II X6 1090T
- Cooler Master Hyper TX3
- ASUS M5A99X
- PowerColor Radeon HD 5750 (my 5850, also won from TechSpot, died a while back)
- 4x4GB DDR3-1866
- 120GB SSD + a few collected hard drives
- Corsair Carbide 200R case
I’ve been itching to upgrade this PC for a while now. Not that I really need that upgrade (the most it was used for in recent years was some web gaming by the kids), but it’s just, you know, old, and it’s not that hard to buy something better, RAM prices being the main problem. I figure that if anything, a cheap upgrade would just lower power use considerably even if it won’t perform much better.
The possible upgrades
It’s hard to upgrade a Phenom II based PC without replacing the CPU+motherboard. The PC has a decent motherboard (a real upgrade compared to the original DDR2 one) which supports all AM3+ CPUs, but the Piledriver CPUs just never seemed to me to be worth the money. I’ve thought several times of buying one as an upgrade, even after Ryzen was released, but every time I decided that the performance benefit just wasn’t worth the price, even at ~$100.
I thought of just upgrading the GPU, but it was a somewhat boring choice, and as GPUs went up in price and became scarce, due to mining, also not a realistic one.
I had been interested in APUs for a while, because the combination of a CPU and decent GPU in one chip fits my love for low end stuff and I think is also technically interesting. Before I bought the G4560 + RX 460 I thought about Bristol Ridge, but AMD delayed its release and my patience ran out. Good thing, too.
So when the Raven Ridge APUs were announced, I knew I was going to get a Ryzen 3 2200G. My initial thought was to get a 2200G, then wait for B450 motherboards to appear, then wait until RAM prices drop down somewhat and buy 16GB of reasonably fast DDR4. That, I figured, would be a decent upgrade for my desktop. Not a huge one, but an upgrade nonetheless.
The plan went through minor changes after that, from thinking of waiting for a 2300G (the gap between the 2200G and 2400G begs for one, I think) to thinking of just ordering the 2200G and a B350 board and benchmarking it with the 16GB I already have. After all, I realised, my purpose in upgrading was to play with the upgrade. Having a new PC was secondary.
So why 4GB?
It’s all the fault of this guy. He posted on Reddit about the Ryzen 3 2200G 4GB benchmarks he ran, and put my gears in motion. I remembered that before I upgraded the HTPC, it had the following spec:
- Phenom II X3 710
- Shitty nForce motherboard
- 4GB single channel DDR3-1333
- HIS HD 5550 Silence 1GB DDR2 800MHz
And the thing was, it was completely usable for its intended purpose, which was family gaming (and watching videos). It ran the LEGO games and many platformers admirably, considering the lowly hardware. Sure, it was sometimes necessary to run at 720p or use lower settings, especially for the newer games, but it was still a system that we (I and my kids) could enjoy gaming on, and even a game like Unravel, which lists a Radeon HD 5750 as a minimum, ran well enough on that RAM-limited 5550.
Now I had my angle: what if a parent wants a gaming PC for family games, the cheapest worthwhile gaming PC for a 5-10 year old kid? Would a 2200G, A320 motherboard and 4GB of RAM be enough for that? I know that a Pentium G4560 is worse than the Radeon HD 5550 at gaming, even with dual channel RAM. A G4600, with its better GPU, might be equivalent to the 5550. Would the 2200G with 4GB single-channel not-the-fastest RAM be significantly better?
With that idea idea for something I can test, and an angle that reviewers and YouTubers are unlikely to check, I had my reason to build that PC. It fulfills all the real points my new PC has to hit:
- Throw a bit of money at AMD (because I like the company).
- Scratch the upgrade itch.
- Learn something new about PCs.
- Don’t spend a lot on something I’m not going to use much.
I ended up getting a B350 motherboard and not an A320 one because I’m still an enthusiast at heart, even if the very lowly of the lows. I still want to play with voltages and clocks, even if I tend to undervolt, not overclock (which is good considering that the motherboard is specced for 65W CPUs only). I ended up with 2666 RAM and not 2400 because the price difference was minimal when I bought it (about $5).
In the long run I will likely upgrade the RAM. It really is a waste to keep a single-channel APU system. But for now, testing of the greatest of the lows is about to commence.
I finally got the components, but the motherboard has an old BIOS (version P3.10, from July of last year), so it won’t work with the CPU. I’ll see what Asrock says, and if it can’t help, will try for an AMD boot kit. When I get that resolved I’ll build the system.
After that, my plan isn’t to start the benchmarking of family games, but to use some more hardcore older games with built-in benchmarks (Tomb Raider 2013, Bioshock Infinite, Metro: Last Light Redux) to stress test and see how the system responds, in performance and power use, to changes like undervolting and GPU memory allocation.