With the advent of the new AMD Ryzen APUs, we were wondering – can you build a console-killing PC without a dedicated GPU, and how much will it cost?
When Microsoft unveiled the specs for the Xbox One X, we worked out if you could build a 4K gaming PC for the same sort of money. Spoiler alert: turns out, you can’t. You won’t even get close.
Fast forward half a year or so, and the new Ryzen APUs, featuring Radeon Vega graphics, are out now. A few driver and compatibility issues aside – and AMD will lend you another processor, if you’re stuck in a boot loop – the reception has been positive, particularly with regards to the price.
The Ryzen 3 2200G costs about £99, while the Ryzen 5 2400G costs around £149. That’s an absolute steal for quad core/quad thread, and quad core/eight thread processors respectively. In fact, forgetting for a moment that these Ryzen APUs include Vega graphics on the chip – where previously, the first-gen Ryzen processors had none – these new CPUs are both faster and cheaper than the parts they effectively replace.
And they have capable graphics built in. Not capable enough to challenge an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro, by any stretch of the imagination, but what about the original wave from this generation of consoles, the Xbox One and PS4?
Let’s remind ourselves of the specs of the current gen of consoles, first of all:
And now, let’s look at the CPU and GPU components of the new AMD Ryzen APUs:
Ryzen 3 2200G specs
- CPU: 4 cores/4 threads @ 3.5GHz base/3.7GHz boost
- GPU: 8 Vega compute units @ 1100MHz
Ryzen 5 2400G specs
- CPU: 4 cores/8 threads @ 3.6GHz base/3.9GHz boost
- GPU: 11 Vega compute units @ 1250MHz
Which absolutely confirms that the new AMD Ryzen APUs won’t be troubling the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro. They do however fall into the same ballpark as the OG PS4 and Xbox One, with lower compute unit (core) counts, but higher clock frequencies on the GPUs.
In order to sort this out, we’ll switch to some theoretical numbers, the TFLOPS values – that’s Tera Floating point Operation Per Second; read this piece for an explainer on that, and other related technologies – to rank the mathematical (and therefore, peak theoretical graphical) chops of these chips in order:
- Ryzen 3 2200G: 1.12 TFLOPS
- OG Xbox One: 1.31 TFLOPS
- Xbox One S: 1.4 TFLOPS
- Ryzen 5 2400G: 1.76 TFLOPS
- OG PS4: 1.84 TFLOPS
- PS4 Pro: 4.2 TFLOPS
- Xbox One X: 6 TFLOPS
So that makes the Ryzen 3 2200G the baby of the bunch, but still comparable to the original Xbox One. The beefier Ryzen 5 2400G is theoretically better than the original Xbox One and the slightly better Xbox One S, but marginally behind the original PS4. We’ve included the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X for reference, but they’re not really in the same league.
Right, so we’ve seen the specs and we’ve seen the competition – now let’s get onto the shopping list.
AMD Ryzen APU ‘console’ build
Case – InWin Chopin or Streacom F1C
The great news about the Ryzen APUs having capable on-board graphics is that you don’t need a dedicated graphics card. That means you don’t need PCI expansion slots in the case, which are frankly, the enemy of keeping your build petite. As a result, these cases are barely bigger than the motherboard they house, and aren’t very tall, either.
You could pick up something a bit cheaper and utilitarian – like an M5X or Logic Supply MC500 – for about fifty quid, but if you’re going to be putting it under your telly you want it to look nice.
The InWin Chopin or Streacom F1C will set you back over £80, but it’s worth it. They’re also available in a variety of colours and finishes, which is nice.
Motherboard – Biostar AMD X370 Racing GTN V5
Even after Ryzen processors have been on the market for the best part of a year, there still aren’t that many mini-ITX form factor socket AM4 (AMD Ryzen) motherboards to choose from. There’s a nice Gigabyte one for a little over a hundred quid, but as we’re trying to keep a tight reign on the price for this build, we’ve selected this Biostar model for its £85 price tag.
Power supply – PicoPSU
You might find a case that comes with a power supply built in, around that sort of size and without adding much to the price tag. That’s great, if you do, but make sure it delivers enough juice to power your entire rig.
The TDP of the Ryzen 5 2400G is 65W, which is positively sipping juice in gaming hardware terms, but take into account other components – like the motherboard, memory, and hard drive, plus any additional USB accessories – and that 80W built-in PSU isn’t looking so attractive.
DC-DC power supplies like PicoPSU – which typically plug in directly to the ATX power connector on the motherboard – are fantastic at saving space within the case itself. They’re also fanless, which means they’re quiet. The one drawback is that they need an external power brick, just like a laptop, so any space you save inside the case is slightly traded off against an external brick.
Expect to pay around £80 for a DC-DC ATX PSU (with a suitable brick to feed it).
RAM – 8GB DDR4
RAM is at a little bit of a price peak at the moment. Scarcity drives prices, and while cryptocurrency mining is pushing up the price of graphics cards, a shortage of production has pushed up the price of RAM.
For a comparable build to the original Xbox One or PS4, expect to pay around £90 for 8GB of RAM at the moment. To be honest, 8GB is light when you consider the operating system and the Vega graphics chip within the Ryzen APU will be sharing it, so pushing to 12 or 16GB of RAM would be better. That would of course increase the price of the memory kit.
Learn from Microsoft’s lesson – with the slower shared DDR3 memory in the OG Xbox One, which required an ES RAM buffer to make passable – and go for the fastest RAM you can afford. The Ryzen APUs officially support RAM up to DDR4-2933, but you should be able to run with faster sticks.
Storage – 500GB mechanical HDD
If we’re strictly matching the specs of the original Xbox One and PS4, then a bog standard, 500GB mechanical hard drive is all you’re allowed for the base configuration. It should set you back around £40, but as with subsequent models of those consoles, you can upgrade to bigger storage at an increased cost.
If we’re deviating from the build anywhere, we’d recommend faster storage. SSD prices are coming down all the time, and if you opt for something like an M2 PCIe SSD then you’ll save space in the compact case for all-important airflow. For a decent middle ground, a hybrid SSD – with mechanical storage for bulk, and a solid state cache for improved speed – offers the best of both worlds.
Most people are going to need a Windows license, at a cost of around £90. The AMD Ryzen APUs – which we’ll get to in a moment – will come with a suitable CPU cooler in the box, but you may also need to budget around £20 for case fans to keep your system cool. And if we’re really considering this a console killer, then you’re going to want an Xbox One X controller for around £60.
Total price – £545
And keep in mind, that’s the total price of all the components before we’ve even added on the Ryzen APUs themselves. Once we do that, the price looks more like this:
- With Ryzen 3 2200G – £645
- With Ryzen 5 2400G – £695
As with our look at building a 4K gaming PC to rival the Xbox One X, if you’re trying to compete with the consoles on sheer price, then don’t bother. While the £99/£149 price tags seem incredibly low – and they are, in PC-building terms – when you consider they’re around half the MSRP of an entire PS4 Slim or Xbox One S, it’s not so appealing. You can actually buy an Xbox One X for less than our Ryzen APU build here.
Then keep in mind that, included in that retail price tag for the consoles, you’ll get a controller and an operating system bundled in. You’ll probably also get a game or two included, if you shop savvy.
Don’t get me wrong: the AMD Ryzen APUs are fantastic pieces of kit, and you will achieve similar levels of performance – as long as you’re prepared to be realistic with screen resolution, detail levels, and frame rates – to the original Xbox One and PS4.
You’ll also be able to use it as an actual PC, which is a benefit the consoles can never claim, and you’ll get access to an enormous, near-bottomless library of cheap and discounted games (compared to the first-party console stores).
You’ll also get to build it yourself, which is a great project and a benefit that shouldn’t be underestimated. And if you can scrimp a little here and there – by recycling RAM or a hard disk, or using Linux instead of Windows, or not purchasing a controller, or picking a less compact case with a traditional ATX PSU – you might be able to get the build down under £300.
A PC based on an AMD Ryzen APU as a starting point, with a view to adding a graphics card later for a more powerful system, also makes a compelling argument for a staged, budget-conscious build.
But if anybody’s telling you that the low entry price of the latest Ryzen APUs is going to wipe out the console market, then we’re sorry to tell you that they’ve not done the sums. We have done the sums and – once again – it proves that the buying power of major brands like Microsoft and Sony is unrivalled when it comes to home video games systems.
More from Thumbsticks
- Nvidia extends the Geforce Now beta to Windows PCs
- Fortnite team shares performance impact of Meltdown CPU patching
- Acer announces AMD Ryzen-powered Nitro 5 gaming laptop
- Acer Nitro 5 review
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