Gaming on the AMD Athlon 200GE: It Can Play, Even at 4K

At just $55 (47£), the Athlon 200GE is the cheapest CPU using AMD's Zen architecture. When Tom’s Hardware recently reviewed the AMD Athlon 200GE, we were impressed with its amazing value and surprisingly-strong performance for the money. But just what is it like to actually play games on this two-core, four-thread processor and its integrated Radeon Vega 3 graphics?

Based on our in-depth testing, shown in the video below, we can say that the Athlon 200GE is capable of handling some demanding current games at modest settings, and it can even scale up to 4K on some older, less-intense titles.

Even though AMD ships the Athlon 200GE as a locked CPU, the latest BIOS version on MSI motherboards with a chipset of B350 or better allows for multiplier Overclocking. A week after the discovery, Gigabyte updated its own bios to include the overclocking functionality. And most recently, Asus has gotten into the unlocking game with the 200GE. I was able to overclock my unit from 3.2 GHz to 3.9 GHz on a stock cooler with good temperatures.

To find out just how well the Athlon 200GE can game, I paired it with an MSI B350 Gaming Plus motherboard and 8GB of dual-channel RAM at 2666 MHz (the maximum supported speed) and tested a number of demanding titles at both stock and overclocked settings. I also tested this CPU paired with a discrete AMD Radeon RX 550 graphics card to see how it fared.

Games on the Integrated Vega GPU

While the integrated Radeon Vega 3 graphics here is not exactly at the level of a discrete GPU, it can still do an amazing amount of gaming on its own.

Summary for Integrated Graphics

Game
SettingsStock FPSOverclock FPS
Counter-Strike Global OffensiveLow- 1280x720121121 (GPU bottleneck)
Counter-Strike Global OffensiveLow - 1920x10806060 (GPU bottleneck)
OverwatchLow - 1290x720
(75% Resolution Scale)
50-60 (Some stuterring)60
Star Wars Battlefront 2Low - 1290x7204560


Wolfenstein II: The New ColossusLow - 1280x72028-3028-30 (GPU bottleneck)

(Shadows disabled)
Battlefield VLow - 1280x720 (0.5 Internal)25 - 30 fpsNot Tested
Fallout 76Custom Ultra Low - 960x54040 fpsNot Tested

For example, the always popular Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on the community benchmarking map, on lowest settings and 1280x720 (but multicore rendering on) manages to pull an impressive average of 121 fps with the 200GE, and close to a 60 fps average on 1080. There was no difference before or after overclocking.

For a better example of where overclocking can help, we can look at Overwatch. On the lowest settings, and a resolution of 1280x720 with a 75% resolution scaler, the game can almost maintain a 60 fps lock with a CPU bottleneck, which in my experience means that the game can micro-freeze at certain unexpected moments. A 45 or 50 FPS lock is easily maintained. Overwatch can be a bit CPU intensive, especially on dual-core CPUs, so this is not a huge surprise.

However, after the overclock I was easily able to play Overwatch at 60 fps with no freezes, so this is a good test to show what the Athlon can do in the right conditions.

As a side note, this is the setup that I have used to stream Overwatch on YouTube (via a capture card) and it continues to be reliable after hours of playtime. Overwatch is designed with readability in mind, so even with a lower resolution scaler, it remains a fantastic experience.

Another surprising case is Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Games on the Frostbite engine tend to require at least a competent quad-core CPU and a dedicated GPU, but the Athlon with its integrated GPU can easily reach a 60 fps lock on lowest settings with 50% resolution scaler at 1280x720 if overclocked. On stock frequencies, it can maintain a 45 fps lock on the same settings.

Another interesting case study is Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This game uses the id Tech 6 engine and runs exclusively in the Vulkan rendering API (which Vega can do). It can provide amazing performance on gaming GPUs, but can struggle a bit when there's less than 2GB of VRAM. Given that iGPUs has no VRAM whatsoever (it uses regular RAM as VRAM) this usually presents a problem, but the Athlon manages to do fine with some help.

After dropping all the settings to the lowest possible, you can open a developer console with the tilde ( ~ ) key usually under Esc. Once there, the command "r_ShadowAtlasWidth 8" will disable most shadows.

After this tweak, on 720p, the Athlon is able to keep a 28-30 FPS average on some of the most intense fight scenes in the game. The lighting of the game will look dramatically wrong and you might get an “out of VRAM” warning, but the game soldiered on incredibly well, even under fire. Since the problem is a bottlenecked GPU, overclocking does not make a difference.

OnBattlefield V, one of the newest AAA games around, the Athlon managed a barely-playable 25 to 30 fps at low settings with 1280 x 720 resolution (0.5 scale). On Fallout 76, the frame rate was a smoother 40 fps, but only at custom low settings and 960 x 540 resolution.

For such heavy games, these are impressive results. Now, let's take a look at what happens when you pair the Athlon 200GE with a low-end dedicated GPU like the AMD Radeon RX 550.

With a Dedicated GPU

The RX 550 is a 2017 AMD GPU that's comparable to a GTX 1050. It can occasionally be found at a low-enough price to make for an excellent budget build. At press time, an RX 550 was priced at approximately $79 (£62).

Summary for Athlon 200GE @ 2.9 Ghz + RX 550

Game
SettingsFPS
Star Wars Battlefront 2Low - 1920x1080
(80% Resolution Scale)
60
Assassin's Creed: OriginsMedium - 1920x1080
(70% Resolution Scale)
30
Assassin's Creed: OdysseyLow - 1920x1080
(80% Resolution Scale)
30

With the extra power of the dedicated card, Battlefront V can now be played at 60 fps and lowest settings, 1080p at 80% resolution scale. The jump in resolution is definitely an improvement for a game of this scale.

Assassin's Creed: Odyssey and Assassin's Creed: Origins are two games running on Ubisoft's AnvilNext 2.0 engine that have a reputation for requiring both a powerful CPU and GPU, so they work as excellent benchmarks for many different setups.

In our particular case the Athlon 200GE, overclocked to 3.9 GHz, is actually able to average around 37 FPS on both games and is, therefore, able to keep a 30 fps lock with decent stability.

With the RX 550, this means 1080p at 70% resolution scale and Medium settings for Origins and 1080p at 80% with low settings for Odyssey. Both actually look better than you would expect and they maintain framerates on par with consoles.

When benchmarking the Athlon 200GE for our review, Paul Alcorn tested this CPU with a GTX 1080 card and saw it deliver very playable average frame rates in Civilization VI, Far Cry 5, Hitman, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Warhammer 40,000 and Project CARS 2.

However, that was done specifically to test the CPU's ability to handle high-end gaming. We don't think many people would (or should) pair a $55 (£47) CPU with a GPU that costs 6 or 7 times as much.

Summary for Athlon 200GE  + GTX 1080

Game
SettingsStock FPSOC FPS
Civilization VIHigh - 1920 x 1080 (DX12)48.955.7
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War IIIMaximum - 1920 x 1080 (DX11)58.961.3
Far Cry 5Ultra - 1920 x 1080 (DX11)61.769.2
HitmanUltra - 1920 x 1080 (Direct3D12)47.752.5
Middle-earth Shadow of WarUltra - 1920 x 1080 (DX11)70.173.5
Project CARS 2Ultra - 1920 x 1080 (DX12)55.261.1

4K video and Gaming

The AMD Athlon 200GE has no problem playing 4K videos and, shockingly, it can even run some 4K games. For a local video playback test I used Tears of Steel, from the Blender Open Movie Project, at full 4K and 73244 kbps. For a streaming test I used some sample 4K footage from YouTube channel “4k Eye”.  Both played smoothly.

Just for fun, I tried playing a couple of games in full 4K. The venerable Half-Life 2, which came out way back in 2004, reached unexpected triple-digit performance at 3840 x 2160, with an average of 110 fps at low settings.

Some newer games can run at 4K on the Athlon 200GE also. On the lowest settings, Fallout 3 delivered an average of 32 FPS on all test areas. Of course, this chip is not ideal for 4K gaming, but it is interesting to see that it can still pull it off with older titles.

Bottom Line

The AMD Athlon 200GE is an interesting processor. It's a very budget oriented CPU that benefits from a modern architecture and DDR4 RAM speed to deliver more than what you would expect. Even if you're just using the integrated GPU, the Athlon can deliver 60 fps or more at decent resolutions on competitive games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch. Just make sure you use the right dual-channel RAM.

As an added bonus, you can easily overclock the Athlon 200GE with an MSI or Gigabyte, or Asus motherboard (as long as it has a B350 chipset or better) without the need for additional cooling. That means 60 fps for games such as the modern Battlefront 2 or a stable 30 fps on the latest Assassin's Creed games if paired with a low-end dedicated GPU.

Since it uses the same socket and RAM as the existing Ryzen line of CPU, the 200GE has a clear upgrade path to many powerful CPUs without changing any other components, giving it an extra advantage over an older or cheaper CPU. All that said, if you like the idea of the 200GE but are after better CPU and iGPU performance, we recommend stepping up to the Ryzen 3 2200G. It can often be found for under $100 and is a better performer on CPU and GPU fronts.

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  • jpe1701
    Interesting article. I've been wondering how it would do.
  • Thom457
    It would do many people who don't buy dedicated "muscle car"street level performance hardware to play just 3D accelerated games on the highest settings on perhaps 2% of what those that play such games can afford benefit if you did more middle of the market pairings of such "ASP" equipment with IGP results. You might be more surprised that games developed over years on what was top flight equipment back in the day had to deliver playable performance at what the market would bear then. The bulk of the testing of such the last few years is comparing ZR1 Corvettes, Mustang 500 GTs and well up from that to each other while most don't come remotely own that in the real world.

    I am surprised that you are surprised that a modern dual core delivers more than acceptable performance on past games when things like the XP3200 single core were King with dedicated discreate graphics no one would buy today. If you added the total CPU utilization delivered during the various FPS tests you do you might discover something more interesting which most hard core folks already know both in and out of gaming. "games" rarely can take advantage of what CPU performance there is beyond 2 Cores up to about 4 and the law of diminishing returns takes a very large bite out as far as you want to do. Said another way, if you develop a game that needs 4 top Intel Cores to make playable levels today you invalidate most of your market potential and sales. Famous games I could name pretty much did that in the not so recent past. Faster Cores not more Cores will always matter more here. The 200CE just reminds us old timers what we've known for 4+ decades into this. Try the various AMD "G" models in desktops and laptops with a wide variety of games at playable settings and see what the game designers have to be aware of to stay in business.

    It is often said by Tom's that you use the top of the line GPU to not bottleneck the CPU testing of FPS 3D accelerated graphics performance where the bulk of the heavy lifting is always done by the GPU in the first place. Wrong approach to showing what the true value of the CPU model is. You essentially make that point with this very low end CPU model here with IGP. If you dig in a little deeper here you will see that what this low end dual Core is demonstrating is that the CPU part only speeds up a small slice of the end to end time slice equation and this little guy is delivering very efficiently what the larger, beefier multi-core guys add a much smaller return on what they have the potential for, thus it is the GPU side that always holds back what ever CPU model you are running FPS tests on. Test the CPUs with CPU specific benchmarks not the highest GPU possible to show only what the latest monster multi-core will add at the margins for the high dollar GPUs. The Athlon 200CE delivers and only has 3 CUs to work with for the GPU side of that. Games are in effect notoriously multi-core inefficient and forcing them to use more and more cores often just adds cost for little benefit.

    And this little Gem played at 4K... When you double the Cores and triple the CUs on one of the higher power "G" AMD models you get twice, three times the FPS performance? Nope. In naval propulsion terms, a lot of horsepower is being put in the water that produces only cavitation and no thrust for the increasing HP.

    Just some thoughts there on what is being revealed here.
  • Rogue Leader
    This is pretty cool. I have an itch to build a system with this even though I really don't have a use for it. Nice to see a processor out there like this that makes entry level systems way more cost efficient.
  • carl0ski
    just matter of time when games retail sale are divided like Movies are (HD FullHD 4k 8k)

    basic median needs gamer will be able to buy 1080p games at fraction cost with limiters of the details and resolution to Medium

    Those that demand the high settings high detail high development costs will shoulder a bit more the the development costs
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    just matter of time when games retail sale are divided like Movies are (HD FullHD 4k 8k)

    basic median needs gamer will be able to buy 1080p games at fraction cost with limiters of the details and resolution to Medium

    Those that demand the high settings high detail high development costs will shoulder a bit more the the development costs

    Except developing for higher resolutions and settings doesn't really increase the cost of developing a game all that much. Most of the high settings options, things like advanced lighting and so on, are relatively simple to implement. And for decades, developers have typically created art assets like textures and models at higher detail levels than are intended to be used in a game, before scaling them down to optimize for performance. What costs more when developing modern games is that they often contain more content, more art assets, and things like motion capture for detailed animations, lots of voice acting and so on. These kinds of things are not directly related to settings. The settings can be lowered to support a wider range of hardware, but it's not like it would cost significantly less to develop and market a game if the developers had targeted those lower settings levels.

    Also, while I don't often buy films on video, looking at the prices online, you don't really save much by going with a lower resolution. Buying or Renting new releases on Amazon's Prime Video appears to cost the same, or at least nearly as much, whether you select the HD or SD option. You're certainly not paying a "fraction of the cost" to watch the video in standard definition. The Blu-Ray sets often do cost a bit more than DVDs, but they also tend to include additional discs and access to streaming the film online. Again, it's not like the film itself costs significantly more to shoot depending on what resolution its being viewed at, so logically you won't be paying that much less for a lower quality version. With your 1080p medium settings idea, what would they sell the game for, $50 instead of $60? If you don't want to pay full price for games, you can simply wait a while and their prices will come down over time. Most big PC games go on sale for a fraction of their launch price during their first year of release.

    Quote:
    Some newer games can run at 4K on the Athlon 200GE also. On the lowest settings, Fallout 3 delivered an average of 32 FPS on all test areas. Of course, this chip is not ideal for 4K gaming, but it is interesting to see that it can still pull it off with older titles.

    Running games at 4K seems entirely pointless if you need to run them on their lowest settings at 30fps just to get there. The entire point of higher resolutions is to make games look a bit better, while lowering settings makes them look worse. You would be far better off running an older game like that at 1080p with max settings and getting solid frame rates. No doubt there are plenty of older games that could run reasonably well at 4K on this hardware, but I think just about any big game from the last 10 years would struggle.
  • andrew.jon.hunt
    I need to build a guest gaming computer to have when my cousin comes over. My old Athlon II X4 620 system finally gave out after several hours of Eve Online. I already have decent older gen GPUs laying around so I wanted a competent CPU that could play EvE and other less demanding titles. I think this might fit the bill as chip and board alone are less than $100, and thankfully RAM prices came back within planetary orbit, abiet not quite back to earth yet.