Intel has a hard time adding features and functionality to its entry-level desktop CPUs without upsetting the balance of a carefully cultivated product stack. Improvements made to entry-level Pentium processors must extend upward through the Core i3, i5, and i7 families. After all, nobody is going to spend extra money on a higher-end chip unless it offers an appreciable advantage.
The Kaby Lake-era Pentiums gained Hyper-Threading support, allowing two execution cores to operate on four threads simultaneously. Intel then followed up with new Core models with additional cores, maintaining the status quo. It's only a bummer that today's Pentium processors still lack other features, such as AVX support and unlocked ratio multipliers. While those differentiators make sense in the context of Intel's portfolio, they're liabilities compared to AMD's Ryzen 3 2200G.
Intel's Pentium family was largely unharmed by first-gen Ryzen CPUs because they landed at higher price points and lacked integrated graphics. But that Ryzen 3 2200G is a different beast. It sells for less than $100, similar to the Pentium Gold G5600, and wields a Radeon Vega graphics engine that decimates Intel's UHD Graphics 630. Add in AVX instruction support and an unlocked multiplier for true enthusiast appeal.
In the chart below, we plot gaming performance with both average frame rates and a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times (a good indicator of smoothness), which we then convert into a frame-per-second measurement. We didn't include platform costs because these processors drop into value-minded platforms and come with decent stock coolers. It's noteworthy that we could overclock the Ryzen 3 2200G's CPU cores with AMD's stock thermal solution. However, you should buy something better if you also plan on tuning the chip's integrated Radeon Vega graphics. Also, bear in mind that we tested with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 in order to alleviate graphics-imposed bottlenecks. Differences between our test subjects would shrink with more mainstream graphics cards installed.
In games, a $100 Ryzen 3 2200G trailed Intel's Pentium Gold G5600 just barely at its stock settings. But overclocking the Ryzen made it competitive with the $117 Core i3-8100. As such, we're doubling down on our recommendation to pair the Ryzen 3 2200G up with an add-in graphics card for gaming. And it's even more convincing across our application tests. The 2200G's four physical cores and AVX support provide superior performance in threaded workloads. The chip even fares well in many lightly-threaded tasks—and that's before we take overclocking into account.
Due to a slightly lower clock rate, the Pentium Gold G5400 can't quite match the G5600's performance. It doesn't trail by much in our gaming and application tests, though. Although the Pentium sold at a premium immediately after launch, it's now available for $64. That $30 savings is worth considering, particularly if you reinvest those funds into a faster graphics card or larger SSD. Intel's Pentium Gold G5400 looks like a great choice for builders on tight budgets, and AMD has nothing to compete against its price point. At least for now, the Pentium Gold G5400 reigns uncontested.
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