AMD’s compatibility chart reckons our $400 PC can’t play games, we beg to differ

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Red Dead Redemption 2 at 720p isn't the prettiest.

(Image credit: Rockstar)

According to the Compatibility tool included with AMD’s Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition, the AMD Ryzen 5 3400G is not really capable of running any PC games. I’ve installed multiple titles on our $400 budget gaming system, but according to AMD’s own software, I had no right to do so, and I should consider upgrading the CPU and the GPU to a Ryzen 9 5950X and a Radeon RX 6900 XT

That’s right, AMD is recommending that I upgrade a $150 APU to a $750 CPU and a $999 graphics card. 

AMD Compatibility Tool

(Image credit: AMD)

Build a $400 Gaming PC

$400 Budget Gaming PC

(Image credit: Future)

Build this gaming PC for just $400. You don’t even have to track down a graphics card.

For once we’ll let it slide that you can’t buy that graphics card anywhere, simply because the whole thing is simply too ridiculous to even start with. Does AMD genuinely think upgrading a $400 machine with nearly $1,750 of parts is really a good idea? To be fair to AMD you can select more-affordable components within the tool, but these ludicrous top of the line options are the defaults. Which is crazy.

These recommendations also don’t make a lot of sense, because the AMD Ryzen 5 3400G isn’t as bad as AMD’s own app suggests. Eight of the games installed on the machine have red marks next to the CPU stating that it ‘Does not meet the minimum requirements’, which would be fine if true, but in many cases, simply isn’t. 

Apex Legends, CS: GO, Destiny 2, Dota 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Horizon Zero Dawn, Red Dead Online, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider all get the red blob of CPU shame. 

To be fair, AMD may have a point with some of these games. Horizon Zero Dawn is not a pretty sight here. At 720p it’s just about playable, although I’ll freely admit it isn’t a smooth experience by any means. You do have the option of dropping the resolution down to 640 x 480 (now there’s a resolution that’s a blast from the past), but at that point, the visual fidelity will have you wondering why you’d bother.

Horizon Zero Dawn's benchmark is punishing.

(Image credit: Guerrilla Games)

Horizon Zero Dawn has its own benchmark test, which makes for a particularly jerky experience, clearly held back by the CPU side of the Ryzen 5 3400G as well—the 99 percentile CPU score rolls in at just 13fps. It’s very choppy at times, to say the least. Even so, with the average FPS of 38fps, it isn’t the worst experience ever. And it can still make for some wonderful moments thanks to its delightfully realised world.

The minimum specs for Horizon Zero Dawn are surprisingly undemanding, requiring only a 6-core, 6-thread AMD FX 6300 at 3.5GHz and an AMD Radeon R9 290. So it’s strange the AMD Compatibility tool suggests our chip is way below that spec—the Ryzen 5 3400G is a 4-core, 8-core chip with a maximum boost of 4.2GHz—it’s basically better than the minimum in almost every way. 

The GPU side of things makes a bit more sense here, and the 11 Vega cores this APU has on offer can’t really compete with the 40 cores the R9 290 lays claim to, so AMD’s recommendations seem a bit closer when it comes to the GPU side of things. 

Red Dead Redemption 2 at 720p isn't the prettiest.

(Image credit: Rockstar)

It also states that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a non-starter for this machine, with the CPU and GPU both getting the red blob of shame. This I do agree with, although mainly because this is a game that is capable of looking incredible, whereas the best you can really muster here is just-about-playable. Even getting it running isn’t easy, as by default it crashed out every time, at least it did until switching from Vulkan to DirectX 12 rendering.

Despite me agreeing that this is a sub-optimal experience at best, once again the minimum specs for the game shouldn’t have that red blob against the CPU. The 3400G is a better chip than the 6-core, 6-thread AMD FX-6300 that Rockstar has as its minimum. The GPU isn’t powerful enough, sure, but there’s no need to upgrade the CPU to play this game as the tool suggests.

Three games get a yellow exclamation mark for the GPU and the red blob for the CPU, namely Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and the graphically demanding Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Yet again all these games can run, and run reasonably well, provided that you’re not averse to turning everything down to low and running at 720p.

Apex Legends is perfectly playable at 720p

(Image credit: EA)

According to the official site, Apex Legends requires a minimum of an AMD FX-4350 quad-core 4.2GHz CPU and at least a Radeon HD 7730. The Ryzen 5 3400G can handle twice as many threads and has a slightly lower base clock at 3.7GHz, but the boost of 4.2GHz is just 100MHz behind the FX-4350. It’s a newer, faster CPU as well. Basically, it ticks both boxes, so it isn’t clear where AMD is getting its minimum spec data from for its compatibility chart. 

Playing Apex Legends at 720p at the lowest settings isn’t the nightmare you may fear, basically, and in testing, I hit 89fps on average in an actual game. The minimums are more important for a competitive shooter though, and here the lowest framerate dipped down to 33fps (with the 99th percentile at 51fps). Not ideal, but still mostly playable. There’s a chance you may die due to the limitations of the hardware, but more often than not it’s your own skill levels that count for more.

The last three games on the list have green ticks for the Vega 11 graphics but crosses against the CPU, and they are CS: GO, Dota 2, and Grand Theft Auto V. Once again, this is nonsense, and all three games are totally playable at high framerates. In GTA V you’re looking at an average of 79fps at the low settings a 720p, with minimums of 55fps. CS: GO bobs along at a steady 65fps at 1080p, while Dota 2 is smooth at 71fps again at 1080p.

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G

(Image credit: AMD)

Basically, while AMD’s app seems to have a reasonable understanding of its own graphics hardware, it’s got a real blindspot when it comes to the Ryzen 5 3400G. Its recommendations are also absolutely ludicrous and don’t seem to take into account what you’ve already got in your machine. This is a shame as otherwise, it would be a reasonable starting point for anyone looking to upgrade.

The other take away from this is that the $400 Ryzen 5 3400G machine has more game than even AMD gives it credit for. If you can find the APU at the heart of this rig at a reasonable price, it’s really not a bad place to start, especially in these days where graphics cards are impossible to find. 

Alan has spent far too much of his life in World of Warcraft and playing Magic the Gathering to be a normal human being, which is why he has retreated to the warm embrace of gaming hardware. 

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